How do I identify future pastors/elders in the congregation?

 I get this question and others like it all the time.  With a movement to establish a plurality of pastors/elders on the rise, the answer to this question has become that much more important and relevant.  Because the pastors of our congregation just put forward 2 men for consideration to become pastors, the process of identifying these men is pretty fresh on my mind.  Therefore, here are 3 evidences to look for as you scan the men in your congregation and wonder who the Lord is raising up to serve as a shepherd alongside the other shepherds of the church:

Find men who function as a pastor without the title or recognition.  This is probably the most helpful counsel I have received on the matter.  Identifying pastors in your midst is not about finding those who think they should be pastors, but those who simply are by the way they care for the congregation already.  They shepherd the people without the title.  They care for the hurting unconcerned if their effort is noticed.  They disciple others because they long to see spiritual fruit in their life.  They teach and preach God’s Word gratefully when asked and never demand it as their right.  Most of all, the congregation looks to them as a shepherd.

Find men who assume the pastoral burden, although it has not yet been placed on them.  One of the affirming signs for me with these 2 brothers recently put forward in our church was their presence and demeanor at a recent pastor’s meeting.  As the shackles fell off their eyes and they saw the personal needs of the congregation unknown to them as we shared them and prayed for them, I watched the burden begin to fall upon their hearts as they considered the implications of “giving an account for souls.”  They have not been affirmed by the congregation just yet, but their growing burden for the people was undeniably present and very encouraging to myself and my fellow pastors to affirm that they are ready for this task. 

Find men who shepherd their family the way a pastor should shepherd God’s people.  A member in our church made a profound observation during our recent public discussion about these 2 prospective pastors which was, “If he cares for us half as faithfully as he cares for his family, we will be well cared for.”  Not only is a man’s care for his family a requirement to serve as a pastor/elder (1 Tim. 3:4), but is a helpful gauge on the kind of shepherd of the church he will be. 

Regardless where you find yourself and your church in this process, look around.  Who is teaching God’s Word humbly and faithfully?  Who is discipling others?  Who are the men to whom the members of your church gravitate for counsel?  Whether your church has established any form of a plurality of pastors/elders or not, look for those men.  They will be the ones to keep your eye on as you pray and search for the future shepherds of your people.

Posted in Oversight of Souls, The Pastor's Soul
15 comments on “How do I identify future pastors/elders in the congregation?
  1. thanks for posting this!
    Being in a member in a new church myself, these thoughts on future-elders helped me identify these traits within some of those who already in the church. A helpful analysis of some of the requirements from the pastoral epistles.

  2. paul dare says:

    This is great that we’re even thinking like this! Look internally. The whole search committee, go to seminary if you want to become a Pastor, interview, look externally model has so many issues. I’m not saying it can never work, but I would always prefer raising up leaders from within the body that not only are already serving the people there and building trust-filled relationships, but also will stay long term in that body to maximize ministry effectiveness and leave a legacy of discipleship that will transform families generationally!

  3. Chad Beck says:

    Pastor Brian,
    Thanks for the post. I just began teaching our people on plurality of elders in our SBC church. Although this church was organize with 2 elders in 1849, I have no agenda in trying to install elders anytime soon. I just want to teach our people and show them the weight the pastor carries in overseeing souls. I told our people Wednesday night and assured them I take my role as their pastor very seriously, just as Heb.13:17 says. Again, this will be a lengthy process and as far as I am concerned I am in no hurry to implement this change. But, I do want to teach them this much needed office in the Lord’s church.

  4. Ron Johnson says:

    Nicely summarized. We have been focusing on biblical qualifications of leaders and working towards helping the congregation understand these through practical questions to ask for each qualification. Our discussion often came back to exactly what you share, they should already be acting as an elder/pastor. If they are waiting for the title, they are not qualified. Thank you.

  5. Stephen says:

    Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog. I serve on the staff of my local church. Your posts are always so helpful and practical. Keep it up.

  6. Breno Macedo says:

    Pastor Brian.

    Great post. I also have a blog in Portuguese. Would you give me the permision to translate your post and put it on my blog?


  7. Carey says:

    I appreciate your comments about this subject… it’s near and dear to my heart as a church leader. I would add a few things, if you don’t mind 🙂 … 1) KNOW the biblical qualifications for Elders yourself. You need to know what you’re looking for if you want to find it. 2) Hold TO those biblical guidelines. They do you no good if you are unwilling to apply them. They filter out a lot of “maybe” candidates in favor of the ones who are more clearly headed in that direction. 3) Understand that the biblical requirements are about direction, not perfection. Look for patterns of growth, fueled by God’s grace in the man’s life.

    Thanks again for the article! I enjoy your blog…

  8. Terry Lange says:

    What do you do when you are in a church when the last two vacancies have been filled by people who were outside the congregation? There is another vacancy and the pastor will probably fill it from outside of the congregation. What do we as leaders do, especially if we are Scripturally qualified and have completed our formal education (MDiv) and have been ordained but watch others who have no history with the congregation waltz in to fill the vacancy and those of us who have served faithfully (10 yrs) are not even considered?

    • briancroft says:

      If those in the church are qualified and not being considererd, I am troubled about it. It sounds like it comes down to how folks are hired at your church. I would appeal to those who have the authority to make these decisions and show Biblically how the church is to be raising up leaders to serve there. Wherever the authority is, I would go there.

  9. Tumi says:

    thank you for this wonderful assistance!

  10. I don’t leave a response, however after reading through a few of the responses
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