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Hey everyone, Derek here (a.k.a. “Mr. THEOparadox“).

One of the oft-overlooked qualities essential for any pastor is that he “must have a good reputation with those outside the church.” (I Timothy 3:7). This past Sunday I heard a testimony that demonstrates the fruit of possessing this qualification.

PreacherIn our men’s Sunday School class, our pastor’s neighbor shared the reason he recently started attending our church. He said that he had waited two years before coming to the church because he wanted to “see if this man really was who he claimed to be.” After observing and interacting with my pastor during that time, including a spirited dispute over a fence line, he saw something authentic and impressive (no doubt it was the image of Christ, unobscured by human pride). My pastor passed the reputation test, and he’s won the opportunity to effectively share the Gospel as a result. God uses the qualifications He requires.

For several years, I was part of a very solid family of Reformed charismatic churches. There, I discovered a peculiarly strong emphasis on the Biblical qualifications for church leaders. I saw these qualifications accurately described and defined, and I watched as my pastors were held accountable not only to attain the qualifications at the start, but to maintain them all the way through. I know of specific cases where church discipline was applied because leaders failed to remain “above reproach” in areas like finances and family discipleship. All of this was very refreshing, especially in light of my Pentecostal background. Back in my Pentecostal days, anyone who had a decent speaking voice, a strong personality, and something interesting to say, could be a preacher, teacher, or leader in the church. Everyone was considered “qualified until proven guilty.” But in the Reformed charismatic church, the qualifications sometimes seemed unattainable for common mortals.

The pastor of the small Evangelical Free church I’ve been attending for about a year now offers a radically different approach that brings a needed balance. He once told me: “Derek, if you can’t do what I’m doing, then I’m not doing the right things. The Biblical qualifications for leadership are the goal for all of the men in our church. When there is a need for leadership, there should be a large pool of men to choose from because we’re all learning to be leaders in our homes, and many of us will have attained to those qualifications.” In my previous church, leadership qualities seemed to be reserved for the elite few who dared to make a run at them, but here they are a universal goal and are viewed as the roadmap of growth for every Christian man. Although the bar has not been lowered, the grace to reach it is now much more sharply in focus.

To summarize, I have seen three different approaches to the qualifications listed in I Timothy 3 and Titus chapter 1 . . .

  1. Make them irrelevant by under-emphasizing them – ignoring or downplaying their significance.
  2. Make them unachievable by over-emphasizing them – sometimes to the point of elitism (which makes them practically irrelevant for most people).
  3. Aim to instill them by making them an achievable goal for all Christian men – by grace and through the ongoing work of sanctification.

Certainly there is a need for special gifting in areas like teaching, administration, etc., but I’m primarily considering the character qualifications. In the lists below, the only real gifting is “able to teach.” All the rest are issues of character.

preacher1Qualifications for Elders:

  • must be above reproach
  • must be blameless
  • the husband of but one wife
  • temperate
  • self-controlled
  • respectable
  • hospitable
  • able to teach
  • not given to drunkenness
  • not violent but gentle
  • not quarrelsome
  • not a lover of money
  • must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect
  • a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient
  • must not be a recent convert
  • must have a good reputation with outsiders

Qualifications for Overseers/Bishops:

  • must be blameless
  • not overbearing
  • not quick-tempered
  • not given to drunkenness
  • not violent
  • not pursuing dishonest gain
  • must be hospitable
  • one who loves what is good
  • self-controlled
  • upright
  • holy
  • disciplined
  • must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it

Qualifications for Deacons:

  • are to be men worthy of respect
  • sincere
  • not indulging in much wine
  • not pursuing dishonest gain
  • must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience
  • must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons
  • must be the husband of but one wife
  • must manage his children and his household well
  • their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything

Here are the generally ignored qualifications for a deacon from Acts 6 . . .

  • known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom

So . . . how are Biblical qualifications for leadership handled in your church?

~ Derek ~