By Joel A. Hess –
As I left my beautiful call in Northern Michigan to serve God’s people in Chicago, many of my brothers in Christ asked me about who their next pastor might be. I told them that the right guy won’t necessarily be just like me. Thank God! I have plenty of flaws that hopefully their new guy will improve upon. Of course, he will have his own weaknesses. Our Lord covers them all. Nevertheless, God will provide the right shepherd for their current needs.
I did tell them one thing, though. Don’t call a poor pastor. Don’t put up with one, either. Don’t call a pastor who won’t visit the sick and sinners with God’s Word, lead the flock in serving their community, and teach and preach the Word correctly and well. Just like I tell my youth, “You don’t have to marry someone who sucks!” And unlike a marriage, congregations don’t have to put up with a pastor who fails at his job or even doesn’t do his job well.
When I first came out of seminary, I was a big fan of the charismatic calling process—throw a dart, pray, call the guy it lands on. No interviews, nothing. Let the Holy Spirit do His thing. But increasingly I have discovered that a congregation should not simply trust a guy who has the right credentials. And a congregation should use their God-given brain to investigate whether or not a potential pastor can preach well, lead well, and serve well. If a pastor won’t visit the sick and sinners, get rid of him. If he won’t lead the congregation in serving their community, get rid of him. If he can’t teach/explain to people God’s Word, get rid of him. If he won’t preach clear sermons calling people to repentance and giving them forgiveness, throw him out. You might as well not have any pastor at all!
No, a pastor doesn’t need to be a great entertainer, but he doesn’t have to purposely be boring and/or socially dysfunctional. Yes, it’s the Word of God that makes and keeps people in Christ. But you don’t have to intentionally put obstacles in the way.
Now, I am not saying to nag your pastor for every little failure. I would have been thrown out a long time ago if that were so. I’m not saying your pastor needs to speak like Billy Graham or illuminate doctrine like Martin Luther. But he should be a little engaging. Anyone can preach a decent message. Anyone! Congregations, accept no excuses!
People need the Word of God in their lives, in the midst of their messes, their sins and fears. They need God’s Word to dry their tears at the grave, to bring them to their knees in their sins, and to release them from their guilt and shame. They need a strong Word by a preacher who actually thinks and speaks as if God’s Word matters. They need a pastor who himself clings to God’s Word like a lifeline hanging over the abyss.
If your pastor does not do this, then tell him. If he doesn’t change, get another one. He doesn’t have a divine call to be a terrible pastor.