Questions to Ask Pastoral Candidates

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C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
In my desire to expand the pastoral theology section at APM, I think it would be helpful to have a series of questions that churches should be reminded of when dealing with Pastoral Candidates.

What questions do you think are important in this regard? What would you ask?
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
"Could you describe a little about how you are leading your family in worship in the home?"

If the answer comes back that there is no leading of family worship in the home, or some tap-dancing answer about worshipping as a family "throughout the day", the committee should give the candidate at least three months to correct this and report back (my opinion). There is such a natural connection between leading a family in worship as a father and leading a church in worship as a pastor.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
The below is 'dated' (I'm not sure how I would bring up the theonomy issue now). I may be wrong but I think I brought this over wholesale, or maybe it has been changed up, from a list Kevin Reed (Presbyterian Heritage Pub fame) drafted in the early or mid 1980s. I would be more direct on images now and I think the omission of the question above on family worship is an oversight; that question would give considerable insight as to how it is answered. I served on pulpit search committees twice in the mid 1980s and around 1990. I recall getting a data sheet and response from Ken Gentry in the earlier period. His answer on to the second commandment nixed any further consideration as far as I was concerned. In that regard and in relation to recent threads, I guess respective views have been set for quite a long time.


Topics for Discussion

What is the gospel? How is the biblical message different from the popular
religious movements of our time? What is your concept of evangelism? How do your
views of the gospel affect your methods of evangelism?

Describe your conception of a worship service. What is the order of worship used
in your church? What scriptural principles should regulate our worship? What are
your views concerning clerical attire, ecclesiastical holidays, crosses, church choirs,
solos, and other aids to worship? What is the place of the psalms in Christian
worship?

Describe your convictions on the sacraments. To whom should they be admini-
stered? How frequently do you observe the Lord's Supper? Do you have reservations
about the use of real wine or a common cup in the observance of the Lord's Supper?

What are your views on the sabbath?

What is your concept of church discipline? Has your church ever exercised disci-
plinary action against any ofits members (such as public rebuke, suspension, excom-
munication).

What is the responsibility of the church in relation to the education of children?

What role does Sunday school play in relation to worship and education in the church?
Is it o.k. to use pictures of Christ to instruct children, as long as these pictures are
used strictly for educational purposes?

What is the role of women in the church? May women hold office in the church?

Are women permitted to offer testimonies, or lead in prayer during the worship
service or Sunday school? Are women allowed to ask questions during Sunday School,
or at mid-week Bible studies? Should women be allowed to speak and vote at
congregational meetings?

What is the status of youth in relation to communing membership and voting
rights?

What is the proper role of the confessional standards? Describe any differences
you have with the Westminster Standards (in their original formulations).

Discuss your church officers. Note especially the qualifications, training, method
of selection, and tenure of church officers. What kind of working relationship do you
have with the officers in your church? What kind of shepherding program does your
session have? What diaconal ministries are your deacons performing? Is your church
involved in any particular social or political activities?

Please define the word "Reformed." What are the priorities for reforming the
Church in the present era? What are your personal goals as a minister? What are your
goals in relation to your family? What are your goals for your particular congregation?


Topics for Discussion
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What are your views respecting textual criticism of the Bible? Do you hold to any
particular textual theories; or do you maintain any special views on Bible translation?
Which Bible translation do you use in your preaching?

Why are you affiliated with your present denomination? Please describe the
strengths of your denomination, especially those features which help to retain your
loyalty. Are there ways that denominational entanglements hinder your ability to
perform your responsibilities to Christ? Do you foresee any factors which would lead
you to reconsider your denominational affiliation? Can you think of any factors which
would compel you to leave your denomination?

Please define "theonomy." Given your definition, please state your perceptions of
the theonomic movement.​
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
"Tell us something you've repented of recently."

If he can only answer with something that takes him back several years, I would wonder if his walk with Christ has much ongoing transformative power.
 

BG

Puritan Board Junior
Are you a Christian?

Are you in pursuit of holiness?

Is Christ the all consuming passion of your life?

