Text: 1 Timothy 3:1-7
The New Testament uses three main terms to refer to what we typically call a pastor. You have the word “overseer/bishop”, you have “pastor”, and then there is “elder”. These terms all point to the same office, so we use the terms pastor / elder interchangeably.
For those who would desire to pastor and care for God’s church, the Bible says that man desires a noble task. But there are some qualifications. A pastor must be:
1. A Man of Character (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
–Above reproach – This does not mean sinless, because that would mean no man could ever be a pastor. It means that he has no patterns of unrepentant or disqualifying sin in his life.
–Husband of one wife – Although elders don’t have to be married, this qualification points out two things: First, an elder has to be a man (inferred from being a husband). And second, to be “the husband of one wife” means he is faithful to his wife – he is a one-woman man.
–Sober-minded – Means mentally and emotionally stable, not given to extreme highs and lows
–Self-controlled – (A fruit of the spirit), means he’s not mastered by any passions or desires. There are no habits or unhealthy lifestyles that control him.
–Respectable – When people see his life, his outward behavior and reputation lines up with a Christian witness. (What self-control is on the inside, “respectable” is what that looks like on the outside). He’s the same person inside and out.
–Hospitable – He is not isolated or closed off. He values biblical fellowship by opening his heart and his home to others.
–Able to teach – This is the only qualification that has to do with gifting or ability. A pastor or an elder must be able to understand the Bible and teach it to others.
–Not a drunkard – This is connected to self-control and being respectable. Drinking alcohol is not a sin, but to over-indulge and to become drunk is a sin.
–Not violent but gentle – He cannot have a quick temper. Instead, he is called to be patient with people, and gentle in his responses to them, even when he is tempted otherwise.
–Not quarrelsome – A pastor must be a defender of truth. But he must choose his battles wisely and resist being argumentative.
-Not a lover of money – Money is not good or evil. It’s just a tool. How it’s used can either honor or dishonor God. For a pastor, he must view himself as a steward of what belongs to God – whether it’s the church funds, or his own budget.
Notice all of the biblical qualifications for an elder, except the ability to teach, apply to all Christians. We should all walk in holiness and a good reputation in the church and out. So, we’re in this together!
2. An Orderly Household (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
Nobody has a perfect marriage or perfect kids, including pastors. Our kids are born in the same spiritual state as everyone else – sinners in need of a Savior.
For a pastor to “keep his children submissive” that means he will be a faithful father to love his kids. He will teach his kids God’s word and point them to Jesus. He will share the gospel with words and with the example of his life. He will discipline his children and correct them when they disobey – not only by punishment, but primarily, he teaches his children submissiveness by modeling a life submitted to Jesus by being quick to ask for forgiveness when the he sins against his wife or his kids, by modeling humility and gentleness, and by not putting his own comforts and needs first, but by serving his family and laying down his life for them.
In this way, he is pointing his kids to the perfect example of Jesus. They will see in dad what it looks like to submit to scripture, to joyfully obey the Lord. And when they fail, when they sin, when they mess up, they will know what it looks like to run to the cross and be forgiven.
The leadership of a man’s home is directly connected to his qualification of leading the church. If a man is not lovingly leading his home, he cannot lead the church. The home and the church reflect one another.
3. A Mature Christian with a Good Reputation (1 Timothy 3:6-7)
It’s never wise to put a new Christian in a position of leadership. Paul says not only will they become conceited, but we are actually setting them up to “fall into the condemnation of the devil”. That means the same way that Lucifer’s pride set him up to want to take over heaven, and he received judgment for it, we are setting up new Christians for a prideful fall if they are put in leadership too soon.
Remember, the Christian life is not in a sprint. It’s a marathon. All the more with church leaders. We take our time training and assessing men who want to be leaders in our church. We rejoice with them, those humble, courageous men desiring to serve – whether that desire is to be a pastor or a community group leader. But we want to serve those men by being patient – giving them time not only to learn sound doctrine and the tools of ministry, but to also give them time to grow as men, as husbands, as fathers, and as brothers in the Lord.
“Outsiders” means non-Christians and those outside the church. You see, it’s not just about what our church thinks about us. We can all be on our best behavior for a couple of hours on a Sunday. But what really matters is how we treat our neighbors that we live by. How we treat our co-workers or our boss on our job. People we do business with, or how we treat the server at the restaurant, how we love and treat extended family members who don’t know Christ.
It’s more than people thinking you’re a nice guy. People who don’t know Jesus need to see Jesus in you, and in me.
But how can we do this? How could any man do this? To shepherd God’s people with any love or care? Because of the one who did it perfectly. The Chief Shepherd, who not only will call us to account one day, but who lovingly and faithfully empowers us to do what we cannot do on our own.
May He be pleased with our leadership and our church, and may He continue to give us the grace we need to be faithful and live lives worthy of the gospel.