Questions for Pastoral Candidate: Rev. Tim Melton

1) What unique experience do you bring to the table that qualifies you to be the senior pastor of a growing 500+ membership church? In other words, do you think that having experience as Senior pastor in a smaller church than ours would have prepared you for the challenges in our expanding church?

  • Rev Tim Keller wrote a very enlightening paper on this particular point. He says, “The difference between how churches of 100 and 1,000 function may be much greater than the difference between a Presbyterian and a Baptist church of the same size. The staff person who goes from a church of 200 to a church of 2,000 is making a far greater change than if he or she moved from one denomination to another.”
  • In my ministry experience, I have always worked in bigger churches – from 500 to 1300 in size. So, even though I have not ‘technically’ served as a senior pastor in these churches, I do have a lot of experience in understanding how larger churches are supposed to function. In addition, the associate role in the PCA is very close to possessing similar duties to the senior pastor. So, I believe that moving from associate to senior at SPC would be far less difficult than it would be for a senior pastor of a 200 member to move to the senior position at SPC.
  • For more on this topic, please read: Leadership and Church Size Dynamics (click here!)

2) What is your favorite verse in the Bible?

  • I Corinthians 1:27   But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
  • James 1:3-8   Consider it all joy my brothers…
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:8 Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

3) Some years ago, your position at SPC changed from Assistant Pastor to Associate Pastor. What was the reason for the change and what were the benefits you realized because of this change? 

  • This really wasn’t a move that was made for me to benefit personally or financially. This was a decision that was reached over a number of years in concert with Pastor Riddle and the Session of Ruling Elders. As an Associate, my calling changed from a calling given by the Session, to a calling given by the congregation. The move was made primarily to provide me with more direct leadership in supporting Pastor Riddle and the Session. It also tied me in to SPC in a deeper way as my vows were directly made between me and the congregation. So, it was a sort of deeper form of covenantal marriage to SPC.

4) Most Pastors who feel called to a Senior Pastor position generally do so at a younger age. Why do you feel you are being led to take this step now?

  • I think many men who enter the Senior pastorate at a young age make a great number of mistakes. Christ has brought me along slowly in order to season me, humble me, and prepare for whatever ministry he desires to lead me into. Ministry has never been a job for me. It is a calling. So I have sought to follow as Christ has led. I feel like Christ is leading me to take this step now. If he closes the door to this particular calling, then after another senior pastor is called, Martha Jo and I will pray and evaluate what our next steps will be as the Holy Spirit leads.

5) Please share some insight into your prayer desires and perceived calling – do you feel called to a Senior Pastor position anywhere in America the Lord may lead – or just to the Senior Pastor position here at SPC? Have you pursued other Senior Pastor positions previously? Why or why not?

  • I don’t feel called to be a Senior Pastor position anywhere in America.  As I said earlier, I don’t see my ministry calling as a career or job. A few years ago, I took a season of time to apply for other senior pastor opportunities, and I had actually been approved by three different churches to stand before the congregation for a vote. However, in each of those opportunities there were circumstances that caused me to put on the brakes. Through that process, Martha Jo and I became convinced that our particular calling was at SPC until he guided us otherwise. You see, I believe God calls particular people for particular ministries at particular times. I believe we see this clearly in scripture. In every case where God calls someone, the person called does not feel equipped, in most cases they have some sort of physical handicap or personal struggle, and they often plead with God to call someone else. Yet, in each case, God equips those that he calls. And he calls them to a particular place and time. As Mordicai reminded Esther – It may be that God has called you “for such a time as this.”

6) What are 3 things about SPC you do not want to see change?

  1. An Emphasis on the scripture in all preaching, teaching, and gospel ministry
  2. Emphasis on gospel-oriented counseling (especially in areas of marriage, family, and grief)
  3. An Emphasis on pastoral care and mercy

7) As a senior pastor, how will you deal with your struggle with depression? Do you think it will keep you from being effective?

  • Depression is experienced by a large number of pastors. John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, and Charles Spurgeon all dealt with debilitating bouts of depression.
  • It will keep me dependent on Christ
  • It will continue to show me my deep need, keep me from arrogance, and call me to repentance.
  • For more on my thoughts concerning depression and the ministry, click here.
    • Also, consider reading these important books on the topic:
    • Spurgeon’s Sorrows, by Zack Eswine
    • When the Darkness will Not Lift, by John Piper
    • Cry of the Soul, Dan Allender

8) What are your thoughts on Pastor Visitation in regard to invitations to dinner, etc.

