“Seeking a preacher” appears to be a one sided affair. A congregation shuffles through some resumes, does a few interviews, allows a preacher to bring a few messages, and then they take their pick of who they want in the pulpit. But reality begs to differ. While a preacher may not put out ads “Seeking a congregation”, he does choose where he will preach. A great number of preachers receive interest from congregations, only to tell them, “No thank you”. Some preachers take proactive steps to find a congregation by posting their resumes in various publications with a message of interest for congregations to contact them if they need a preacher. However, the ads approach the situation in a manner that says, “choose me if you find me acceptable.” What if preachers decided to take out “Seeking a Congregation” advertisements that put the congregation on the side of demonstrating their worth? Contemplate four potential areas preachers might examine: leadership, assembly, congregational work ethic, and social activity. These areas will be examined momentarily, but one clarification needs to be mentioned. As the preacher lists these four areas of qualification for a congregation, understand his primary motive: “What is the potential for new birth?” Yes, a preacher concerns himself in part with secular concerns regarding pay, living arrangements, etc. but preachers study and share the gospel for the purpose of saving souls. If money attracted them most, they would not choose to preach. They love God and they love man and seek to make a difference. Their secondary motive: Strengthening souls who know Christ. A congregation which presents the opportunity to reach new souls and strengthen existing souls captures the heart of a preacher zealous for God.
What attributes do preachers expect from the leadership of a congregation? First, they desire the leadership be active. The passage Acts 20:17-35 recounts Paul’s words to the elders of Ephesus. Responsibility rested with these men to care for the church and labor to support the weak members. Titus 1:8-11 speaks of elders being dedicated to hospitality and stopping sin in the Church. Finally, Paul in I Timothy 3:5 declares elders care for the Church. Taking care of my wife and two children requires love, patience, and activity on my part. Caring for an entire congregation represents a body of work needing constant vigilance. An eldership that does not actively work counseling, guiding, encouraging, reproving, and focusing on the soundness of a congregation brings great pain to a preacher. An eldership sets the tone for a congregation to be lazy or to work. Elders constitute a body of men the preacher himself should desire to emulate. These men by qualification should be godly men whose example of labor and spiritual strength inspire. If this does not appear to be the case at a congregation, a solid preacher may pass on sharing the word in that location.
As a second attribute, seeking preachers expect elders to be fatherly. Our Father in heaven represents the ultimate example for elders. God is supportive, protective, and a disciplinarian. When Israel followed in the steps of God, he blessed them (Deuteronomy 28). This demonstrated his support for proper behavior. The support highlighted the godly actions and said, “Continue to do this!” Elders should be the biggest cheer leaders of a congregation. By giving praise and showing joy over the congregation’s behaviors, elders affirm the congregation walks a path pleasing to God. On numerous occasions, God demonstrated Himself to be a protective Father. He watched over Israel continually as they took the Promised Land. He sheltered the lineage of Jesus throughout the ages. He delivered the apostles from moments of what would normally be considered certain doom. Likewise, fatherly elders protect and deliver their flock through many perils. Quite often, the congregation does not even realize when false teachers have been turned back or vicious wolves have been chased off by an eldership. God not only supports and protects, but He continually disciplined Israel for their disobedience. This fatherly attribute sadly lacks in many congregations today. Quite often, this results from congregations operating without elders. However, even among many congregations with elders, discipline does not exist. Proverbs 13:24 – “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Love is not an absence of discipline. Preachers practically pull their hair out when they see sin rampant in a congregation and elderships not correcting it. Preachers desire good, fatherly elders.
A third attribute seeking preachers expect from a Church’s leadership is communication. Ecclesiastes 12:11 – “The words of the wise are as goads; and as nails well fastened are the words of the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.” Let’s be clear, elders do not need to communicate everything to a congregation. They do not need the approval of a congregation. An eldership which acts according to scripture is ordained by God to shepherd and that never means congregations direct them or gets to “vote” on issues. However, communication acts as a staff of direction for a shepherd. Where does an eldership desire the congregation to be spiritually? What steps does the congregation need to know so they can feed and grow. What can each member do so they can strengthen the Church? What pitfalls should a congregation be aware of so they as sheep do not fall into a pit? How can they reach out to bring other sheep into the fold? This type of communication aids a congregation and comforts them. A congregation not receiving such shepherding appears lost and may even be a grumbling congregation. Preachers desire to be with sound congregations ready to engage the world. They do not wish to be with ones cowering in fear of the unknown because their elders do not communicate with them.
Finally, a seeking preacher desires to see a visionary leadership. Leaders prepare and direct. Peter directed the Christians to keep their hope on the future appearing of Christ (I Peter 1:13). Yes, this may be seen as a daily activity, but it also points to the future. In the parable of the talents, two servants did well in care of their master’s possessions. The third servant did poorly because he did not have a proper vision for the future. Christians are to have their minds set on things above (Colossians 3:2). In order to focus on the things above, a vision of the future must be firmly affixed in the minds of Christians. No heavenly vision will be recognized without the obedience of Christians to God’s Word. Thus, an elder looks into the future and thinks about how the flock will stand before God. The eldership must focus on how to engage a congregation to grow and work. A great wide world lies in reach of the Church, but without a visionary eldership, the world fails to be reached and congregations lose hope. Seeking preachers do not want to be part of such an atmosphere.
