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

The search for a new Senior Pastor began two years ago with 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 new Senior Pastor, 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 Senior 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 Senior 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.

Important Updates

The Pastoral Search Committee has been working for over two years, and in that time has reviewed more than a hundred potential candidates for Senior Pastor. Through this process we have learned a great deal about The Moody Church: who we are, our strengths and weaknesses, and how God is leading us. We’ve also learned about the kinds of candidates that are available and the way that other churches are structured. This learning process has caused us to reflect deeply on our own search process and church structure.


Every church is unique, but what makes that true of The Moody Church is our doctrine, our urban setting, and our history of strong preaching. For example, surveys of our congregation indicate that preaching is the number one reason why people attend. As we progressed in our search process, we realized that candidates who are extremely gifted as preachers may not have similar gifting as senior administrators. After deciding not to call either of our two candidates back in May, the Elders and the Search Committee took a break to stop and rethink our search process and candidate criteria.


In Acts 6:1–4, the Apostle Peter made the point that those charged by God with preaching the Word of God should devote themselves to that ministry and to prayer. That remains our priority for The Moody Church.


Leading up to the Annual Meeting, the Elders considered many different approaches to the pastoral search process, the type of candidate we are looking for, and how that candidate would best fit into our church organization. The results of this assessment were presented to the members at the Annual Meeting on October 29.


With the unanimous support of the Elders, and with strong support from the Leadership Council, Elder Chairman Berv Peterson and Managing Director of Operations Michael Pitts presented a proposal to the members that creates a new shared leadership model in agreement with the church constitution. It identifies three key roles—Lead Pastor, Lead Teaching Pastor, and Managing Director of Operations—as senior staff leaders. The new organizational model will allow each of these three to better focus their gifting to serve the church.


The proposal creates the new position of Lead Teaching Pastor, and directs the Pastoral Search Committee to focus their search on finding such a man for the church. This man’s primary role and gifting will be teaching and preaching the Word, and he will be the primary preacher in our Sunday morning and evening worship services. Because this role requires less administrative experience, the Search Committee can consider men who have not had senior pastor experience and/or who may be younger than we originally envisioned.


Most of the Executive Pastor’s responsibilities will transition to the Lead Pastor position. The Lead Pastor’s primary gifting will be in leadership and organization. He will be responsible for executing the spiritual vision developed by the Elders, and for overseeing the various ministries of the church.


The Managing Director of Operations’ position will remain unchanged.


Per our constitution, and by design, The Moody Church is a decentralized leadership model. We are an elected Elder-led church body, with the pastoral and administrative staff serving under the oversight and accountability of the Elders. The Elders are responsible for the spiritual vision and guidance of the church; the pastoral and administrative staff are responsible for working towards the achievement of that vision. Under the oversight of the Elders, the Lead Pastor, the Lead Teaching Pastor, and the Managing Director of Operations will work as a team in pursuit of the mission of The Moody Church.


While each team member provides equally important functions, every team needs a leader; thus, the Lead Pastor will function as the team leader. The constitutional responsibilities currently assigned to the Senior Pastor will be given to the Lead Pastor. As such, he will be a voting Elder and the Chief Administrative Officer for the church.


The members affirmed the following proposal 312 to 32 at the Annual Meeting on October 29, 2017:

The Pastoral Search Committee will focus on finding a Lead Teaching Pastor whose primary responsibility will be to preach in the main worship services of the church. If a candidate is identified and accepted by the Elders, they will propose that candidate for Lead Teaching Pastor and simultaneously propose Pastor Bill Bertsche for Lead Pastor. Both candidates will then be voted on by the Leadership Council and the Congregation.


If you have any questions about the new model, please email the Elders at elders@moodychurch.org.

Contact the Search Committee