  • It depends on what you’re having for dinner.  If you’re serving kale, rice cakes, steamed spinach, or beef liver cooked in a skillet – then I might politely decline. But, if you cooking fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, mashed taters and gravy, homemade cornbread, and banana pudding – well I’m probably gonna try to make that dinner. LOL.

9) It is very challenging to follow a beloved, long-tenured Senior Pastor such as Julian Riddle. In fact, the odds are good that the tenure of “Pastor Next” at SPC will be far less than Julian’s. Does this concern you, to what degree, and what are your thoughts on this subject?

  • I think it would be challenging for others, but I don’t think it would be a challenge for me for a number of reasons. First of all, I love to celebrate with the success of others. When someone on my team has been successful, I want with all my soul to see them succeed even more. I don’t have an impulse to be a ‘celebrity’ pastor. I want to be on a team where all of us together can be celebrated as the Bride of Christ, and more importantly, where we all lay our crowns down and celebrate King Jesus as our supreme Lord and Savior.
  • All of that said, it would be my desire to see Pastor Riddle continue serving SPC in some pastoral capacity. He is an absolute rock star when it comes to pastoral care and compassion ministry. He has been tremendously successful, as King Jesus has led him to build the impulse of compassion into the DNA of our church. I want that to continue as much as possible. I would ask the elders and Pastor Riddle to consider staying at SPC to serve in a Pastor Emeritus role so that he could continue to serve in the area of pastoral care, help with hospital visitation, teach the retired men’s Bible study, and conduct funerals. Yet, with this new role, he would be relieved of the pressures of the senior pastorate so that he would have more time with his family and time to do some of the things that he enjoys.

10) By your own admission you have suffered with bouts of deep depression while being the Associate Pastor. The role of Senior Pastor for a congregation the size of this one will be much greater. How will your depression affect your ability to be a rightful shepherd to us?

  • See the answer to question 7

11) You have been very open and transparent with the congregation regarding your past struggles with depression. What support system do you have (or need to have) in place to help you through trials and challenges so that the effectiveness your ministry at SPC is not hampered by depression?

  • See the answer to question 7

12) Will you conduct the worship service to have Godly reverence prior to the beginning of the service?

  • In order to answer this question properly, I think it is important to define the word “reverence.” Then English dictionary refers to reverence as having “a high regard, esteem, admiration, and appreciation.”
  • Hebrew Word: Yare’ – The Hebrew word for reverence is “יָרֵא (yare’)”. The simple meaning of the word is “to stand in awe” and carries with it the connotation of deep value. The word is often juxtaposed with a strong confidence in God, over and against a fear or confidence in man – as in “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Ps 118:6).   Of the Hebrew meaning ‘yare’’, the Vine’s Dictionary says, “There is more involved here than mere psychological fear. (Rather it is showing) proper “honor” (or “reverence”) for God and “standing in awe of” Him.
  • Greek Word: Phobos – The Greek word for reverence is “φόβος” or “phobos”. Of this word, Vines says that phobos is a kind of fear that elevates “someone or something as the controlling motive of their life, in matters spiritual and moral.” So, in reference to God, this is “not a mere “fear” of God’s power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him, and which influences the disposition and attitude of (the Christian) to be guided by trust in God, through the indwelling Spirit of God.”
  • Austerity v. Awe. It is important to note that “reverence” more than anything else inspires a sense of ‘awe’ or ‘deep value’ of God. This fear and awe is expressed in the Bible in a number of different ways. I believe that many of us in our past Christian experience have been wrongly been taught that reverence is to be expressed by austerity. Austerity is defined as “Sternness or severity of manner and attitude. It is extreme plainness and simplicity of style or appearance. It is desiring conditions characterized by severity, sternness, or asceticism. Austerity appreciates: strictness, seriousness, solemnity, gravity; frugality, thrift, economy, asceticism; self-discipline, abstinence, sobriety, restraint, and chastity. Certainly, all of these things have value in their proper place. However, we must reject the idea that “reverence” is associated with “austerity.”   Among other things, in the scriptures, we clearly see reverence expressed in: praying, singing, dancing, repentance, lifting hands, greeting one another, clapping, bowing, weeping, rejoicing, giving, and in the playing of a multitude of instruments (Psalm 150).
  • Worship that is Reverent.  Therefore, in view of the Biblical meaning of the word, I will very much seek to conduct our worship services with joyful reverence by: extolling Christ and his work, exalting our Trinitarian God’s great fame, fearing God above the approval of men, and standing in awe of God’s great and holy name.

