Any pastor who has been in the ministry very long has been asked to recommend someone to an empty pulpit. Actually this is a good thing if handled with a sense of Biblical responsibility. It is the case that this information sometimes finds its way into the hands of men with little or no purpose in mind. The purpose that this kind of a man will have is self-serving and not driven by a clear conscience or spiritual motives. I have listed here some of the wrong ways men talk about filling a vacant pulpit. Some of the information is humorous, but the matter is a very serious one that needs to be dealt with carefully and not flippantly. Churches, lives and pastors are at stake. It is perhaps one of the most serious matters we have to pray about in our generation.
The Knee Jerk – Often when a pulpit is vacant there is a knee-jerk reaction by leaders in the church to secure a new one. This is done with little or no prayer, consultation with Godly advisors, or forethought. The pulpit is vacant; it must be filled. The sense of urgency which grips the leaders in charge during a time like this can lead to mistakes that will be detrimental to the church for years. Sometimes permanent harm is done to the testimony of the church in the community. Yes the pulpit must be filled, but this is only half of the equation. It is God who must fill it, lest it be occupied by a carnal man, a tyrant, or an otherwise unfit person. God cannot fill the pulpit if those who are physically in charge of it are not listening to Him.
My Friend is Looking – When the news that the pulpit is vacant begins to spread there will be attempts by well meaning individuals to fill it with their friends. There are many, many preachers available. I believe there are more un-attached preachers than there are vacant pulpits. Not all of them are fit for long-term pastorates. This is evident by the fact that some of them move many times in their ministry as if they are climbing some kind of ladder which hopefully leads them to a better position each step of the journey. These men who are constantly looking for a position will not be a blessing to the church in question or your friendship in the long term. They are hirelings looking for a better job. Most of them will be looking again in two to three years. If a man has moved three times. . . or more, in ten years or less, it should trigger a certain amount of caution, if not alarm, concerning his commitment to the pastorate.
I have a Relative that Can do this Job – It has been my experience to notice that when relatives get intertwined in the leadership of the church, the church suffers. It seems that clear vision, objective evaluation of facts, and honorable goals, seem to disappear when families dominate the work of God. Again, only token prayer is offered to get the desired results of promoting a family member to the pastorate. When a dominant family tips the scales of control in a church, they own the church; they control the money; they approve the activities; they choose the missionaries. The church that is dominated by one family in such a fashion prevents that church from having a Biblical form of government. The teaching of the Bible is that the church is to have a Pastor (Shepherd; Bishop) who is an “elder.” He is to be helped in his ministry by “deacons” (servants), who are to be chosen by the church and appointed to their work by the Shepherd. This is not a theocracy as in the Old Testament, but is to be led by a man who is considered to be a “man of God.” Promoting relatives, especially those with little or no experience can lead to woeful and regrettable circumstances. Family allegiance, loyalties, and favor, often taints the good judgment of men who need to lead and feed God’s flock.
This Guy is Gifted – It is true that God gives gifts to men according to His own will and purpose. It is also true that “ a man’s gift make room for him” (Proverbs 18:16). People seek them. They seem to flourish and rise to the top of their peer group. Unfortunately, for the unsuspecting church, many gifted men are full of themselves rather than the Spirit of God. They know they are gifted and they are not humble about it. Their gift is their problem. They somehow think they deserve God’s blessings and that other men should stand aside for them. Not all gifted men are like this, but a sharp eye should be kept towards any indication of pride in those who are said to be “gifted.” Pride is the original sin. It affects all of us to some degree. A man that is allowed of God to occupy the sacred position of “pastor” must not be full of himself. If he is, he will build a following of people who like his brand of carnality. They will follow him with little consideration of following the Savior. Rather than studying to show themselves “approved unto God” they will usually default to the teaching of their “gifted” leader without searching the Scriptures themselves, when they have questions. If they do this, they will not be able to hold him accountable for his teaching, practices, or conduct in any regard. They have forfeited their right to hold him accountable because he is “gifted”. His gift will become their curse. His ministry will be more like a cult than a New Testament Church.
Mt 9:37-38 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly [is] plenteous, but the labourers [are] few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
- It is the Lord’s harvest.
- It is a plenteous harvest.
- It is His command for us to pray for laborers and fruit for their labor.
- It is His promise to provide laborers for His harvest.
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