One of the documents I created for a Pastoral selection process in which I was engaged was an early questionnaire developed to elicit some of the candidate’s principal theological viewpoints.
It occurred to me that these same questions, or many of them, may also, and just as easily, be used by someone trying to determine which church to attend or even what theological positions a teacher, writer, or speaker might maintain.
Without any further elaboration, here is the questionnaire.
Pastoral Candidate Questionnaire
1) The IRS, through its Form 4361, allows pastors to opt out of Social Security and Medicare taxes if they certify as follows:
“I certify that I am conscientiously opposed to, or because of my religious principles I am opposed to, the acceptance (for services I perform as a minister, member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, or Christian Science practitioner) of any public insurance that makes payment in the event of death, disability, old age, retirement; or that makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care. (Public insurance includes insurance systems established by the Social Security Act.)”
“I certify that as a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church or a member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, I have informed the ordaining, commissioning, or licensing body of my church or order that I am conscientiously opposed to, or because of religious principles, I am opposed to, the acceptance (for services I perform as a minister or as a member of a religious order) of any public insurance that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement; or that makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care, including the benefits of any insurance system established by the Social Security Act.”
Question: Do you pay, or plan to pay, Social Security and Medicare taxes, or are, or will you be exempt? Please discuss and defend why you accepted the position you took concerning your Social Security and Medicare taxes. If you plan or are exempt, please explain the biblical support for conscientiously opposed to or the religious principles to oppose acceptance of the Social Security Act.
Why would this be important? The fact is the Bible is clear that we are to pay our taxes (Romans 13:6-7), and there is no biblical support for a religious objection against social security. Yet, too often, Pastors are opting out. This may be because of bad advice, poor planning, or even the love of money. All, of course, are problematic. Additionally, when retired, a Pastor who doesn’t have a safety net – both Social Security and Medicare – will burden someone. Please don’t ignore this; it tells much about the person’s character and planning abilities.
One prominent Christian Finance Guru suggests that ministers should opt out of the Social Security System “because sending money to the Social Security office is a bad way to manage your money for God.” If that were a valid argument, Christ would have refused to pay taxes because those same tax dollars would be used to crucify Him. He didn’t, and this is not a valid excuse.
2) A movement known as “KJV-only” has become very popular. Please explain your thoughts on the KJV-only position and discuss what version(s) of the Bible you recommend and why.
What’s so important here? The purpose of the Bible is to, as John 20:31 says, “…these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” It is not to cause division because someone uses a different version.
3) Explain how you develop and deliver your sermons. Include what resources and time commitments are necessary to prepare a sermon. Additionally, do you preach through the Bible, or are you more topical in your approach?
Why is this important? In our Internet age, it is not uncommon to take the easy way out and simply “download sermons” instead of genuinely studying and developing sermons.
Additionally, many Pastors have moved away from Expository Preaching, or sermons that go verse by verse through the Bible, to develop fluffy “Sermonettes for Christianettes.” This will keep congregations forever babes, and frustrate those who really want to grow spiritually.
4) What is your position on church government? For example, where do you fall with regard to Pastoral Rule, Congregational Rule, and Elder Rule? How do you feel the pastor can be held accountable regarding doctrinal and leadership positions and decisions?
This is a big issue, and unfortunately, many ignore the “plurality of elders” leadership requirement of Timothy and Titus, opting to have a Pastor lead the church without any accountability or a Congregational Rule church where Democracy is apparently more important than what the Bible teaches on leadership. Accountability and obedience to God’s word are critical to running a church and determining which Pastor to put in leadership.
5) What are your doctrinal positions on the following:
- Tithing – What do you believe about tithing and free-will giving as taught in the Old and New Testament? Explain?
- Tithing is an Old Testament concept, actually, around paying taxes. Both the Old and New Testaments teach “free will giving.” However, some Pastors prefer an easy way out and teach Tithing and a fixed (10%) giving requirement to ensure their financial well-being.
- Salvation – please discuss the following:
- Is mankind totally depraved and unable, on their own power, to be saved?
- How does man’s free will play into rejecting or accepting Jesus Christ as savior?
- Are men chosen before the creation of the world for salvation, or does God, through his power of Omniscience, look into the future, witness who accepts salvation, and then ratifies their choices?
- If one is elected, do you believe that, without doubt, they will be saved?
- Do you believe that once saved, always saved, or can a Christian lose their salvation?
- Why is this question so detailed? It’s been my experience that many will try to obfuscate the answer to these questions, hoping not to offend either side of the election debate. You need to know precisely where they stand, and breaking down the question is the best way to get to the truth.
- Additionally, these beliefs will play a significant role in the church’s future evangelistic efforts.
- Eschatology – What are your beliefs concerning the end times, specifically the Rapture, Tribulation, and the Millennium? Also, are people saved during the Tribulation?
- Spiritual Gifts – Should we rebuke the Devil, speak in tongues, and heal the sick, or were those apostolic signs of whose time has passed? Explain.
- Biblical Interpretation – What are your beliefs concerning interpreting the Bible? For example, do you take a literal, historical approach or feel a more symbolic approach is appropriate?
The combination of various doctrinal beliefs is critical in developing a Pastor’s position on multiple aspects of Christianity. You need to understand the scope of these positions.
6) What do you feel are your spiritual gifts from God? What about your spouse? Please elaborate.
7) The pastor/elder must meet the qualifications of an elder in Titus and 1 Timothy. Are there any areas you may want to disclose and discuss that might raise questions if later discovered? Do you feel confident about your qualifications?
8) Our goals are to grow in numbers and spiritually. What general ideas would you suggest to balance spiritual growth goals while attracting new members?
9) What would be the most important questions you would want addressed from us to consider becoming our pastor?
10) We verify resumes. Would you please provide your resume and references and discuss any points where you would like to offer further explanation?
Don’t ignore this issue. I have seen cases where confirming resumes discovers exaggerated educational achievements and even prior illicit affairs.
You may fall on many sides of the above issues, and some may be more or less important to you. Finally, there may be other issues that may be even more important.
In the end, the Pastor your church hires or the one who shepherds you should be more than just a really nice guy.