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Qualifications of an Elder and Pastor

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Qualifications of an Elder/Pastor

Introduction

Ministry is a character profession. To put it bluntly, you can sleep around and still be a good brain surgeon. You can cheat on your mate and have little trouble continuing to practice law. Apparently, it is no problem to stay in politics and plagiarize. You can be a successful salesperson and cheat on your income tax. But you cannot do those things as a Christian or as a minister and continue enjoying the Lord’s blessing. You must do right in order to have true integrity. If you can’t come to terms with evil or break habits that continue to bring reproach to the name of Christ, please, do the Lord (and us in ministry) a favor and resign.

Chuck Swindoll, Rise and Shine, p. 198

·         Who we are as Christians will determine who we are as a church.

·         This is especially true if we are determined to build this church on a foundation that is Biblical.

·         Biblical guidance of the church has been chosen by God to come through a group of individuals dedicated to serving Christ and listening to the Holy Spirit.

·         If their character is not in tune with God then the church will fail.

·         If their hearts are set on Jesus then the church will grow.

·         God wants the church to do well and so he inspired men like Paul and Peter to provide for us the foundational principles for ensuring Godly ministers in the church.


Why Are the Qualifications Important?

·         According to the New Testament we have learned that it was the normal practice to appoint Elders in each church.

·         Jesus was to remain and be honored as the head or top leader in the church which means that all authority and decisions are to be guided by what he taught and lived and what his disciples taught us.

·         When we as people forget to turn to Jesus in the function of our church then we will waver and fall.

·         These Elders were to represent, minister and administrate on behalf of Jesus, seeing that His will was done.

·         Last week we heard about the many functions of an Elder but they can be all summarized into a few things.

·         Acts 20:28:

Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

·         Paul when addressing the Elders states that they are Elders by the work of the Holy Spirit that they may shepherd the church.

·         The writer of Hebrews in 13:17 says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work.

·         Part of what it meant to be a shepherd of God’s flock was to watch over the believers souls.

·         They were to guard, guide and protect.

·         One of the best explanations in Scripture is found in 1 Peter 5:1-3:

5:1 So as your fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings and as one who shares in the glory that will be revealed, I urge the elders among you: 5:2 Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly. 5:3 And do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock.

·         Shepherding meant that these individuals would exercise oversight; they would lead the congregation.

·         The church is not to be led by an administrative board or a board made up of the different chairpersons of various committees.

·         It is not to be led by a solo hired pastor or a board of directors.

·         It also meant that they were to lead by example demonstrating Strong Christian character and a servant attitude.

·         When it is all put together the picture that is painted is that of a group of individuals who care, guide, lead, demonstrate and protect a group of Christians in a local church.

·         Now if Christ is the head and he calls all Christians to walk as he did then it goes without question that being spiritually mature is essential to know Christ and follow him.

·         For a group of elders to follow Jesus and lead his church it must then be concluded that they need to be of the highest spiritual integrity.

·         But how do we know if a person is walking with the Lord?

·         How can we tell if they are spiritually mature?

·         What does it mean to be spiritually mature?

·         In order to understand what it means to be spiritually mature we turn to Scripture to see that there is a set of qualifications that guide who should be an elder.

·         This is more than a selection tool but also a resource for on going evaluation of a person’s ability to remain an elder.

·         The value in this is so great because when the authority of guiding Christ’s church is left in a hands of a few individuals there is the real danger of corruption, pride, personal agenda’s and other problems.

·         Elders who are selected and guided by the Scriptural qualifications provide the church with a much greater assurance that these people will lead with integrity, as servants and in humility.

What are the Qualifications of an Elder?

1 Timothy 2:1-3:7:

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, 2:2 even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 2:3 Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, 2:4 since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 2:5 For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time. 2:7 For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle – I am telling the truth; I am not lying – and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 2:8 So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute.  2:9 Likewise the women are to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control. Their adornment must not be with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, 2:10 but with good deeds, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 2:11 A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness. 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet. 2:13 For Adam was formed first and then Eve. 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression. 2:15 But she will be delivered through childbearing, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control.  3:1 This saying is trustworthy: “If someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work.” 3:2 The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, 3:3 not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. 3:4 He must manage his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity. 3:5 But if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God? 3:6 He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact. 3:7 And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith, so that he may not fall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap.

Titus 1:5-9:

1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who cannot be charged with dissipation or rebellion. 1:7 For the overseer must be blameless as one entrusted with God’s work, not arrogant, not prone to anger, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy for gain. 1:8 Instead he must be hospitable, devoted to what is good, sensible, upright, devout, and self-controlled. 1:9 He must hold firmly to the faithful message as it has been taught, so that he will be able to give exhortation in such healthy teaching and correct those who speak against it.

