"It wasn't a potential atonement actuated by the sinner, it was an actual atonement initiated by the savior."

John MacArthur

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Pastor, what do you believe?

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In a Pastoral selection process that I was involved with, one of the documents I developed was an initial questionnaire designed to ferret out some major doctrinal positions.

It occurred to me, however, 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.

Without any further elaboration, here is the questionnaire.


1)  The IRS, through its Form 4361, allows for the exemption from social security and medicare taxes to ministers who certify the following:

“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 took the position you took with respect to 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 and there is no biblical support for a religious objection against social security. Yet time after time, Pastors are opting out. This may be because of bad advice, or poor planning, or even the love of money. All of which are problematic. Additionally, someone who doesn’t have a safety net – both Social Security and Medicare – when retired will be a burden on the church. Don’t ignore this, it tells a lot 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 based on the grounds that 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 use 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 verson.

3) Explain how you develop and deliver your sermons. Include what resources you use and what time commitments are necessary for  you to prepare a sermon. Additionally, do you like to 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 truly studying and developing sermons. “Sermonettes for Christianettes” will keep baby Christians babies and frustrate those who really want to grow spiritually.

4) What is your position on church leadership. For example where do you draw the line between congregational rule and elder rule. How do you feel the pastor can be held accountable in the church with respect to doctrinal and leadership positions and decisions.

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?
  • Salvation – please explain the following:
    • Is the unsaved person totally depraved and unable, on their own power, to accept the gift of salvation?
    • How does man’s free will play into rejecting and 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, see who accepts salvation and ratifies that choice?
    • Did Christ’s death on the cross pay for the sins of the reprobate and the elect or just for the elect?
    • If one is elect do you believe that without doubt, they will be saved?
    • Do you believe that once saved always saved or can a Christian loose their salvation?
      • Why is this question so detailed? It’s been my experience that many will try to obfuscate the answer to this question hoping not to offend either side of this debate. The fact is you simply need to know exactly where they stand and breaking down the question is the best way to get at the truth.
  • Eschatology – what are your beliefs on the end times, the 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 signs for the new church whose time has passed? Explain.

6) What do you feel your gifts are from God? What about your spouse?  Please elaborate.

7) The pastor must meet the qualifications of an elder in Titus and 1 Timothy. Are there any areas that you would want to disclose and discuss that, if later discovered, might raise questions? Do you feel confidant about your qualifications.

8) Our goals are to grow not only in numbers but to grow spiritually as many feel that we’ve not been spiritually fed. Our desires are to attract both younger and older members. What general ideas would you suggest to achieve the goals of spiritual growth and attracting members.

9) What would be the most important questions you would want answered from us in order to consider becoming our pastor?

10) We do verify resumes. Would you please provide your resume and discuss any points where you would like to offer further explanation.


You may fall on many sides of the above issues and some may be more or less important. Finally, there may be other issues that are also important.

That’s fine.

The purpose is simply to highlight doctrinal issues that will determine whether or not you should accept an applicant as your new pastor, or whether or not you may or may not want to attend a particular church.

The bottom line if that you are responsible for your choices – it’s only wise to make informed ones.