Pastoral qualifications

In 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 we find the two seminal passages that speak about the qualifications for overseership within the church of God. We will consider carefully the 12 negative points first, and discuss each in turn and show what the effects would be if such men are allowed into the pastoral ministry.

1. It is of primary importance that the elder should be unaccusable and irreproachable.

No charge can be brought against him and sustained with proofs. If a blameworthy man is placed into the ministry, being in the lead, the whole church and the testimony of the gospel suffers and is brought low, even in the estimate of pagans and infidels. The doctrine he preaches, even though it might be sound, will be discredited.

2. Self-will is carnal and a sign of pride and arrogance. To be steadfast in your mission is commendable, but to be stubborn in error or in your self-estimate will lead in turn to overconfidence, a denial of the very grace of God the pastor should be proclaiming. The arrogant man, if placed in office, will not think twice of making shipwreck of his and other's faith because he is not willing to confess his faults and make amendment.

3. The quick-tempered man will be found subject of uncontrolled passion. His disposition will not be patient and meek, suffering wrong from others. He anger will flare up at the least instigation, thus leading him to rash action and unwise decisions. The man who is not in control of himself cannot possibly lead and guide others.

4. The wine-bibber, indulging in such a sin of the flesh, will be victim of his own vice. His mind will not be clear and lucid, as is required of shepherds who are meant to watch over the health of the flock. His intellectual capacity must be trimmed and used to its full potential; but if he is a lover of wine this could not be done.

5. A pugnacious man is barred from pastoral ministry, and no wonder, for a person given to violence is a poor reflection indeed of the Master who, when he suffered, entrusted his soul to the Judge who judges righteously (1 Peter 2). True, the pastor must engage in warfare and fight the good fight of the faith, but with spiritual armour, not with the fist. Preaching the kingdom, which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, while he himself is contentious, would be a contradiction.

6. A preacher whose sole objective is financial gain can in no sense be a representative of Him who said, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay his head." Sad to say, throughout church history we hear of cases where promising ministries were destroyed because the preacher was given to base gain. We still hear of them, cf. American televangelists and others, who, because of them the way of righteousness is maligned.

7. Not covetous. The overseer must be a man who is far removed from a Judas-like attitude (John 12:6), trying to enrich himself by dishonest means. Furthermore, he must also divorce from his mind the thought or desire to make an acquisition of earthly treasure. Such is not his chief goal, even though the means employed should be honest.

8. Not greedy: A man who is fond of money is not necessarily an embezzler. But a man may join a good cause and seek the pastoral office for the sake of material advantage. Likewise Peter warns against such: "Feed the flock of God which is among you...not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" (1 Peter 5:2). God excludes men from the ministry who have a mercenary spirit going out in search for riches, anxious to add to his possessions regardless of the method, whether legitimate or not, whether fair or foul. Judas and Simon the Sorcerer (cf. simony) come to mind.

A greedy person lays his own snare, into which he will ultimately fall. Judas betrayed Christ for a paltry sum of money. It is a mystery to me why greedy persons seek the ministry to enrich themselves, when there are other venues available for them.

9. The brawler or disputatious person has no place in the ministry for the simple reason that he has not yet learned to conduct the Lord's battles the Lord's way. The would-be pastor is instructed t' be "patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:24-25). A pastor must conduct himself with all dignity and not follow the ways of the world. A pastor must be genial, not contentious, not given to blows. He is averse to fighting; he avoids quarrelling and senseless arguing. He is not disputatious.

Some of the Timothy and Titus qualifications overlap and expand each other. The over-all impression is the godly and mature character of the man, all-rounded, as James says, "perfect, lacking in nothing." He is grown-up in all aspects of life. This term, "covetous," is similar to "given to filthy lucre." yet this concentrates more on the intent and purpose of the man aim in life is to fatten himself with earthly goods. Such a person in the ministry will prove dishonest; he could not handle the financial aspect of his calling, thus bringing disrepute upon himself and his associates.

10. The neophutos is the new-planted, youthful, fresh. An untried and untested person is a great risk; nobody knows what will be the outcome. He is not dependable for nobody has a clear idea where he comes from and where he's going. He is not yet established in the Faith, and consequently cannot possibly guide and edify others.