13) Under your leadership and out of respect for worshipers’ time, will you encourage the ABF leaders to begin and end ABFs timely? Will the worship service likewise be timely?

  • Along with the ABF leaders, worship staff and musicians, I will do all in my power to lead timely worship services.

14) An important function of a Senior Pastor is shepherding his flock. What would that look like under your ministry in this position?

  • The Many facets of Shepherding: This is a tricky question because shepherding has a number of different aspects: teaching, disciplling, pastoral care, mercy, hospital visitation, equipping, leadership training, mercy, counseling, resolving conflict, and church discipline. That’s just the short list. However, my best guess is that this question has to do with pastoral care, hospital visitation, and personal connection. If that’s the case, I would have to say that I would operate differently than Pastor Riddle because I simply do not have the gifting that he has in this area
  • Pastoral Care Ministry: Even though I very much enjoy pastoral care ministry, my gifts are more in the areas of preaching, teaching, discipleship, and mentoring, and organizational leadership. So, my hope is that SPC can continue to keep Pastor Riddle with us to serve the congregation in the area of pastoral care. I also would work through ABF leaders and other members who have a specific gift and calling in the ministry of pastoral care so that they might help us in this area.
  • Shepherding a Large Church: Certainly there will be special times when I will be called to engage in pastoral care on a personal level. I am completely comfortable with that. However, in a growing church our size, the role of the senior pastor has to evolve. In his paper on Church Size Dynamics, Tim Keller states, “(In a larger church), the senior minister must shift somewhat from being a shepherd toward becoming a “rancher.” Rather than doing all of the ministry himself, he becomes a trainer and organizer of laypeople doing ministry. He must also be adept at training, supporting, and supervising ministry and administrative staff.”
  • Pastoral Care Strategy:  So, in this regard, I will be called to function differently as our church continues to grow. However, I will do all in power to see to it that we continue to have a dynamic pastoral care ministry through our Pastor Emeritus (Pastor Riddle), through ABF leaders and groups, through our visitation team (Darlene Frushour), and through various other diaconal teams.

15) During the days/weeks after the memorial service of a spouse, what will be your approach for caring for the grieving widow/widower?

  • See the answer to questions 9 and 14 

16) What is your outreach vision to the community to invite people to attend our church?

  • I have lots of ideas, but these are the two ideas I have that are most prominent:
  • Every Member: I would like every member of our church to know the big picture gospel story throughout the Old and New Testaments and how it all points to Christ. I would attempt to equip our congregation to understand this big picture through the first year of my preaching schedule. We would most likely use the Jesus Story Book Bible as our frame of reference, and we would incorporate the ABFs and Student ministries into this project. In regard to sharing the gospel, I would like every member to know how to do this properly and with confidence. During my first year, I would seek to teach a Wednesday night class on how to share the gospel. After the first year, we would keep this as an ongoing class for newer members.
  • Targeted Neighborhood Events: Using our ABFs, I would like to have two targeted neighborhood events where we serve a particular neighborhood with scaled down versions of our Fall Festival. We would offer free food and entertainment as a way of serving people in the neighborhood and look for opportunities to invite them to church and offer a follow up neighborhood Bible Study that would be designed to share the gospel with the un-churced that we met at the Neighborhood event.

17) Despite the steady flow of new members, SPC has not grown much, if at all, in attendance over the last few years. Is this a concern to you? Should it be a concern to the congregation? To what do you attribute this?

  • I would really have to look at this more intently to give an informed answer. However, off the cuff, it has been my experience that the beach community is very transient. People come and go continuously. So that is something we have had to deal with – along with other churches in the area. There are some who leave our body for other reasons – because they have been offended, or hurt, or because a spouse passed away, or because they simply desire to go to another church body for various other reasons. In every case, we will definitely follow up members who leave to find out if there is anything we can do on our side of things to keep them at SPC.

18) Do you believe it is the Senior Pastor’s responsibility to bring Vision to a church – or to cultivate and lead a process whereby the congregation participates collaboratively in seeking God’s direction in the formation of a Vision?

