DEAR REV. GRAHAM: Our pastor just announced that he’s retiring in a few months, after almost 40 years in our church. It has really shaken us, because he’s the only pastor most of us have ever known. I don’t think we’ll ever find anyone to replace him. What advice would you have for us?
— V.G. DEAR V.G: The most important advice I can give you is to ask God to guide you to the person He has chosen as your next minister. Make it a matter of constant prayer — not just personally, but as a congregation. Moses was the only leader the people of his generation had ever known, but God had already prepared Joshua to take his place (see Deuteronomy 31:23).
It would be natural for you to look for someone who is just like your present pastor — but this shouldn’t be your main criteria. God instead may have someone for you who has different gifts and a different personality, and you should be open to this. Your church may need someone with different gifts to carry it into the future. When your present pastor came almost 40 years ago, I suspect some people probably grumbled because he wasn’t just like their old pastor!
What qualities should you look for? First, any minister should be deeply committed to Jesus Christ, with a definite sense of divine calling. Pastors also should have a deep love for people (including those who don’t know Christ), and a life that is marked by prayer, Bible study and Christ-like character.
As a footnote, I hope your congregation will go out of its way to welcome and encourage its new pastor. The Bible says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you … so that their work will be a joy, not a burden” (Hebrews 13:7, 17).