11. The semnos man is recognized when you meet a man whose character is venerable, full of dignity, honest and trustworthy. He is not flippant, always joking and careless in his dealings with his neighbour. A flippant pastor cannot be taken seriously for his very character is clownish; he does not attract attention towards the Word of God.

12. Paul could say, "Our word to you was not yea and nay, but in Christ it is yea." He was straightforward, univocal, consistent with himself, with his God and with the message entrusted to his charge. On the contrary, the double-tongued person equivocates; his hearers are never sure what is he saying and what does he really mean. Now the ministry requires men who speak out clearly, in all integrity, with honesty; not with guile or with a covering of evil.

We will now consider carefully 14 positive qualities.

1. A lover of hospitality. Hospitality is a concrete expression of Christian love and family life. It is an important biblical virtue (Job 31:32); all Christian are to pursue hospitality (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; Hebrews 13:2), but especially so the pastor, who leads by example. An adequate understanding of an authentic Christian community, agape love, would lead us to uphold hospitality as a mark of love and welcome. The pastor cannot lead from a distance; an open home is a sign of an open heart and a loving, sacrificial, serving spirit. The hospitable pastor will have even his home as a tool to reach out and care for people, both physically and spiritually.

2. A lover of good (men); philagathos. The Christ-like pattern requires the leader to delight himself in good things and good people, supremely in God himself. He willingly and with self-denial does good, and is kind. He is ready and disposed to do what is beneficial to others. It indicates the unwearying activity of love, a generous spirit, and in the exercise of kindness will never sink to evil, retaliatory behaviour (Acts 11:24; Romans 12:21; 15:2; Galatians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:13). The congregation which enjoys such leaders will indeed be blessed, for they would be led by people who could properly say, "Be imitators of us, as we are of Christ."

3. Vigilant; nephalios. Found in 1 Timothy 3:2,11; and Titus 2:2. This requirement alludes to the necessary of a pastor being cautious, prudent, and watchful, being fully awake and knowing his whereabouts, being conscious of the danger lurking about. It reminds us that the pastor is a watchman, an overseer, a steward exercising responsibility for the management of a household. He must see to it that the children of God are safe while they journey to the Jerusalem above. He watches out for ravenous wolves and angels of darkness who present themselves as angels of light. The congregation having such leaders will be safeguarded against error, heresy and a lax morality.

4. Sober. In the light of the extravagances happening within the charismatic movement, how the church needs leaders of a sound mind, leaders who follow sound reason, who are sensible and holding fast to the sure word of prophecy, instead of giving heed to deceitful spirits. The sober pastor is not under the control of external influences, he is not given to excesses; he knows his limits. Thus he is able to keep his fellow-Christians within the proper bounds of the Law, both in his preaching and counselling.

5. Just; dikaios. Here we have the righteous and upright man, who lives in accordance with God's standards (Psalms 1); he is law-abiding (Psalms 119) and delights in the law of God, though he is fully aware of his failures, over which he grieves (Romans 7). An elder who is righteous can be counted on to be a principled man and to make fair, just, and righteous decisions for the church (Proverbs 29:7). God's steward must resemble Job (Job 1:1; 29:14-17); he must be clothed in practical righteousness.

6. Holy or rather devout; hosios. This is the man fully committed to God and his Word. He is separated unto God (Romans 1:1ff) and pleasing to God. He is not easily carried away by cultural pressures and circumstances, for his anchor is the sure word of prophecy; he clings to it, and takes his decisions in its light. The church having devout leaders will all the more be led in righteousness and devotion to God. Like people, like priest.

7. Temperate. The final fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians is self-control, and the first fruit mentioned is love. But can you imagine a loving person lacking self-control? A man without self-control is like an unwalled city. He is easy prey to any attack. Christians who are watched by temperate pastors will themselves learn to be self-disciplined, and will have a live model of what it means to have enkrateia.

