1Timothy 3.1-7_Qualified Elders

May 30, 2010 Series: 1 Timothy

Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Timothy 3:1–3:7

1Timothy 3.1-7; Titus 1.5-9 qualified men

May 30, 2010

Sam Ford


Bad Pastors 

Last week we spent some time talking about what can go wrong with unqualified leadership in a church—when men and women fail to fulfill their roles.  Chapter 3 focuses on what qualified leadership needs to look like for things to go right.  The health of a business, a family, and a church is deeply connected with the health of its leadership.  Paul’s letter is written to a young man, leading a large church where a few of its leaders (elders) have been revealed as false-teaching wolves.  It’s likely, that these men were not qualified to begin with OR, more likely, when the men were found disqualified the other men sat silent because they didn’t want to be the “bad guy”.  So Timothy is now charged with cleaning up the mess caused by allowing unqualified men lead the church, to kick out these bad leaders and reestablish godly leadership.  


It’s likely that many of us have had a bad experience with bad church leadership at some point—some worse than others.  These kinds of experiences can cause deep wounds and leave lasting scars.  And, more often than not, those awful experiences govern how we approach any future church leadership.  To avoid being hurt again, we make little agreements with ourselves about what we’ll never do again:  I’ll never trust another “pastor”; I’ll never become a member of another church; I’ll never serve again; I’ll never get too close to anyone; I’ll never give a dollar to any local church.  And feeling completely justified in our self-protection, we’ll remain skeptical, cynical, refusing to submit to any leader (though the bible tell us to) because that guy can’t possibly meet the standard of perfection we’ve set up in your mind.  All pastors are automatically disqualified, except the ones that you podcast who can’t actually shepherd you at all.   And if you can’t find a biblical reason to dismiss them, you’ll withhold your respect for a personal flaw, quirk, or trait that you simply don’t like.   


Jesus as THE Pastor 

Leadership in the church was God’s idea—he intended the church to have a qualified group of men lead each church.  On their missionary journey’s, Paul and Barnabas planted churches by appointed elders.  Paul commanded another young pastor saying: Titus 1.5  5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— Godly gospel-centered churches can’t exist, function, or grow without godly leadership. Churches go bad when members stop following its leaders.  Leaders go bad when they forget that they are, first and foremost, followers.  We make a point to identify Jesus as the head Pastor of Damascus Road, as He is the pastor of all churches.  The Scriptures are clear that Jesus Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:9, 1:22-23, 4:15, 5:23): Jesus is the Apostle who plants a church (Hebrews 3:1). Jesus is the Leader who builds the church (Matthew 16:18). Jesus is the Senior Pastor who rules the church (1 Peter 5:4). And it is ultimately Jesus who closes churches down when they have become faithless or fruitless (Revelation 2:5).  

Human leadership in the church then, is little more than qualified Christians who are following Jesus and encouraging other people to follow them as they follow Jesus. This is in large part what Paul meant when he told Christians in various local churches to "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).


Pastors at Damascus Road 

BUT Paul gives us more specifics than to just install men who love and imitate Jesus.  Today’s churches often start there, but then proceed to judge their men “qualified” because hey are effective leaders in the secular world, men who are gifted and talented, or men who are  highly relational people that everyone loves.  In the Spirit of Jesus who picked what appeared to the world as, “unqualified men”, Paul  gives us a list of qualifications that are not about personality, skills, experience, or education—they are about character.  And while it’s a list to evaluate ALL pastors, it’s also a good list for ALL Christians.


Read 1Timothy 3.1-7; Titus 1.5-9----------------------------------------------- 


The beginning of leadership 

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.

As we begin, know that at Damascus Roadwe see no difference in the use of the terms elder, overseer, bishop, or pastor.  The terms are used interchangeably in Scripture to describe church leaders and what they do.  Our elders are pastors, and our pastors are elders.  Churches are notorious for creating all kinds of new titles like board/lay elders, music minister, spiritual formation coordinator, creative sensory architect, etc. As he writes to the church in Philippi, he makes it clear that there are three different positions in the church:  Philippians 1.1Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.  


Paul begins by saying that those who aspire, literally “stretch out one’s hand” to lead, desire a good thing.  It is a good thing for men to desire to lead.  I remember, many moons ago, sitting in a truck with Mark Driscoll going to Dick’s Drive In, and I told him that I desired to pastor—but wasn’t sure where that was coming from.  He told me, “it’s not coming from Satan.”  But what we see as Paul continues to write, that desire and willingness are not enough for man to be a pastor.  Just became a man desire and is willing, doesn’t mean he should.  Once a man has that inner desire, the validity of his call must be measured according to Scripture. Many men feel a “call to ministry” and attend seminary. They study and often become “ordained”—a man made concept that isn’t biblical (you can get ordained online at universal life church/www.monastery.org)—but even that does not make them qualified. 