1 Peter 5:1-3:

5:1 So as your fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings and as one who shares in the glory that will be revealed, I urge the elders among you: 5:2 Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly. 5:3 And do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock.

·         These are the three main passages that describe what an elder must look like in order to lead and shepherd the church.

·         We are not going to explore in depth each area but rather provide an overview so that we as a church can be prepared to evaluated those who would be elders and so that potential elders may understand what is asked of them.

·         Male (1 Tim. 2:12).

This in our day and age is probably the most divisive of the qualifications.  There is an order that God has established and said that men and women are equal before God but that does not mean that they carry out the same functions.  Biologically we would say that women and men are equal but very different.  So in the church there is a role that men are to take that women are not and that is having spiritual oversight or responsibility in the church.  This does not mean that women are not to have leadership roles in the church but the Bible is clear that in terms of spiritual responsibility and teaching they are not to lead the church or provide Biblical instruction to men.

·         Above reproach or lives a lifestyle that is in keeping with obedience and cannot be faulted (1 Tim 3:2, Tit. 1:6-8).

When a person is above reproach it means that they conduct themselves in such a way that people are unable to find legitimate reasons to criticize them.  A person only qualifies for eldership when it can be shown that they do not have obvious or glaring faults that would hamper their ministry.  We realize that no one is perfect and if we are meticulous enough we could find something to criticize anyone.  They did it with Jesus and they can do it with us.  The point Paul is making is that they walk carefully in obedience making sure that they watch every step.

·         Husband of one wife: is not tempted or lured away from his dedication to his wife (1 Tim. 3:2, Tit. 1:6).

This qualification has been hotly debated. It was wondered if it was referring to polygamy or to issues of divorce and remarriage or even that only married men could be elders.  What I believe Paul is saying is that a married elder must be dedicated to his wife and not struggling with temptations of infidelity or lack of care.

·         Temperate: sensible and not given to extremes in behavior and character (1 Tim 3:2, Tit. 1:7-8).

What Paul is saying is that a person eligible to be an elder must be restrained in their conduct.  A person given to quick and rash decisions would not make a good elder.  The work of the church must be done carefully with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The unrestrained man can jump into things or draw conclusions without careful thought.

·         Self-controlled (1 Tim. 3:2, Tit. 1:7-9).

This quality has the idea of having one’s emotions, impulses, or desires under control.  There is the temptation when given authority to want things our own way, to have our own desires fulfilled.  These are often motivated by our emotions and whims.  The elder must not be given to making decisions based on desires or emotions but on what is good for the church according to the Word and will of God.

·         Respectable: is considered highly in the church and or treats others with dignity (1 Tim. 3:2).

The person who is to be an elder must live such a life that when they are looked upon by others in the church there should be a sense of admiration and respect.  This comes from the potential elder’s good conduct and submission to God.  Is this a person I could honor and respect, who I have regard for?

·         Hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2, Tit. 1:8).

This is more than just having someone over from church for dinner.  When the word used for hospitality is used by Paul he is referring in many places and here specifically to those outside the church.  In other words an elder must be a person who has a caring heart for those who are not part of the church, who are lost and need Christ.  It also refers to helping those who are in need but do not attend our church.

·         Able to teach: knows doctrine and theology so that they are able to instruct others (1 Tim. 3:2, Tit. 1:9).

Some have said that all elders must be able to preach a sermon or lead and Bible study.  I do not believe that is exactly what this qualification is getting at.  First it should be noted that each person whether an elder or any other person in the church has gifts given to them by God.  Not all elders will have the gift of preaching and public teaching.  But all elders are supposed to be able to teach others in various settings.  What is being emphasized in this is that an elder must be a rigorous student of the Bible and theology.  They need to teach publicly, privately for edification, right living, defense of the Gospel and to defend against false teaching.

·         Moderate with Alcohol (1 Tim. 3:3, Tit. 1:7).

No where in Scripture does it say that alcohol is prohibited.  In fact the Bible states that a little wine is quite healthy.  There is no prohibition for an elder to drink alcohol but they are to do it in moderation without becoming drunk.  It should also be kept in mind the culture one lives in and the dynamics of the people you are ministering to.  An elder who is moderate with alcohol may have the right to consume it but will forgo it if it hinders his ministry.

·         Not violent: not given to outbursts of anger or physically destructive (1 Tim. 3:3, Tit. 1:7).