8. Holding fast the faith. In Titus 1:9, this virtue is mentioned as the final and crucial point in the catalogue of elder qualifications. This is the heart of the apostle's concern. The verses following this qualification elaborate on why this is so indispensable to an elder (v.10-16). This is not just another personal character quality; it is a specific task the elder must be able to do; to teach correct doctrine (Biblical) and to reprove and expose false teachers. He must, in other words be committed to sound doctrine, and not be like a child, blown here and there by every wind that happens to blow his way. He has a profound appreciation of the historic Christian faith, and is aware where the church has gone astray, keeping his eyes open to the heresies of the past which are being propagated under different forms today.

A church having anointed teachers and pastors may not be the most popular church in town, but it will be the church on the right track, learning the truth and thus knowing genuine liberty. The truth is the foundation of all else.

9. The husband of one wife. Coming after the qualification of irreproachability, this is foremost area in which an elder must be above reproach, in his marital and sexual life. This prohibits all deviation from faithful, monogamous marriage. Thus it would prohibit an elder from polygamy, concubineage, homosexuality, and any questionable sexual relationship. Even the world is quick to point its accusing finger at a man who does not measure to this. And since charity must first be shown with our immediate relatives, the faithful pastor/husband/parent will have a strong moral influence over the congregation as he sets up, both by precept and pattern, what God requires of us in our family life.

10. Of good behaviour. This signifies a man who is characteristically orderly, decorous and mannerly. He is a gentleman. He is not slovenly in appearance, uncouth, boorish, neither is he a dandy, adopting the latest Parisian fashion. He feels at home with the lowly and the sophisticated. He will not seem out of place anywhere, because he knows his Master's business and is intent to carry that out, just as Christ was found in the company of publicans and sinners, yet his behaviour was as perfect as could be. A congregation needs flexible men who can mix with all types and classes of society, to permeate society in which that church is placed.

11. Apt to teach. The New Israel is likewise built upon the truth of the Oracles of God. Like the priests of old, pastors today must be able to serve the community of faith by giving it proper instruction from Scripture. A major chunk of a pastor's job is to feed the flock. This entails a profound knowledge of Scripture in the first place, a readiness to communicate it to others, and an ability to do so. A pastor must exhort, encourage, teach, warn, and refute error.

A most basic requirement for a healthy church is to be equipped with elders who know the contents of Scripture and who have set up a methodical and regular ministry of Bible exposition and application.

12. Patient. Addressing all Christians, the Bible says, "For ye have need of patience..." (Hebrews 12). And pre-eminently so this applies to pastors, who are consistently tried and tested in their labours. Disappointments are well-known to them; and yet they must not lose heart. "Having received this ministry," says Paul, "we do not lose heart." The elder's patience will be stretched to the very limits. He must depend on God to supply him with a generous measure of patience; he must learn to wait upon him constantly. Being in the ministry I find 1 Thessalonians 5:14 very telling: "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men." For men will fail us and come short of our expectations of them. But love is patient (1 Corinthians 13) and will believe and hope and endure all things.

A congregation obviously needs patient leaders for all congregations are far from perfection.

13. One that rules his house well. A prospective elder must be able to manage (prohistemi, lead and care for) his family well. The key measurement when evaluating a man's management

of his household is his children's behaviour, whether still young or grown-up. The pastor is a Christian father, husband and household manager all wrapped in one. He simply can't do one while neglecting the other. He provides for his family financially, emotionally, and spiritually.

The critical importance of this requirement is immediately underscored by the rhetorical question asked in 1 Timothy 3:5. To care for your own family is elemental as a pastor; if you fail in that, you automatically will fail in caring for the family of God.

Again, in today's society, where the family is denigrated, the well-ordered pastor's family will shine as a bright example and as a ray of hope for those whose domestic life is in shambles.

14. One of good report from without. Christians in general are obliged to have a good reputation before a watching, non-believing world (1 Corinthians 10:32; Philippians 2:15; Colossians 4:5,6; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; 5:14; 6:1). How much more the elders, then! The church's evangelistic credibility and witness is tied to the moral reputation of its leaders. An outsider's opinion of a Christian leader's character cannot be lightly dismissed, for it affects the evangelistic effort of the entire church, "the pillar and support of the truth." If an elder has a reputation, for instance, of being a dishonest businessman, a womaniser or adulterer, the unbelieving community will take special note of his hypocrisy. They will ridicule and mock him, and with him the whole assembly.