People ask me all the time if I ever think about starting a church. My answer? No, not much. Only about twice per day.

I have thought through quite a bit what an “ideal” church looks like. You know the old saying, “once you find the perfect church, you better leave since your presence makes it no longer perfect” . . . or something like that.

No, I am not talking about the “perfect” church. There is no such thing. Ideal. That is the key. How would it be structured? How often would you take the Lord’s supper? Liturgy? Type of preaching? All of these are great questions. But I want to talk only about one here today. Maybe we will follow this up with other issues, but let’s focus now on my (loosely held) opinion concerning the pastorate:

Michael, what would your pastoral staff look like theologically? Calvinistic? Premillenial? Memorialist Lord’s supper?

No, none of these. I would propose a call for a somewhat theologically diversified group of pastors.  I would not only allow for freedom in many areas of theology, but I would intentionally attempt to build a diversified staff, many of whom would disagree with me on issues about which I have very, very strong opinions.

I would have to distinguish between those issues upon which I have strong opinions and those which I am convicted are necessary for the proper functioning of the local church.


  • Belief in the central elements of the Gospel: The person and work of Christ (who he is and what he has done).
  • Belief in sola Scriptura: Scripture alone is the final and only infallible authority for the Christian.
  • Belief in sola fide: Faith is the only instrumental cause (from a human standpoint) that brings about justification (i.e., no works-based salvation).
  • Belief in the future coming of Christ: i.e., cannot be a Preterist.
  • Must be formally trained in Bible and theology (sorry, no online stuff).

(Oh, and then there is the 1 Tim requirements, but that goes without saying here).

Pretty Evangelical Protestant so far.

Some areas I might seek diversity in:

  • I would want an Arminian on my staff.
  • I would seek someone who has a different eschatology.
  • I may seek someone who disagrees about infant/adult baptism.
  • I would seek someone who is more liturgical (high church) than me.
  • I would allow for someone who has a different view of creation (i.e., young earth/old earth) as long as they were not militant about it or too self-assured about their position (Don’t turn the comments into this debate again!)

Okay, those are some good representative doctrines that give you an idea of what I am talking about.

Why would I seek such diversity? A few reasons:

1. It would better represent the broad tradition of Evangelicalism. I don’t believe that there is a good or compelling reason to separate locally (i.e., with extensive traditional doctrinal statements) when we don’t separate  conceptually as Evangelicals.

2. It would be didactically (educationally) beneficial for the congregation. I want to illustrate to all the people, young and old, how Christianity is built around key central beliefs (I am a centralist!). I want to demonstrate how Christians can disagree meaningfully and strongly on certain issues, but still serve the same God together in a united purpose. I would even do special sessions/sermons where I and another pastor defend our positions. Then we would hug. (Well, shake hands.)

3. It is a better presentation to the world of our unity. The outside world needs to see such focus. It would, in my opinion, charge the Gospel with the power of its message as the message could no longer be obscured in secondary issues.

Of course, there are some things that are negotiable that cannot be demonstrated in the same way. For example, I may have someone on my staff who is a congregationalist, but the church would not be congregational.

In the end, it is my proposal that churches should be intentionally diversified in their pastorate.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    108 replies to "A Call for a Diversified Pastorate"

    • Rick Wadholm Jr

      While I agree to diversity (I’m pretty sure a church will have it with more than one person automatically 🙂 on the staff…how do you see this playing out in the MANY churches that have only one pastor? I have personally tried to include teaching about differing perspectives on various issues (even ones I STRONGLY disagree with), but to do so respectful of the different perspectives arguments. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve tried to pastor from a varied perspective, while still stating (often) where I stand in the mix, but still trying to do justice to a different perspective. What would be your proposal in such a situation?

    • C Michael Patton

      Rick, that is a great point and question and I am surprised that you are the first to bring it up. When you get to a staff of one or two on the pastorate, I think that the method that must be followed is simply to be intentional about helping people to understand the diversity and, themselve, formulate a doctrinal taxonomy.

    • Dave Z

      Meanwhile, again, the question “is this who God has sent?” doesn’t seem to be supported in the Bible.

      Yeah, tell that to John the Baptist when he asked exactly that question. Or to the apostles when they were looking to replace Judas.

      It’s closely allied to the common problem of “seeking God’s will”, by which we normally mean “looking for secret divine revelations made only to us by which we can forego personal responsibility and wisdom”.

      Oh, yes – “seeking God’s will” – the height of foolishness.

