Pulpit Committee

But as God hath distributed to every man,
as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.
And so ordain I in all churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17

For this cause left I thee in Crete,
that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting,
and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
Titus 1:5

The pulpit committee is popular among the Baptists. When the church requires the service of a pastor once the office of the pastor is left vacant, the church members would form a pulpit committee usually led by a deacon to look for another pastor. They claim that the church has to “call” a pastor. The committee would then look for suitable candidates, interview them and then report their findings to the church in which the church has to vote whether or not to “call” the man recommended by the pulpit committee to be the pastor of their church. The pulpit committee is taking on the function of a human resource department of a corporation except that it gives some “Christian” touch to the whole affair where prayers are made in the process. But is it the way such business is being done in the New Testament? Is there a biblical principle or pattern to support such a practice?

In Titus 1:5, we have Paul’s instruction for Titus; “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:” The criteria or spiritual qualifications for the office are given in the subsequent verses. We see that the office of an elder is by appointment and not “called” via a pulpit committee’s recommendation for a church to decide base on voting.

Likewise in 1 Timothy 3, Paul also gave Timothy the spiritual qualifications of a bishop and a deacon. It is safe to infer from the parallel passages that Timothy was also given the responsibility to appoint church office holders based on the given guidelines.

The apostle Paul when speaking about his own office, he pointed out that, “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” (2 Timothy 1:11) Paul’s office was by appointment and he did not become an apostle, preacher and teacher because some Christians like him and “called” him to the pulpit by means of voting of the church.

Concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, his office was also appointed; “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.” (Hebrews 3:1-3) Imagine, how many would vote for Jesus, if sinners would be given a choice to let Jesus be their head?

The Lord himself also practice appointment and not voting; “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” (Luke 10:1) He did not consult anyone on his choice of these men. He did not ask the followers to cast a popular vote for these men so that they might do a more effective job.

The apostles also did not believe in voting. Instead, they followed the Lord’s example in appointing men to their work. “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.” (Acts 7:44)

So why Christians have this funny ideal of forming a committee to call a pastor by voting? Perhaps in this way, the church or the board can exercise political control over certain aspect of the preacher’s ministration of the word of God. Of course I do understand the concern of some Christians that there would be a lack of accountability of the pastor to the church or that the pastor might become a dictator and lord over the members of the church.

While such concerns are valid as far as men’s point of view is concerned; however, the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles did not seem to worry about abuses of the pastor to even suggest the setting up of some form of check and balance mechanism within the church such as the pulpit committee. Instead, the Lord commanded, “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27 & 28)

Likewise, the apostle Peter being an elder himself commanded the elders to “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2 & 3)

The apostle Paul went even further to suggest that it is more likely that the church will take the preacher for granted and even abuses him. He warned the Christians in Galatia to “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:6 & 7)

With regards to the Christians in Corinth, he rebuked them with no uncertain terms for abuse he bore with them on the matters of support in material things; “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:1-14)

The issue of abuse can go either way. If only Christians would read the Scriptures with a Bible believing heart, this issue will not arise and man-made committee would not be necessary. The preacher is not the head of the church. In Colossians 1:18, we are told that the Lord is the head of the church; “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” The Lord does not need any committee to declare that he is the head of the church.

Since the Lord is the head of the church, why should anyone worry that the preacher will abuse the members of the church. So what authority does the preacher really have? The only authority that a preacher has is spiritual authority. He uses the means of foolishness of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21) because like Paul said, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10: 4 & 5)

If a preacher gets out of God’s will and begins to lord over God’s heritage, what makes you think that God cannot deal with him but require a pulpit committee to get the job done? Some people tend to confuse the preaching of the whole counsel of God and enforcement of God’s counsel in an individual’s life. The pastor has no authority to enforce what he preaches but simply to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2) So why the need to appoint a pulpit committee to ensure a suitable preacher is called by the church to be her pastor? The Lord is certainly able to raise up servants after his own heart to feed his lambs and sheep.