  • General Vision Casting with Strong Values: In the general sense, I believe that vision is a function of the Senior Pastor. If not, then vision casting will soon disintegrate into an effort to please everyone and do everything. In casting the vision of the church, there needs to be three prime elements: 1) A succinct and focused mission statement that tells everyone what our church is purposed to accomplish; 2) A list of firm values that the church will continue to hold, no matter what; and 3) a general “end vision” – which states specific goals. That vision has to start somewhere – and in a church – I think it starts with the senior pastor.
  • ChickFilA:  To use and example, the vision for ChickFilA was cast by in 1946 in Atlanta, GA by Truette Cathy.  At that time Mr. Cathy stated: 1) A General Mission – To glorify God by serving a grade-A top quality chicken sandwich (and not a hamburger) with first rate customer service; 2) Stated Values: such as closing on Sunday, greeting every customer, being involved in the community, and responding to a customers ‘Thank you” with the phrase, “My pleasure”; 3) An End Vision: Which early on was targeted toward having their stores only in the food court of shopping malls. Over the years, the end vision of ChickFilA has evolved and flourished, yet the mission statement and values that were instilled in the vision at the beginning has remained the same.
  • Specific Tempering of the Vision: With that said, the Session, and the leaders within the congregation, should very much be involved in tempering, fortifying, and implementing the vision. The vision should be altered where it is unsound or unreasonable. The vision needs to be fortified in regard to missing details, particular improvements, and logical steps of execution. And the end vision needs to constantly be re-examined as the mission of the church expands and flourishes.

19) Being unbiased, and slow to anger are two of the qualities most sought after as a good shepherd. How will you deal with matters of differing viewpoints while keeping God’s Word as the only true measure?

  • This is a great question that needs to be answered in two parts: 1) How will I keep from being unbiased, and 2) How will I work to be slow to anger.
  • How will I keep from being unbiased? I think the best way to keep from being unbiased in issues that arise in the church – especially issues dealing with conscience where the Word of God is not clear – is to have a sensible mission statement. When we know what we are about, and what we are trying to accomplish, and how we intend to accomplish it – then it becomes easier to remain unbiased when issues arise that strike against the heart of your mission.
  • For example, if someone in the church should be convinced that we should start a hand-bell choir – our mission would tell us whether or not this is feasible or something that we hold as a value in accomplishing our mission. Most likely – as a church that seeks to reach out and engage with our culture here in Myrtle Beach – we would say ‘No’ to that request. Or if someone should demand that all of our women go without make-up, we would say ‘no’ to that request as well.  The first desire would not fit within our our statement of mission and the second desire would not subscribe to our Biblical and theological understanding of sanctification, conscience and liberty.
  • How will I work to be slow to anger? I think the best way to deal with anger, as with any other sin, is to be quick toward repentance. Any strong leaders – no matter who they are – will sometimes lose their temper, especially those leaders who are passionate. If not, they probably are not a very good leader. Every strong leader that I have ever worked with has shared this struggle in some measure. However, the way to deal with is through repentance, asking for forgiveness, and by resolving conflicts through face-to-face communication and prayer.

20) Will you support our Session in all matters as decided by the majority vote and back them accordingly?

  • As a senior pastor and member of the session, I would absolutely stand behind any motion that we make. Furthermore, I would endeavor to communicate our motions to the congregation, stating 1) The full motion, 2) Why we made the motion, 3) And how we plan to implement the motion.
  • Clear and public communication will keep our congregation fully informed. It will also equip our congregation to hold the session and pastor(s) accountable to the motions we make.

21) People that have not attended church for some time through some type of interruption in their lives. How do you convey to those people you truly care and you will see to it to help solve the problem?

  • See the answers to questions 9 and 14

22) People who call and relate a need in their lives to a person in charge. Such as sickness, having to be in the hospital or nursing home for some time, how do you put them before your own desires to meet their needs?

  • See the answers to questions 9 and 14

23) What are your thoughts and plans for training the Christians in our church in evangelism?

  • See the answer to question 16

24) What will you do about building up our youth group?

  • I believe that, in order to have a growing and healthy youth group, a number of elements need to be in place: Spirit-led ministry, Biblically based teaching, strong volunteer leaders, ongoing contact ministry, suitable meeting facilities, recreational facilities, parental involvement, administrative help for events and retreats, engaging worship music, and counseling that is equipped to speak to the numerous issues that students face.
  • We have a number of those elements in place, but we need to improve. I have ideas on how we can improve our ministry that I have discussed with our Director of Student Ministry, but the implementation of those ideas would be dependent on my being called to the senior pastorate at SPC. 

