When appointing seven men to serve tables, the twelve said to believers, “Brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (Acts 6:3). Paul and Barnabas seem to have appointed elders in every church from within the congregation (Acts 14:23). Paul had directed Titus to appoint elders in every town, which shows that this was done from within the church (Tit. 1:5).
What we grasp from the Scriptures is that the men who became shepherds were basically homegrown. The churches over which they have become overseers were the churches in which they have grown and matured. In his classic book, Missionary Methods: God’s Plan for Missions According to Paul, Roland Allen specifies, “The elders were really part of the church to which they ministered. They were at home. They were known to the members of their flock.”1 J D Payne, pastor and author, comments:
The pastors for these churches came from the new disciples that made up the newly planted churches. While this answer may come as a surprise to those of us living in places where the church has existed for centuries, it’s true. Paul and Barnabas had a small team, so all of the elders could not have come from their team. There is no record of the team contacting the churches in Antioch or Jerusalem asking, “Could you please send us some pastors for these new churches?” There were no seminaries to recruit from. They couldn’t post a “help wanted” ad in a denominational newspaper.2
The author of The Mentoring Church, Phil A. Newton, observes, “The development of leaders for the early church took place organically rather than institutionally.”3 So the best way to appoint or send pastors is by equipping the men and appointing them as shepherds from the local congregation. Homegrown pastors’ character and ability are more transparent to the local church. Homegrown pastors are more faithful to the church’s doctrine and practice because they have grown up in the church culture. Homegrown pastors carry a greater sense of ownership towards the vision of the church. Sam Rainer, pastor and co-founder of Rainer Publishing, affirms:
The church needs more homegrown leaders. It’s not a novel plea. In fact, church researchers have called for local equipping of leaders for a long time. In our globalized society, however, it is becoming even more important…Many churches will benefit by training and equipping local, homegrown leaders who have specific, lifelong knowledge of their context.4
Does this mean we must not hire pastors from outside the local congregation? Although raising homegrown pastors is a better practice, it is not wrong to hire them from outside. But a careful evaluation of their godly character, biblical convictions, and teaching ability is absolutely required. Hastiness is hazardous. Their knowledge, skills, and experience must be considered of secondary importance. They must first become members of the church, and undergo training or evaluation for a couple of months. Thereafter, if they meet biblical requirements, with the affirmation of the church, they can be appointed as shepherds.
In his book, Dangerous Calling, Paul David Tripp cautions churches on appointing or hiring pastors without knowing them well. He writes:
We must get to know, really know, the people we put into positions of spiritual leadership and care of God’s people…What does knowing the man mean? It means knowing the true condition of his heart (as far as that is possible)… It is essential to know the heart of the man behind the knowledge, skill, experience, and ministry strategy before you call him to pastor God’s flock.5
1 Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: God’s Plan for Missions According to Paul. Aneko Press. Kindle Edition.
2 J D Payne, Apostolic Church Planting (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2015), pg. 41-42
3 Phil A. Newton, The Mentoring Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2017), pg. 20
4 Sam Rainer, The Need for More Homegrown Leader, https://samrainer.com/2012/12/the-need-for-more-homegrown-leaders/
5 Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 20212), pg. 65, 61, 68
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
C. Stephen David serves as a pastor at Ekklesia Evangelical Fellowship, Hyderabad, Telangana. He is married to Chaitanya and they have two children.