The most qualified IMPERFECT Men

In order for a man to be qualified, he must exhibit the highest of Christian character in his relationship with God, his family, himself, and others.  It means selecting men whose lives you want others to imitate. Hebrews 13.7  7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. When all is said and done, I, you, we must have confidence that you’d want our families following him, our boys using him as a model of manhood, AND our daughters using him as a model of a husband/father—character not style.  And when I have told people, which I have, that they are not qualified—it is hard to hear.  In essence, I’m telling them I wouldn’t want my family to follow your example in some respects.  It’s hard to have that conversation with someone without a finger pointing back at you identifying your own flaws.  We are not trying to find perfect leaders or particular personalities.  We know that, at best, we will find qualified AND imperfect men of character

Relationship with God

The most important relationship a man can have is his relationship with God. If his relationship with God is not healthy, then all his other relationships will suffer.  He must be a Christian.  He must be a man who loves God, who obeys his word, who prays, who serves in the church, who shares his faith, not one who is spiritually perfect but one who is spiritual disciplined—that works differently for different people—but it is worked out. YOUR PASTOR and ALL PASTORS should be:


1)     Male – Hopefully that will be obvious, though some should probably be tested.


2)     Above reproach – without any character defect

Both the Timothy and Titus passages begin by saying that HE MUST BE A MAN “above reproach”.  The word for “reproach” means --blameless; not to be called into account. If we define the term to mean blameless, or as the English dictionaries indicate, above criticism, then we could understand above reproach to mean that your behavior is godly enough to be free of accusation from anyone either in or outside the church.  If anyone was “above reproach”, we know that Jesus was—he was sinless.  Strangely, in the gospels, Jesus doesn’t appear to be overly concerned with being above reproach as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others accused him of drunkenness, gluttony, blasphemy, treason, and other things.  Paul deals with such charges against elders in chapter 5—some llistened to, others ignored..  Being qualified doesn’t mean I’m above accusation AND being above reproach doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be APPROACHABLE about what you see me do. 


***newsflash***Know also that being a pastor does not stop me from making bad decisions—some stupid and unwise, others sinful and disqualifying.  The stupid decisions are to still to be respected, AND the sinful ones confessed and repented of—which sometimes can include removal.  Scripture qualifies, authorizes, and guides.  Scripture also disqualifies, judges, and punishes.


3)     Not a new convert

They must be men who are mature in the faith.  Paul warns that new believers, our young leaders, cannot handle the weight of leading a church.  They can become “Puffed up with conceit”. The Greek work, TUPHOO, means to be puffed up like smoke, like a guy with his head in the clouds.  Paul uses the same phrase “puffed up” in 6.4 to describe what happened to the false teachers who obtain a high pride-inducing position—they become arrogant (People start calling you Pastor). Basically, new converts will fall into condemnation by pursuing leadership for all the wrong reasons—they become wolves.


4)     Able to Teach/Holding Firm to the Word – knows doctrine, able to refute false truth

The man also must know his Bible—he must be able to teach.  Titus says that he “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine AND also rebuke those who contradict it.”  A Shepherd must be able to feed and protect the flock, to kill wolves and to lead sheep to clean water.  This is a qualification is unique to elders, not required by deacons or members.  It does not mean that every elder has the gift of preaching, or that he has to be able to debate every theological position someone might hold, but he must be a capable teacher. 


Relation to Family

After his relationship with God, we evaluate a man’s relationship with his family.  A man’s relationship with his bride, his children, and his home also qualify or disqualify him.  How a man lead’s his first church will determine how he leads God’s church.  YOUR PASTOR and ALL PASTORS should be:


5)     Husband of one wife – successful husband

The first thing Paul lists as THE most important thing for a pastor is his faithfulness to his bride—he shepherds her heart.  The health of a man’s marriage is one of the most common disqualifiers for a man as a pastor.  The phrase, “Husband of one wife” doesn’t speak to polygamy, it speaks to the idea of being a “One-Woman-Man.” 


6)     Manages family/household well – successful manager

The second most important thing man must do is pastor his home well—meaning “excellently.”  The word “kalos” also means beautifully—so it is not only intrinsically good but visibly so.  Without question, men and women work together to accomplish this, but it is a team led by a man.  They care for the household meaning all of their money, possessions, resources, even time is stewarded to the glory of God.  Just as his life must be a model of others, his home must be. 


7)     Has obedient children – successful father

And part of that management, if God should bless him, is children.  I am not sure a man can truly know how to pastor unless he has first been a husband AND a parent.  The most important thing after being Pastor Husband is that he is Pastor Dad. He has obedient children, meaning, as a parent HE exercises authority, wisdom, love, and evangelism.  They are well disciplined believers.  This doesn’t mean they never sin or rebel, but that Dad Shepherds their hearts when they do.  A man’s marriage, household, and parenting can disqualify a man.


