Last week I wrote about the need for future pastors and church-planters to be trained and assessed in accordance with the New Testament example. This week I want begin looking at the specific assessment points (or qualifications) that are set forth in the Bible by which church leaders are to be evaluated. We’ll break the assessment points up into two categories to help us see what you are, and what you aren’t if you fulfill the qualifications of church leadership. As we hit on What You Are when you’re a qualified leader in this post, consider again the assessment points of 1 Timothy 3:1-7:
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having [his] children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the [same] condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
What You Are
1. A Man
The assessment points given for pastoral leadership center on assessing a kind of “man” because only qualified men are permitted to hold the office of elder/pastor/overseer in the church. Personally, I believe women can teach in most contexts, serve as deacons, lead ministries, get theological education, and so on. But the doctrine-setting, church disciplining authority offices in the church are men-only offices. This is not because women are of less value to God than men. Men and women are both made in the image of God and are equal in value, worth, and dignity (Genesis 1:26-27). But they are designed to play distinct and complimentary roles in the home and in the church. In the home and in the church men are to serve as loving, self-sacrificing leaders like Jesus (Ephesians 5:25-29). In the home and in the church women serve as invaluable, indispensible, supportive completers (Genesis 2:18; Ephesians 5:22-24).
Men and women are created by God equal, but different, and with the intention that they serve different roles, and operate with functional headship, just like the members of the Trinity. In the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally divine, perfect, and worthy of worship, and yet they relate to one another in functional headship. Jesus came not to do His will, but the will of the Father (John 6:38). Like-wise, the Spirit does not glorify Himself but glorifies and serves the mission of the Son (John 16:14). So it is in the church. Men, women, and children are equal, but operate in functional headship in their service to God so things get done, people get served, and God gets glorified. This is the idea behind the biblical theological position on men’s and women’s roles known as Complimentarianism. So the first question you need to ask yourself if you feel called to be a pastor of some kind is, “Am I a man?”
This is an all-inclusive assessment point. It is given so that somebody doesn’t try to come up with a specific action not on this list and use its absence as justification for their sin. For instance, Paul’s list doesn’t say “pastors can’t cheat on their taxes.” That kind of thing would be included under the requirement that a pastor be blameless. The idea is that there is no shady, sinful area of life for which you are unrepentant that people can discover and point to seeking to discredit the Savior you’re supposed to represent.
3. Husband of one wife
This literally has the meaning of being a one-woman man. This means a pastor shouldn’t practice polygamy, look at porn, have an affair, or accept having “wandering eyes” syndrome. It means you are committed body, soul, and mind to your one wife. Additionally, though not typical, this requirement doesn’t mean you must be married to be a pastor. If that were true then not even Jesus and Paul would meet the qualifications of pastoral ministry.
To be temperate is to be one who controls their temper. You don’t fly off the handle at people. This doesn’t mean that you don’t ever get angry. When I counsel with women who’ve been beaten, raped, and sexually abused, I get angry. I believe the anger I feel in such cases is God’s anger manifesting in my heart. Like Jesus, there are times I want to whip out the proverbial whip of cords and start taking fools out because of the way they’re blaspheming God and exploiting His people (John 2:15). But I’m not generally known as the angry guy who snaps at people and takes out his frustration on those around me. How ‘bout you?
This means you’re a sound decision-maker. If you blow your family’s money on recreation and material pleasures instead of paying your bills and taking care of your responsibilities, you don’t need to be given the responsibility of over-seeing the church’s funds, operations, or giving advice to others about managing their own lives.
6. Good Behavior
Is your general conduct worth imitating? Would a dad want their daughter to marry a man like you? Would you even want your daughter to marry a man like you? Would a parent want their son to become a man like you? If not, you’re probably not a man of good behavior.
If your home is more like an ivory-tower than a hospitality house, you need to let Jesus refine that. Your home isn’t merely given to you to be a sanctuary for your family, though that is true. It is also given to you as a place to facilitate outreach and hospitality. Your resources aren’t given to you to simply consume and enjoy either. Church leaders should be hospitable with their homes and resources toward both Christians and non-Christians alike as God gives them opportunity.
