What To Look For When Hiring A Pastor

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

If your church is hiring a new pastor, here are important attributes the church should be looking for.


I’ve sat on a few pulpit search committees before, so if your church is hiring a new pastor, here’s what the church should be looking for. I think the attribute that may be most important is that of humility. We know God opposes the proud (James 4:6), so a pride-filled pastor is in opposition to God and would not make a good fit for your church. Some translations use the word “elder” for a pastor, but to make a point, a brand-new-in-the-faith believer is not likely to make a good pastor. For one thing, the word “Elder” means “elderly or older,” so this office is given to new converts. This is true from the Apostle Paul’s admonishment that a pastor “must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim 3:6). Pride in the pulpit makes for disaster. One pastor who is among my favorites is Pastor Paul. He frequently throws himself under the bus when preaching and talking about the daily struggle of living the Christian faith. He is not afraid to laugh at himself; to admit his mistakes, and that he’s blown it more than a few times. Such humility is winsome to me. It shows us the real person and that even a pastor struggles…and that gives hope to the rest of us who struggle with sin.


I like the idea of transparency. What I mean is, when a pastor is quick to admit past mistakes, that he’s still a work in progress, he doesn’t try to hide his weaknesses, and is transparent about his own struggles in life. This type of pastor is quick to point out times in his life when he should not have done something (sins of commission) or things he should have done (sins of omission). Of course, that doesn’t mean he confesses all his sins and airs all his dirty launder. That’s saved for confession before God, but the man should be honest about his failures. That brings him down to earth, and that’s important because the foot of the cross is level ground. None stand taller and none are the lessor.

A Faithful Husband

A pastor who is constantly having issues with his family is going to struggle to shepherd the church.  For example, it would seem out of sorts for the pastor to be preaching about better families when his own is falling apart. This is why the Apostle Paul said that “if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church” (1 Tim 3:5)? That obviously means he should be a “he husband of one wife” (Titus 1: 6), or as the Greek puts it, “a one-woman man.” Clearly, this shows that only men biblically qualify to be a pastor. There were no women pastors in the New Testament churches or early church, but the pastor must be faithful to his wife. If there is an act of adultery, the pastor should be altogether disqualified. Why? Because how can a pastor who was not faithful to his wife ever teach about marriage? He cannot!

Patience, Apt to Teach and Hospitable

The Bible teaches that a pastor should be “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). Paul’s advice to Timothy, a young pastor, is great advice to us all: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim2:15). You cannot prepare or give a sermon without first working hard on it and studying the Word of God. We’ve also got to rightly handle the Word, meaning we must keep Scripture in context to avoid a pretext, and possibly a false one.  If he can’t teach the Word, then how can he preach the Word?


Being blameless does not mean being perfect. If that were the case, no one would qualify, but being blameless means that there are no valid reasons for any accusations that can be made against a potential pastoral candidate. There is to be no scandal in their life and they should be respected in the community and by the church membership, meaning they live a life above reproach (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2). This means the pastor “must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:7).


Pastors are simply under-shepherds to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. They are far, far from perfect, so we can’t magnify their weakness and expect them to have no flaws. Jesus knows we’re all fallen creatures, but this is His church and He expects pastors to shepherd the church in the way that the Bible prescribes. The Word of God is the means by which we must select pastors and only those who have the biblical qualifications should be allowed to pastor a church. There should be absolutely no human reasoning or opinions that are the basis of selecting a pastor.  The candidate for pastor should also have a heart for the lost; a desire to visit the sick and elderly; and a passion for preaching only solid, biblical doctrine (i.e. Acts 4:12; Rom 10:9-13; Eph 2:8-9)

By the way, pastors, like all teachers, will be held more accountable than the rest of the church because much has been given; this means much will be required. Perhaps that’s why James said that not many of us should be teachers (James 3:1). Naturally, there will be occasions when someone falls into some false teachings or they try to bring in into the church, so when this happens, the pastor “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). That means we must contend for the faith once delivered with all our might and all our strength (Jude 1:3).

Here is some related reading for you: What Are Five Important Qualifications of a Pastor?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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