How much scripture reading do you do daily?

Do you meditate on God's word?

What is your prayer life like?

Do you pray without ceasing?

Do you do family worship everyday?

Are you addicted to any of the following: p0rn, entertainment/movies, Greco roman homoerotic sporting events, tobacco, or alcohol, food, gambling, video games, or drugs?

Are you willing to fast?

Are you willing to be poured out like a drink offering?

Do you see pastoral ministry as a calling or a career?

Are you compelled to fulfill your ministry under any circumstances or is your willingness to minister contingent upon the right financial reimbursement?
 
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Stope

Puritan Board Sophomore
This is a great thread. I think I will respond to these myself and see where I land..

That said, besides Semper Fidelis' referencing the Trinity, I don't see much about the work of the Holy Spirit.. Also missing here is the fervency and importance of prayer, and lastly the degree to which he feels there is a genuine INTERACTIVE faith between Himself and God...

BG some of your questions are seriously awesome and the guy getting interviewed would be blown away in a good way by most of the questions (by the way, what is "Greco roman homoerotic sporting events"? Is that like UFC/MMA? If so I would very much be disqualified)
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
"Could you describe a little about how you are leading your family in worship in the home?"

If the answer comes back that there is no leading of family worship in the home, or some tap-dancing answer about worshipping as a family "throughout the day", the committee should give the candidate at least three months to correct this and report back (my opinion). There is such a natural connection between leading a family in worship as a father and leading a church in worship as a pastor.
Blake has nailed this one. I couldn't imagine having a pastor who doesn't do this especially since ours have mentioned these duties of fathers(mothers if no father) I don't know how many times.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Are you addicted to any of the following: p0rn, entertainment/movies, Greco roman homoerotic sporting events, tobacco, or alcohol, food, or gambling?
For the helpfulness of the thread, how would you define this? For example, what does it mean to be addicted to movies? If they own 25 movies that they bought, 50, 100, what constitutes an addiction in that regard?
What if they have an addictive personality, and struggle to mortify that daily?
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
For the helpfulness of the thread, how would you define this? For example, what does it mean to be addicted to movies? If they own 25 movies that they bought, 50, 100, what constitutes an addiction in that regard?
What if they have an addictive personality, and struggle to mortify that daily?
Being a layman and not on an such a panel or committee, I can maybe guess at how I would ask?

In interviews I've given in the business world to candidates for employment, not every question was for the sole end purpose of a binary "yes" or "no" answer. For example, "Do you consider yourself a person who handles customers' complaints professionally?" If the candidate says yes, I ask "Would you tell me a time when an attempt to de-escalate an irate customer failed and you lost the customer (or something else negative) what you learned from that incident?" If the candidate says something like, "aww doesn't happen with me. Can't think of anything!" A huge red flag goes up in my mind. He either hasn't spent more than three months in the workforce, he is too proud to get help in those situations or worse.

Regarding your questions above, if I asked a man if he was addicted/enslaved/in bondage to anything and he said he was then I'd ask, "What?" If he said he wasn't then I'd ask, "Why do you say that?" His answer would be telling. I might then ask him, "what would you consider a gaming addiction?" Getting the man to talk is what you want him to do. In the business world I've learned far more in conversations than interrogations.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Can you elaborate a little? What if the answer is general? (i.e. "I know I sin everyday and I am struggling to mortify the deeds of my flesh, but there is no "BIG sin" so to speak?).
For example, if I were asked right now, "How have you repented recently?" I would talk about this evening when I had to repent of a scolding attitude toward my daughter as I took apart the shower drain to show her what happens when she fails to clear hair from the drain trap. I was really lighting into her, and my wife pointed out that my daughter hadn't been malicious and I was acting out of resentment for having my evening interrupted. I had to see my rebellion against God's rule of love, and change my attitude—not just to keep peace in the family, but because I am a believer and repentance is what we do.