      And kindly stop making unwarranted assumptions about what I mean and what my motives are.

    • Wm Tanksley

      Meanwhile, again, the question “is this who God has sent?” doesn’t seem to be supported in the Bible.
      Yeah, tell that to John the Baptist when he asked exactly that question. Or to the apostles when they were looking to replace Judas.

      What an awesome reply! I’m serious — I like your tone and your logic, and your scriptural premises.

      But John wasn’t looking for a coworker, but the long-prophesied Messiah. And notice what Jesus replied when John started doubting while in prison: he made a list of qualifications that He fulfilled, based on those prophecies and on the nature of His calling (if I may use that term). In addition, Jesus knew the “My sheep hear My voice…”, while your applicant doesn’t have any such claim on you.

      And the apostolic example has two strikes against it. First, unlike you, the apostles weren’t acting with the Holy Spirit, since Pentecost hadn’t come; and second, they didn’t merely ask God for direction, but rather they set up a list of qualifications, and only when they’d reduced the number of candidates did they cast lots.

      I could sympathize with anyone who, having two equally qualified candidates, cast lots to choose between them; but I have no sympathy nor agreement with someone who refuses to draw up a list of qualifications before starting the search.

      I know you’re not foolish; I see that you allow for some qualifications. You speak of “minimizing” the prequalifications, though, and that’s what I’m warning about. Even Patton, with his desire to build an irenic pastoral staff, has qualifications.

      It’s closely allied to the common problem of “seeking God’s will”, by which we normally mean “looking for secret divine revelations made only to us by which we can forego personal responsibility and wisdom”.
      Oh, yes – “seeking God’s will” – the height of foolishness.

      No. The height (and depth) of foolishness is to not fear the Lord. But wisdom does not consist merely of avoiding foolishness; it’s listening to the whole counsel of God, not merely casting lots for every decision; applying the wisdom and teaching God put into your life, not asking God for new instruction every time any choice arises.

      And kindly stop making unwarranted assumptions about what I mean and what my motives are.

      This isn’t about you; I’m replying to you only because you make a common error. I don’t know who you are. If you took offense at the problem I described, please consider whether my description might match a problem you actually have. If you think I’m wrong, you shouldn’t be offended, but should feel like I need correction.

      If I’m wrong, and I may be, it’s not because I made assumptions about you or about your motives, because that’s not what I did.


    • Matt B.

      “Must be formally trained in Bible and theology (sorry, no online stuff).”

      That’s too bad; you might just find some folks that fall into this category that God has tremendously gifted. I’m attending Rockbridge Seminary right now and am amazed at the growth in understanding that I am seeing already. Of course, it is not based on the traditional style of seminary (, but it is still a great place for growth in knowledge and ministry, IMHO. In addition, you have to be currently serving in ministry to attend and have a mentor for each class taken. While I see a benefit in a brick-and-mortar school, I don’t think that graduates from online/DL schools should be looked at any differently (or at least discounted from the start).

      Yes, I’ve read the other comments here, but I think that just by your statement alone, you are discounting your own TTP program.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Matt, I don’t want to speak for Michael but the TTP program is advertised as seminary training in your own home meaning it brings the core theology courses that all DTS masters programs have to take. The actual degrees require substantially more classes from other disciplines, such as Bible exposition, pastoral ministries, Christian education, etc., especially for the ThM. Some of these classes are specifically for training in preaching/teaching where you are critiqued. (ThM has to take at least 2 preaching classes plus a teaching class through Christian Ed) That can’t happen on-line. I have taken a few of my classes at DTS on-line but it is not the same.

      There is also the 4-semester Spiritual Formation curriculum, where we meet in a small group and go through a series each semester. This fosters spiritual growth in the context of community.

    • Matt B.

      I wonder what the Jewish teachers of the day would have said about the 12 disciples teaching – probably something along the lines of “nope, they haven’t gone through the rigorous testing required”.

      Acts 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.

      I’m not trying to make light of the need for a solid educational background, but God prepares people many different ways for His work. When you discount a person just because he didn’t get a degree from a brick-and-mortar school, you might be missing out. There are other ways to check a person’s theological and leadership strengths and weaknesses than by looking at where they got their “pedigree”.

      BTW – I took a couple of courses online through Denver Seminary and they left a lot to be desired from an interaction standpoint. Now on my second term at Rockbridge Seminary, I can attest to a world of difference it makes attending a seminary that is specifically geared towards an online audience of those already in ministry.

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