In 2015, when Pastor Erwin Lutzer announced his transition to Pastor Emeritus, The Moody Church began a process to find a replacement Lead Teaching Pastor. That process is overseen by the Pastoral Search Committee and the Elders. Below you’ll find resources and information about the process and important updates.
Pastoral Search Process
Following Pastor Lutzer’s announcement of his plan to transition to the role of Pastor Emeritus, The Moody Church leadership immediately undertook a process to create the search criteria for a replacement, and then began that exploration in earnest. While that process may have seemed long, the extensive vetting undertaken by our Pastoral Search Committee allows us to understand the heart of a man who might be considered for our next Teaching Pastor, which is not something to take lightly.
Below you’ll find more information about the extensive vetting process undertaken by the Pastoral Search Committee, the Elders Council, and the Leadership Council. In addition, you’ll learn a bit more about the congregation’s vital role in this endeavor.
There are four stages in the pastoral search process. The process may be subject to change in the months ahead as we work with the final candidates, but right now this is our best estimate of how it will unfold.
This stage, begun in 2015, has been the longest and most in-depth component of the search. In conjunction with the Elders and in partnership with AGORA—the search firm The Moody Church hired to do the legwork—the Pastoral Search Committee (PSC) has investigated more than one hundred candidates over a two-year period.
The PSC is composed of men and women from the Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses: Berv Peterson (Chairman), Joseph Carré, Les Carter, Tom Sawyer, Greg Thornton, Ovi Tisler, Mimi Wagner, Phylis Watkins, and Ruth Zahn.
The PSC-level investigation includes the following:
- At every stage of the search process, and at every meeting, the PSC has diligently sought the Lord’s wisdom and guidance through prayer to reveal the right Pastor for our congregation.
- For each potential candidate, the PSC listened to multiple sermons, read résumés, viewed church websites, and explored any other available information such as podcasts, blogs, or books written by the candidates. They whittled down this large pool to those candidates who seem like they would be a good fit for The Moody Church.
- Out of this smaller group, the PSC dives deeper with potential candidates. Candidates take a Moody Church-directed personal questionnaire which requires a substantial time commitment, usually taking many hours to complete.
- AGORA reviews the questionnaire in an in-depth telephone interview with each candidate.
- Next, a comprehensive face-to-face interview is conducted in specific candidates’ homes (including with their wives and children). Following these interviews, the candidate pool is narrowed down to a handful of individuals.
- Each remaining candidate and his wife visit Chicago for a weekend of in-person interviews with the PSC and an opportunity to speak with the Elders—including the six Elders and Associate Elders not on the PSC—and the Elders’ wives. This in-depth time spent with men and women in leadership roles at the church provides for a lot of interaction. Great attention is given to exploring the character and heart for ministry of each candidate and his family. The candidates can also ask detailed questions about The Moody Church to ensure that the position would be a good fit for them. There is even an opportunity for the candidates to (anonymously) attend the Sunday morning service.
- Overall, the PSC and AGORA conduct many hours of interviews with these potential candidates.
Once the PSC has fully vetted all final candidates, they will refer two or more to the Elders Council for their consideration.
This second stage of the search process provides ample time for the full Elders Council (EC) to investigate and review the final candidates recommended by the PSC. The investigation at this stage comprises the following:
- The EC will determine the steps they need to take to choose the single candidate that they will consider nominating to the Leadership Council. All meetings begin in prayer to seek the Lord’s direction for choosing among the remaining candidates.
- The EC will receive the final candidates’ questionnaires and a research packet with links to websites where they can listen to sermons and find other information about the candidates, including personal and professional references.
- With a minimum three-quarters vote of the EC, a final candidate will be passed along to the Leadership Council (consisting of the Elders, Deacons, Trustees, Pastoral Staff, and Church Officers) to be vetted and interviewed before they vote.
This body of men represents an even larger cross-section of membership at The Moody Church. At this stage of the process:
- The Leadership Council (LC) will receive a comprehensive research packet about the final candidate from the Elders. The group will pray collectively for God’s wisdom in revealing His will for the final candidate.
- Members of the LC will review the materials, including sermons, résumé, and any other important pieces of background information.
- The candidate will later arrive in Chicago for an in-person introduction and interview with the entire LC.
- Following the interview, the candidate will leave and the LC will vote.
- A three-quarters vote is required to pass the candidate along for final consideration by the congregation.
If the final candidate passes through the vetting process of the Pastoral Search Committee, the Elders Council, and the Leadership Council, he will be presented to the church membership for a final vote of affirmation.
The congregation will receive two notices prior to their introduction to the candidate. You will be notified two weeks out and again one week out from the day of the congregational vote. The announcement will request your presence two Sundays from the initial notice for a vote on the final candidate, and will also provide information about the day’s events.
On that Sunday:
- The nominated candidate will deliver the Sunday morning sermon.
- Following the service, there will be time for Q&A with the candidate and his wife.
- Afterwards, the candidate and his wife will leave the meeting and the membership will vote.
- Members must be present to vote. Remember that only registered members are eligible to cast a vote! If you wish to vote but have never officially joined the church, attend the Discover Your Church membership class. The next session begins May 21.
- Constitutionally, the candidate needs to receive two-thirds support, but our hope is that there will be far higher support from the membership.
Logistically it’s impossible for the church membership to thoroughly vet the candidate, and not everyone can meet the candidate in advance.
But be encouraged! There are dozens of men and women from all walks of life in leadership positions at this church. You’ve already placed your trust in them to lead the church, and that’s what they’ve been doing in faithfully and prayerfully implementing this search process.
In the end, The Moody Church has faith that our congregation will affirm the leadership’s recommendation of the final candidate.
Nevertheless, the congregation’s role is vital. While it is logistically impossible for you to duplicate the extensive vetting process, your vote matters a great deal. Constitutionally, we need a two-thirds membership vote to accept the candidate. So, on that final Sunday, ask yourself: is there any reason, based on what I know so far about the vetting process, the church leadership, and the candidate, why I couldn’t vote to affirm the nomination?
Remember, your vote counts, both as a vote of support for the people and process behind the search, and as a vote of confidence in the selected candidate. The Moody Church can’t and won’t move forward without the membership’s support.
Above all, pray for our Search Committee, that they may discern the Lord’s will for the Teaching Pastor position at The Moody Church. Pray also for our congregation, that we all might prepare our hearts and minds to move into this new era of Moody Church history with zeal for what the Lord will do through us in Chicago and around the world. To God be the glory.