“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he” (1 Samuel 16:7-12).

Several years ago, when a church was in search of a pastor, they turned to the Pulpit Committee. One day churches realized they had a pulpit but didn’t have a pastor. So they changed the name to Pastor Search Committee but the endeavor was the same; find a man of God to shepherd the congregation. Although I’m not sure the methodology was correct, I presume the intention was; they were searching for the just the right man to lead their flock. So let me ask: Would you, if you were on the Pastor Search Committee, hire the preacher I’m about to describe? 

This candidate brings an unimpressive resume (I guess it would be a Curriculum Vitae these days). Let me tell you about him: 

  • He had never been to seminary.
  • He has no denominational credentials.
  • He had previously followed another religion and was so zealous he was willing to kill for it (sounds like a radical Muslim).
  • He would be considered homeless.
  • He was in poor health.
  • He was physically unimpressive.
  • He had been previously married but was now single.
  • He was a poor public speaker.
  • He had been to jail more than once.
  • He was a known trouble maker.
  • He often was fleeing the authorities.
  • He had never stayed, since his “conversion,” in the same place for very long.
  • His profession was “tentmaker.”
  • Many church leaders rejected him outright.
  • He had offended many Christians and churches.
  • He preached a Gospel of grace and not religion. 

The only thread of hope for this candidate is the opinion of but a few that he was filled with God’s Spirit, a great apologist for the Gospel, and that God seemed to move in many of the places that he ministered. But that, more than likely, would not gain him an interview, much less a trial sermon, in many contemporary churches. For this man’s story is even more tawdry than the résumé reveals. Beyond his horrendous Curriculum Vitae, he had even been an accomplice, in his former days and ways, to the murder of deacons, disciples, and believers and was at the forefront of the early church’s persecution.  

But now he says he is radically changed, transformed by the Good News of the Gospel. He has no pedigree, except in another religion. He has a questionable reputation and, seemingly, little to offer. Heaven forbid; how could we even consider this man as our pastor? Just look at his work history, lack of training, and, my gracious, his dubious of past! No way!!! 

Can you imagine the scene as the Pastor Search Committee peruses this résumé? It’s almost as if this is a joke. This man? Our Sheppard? File 13! Honestly, would you hire this man as your flock’s leader? Would you even considered him? Probably not. Nor would 99.9% of contemporary evangelical churches. But on what basis do we make such decisions? From what source have we acquired our “formula” for finding church leaders? 

Certainly you’ve figured this out by now. This hypothetical pastoral candidate is none other than the Apostle Paul. The one whose resume we would laugh at and never give a second thought to. But what’s most disconcerting to me is that Paul’s resume is not much worse than Christ’s would be. After all, Jesus didn’t come with sterling Curriculum Vitae and influential references. What in Christ’s resume and pedigree would make Him the top candidate to lead our congregation? Think about…even His hometown and family rejected Him: 

He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief…” (Mark 6:1-6). 

Could it be that we wouldn’t consider either Jesus or Paul qualified to pastor “our” churches today. If this it true, then God help us! For, if so, we have become so secular and “corporate” that we would discard those most preeminently qualified to lead us. It’s no wonder the institutional church is drying up and God’s Spirit seems to have moved, if it were possible, almost entirely to the 10/40 window, the persecuted church, and the house church movement. Because, I would venture to guess, almost all of the leadership of the early church (fishermen, tax collectors, and the like) would have no place in our pulpits today. But this ragtag, unlearned bunch turned the world upside down with the Gospel of Jesus. 

So maybe we need to get turned upside down ourselves.