I have combined in a sense two qualification that of anger and violence because they go hand in hand.  An elder must not be a person that cannot control their anger and acts upon that anger with physical or verbal abuse.  Paul is indicating that an elder must not be one that is prone to do harm but should be seen as a person who desires to build up and encourage.

·         Gentle (1 Tim. 3:3, Tit.1:7).

The quality of gentleness is given in direct contrast to that of violence.  It has a close relationship with being kind.  So an elder must be a person who is kind to others and desires to help them in their walk with Christ.  They should not be harsh and unsympathetic, overly critical or demeaning, but soft spoken and uplifting.

·         Not contentious: does not try to create division (1 Tim. 3:3).

One of the marks of the church should be its unity.  One of the tasks that must be demonstrated by an elder is a desire and effort to build unity.  There must be unity in the eldership so that there can be unity in the rest of the church.  Those  who are stubborn, unyielding and contentious will not create unity but will divide the church.  This does not mean that a person is a push over but rather that they are willing to hear others and work peacefully.

·         Not Materialistic: not trying to gain materially or selfishly (1 Tim 3:3, Tit. 1:7, 1 Pet. 5:2).

Three phrases are used in these passages “love of money”, “greedy for gain,” and “shameful profit.”  In every case it is stating that an elder must not in a materialistic manner try to use their position to gain personally.  Further in their private lives they should demonstrate that they are generous and giving with little regard for greed or desiring material things.  That is why it is important as a demonstration of this qualification that an elder be a consistent financial giver to the church.

·         Manages household (1 Tim. 3:4, Tit. 1:6).

There are various opinion from all children needing to be believers to that an elder must maintained a home fostering Biblical values in an orderly environment. It is important to consider homes without children and homes where children have moved out.  I believe it would be too harsh to state that an elder must have a home where every person is a believer.  This does not leave room for the very Biblical concept that faith in Christ is an individual decision.  But an elder must maintain a home that fosters Christian values and is nurturing.  I would be expected that if an elder is having trouble at home that he step down for a time in order to focus on the priority of the family.

·         Mature believer (1 Tim. 3:4).

A person who is new or immature in their faith cannot be an elder.  A person must demonstrate that they have moved beyond the elementary teaching and are living upright lives.  The example that Paul cites is one of a recent convert.  There is no set limit or time that a man must be a Christian before being an elder but they must demonstrate all of the other qualification which normally only come with having been a believer for some time.

·         Good Reputation: Maintains a positive witness in the community (1 Tim 3:7).

The meaning of reputation is that of an evaluation of a person’s character based upon their conduct.  So it would seem that it is essential in being an elder that what is claimed and said be consistent with what is done.  It is important in order to portray a positive image of Christ and the church that the leaders of the church understand what is required of them from the Bible and then do it in every area of life.  Additionally it has profound ramifications when it comes to their witness for Christ.

·         Voluntarily: has come to desire Eldership because of the prodding of the Holy Spirit not needs in the church (1 Pet. 5:2).

Peter makes it clear that an elder should not be leading if they are doing it because it is their duty.  What should rather come is the desire placed from God to give spiritual oversight to his church.  When a person takes on a role out of duty there becomes a high level of probability that they will become frustrated faster, burnt out quicker and become discouraged when faced with adversity.  They have to be there because they are called not because there is no one else to do the job.

·         Selfless:  Maintains a servant attitude and practice (1 Pet. 5:2-3).

Eldership is not ruling or dictating.  It is carefully considering what God would want them to do with his church and looking towards the best interests in that light of the people who fellowship with them.  They need to set the example and be willing to lead from the front, setting the pace, getting their hands dirty in the trenches of God’s work.

·         Humble:  Is not given to pride and boasting (Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 5:3).

Something that is almost encompassing of everything else is that an elder must be a humble person.  They must submit to God and be willing to seek forgiveness for their sins.  They do not have to be perfect but they do need to be quick to admit when they are wrong.  They need to understand why they are there and who placed them in authority.  They must understand the full weight of their responsibility and seek God’s will consistently.  There is nothing in themselves that qualifies them for this task except what God has given to them.




Conclusion

·         Understanding the criteria by which Elder/Pastors are selected is very important for a number of reasons.

·         First: it helps to ensure that the church will be led on a spiritual path that the congregation can be confident of.

·         Second: It provides a means to evaluate if a person is fit to pastor the church.

·         Third: It gives the congregation and current elders (if the church has them in place) the tool needed to raise up and select new pastors.

·         Fourth: it also gives us a measuring stick for all of us to attain to in regards to our spiritual lives and criteria for discipleship.

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