That may seem like a little thing, but such things are the way of life for a believer. When a guy can quickly recall recent incidents like that, and when he sees them as part of his life not only with others but also with God, it is a sign of a man who is spiritually alive and interacting moment by moment with his Redeemer. Christ is his companion, not just a subject of study. (And before you think too highly of me, I should point out that I have far too many days when I would have trouble answering the question.)

If asking about "repentance" sounds like too much, the question might be phrased differently, such as, "Tell about a recent time when you had to alter your behavior to be more Christ-like." But in either case, if the guy cannot come up with a specific example this does NOT indicate he's reached maturity; it more likely means he isn't spending time with God and isn't learning humility daily, or it means he's only comfortable talking in the abstract and will struggle to communicate the nitty-gritty of daily repentance as he counsels his flock.

A candidate could also be asked for a recent example of faith, which along with repentance should be a moment-by-moment habit for a believer. But for some reason, that question seldom seems as challenging.
 

Cymro

Puritan Board Junior
There are a multitude of disparate doctrinal and practical questions that could be asked, and it could be that the candidate could answer them in an orthodox manner. But I remember reading a book on this years ago, but time has erased the author's name unfortunately, and he made a most interesting point. Discern his character he wrote, character is everything. Not only from interviewing him and hearing his trial sermons, but speak to some of his former elders and even his wife and members of his wider family. Now I thought that was sage advice. Because a prospective candidate can have an imposing presence, pulpit persuasion and oratory, an amiable demeanour, and a mouthful of promises, and yet have a deficiency in character that can blight the church in days to come.
Another important element is to probe and judge whether he has a love for souls. One who has no love for the smell of sheep, ought not to be a shepherd.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
For a current pastor:

(More specifics on the career/calling distinction mentioned previously)

> What have you told your current congregation about coming here today?

> Are you concurrently seeking several churches?

> Why do you think you're being called from there to here?
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Do you pray with your wife? And do you pray for your children? The pastor needs to be the first prayer warrior of the church. If he doesn't pray with his wife and for his children, there is little reason to believe he will do so for the church. I also believe it is important to ask about catachesis. Being an Old Side, Old School guy myself, I believe in covenantal nurture through the means of grace and through catachesis.

Doctrinal questions should touch on the hot button issues like NPP/FV, theistic evolution, women's issues, relativism/postmodernism, homosexuality (here it is important to ask whether the candidate believes that homosexual orientation is itself sinful), NCT, Hebrew Roots movement, republication, etc.
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Rich, this is a great question. How would you answer it in a brief two sentence or so answer?
Rich has been quite busy lately dealing with the new site upgrades. I hope he will weigh in.

For me, a brief sentence or so answer would be:
A practical view of the Trinity impacts the way we worship, pray, relate to (or love) others, and how we are to deal with suffering.

No doubt someone on the committee would then ask for some elaboration, given how a brief sentence or so would only tease the need for more elaboration.

Hence...
If we think about a Father, we necessarily think about a Son. Sons resemble their fathers, so God the Son resembles God the Father. God the Father possesses the divine essence, so God the Son must possess the divine essence. But God the Son is not God the Father. God the Father is not God the Son. Here then is where a practical view of the Trinity can teach us that there must be distinctions between the Persons of the Trinity: what each Person does, how each Person relates to the others, and so forth.

Accordingly, once we begin thinking about any one of the divine Persons, we immediately realize that two other Persons must exist as well. Scripture often describes the Son as the Word of God, and the Spirit as the Breath of God. If there is a Word (God the Son), then there must be a Speaker (God the Father). Likewise, if there is a Speaker (God the Father) there must also be a Word (God the Son). Yet there must also be a Breath (God the Holy Spirit), Who carries forth the Word that the Speaker says.


A practical view of the doctrine of the Trinity gives direction to our prayers, by reminding us that our prayers are founded upon the Trinitarian view of grace—access to God the Father that is freely ours by the God the Holy Spirit in the name of God the Son.

A practical doctrine of the Trinity teaches us to approach God in humility, as adopted children, purely by His grace. The doctrine of the Trinity also teaches us the true meaning of love, because it shows us the humility and sacrificial nature of God at work.