When a preacher seeks a congregation, he cannot help but see the obvious. The assembly embodies the most visible sign of a congregation’s health. First, does the congregation demonstrate reverence to God? Congregants who come to worship looking as if they are ready for a ballgame or as if they just rolled out of bed, do not demonstrate reverence. Short skirts, faded jeans, low cut or tight skirts, shirts with worldly messages on them, this does not look like a congregation which consecrates itself before God. Yes, some people cannot afford fine clothes, but when they come before God they should bring their best – not be all wrinkled and untucked. Do the congregants possess their Bibles by their side ready to examine God’s Word? Do they give their attention to the worship or do they doodle, daydream, talk, and text? Second, can joy be seen in the congregation? Are they glad to be assembled? Do the members warmly greet one another? Is energy seen in their faces if not bodies? Or does the congregation appear to be half in the grave? Why would anyone want to brings his family to a body of Christians who seem miserable? Third, do the leaders and congregants come prepared? Are songs picked out in the last moment to lead the worship? Do the class leaders really prepare to teach a class or do they just appear to facilitate a discussion of opinion amongst the Church? For classes with homework, do the Christians actually do it? Are they even trying to do it during the class though they did not pay attention to it the entire week before? If a congregation cannot be prepared to worship, how will it be prepared to meet God? Fourth, do the worshippers participate? Does the congregation mumble though songs of praise to God or sit quietly instead of singing? Worship represents an action to be engaged upon by a congregation, not theatre for them to watch. Finally, do the Christians consistently attend? Is there a major drop off from Sunday morning, to night to midweek? What about gospel meetings, lectures, VBS, singings, or other spiritual activities? A seeking preacher pays attention to all of these areas. He does so out of concern for the spirituality of himself and his family and those he might bring to the Church. Preachers do not want to have new birth just to see its life crushed out rapidly by a dead congregation.
What is a congregation’s work ethic like? A seeking preacher wants a congregation with whom he can get his hands dirty. Does he hear from the congregation about all the activities they are involved in? Card writing, prison ministry, home studies, senior center classes, door knocking, phone calls, are these all part of ongoing activity for the Church? Does the congregation take serious Mark 16:15? Do they visit the orphan and widow (James 1:27). Does the congregation expect the visiting to be done by the preacher or do they realize visitation rests upon the shoulders of every member of a congregation? Does the congregation have a heart to visit? Do they have a mind to work? Are they actively seeking opportunities to help spread the Word? A body of Christians such as this with the Godly direction of an eldership can accomplish much. Yet, many congregations do not engage in the work. They do not want to be seen knocking doors because it might make them look like Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses! Shame on this attitude! A lack of desire to work because “we have tried before and it failed” demonstrates a lack of obedience to God.
Many understand why a seeking preacher would examine the leadership, assembly, and work ethic of a congregation, but why the social activity? Acts 2:46 exemplifies the ideal church body. They desired to be with one another. Romans 12:2 speaks of a body not wanting to be conformed to a world, but transformed from what they formerly were. 2 Corinthians 6:14 speaks of not being bound together with unbelievers. Philippians 4:8 speaks of desiring the pure and holy. An earnest Christian does seek to spend his social time with the world. Rather, from “house to house” he surrounds himself with a hedge of Christianity. A Christian demonstrates concern for the household of faith. He patterns his life after goodness and does those things which exude kindness. This means when other Christians arrive, in this case a preacher and his family, they contact attentiveness and love. Their experience leaves them not feeling like outsiders, but as family. This experience goes beyond an initial meeting. It embraces them in times of calm, celebration, and storm. It is there when there are car, plumbing, or family concerns. A preacher does not desire to be with a congregation where he will be with those that say he is family, but treat him like a stranger. He does not want to see them treating one another as strangers either. The Church is to be together forever, can it not show love upon the earth?
Seeking preachers do not typically take out an ad with their expectations of a congregation, but if they did, would your congregation even be considered? Preachers examine the scriptures and see attributes of the first century Church which they long to embrace. They want an engaged fatherly leadership which prepares a congregation to meet God. They crave reverent, joyful assemblies who long to be like Christ. This thrills a preacher. Congregations engaging the world by visiting and teaching draw a preacher to them, because he has given himself to the same work. Bodies of Christians embracing a life with other Christians rather than returning to the world following worship, call to a preacher who desires to have such Christian fellowship in his life. A truly seeking congregation and seeking preacher want the same thing: Faithful Christians yearning for the Word of God and Christian fellowship. Each desires to present himself before God in the final day, pure, holy, and acceptable. A match only fails to be made between congregation and preacher when one of them fails to be sound in scripture. Congregations present yourselves worthy unto God so that you may present yourselves appealing to the righteous who seek you.