25) What are your three and five year plans for SPC?

26) We have a large number of seniors in our church. Have you worked with senior programs/caring for seniors and their unique needs?

  • See the answer to questions 9 and 14

27) Tell us about your anticipated role in caring/comforting the chronically sick/dying members and their caregivers.

  • See the answer to questions 9 and 14

28) What administrative changes would you make in the running of Surfside Presbyterian Church if you were called to be its Senior Pastor?

  • The Three Office of Christ:  In leading the church, I will also seek to follow a Gospel-centered paradigm that is shaped by the three offices of Christ as: Prophet, King, and Priest. I will implement this perspective through three offices (and ministry areas) of the church.
  • Teaching Elders: The Prophetic ministry of the church will be promoted by the Teaching Pastor(s), Ruling Elders, and trained individuals who are able to teach/lead fellowship groups or communities of believers. The emphasis here will be Gospel oriented teaching, counseling, and “gospel-ing” those groups and individuals. Difficult counseling cases will be referred to the Pastors and trained Elders.
  • Ruling Elders: The Kingly ministry of the church will be promoted by the Pastor, Ruling Elders, Staff and those whom they choose to assist them. The emphasis here will be Gospel oriented leadership, management, and vision-casting that focuses on church policy, direction, and mission.
  • Deacons: The Priestly ministry of the church will be promoted by the Pastor, Deacons and those whom they choose to assist them. The emphasis here will be Gospel oriented service, compassion, pastoral care, mercy, and justice. Their focus will be internal – serving church members and leaders, and external – serving those in the surrounding community and city.
  • I would want us to equip every member at SPC to engage in ministry in our church within these three spheres of ministry.

29) What responsibilities, not now already delegated, would you delegate? To whom? Or – would you delegate any responsibilities at all?

  • See the answers to question 28. I would most definitely delegate. In order to be a successful leader at SPC, I would have to delegate.

30) SPC has a solid mix of members from a number of denominational backgrounds. Under your pastoral leading, can we expect to see a continuing emphasis on PCA doctrines?

Yes, absolutely. My Reformissional theological approach would firmly emphasize:

  • Orthodox Christology:
    • Christ centered focus as the 2nd Person of the Exalted Trinitarian God-head
    • The Written Word of Christ (the Bible) as Authoritative over the traditions of men
    • The Person and Work of Christ as the central focus of the entire Bible (OT & NT)
    • Union with Christ as the Christian’s Covenantal, Life-giving, Source of Power
    • The Substitutionary Atonement of Christ as the Christian’s Eternal Mediator
  • A Miraculous Grace-oriented salvation and sanctification:
    • Total Inability of people to understand, respond to, or desire the gospel of Christ without the work of the Holy Spirit
    • Unconditional Election of Christ’s People from before the foundation of the World
    • Particular application of Christ’s atonement to only His chosen people
    • Irresistible nature of Christ’s calling to His particular people.
    • Preservation of Christ’s people through the continuing application of His Grace.
  • For more, see my Philosophy of Ministry (click here)

31) Why do you feel you should be Pastor of this church?

  • See the answers to questions 3, 4 and 5.

32) Why do you want to be our Pastor?

  • See the answers to questions 3, 4 and 5.

33) What do you see as a weakness?

  • See the answers to question 7

34) What is the one thing you most want to change at SPC?

  • I would like us to have a higher level of communication.

36) Will you accept and be obedient to the Session (elected by the congregation) in their decisions for our church?

  • As a member of the session, I would fully support our decisions. As for obedience, by the grace of God, I will seek – along with the Session – to be obedient to King Jesus and his Word, who is reigns supreme over His church.
  • For more, see the answers to question 20

37) What are your plans for the Retired Men’s Bible Study Class?

  • See the answer to questions 9 and 14

38) What will happen to the Men’s Bible Study on Tuesday’s

  • See the answer to questions 9 and 14

39) What do you believe will help us retain our youth as they grow? Simply having parents as believers doesn’t guarantee they will stay.  Do you feel our church has the ability to help our youth without them feeling judged rather than loved?

  • See the answer to question 24.


One comment

  1. Pastor Melton
    I do not believe anyone can answer these questions better than that.
    I saw a scholarly, experienced, sophisticated theologian. sense of humor, humility, love and loyalty, and great connection to the King of kings
    Brother Melton, God speed.


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