The doctrine of the Trinity drives us to the Cross, where the cross itself only makes sense to a Trinitarian eye. On the cross, an innocent Son is not being punished by an impassive Father for others' sins. The cross is a reminder to believers that they should not be surprised when (not if) they suffer. When we reflect on the achievement made actual by the suffering of God the Son, we gain perspective about our own suffering, enabling us to see that to suffer for God the Son is to suffer with God the Son. And when we are in the midst of despair and suffering, this knowledge is immensely practical.
Click this
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Rich, this is a great question. How would you answer it in a brief two sentence or so answer?
It's the kinds of questions our committee designs to ask licentiates and others being examined by our Presbytery. It's one thing to know that the Trinity is Father, Son, and Spirit in three Persons but another to actually have an experience of it.

I believe that the "practical" value of the Trinity is the knowability and communion with God. In particular, the Father so loves us that He sends the Son to redeem us and free us from darkness and slavery to sin. The Son becomes man not only to accomplish redemption but to condescend God to mankind. God's mercies become human mercies in Christ and we have a knowledge of God in Christ because the Son became man for us. The Spirit applies the work of redemption and it is His work that unites us to the risen Christ and all His perfected Mediatorial work for us as well as His continued work on our behalf.

As I studied some early Trinitarian controversies, I was struck at how early and profoundly the Church understood that the Trinity is the God Who saves us. We often do not realize how precious it that we have a personal God and not an unknowable monad (Islam, Post-Christian Rabbinism). All three persons work together to condescend to our creaturely nature.
 

BG

Puritan Board Junior
For the helpfulness of the thread, how would you define this? For example, what does it mean to be addicted to movies? If they own 25 movies that they bought, 50, 100, what constitutes an addiction in that regard?
What if they have an addictive personality, and struggle to mortify that daily?
Some addictions like p0rn or drugs are obvious and disqualify a man immediately and some addictions are a little harder to define. Many addictions fall into a gray area, I liken it to the issue of modesty there are no hard and fast rules for modesty but we all know It when we see it. Addictions are usually at the forefront of all your thoughts, they control you and cause you to be angry when you can't do them. I'm not sure that I can give you a litmus test for all addictions, I only bring it up because I struggle with an addictive personality myself.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Some addictions like p0rn or drugs are obvious and disqualify a man immediately and some addictions are a little harder to define. Many addictions fall into a gray area, I liken it to the issue of modesty there are no hard and fast rules for modesty but we all know It when we see it. Addictions are usually at the forefront of all your thoughts, they control you and cause you to be angry when you can't do them. I'm not sure that I can give you a litmus test for all addictions, I only bring it up because I struggle with an addictive personality myself.
Bill, if the minister has an "addictive personality" how would that play into his disqualification, or not?
Can ministers have addictive personalities and not sin on those addictions at some point?
 

BG

Puritan Board Junior
Bill, if the minister has an "addictive personality" how would that play into his disqualification, or not?
Can ministers have addictive personalities and not sin on those addictions at some point?

I'm not sure I can answer the question. I think the problem we run up against is this: men are liars. In an interview a man will say what he thinks you want to hear because he wants the job. I don't know if we can truly tell if a man is qualified with out observing him over an extended period of time. The Wall Street model may not be the most biblical way to choose a pastor.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
I'm not sure I can answer the question. I think the problem we run up against is this: men are liars. In an interview a man will say what he thinks you want to hear because he wants the job. I don't know if we can truly tell if a man is qualified with out observing him over an extended period of time. The Wall Street model may not be the most biblical way to choose a pastor.
Yes.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm not sure I can answer the question. I think the problem we run up against is this: men are liars. In an interview a man will say what he thinks you want to hear because he wants the job. I don't know if we can truly tell if a man is qualified with out observing him over an extended period of time. The Wall Street model may not be the most biblical way to choose a pastor.
Indeed. I was taught in a business class I took in college that every question in an interview is really designed to answer one of two questions: why should I hire you, of why shouldn't I hire you. We were told to always seek to answer the first question and never the second one.
 
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