Relation to Self

A man’s relationship with himself, his own identity and personal behavior, is also key to qualifying him as a pastor.  Paul’s list is quite extensive and some of these are open to interpretation, with the final decision resting with the current elders.  YOUR PASTOR and ALL PASTORS should be:


8)      Temperate – Is this person mentally and emotionally stable?

9)      Self-controlled – Is this guy quick tempered or measured? Does he have sound in decision-making?

10) Sober-minded – Can this man clearly communicate his thoughts?  

11)  Upright/Holy – Does this man resist sin and pursue God’s glory in all things?

12) Disciplined – Does this mean live an ordered life emotionally, physically, or spiritually? – I’m artistic. .

13) Not given to drunkenness – Does this man have any addictions?

14) Not a lover of money/greedy- Is this man financially content, responsible, and upright?


Relation to Others

The fact that a qualified man MUST have a relationship with others is important.  His faith is not only worked out with himself and his family—it is worked out WITH OTHERS.  In other words, does he consider others as more important than himself?  If he believes the gospel, does he actually live it?  YOUR PASTOR and ALL PASTORS should be:


15) Upright/Respectable – Is this man worth following and imitating—even for non-believers?

16) Hospitable – Does this man have a love for strangers, especially those who can’t give him anything?

17)  Not Quick-tempered/Violent– Does he react calmly and coolly, or is he punching people in the throat? Is he prideful or humble?

18) Gentle/Lover of Good – Is he gracious and forgiving of failures AND criticisms?

19) Not Contentious – Is he peaceable, and not quarrelsome, seeking for unity without compromise?

20) Good reputation with others – Is this man known and respected by non-Christians? Is he missional?


Choosing Elders

So you can see why we must the utmost care, caution, prayer, and assessment must be undertaken to assure that only called, qualified and competent men are appointed to this position of leadership. The health and effectiveness of any church will be determined by the maturity of the elders and their commitment to INSTALL good shepherds and their willingness to NOT INSTALL “nice guys, wise guys, or gifted guys” who are not qualified and REMOVE bad shepherds who are disqualified.  And you should know and ask how our accountability as leaders works.  We have a plurality of eldership whereby we signed a covenant and submit to one another (copies are available in the back) AND we are in covenant relationship with local Acts 29 churches whom we’ve given permission to mediate conflicts should I go nuts or the elder board be divided.  Autonomy without accountability is a recipe to becomeEphesus 2.0.


A tough list

And while we should use passages like 1st Timothy 2 and Titus 1 as weapons, you should use them to evaluate your leaders.  As James states, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness (3.1).  These guys are to be the examples of what it means to be a CHRISTIAN in the church—that is a big weight to carry.  And if we use this list too legalistically, we can discourage everyone from aspiring to leadership AND if used too liberally, we can wrongfully encourage everyone whose 3rd grade teacher told them they were a “leader” when we know they just told you that because you were the most difficult kid. 


We’d be wise to remember that it is Jesus who calls and equips leaders. It is Jesus, according to 2Corinthians 3.4-5, who not only makes us able to stand before God, but competent to stand as ministers.  And, by God’s grace, he doesn’t judge like we do, according to appearances BECAUSE by all appearances Jesus crew weren’t the top of their class—and neither are a lot of us.  I am constantly reminded what God said when Samuel wanted to pick another STUD-LIKE SAUL, but God selected a young, seemingly week Shepherd boy as the 2nd and best King of Israel: 1Samuel 16.6, 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”



God uses the foolish things and weak men of this world, that we might boast him.  Even when men are found qualified, that doesn’t mean it is easy to follow them.  The sheep trust their Shepherds because not only do they know his voice, they know his heart.  You learn heart of a Shepherd not by filling out checklists and assessments, but by getting to know him.  If you do, you’ll find a high school English teacher, a PUD linemen, a Financial Advisor, a guy in Marketing, and an architect who, like Paul, have absolutely NO confidence in themselves and ALL confidence in the cross. And like Paul, we will “boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2Cor. 12).


Conclusion – The Bare Minimum 

These are the bare minimums for anyone who would be a pastor.  I always think it is interesting to notice what is NOT on there.   A pastor does not have to have a special degree.  A pastor does not have to have read every John Piper book every written.  A pastor does not have to have a tattoo.  A pastor does not have to be particular age.  A pastor does not have to have years of experience.  A pastor does not have to have T-shirts with squiggly artistic marks on it.  A pastor does not have to memorize the book of Proverbs.  A pastor does not have to be an amazing preacher. A pastor simply is a man found biblically qualified by other biblically qualified men who love the sheep God has placed in his flock.  


Just as there are other sheep who will some day be a part of this flock, there are other Shepherds who will need to help.  Just as there are women in here who are called to lead ministries, men called be better husbands and fathers, women to be better wives and mothers, there are men in here God has called to be elders of Damascus Road.