8. Able to Teach
Pastors are the primary communicators of doctrine and theology for God’s people. That’s a big deal, and teachers of the Word will be judged more strictly than other believers (James 3:1). The fact that you like to teach and hear yourself talk doesn’t mean you have an ability to teach. You know you have an ability to teach when people actually learn from you. I know guys who love to talk about theology, but no one seems to want to listen to them talk about theology. And when people do hear them they don’t come away knowing and growing in Christ more, but they come away frustrated and confused. If you’re able to teach, your words will be met with understanding and growth in the minds, hearts, and lives of your hearers. Additionally, being able to teach doesn’t mean all elders/pastors are preachers. Some will teach through counseling situations, others in small group settings, and others will be the primary preacher in a local church. But whatever the context, people will learn from you if you’re able to teach.
It is amazing what you don’t know about people. After counseling and discipling other broken sinners in ministry, I am over-whelmed at times with the brokenness of people’s lives. Sometimes I look out over the people on Sunday mornings and wonder how big a pile we could make if we could pileup all the pains, hurts, and struggles of the people in a big mound. Partly this thinking comes from knowing the pains in my heart that most people don’t know about. The brokenness of people we deal with in ministry demands that we develop a gentle heart. If we don’t we will not be gentle like Jesus, but will break the bruised reeds, and quench the smoking flax (Mark 12:20).
10. Rules his own household well
In context, this requirement centers on how would-be church leaders father their children. The home is the little church which comes before the big church in priority. The wife and kids are the little and more important flock in a leader’s life. If your wife and your kids aren’t loved, trained in the Lord, and taken care of, you shouldn’t take on the oversight responsibilities involved in ministry. If you have the “I’ll take care of the church and God will take care of my family” attitude, you’re wrong. God takes care of your family through you. Pastor Rick Brown (Calvary Chapel Idaho Falls) has rightly said many times, “God can raise up a new pastor for my church, but He can’t raise up a new husband and father for my family.” The requirement that you be a one-woman man who raises his kids well clearly demonstrates that the priorities of a would-be leader’s life are as follows: Priority 1. God; Priority 2. Family; Priority 3. Ministry
11. A Good Testimony among those who are outside
Those who are “outside” are non-Christians. These are your neighbors, co-workers, unsaved family, and unsaved friends. These are strangers. Jesus ate and hung out with lots of people, most of them people who weren’t yet His followers. He did so because He was a good missionary and took His job seriously. Do we? Do you hang out with non-Christians? Do you know any non-Christians? If I asked you for a character reference from a non-Christian could you find one who knows you well enough to offer a meaningful opinion about who you are and what your life is like? If not, you need to get out more. You need to intentionally seek friendships with non-Christians for the sake of mission. You need to let them see your life that they might see Jesus in you. You need to get out of your Christian bunker. If you want to be a church-planter but don’t like being amongst or interacting with non-Christians, you need to let Jesus change you. As I heard Tom Stipe jokingly make the point once, “The only people who become Christians are non-Christians!”
12. Taught (Titus 1:9)
Pastors, elders, and church-planters need to be men who have been taught. They serve as resident theologian to their local church and community. I don’t believe this means all such men need seminary training. But it does mean they need to be learners. It may mean they need the educational equivalent to seminary training. They need to care about understanding, embracing, and teaching sound theology. They need to read, listen to, and consume theological and biblical instruction through whatever means God has made available to them. If you don’t like to read and study the Bible and theology, don’t quit your day job. We need men of the word who do the work of study, and take theological learning and instruction seriously to lead Jesus’ people.
If you’re a qualified pastor, elder, overseer, or church-planter, in this post we’ve talked about what you are. Next week we’ll look back at this passage and talk about what you aren’t.
1. What practical tools have you seen to be effective for helping future leaders be assessed regarding the above biblical qualifications?
2. Which assessment points do you think are unduly over or under-emphasized in the body of Christ?