Most local churches at one time or another have gone through the process of selecting a pastor. Whether it is the pastor who started the church or an established church that needs a new pastor, it is an intense time as everyone has their vision of what they want. However, the Bible does give us guidance on what we should look for. With this in mind, what are five important qualifications of a pastor that a search committee should look for? As always, God’s Word provides the answer.
Don’t some churches have bishops or elders instead of or in addition to a pastor?
Some churches do have someone called a bishop or elder in the role of a pastor. However, when examining Scripture for the qualifications of a pastor, it has to be noted that the position of bishop, pastor, or elder are often used interchangeably and there are some subtle differences. The term bishop is used in 1 Timothy 3:1-2 and Titus 1:7. The Greek word for a bishop is episkopos. When you break down the word into two parts, epi– meaning over or above, and skopos, meaning scope as in to view or see (like a telescope). Combined, it communicates a person that oversees something. Often, a bishop may have a role that oversees the operational aspects of a local church or ministry.
Likewise, 1 Peter 2:18-25 describes Jesus Christ as the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. As a bishop, Jesus is the overseer of our souls. However, He is also the Shepherd of our souls (See also 1 John 5:4). The Greek word for shepherd is poimen, which is also translated as pastor in Ephesians 4:11. The word pastor is derived from the word pasture, a place where animals graze or eat. Therefore, Jesus is also the pastor of our souls in that He is our Great Shepherd that feeds us as His sheep (John 10:1-18; Hebrews 13:20). Out of respect, some pastors refer to themselves as an “under-shepherd” in reference to their position to Christ.
Finally, an elder is simply an older or more mature person. In the local church, an elder is a believer that may or may not be in a position of leadership. The Greek word for elder is presbyteros from which we get the term presbyterian. Churches that use the term elder tend to have a group of elders lead the local church instead of a single pastor or bishop.
What does the Bible say are the qualifications for selecting a pastor?
In light of the slight variance in the terms used for the person filling the role of a pastor, elder, or bishop, most churches use 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 as their guideline for selecting a person to fill the role of a pastor. When reviewing these guidelines, at least five areas of consideration can be seen:
1. A pastor must be blameless
Blameless means that the pastor must be someone of good reputation or character. When considering the person, are they sober and not a drunkard, of good behavior and not a fighter, or in ministry for selfish reasons? When their name is mentioned, do people immediately think that this person is known for being a hothead, a drunk, or a fighter? Or, do people think of them as being someone who never really seems to get upset or offensive about anything? Do they let their moderation be known to all men (Philippians 4:5)?
2. A pastor must be in good standing in his marriage and immediate family
First, the person must be the husband of one wife. This point alone has caused more divisions and splits in churches than any other points for two main reasons. One reason is that some churches interpret this as addressing the person’s gender and marital history. Are they a man? Are women qualified (Genesis 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:8-15). Were they ever divorced? If so, was it before or after salvation? Were they an adulterer or the victim of adultery? What about a person who slept with a woman without ever having a wedding (Genesis 29:15-30; 1 Corinthians 6:12-16)? On the other hand, do they have to be married at all ? The simple answer is that if they are saved, are they in right standing Biblically when it comes to marriage? Second, the person must be able to rule over his own household and children (Ephesians 5:25-6:4). The reason is if he cannot rule over or take care of his own house effectively, how will he manage and take care of the church?
3. A pastor must be patient, hospitable, and apt to teach
Patience and hospitality are important in that as the pastor, the person must have the patience to train his flock and do what is necessary to show them he cares so that they will grow in their faith and as a strengthening influence of the local church. Serving and feeding the flock is not an easy task. They must expect that despite their best efforts, some people will make bad decisions and others will experience hardships and need help and instruction at all hours of the day and night.
4. A pastor must be mature and called in his life and in his faith
The pastor cannot effectively lead a flock both practically and spiritually if they do not know what they are doing and God has not called them. This means that they conduct themselves in a way that demonstrates that they are competent adults and grounded in their faith and called by God for this role. Sadly, many churches and pastors see the position as a career choice from the perspective of a position to fill and not as a calling. This can be devastating to a church and destroy the lives of many people. However, this does not mean that a pastor should not be trained for the task that they are undertaking. Some say that they must be a seminary graduate, but they ignore the fact that none of the disciples or greatest pastors ever went to Bible College. They had several years of apprenticeship under the master. While seminary training is good, God’s Word does provide for teaching. However, it is important to all of the church that pastors must know what they are doing so they do not operate from pride and fall into temptation (Ephesians 4:11-14; 2 Timothy 2:1-6; Titus 1:9-11).
5. A pastor must be able to preach
This is where everything comes together in a pastor. Can they communicate the word of God in a way that makes sense, inspires the hearers , and motivates them to want to become like Christ and be part of the ministry effort to others (Ephesians 4)? One note of caution is that many people can teach, but not everyone can preach or profess with knowledge and authority the Word of God. One way to know is to watch when the candidate preaches. Does their sermon seem more like a class with notes or highly structured PowerPoint presentations that guide the flow of the message? Or, do they use the Bible as their text and communicate the message in an expository way, connecting the lines and precepts with reinforcement from other verses and letting the Scriptures speak for themselves to communicate the message? It is not that multimedia presentations are wrong, it’s just that the person should use it to illustrate Scripture, not use the Scripture to illustrate their multimedia lesson. Simply stated, can they communicate practical examples of how the text applies to the lives of the people or do they have to stick to a lesson plan?
When considering someone for the position of pastor, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Some churches have different titles for the same role and may be led by bishops or elders instead of or in addition to a pastor. The Bible says there are at least five qualifications for selecting a pastor. A pastor must be blameless. A pastor must be in good standing in his marriage and immediate family. A pastor must be patient, hospitable, and apt to teach. A pastor must be mature and called in his life and in his faith. Finally, a pastor must be able to preach.
Read more about pastors here: Should Pastors be Paid? 
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version