Richards to college: Pastor role an inexplicable call

DALLAS—Preaching to a Nov. 7 chapel audience at Criswell College, Jim Richards said the biblically qualified minister has an inexplicable call of God on his life. Therefore, said Richards, the SBTC’s executive director, the pastoral role is not merely a job or vocation but rather “a supernatural calling from God that he pulls up from within and puts in our lives.”

With 1 Timothy 3:1-7 as his text, Richards told students preparing for ministry, “If you can do anything else, do it. But if you can’t do anything else but serve God in that vocational call that he has placed in you, then you will not be happy doing anything else.”

As chairman of the presidential search committee for the college, Richards said many of the principles for seeking a pastor are transferable in finding the next leader for the Dallas-based school envisioned by W.A. Criswell in 1969.

Pointing to verses 2, 3 and 7 of the passage, Richards encouraged churches seeking a pastor to notice the character of his life and find a man who is more concerned with complementing Christ than contextualizing with the culture, and less concerned with liberty and more concerned with lordship. “Let it be said that our lifestyles complement our message,” he added. 

As the “husband of one wife” and head of the home, a minister must demonstrate spiritual leadership in the domestic setting, Richards said. “Nothing ruins a man’s effectiveness more than a poor home life.”

He turned to Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24 as evidence of God’s expectations of a leader, recalling a remark of Adrian Rogers when he was accused of being a dictator at his church. “He said, ‘I am not the dictator, but I am the head tater.’”

Richards added, “There must be that leadership by example and instruction, control that is allowed so that the leadership may be able to set the course in the home, in the church and in an institution like a college.”

Explaining that leadership must be earned, Richards said, “The pastor can’t make a church follow him and even a president of a school can’t make the faculty, the board of trustees or the student body follow him.” Leaders can only go as far as people will let them, he added.

From verses 6-7 Richards observed that the minister should have experience and training, addressing the credibility that comes from preparation. “It can be a young man with training and even some experience or an older man with maybe less training and more experience. But the idea would be to have a man with training and experience so he would not be carried away by every wind of doctrine.”

From verse 2 he gleaned the only functional requirement of a pastor—that he is apt to teach. “Styles may vary, tastes may be different and factors come and go, but the non-negotiable is the Word of God.”

Making application to the college, Richards said, “So the president of the school must be a man who is committed to the inerrant, infallible Word of God, to our doctrinal statement at Criswell College, to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, and to those things that we believe about the Word of God.” 

Regarding his ability to teach and preach, Richards said it must be expository, citing Isaiah 28:13 to describe the pattern of “line upon line, precept upon precept, taking the Word of God as it is, preaching it book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and line by line.” It also must be evangelistic, Richards insisted, citing Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 9:16 to preach the gospel as well as “edifying to the saints,” quoting 1 Corinthians 14:12.

That pulpit ministry will involve “preaching against sin, for righteousness and spiritual maturity—the whole counsel of God,” Richards said. “God is going to use the man who fills the qualifications so that when God gets ready to do a great work he raises up his man.”

While reiterating that the Bible teaches that the office of pastor should be held by a male, Richards encouraged women preparing for ministry not to settle for anything less than God’s will should they decide to marry. “If God chooses singleness for your life you might be like Lottie Moon or Rebekah Naylor and others who have contributed to the kingdom beyond estimation, but if God gives you a life mate, let it be God’s man for you and don’t settle.”

Closing with a pledge to seek God’s will in seeking a president, Richards said, “Let’s find God’s man for Criswell College—a president who can lead the school and be what God would have him to be.”

“No one has an inside track,” he said in regard to the solicitation of recommendations through Dec. 2. While a bylaw requires that the president hold an earned Ph.D. and affirm a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial eschatological viewpoint, Richards acknowledged that the board “may choose to suspend” some of those conditions of employment if led to a person deemed to be the best candidate.

Resumes should be sent to and prayer is requested for the committee as it seeks God’s leader.

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