Is that Biblical?


Question: (and I’m not being a jerk, this is a genuine question) Is the criteria churches use to evaluate leaders biblical? AND is official evaluation the right kind of evaluation?

I know that accountability is important for church leaders… just as it is to all believers. We’re all to be sharpening each other for the edification of the body.

But I’m wondering about the measurements churches use to evaluate their leaders (and pastors in particular). I know that it makes sense for the leadership team to sit down and evaluate the pastor… but is what makes sense the right thing and the biblical thing?

I’m thinking about this because I’ve run up against some videos online and real-life situations recently that give me a knee-jerk reaction of, “That’s none of your business!”

In one of the videos I was watching, a pastor was talking about evaluating leaders based on how many non-believing friends they have and he was advocating calling those non-believing friends to make sure the leader is being good to them.

I feel like that’s going a bit too far.

1 Timothy 3: “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?) and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

I get how some of the evaluation tools churches use connect here. And I get that churches are official, organization things, and they need ways to make sure that their pastors are legit.

But I think of Pastor Pete (and my most amazing pastors of the past) and I don’t entrust myself to his leadership because there’s a team calling his non-believing neighbors to ensure he’s hospitable and has a good reputation with them. I know that Pastor Pete is hospitable because he’s been hospitable to me (I wouldn’t have ended up at Holy Cross if not for his hospitality in our first interaction) and to every person I’ve seen him interact with. I don’t yet know his reputation outside the church because there hasn’t been time, but hospitality seems to be a part of his nature; I doubt he turns it off when he’s away from his flock.

As far as temperance, prudence, gentleness, peacefulness, and all other qualifications, I know them – not because I’ve found a way to quantify and measure them – but because Pete has embodied each of them, even in the short time I’ve known him. In truth, the pastors I’ve most respected have redefined these mysterious and intangible qualities for me.

I didn’t know hospitality until Dave remembered my name, hugged me before he knew me, invited me into his home, etc…

So, I guess I’m of the opinion that you know a good pastor when you see him. Deep down in my soul, I hate the evaluation tools applied to church leaders.

It’s sort of like how I hate the 6-trait rubric for evaluating student writing. We know good writing when we see it. It stirs us, teaches us, nurtures the soul, engages… just like good pastors do.

Most good essays may have a thesis in the first paragraph, but there are bunches and bunches of examples of GREAT writers who never follow that rule.

Just like most good pastors invite people into their homes on a regular basis… yet there are bunches of examples of GREAT pastors whose hospitality manifests itself differently.

I know that not evaluating pastors at all would probably end with deceit and really weak churches, but it still irks me.

Thoughts, dear readers? What’s the biblical way of ensuring biblical church leadership?

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6 thoughts on “Is that Biblical?

  1. Katie, as one of your former pastors, I will tell you that to become an Elder/Pastor at my current church, you must fill out a 34 page application that focuses EXCLUSIVELY on doctrine, theology, and sound teaching. It is extreme for sure and included multiple interviews, but never did it address anything like what you experienced in your above video example.

    I just developed a 24 page application for Deacon/Deaconess and again, it focuses on doctrine, theology, sound teaching and ministry application, and again, it does not address anything like what you mention above! I suppose that as you encounter many church leaders in your lifetime, you will experience some that you believe align with Gospel Centered teaching, living, and application….and many that you meet will not.

    Try and learn from both, but be influenced by Gospel Centered pastors/elders/leaders…

    • Thanks, Dave. I actually really respect the pastor in the video, which is why I felt so torn. I sort of felt like I wasn’t allowed to disagree with him because I believe he’s a good pastor.

  2. I don’t think you need to evaluate your pastors. I think a thorough examination should be done prior to them becoming pastors but we should submit to them after they take that office. They they have a moral or theological faliure, they should be removed, but I don’t think they should be evaluated as if we were their employer. In order to become a pastor I think they need to meet all of the qualifications mentioned in Timothy and Titus.

  3. I’d say something like- how passionate are they for God? Is He truly their great affection? Is Jedus their aim and joy? Are they faithful with the ‘little, simpler’ things of God’s will such as making disciples of all nations and loving the Lord with absolutely everything as much as they can? Granted, these aren’t easily quantifiable either but I guess for ne it comes down to- how can we lead others towards what we’re not running after?

  4. Interesting questions: I am not sure about the 34 page application on theology either (even though I understand the purpose). Jesus called fishermen to be leaders because he saw a quality in them that would help his cause. However, look at Paul who was ‘men among men’ and had a stellar pedigree and great theological knowledge; He had to be humbled and refocused. I think , even though this is time consuming, that a pastor should be chosen by his actions. What is his life like? How does he related to others, How does he feel about God and of course his knowledge of the bible and willingness to keep learning. In regards to who, pastors associate with, Jesus made a point of hanging out with a bunch of sinners, by today’s standards, he would never have been a pastor.

  5. Pingback: I’ll bear your burdens, if… « christianinutah

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