A. QUALIFICATIONS OF CHURCH LEADERSHIP
As we approach our study of the qualifications for Church leaders we
should remind ourselves of two texts. I Timothy 3:1-14 and Titus 1:6-9.
Please take time to read these texts before you proceed.
We will look at the Timothy qualifications first and then we will look
at the Titus standards.
Vs. 1. "This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop,
he desireth a good work."
Q. So if we are being so Biblical in our Churches, why don't we have
bishops? The office of a bishop is a good work. (overseer New American
Standard Bible same as the elder of the Church.) This is the Greek word
"episkopos." It has the idea of taking the lead and care of the sheep.
In New Testament times the Churches had elders Plural. Usually, one
was in overall charge. As I view the Scriptures, the elder is the highest
office of Church leadership. The pastor is an elder if you have a hired
pastor. The spiritual leadership of the Church is in the elders.
Some Churches call the pastor elder, and the deacons are the board of
the Church. Some have the elder as pastor, the deacons as spiritual leaders
under the elder, and a trustee board to care for the material items of
As we discuss elders I am in my mind speaking of the pastor and board.
The teaching elder or pastor should be an integrated part of the elder
board and the deacons should be separate from them. The deacon board then
is the part of Church leadership that cares for the material end of things.
Paul mentions the desire of a good work in one verse and uses six verses
to show the spiritual qualifications for the work.
As you think of this verse just how would you describe the man who "desires
the office of bishop?" What does the term desire communicate to you?
The term desire seems to have the idea of really exerting effort toward
something that you want or want to do. Something that you work for, or
something for which you will give of yourself.
It would seem that this thought would eliminate most Church government
ideas where the men are nominated from the floor, or nominations in any
manner. The desire would indicate to me that the man really wants to do
this ministry and lets others know of that desire. It would require that
those in charge be knowledgeable of this desire as well. As they see the
desire then they should evaluate the possibilities of this man taking on
Evaluation should be made on the basis of what we will be seeing. The
qualifications seem to require more than just a "yes" when asked to take
the position. The evaluation should include the man that has the desire.
He should be honest and open as to his qualifications in all of these areas
before he looks to seek the position. He should also be open to the input
of the leadership as to the needs of his life. They may see some failings
that he needs to work on.
This idea is shown very nicely in relation to the workmen of the tabernacle
in Ex. 36:2, "And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted
man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart
stirred him up to come unto the work to do it:" God moved the men to minister.
There are fifteen to seventeen qualifications depending on the translation
of the Bible you use.
Vs. 2 "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant,
sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;"
Just a side note before we begin the list, we might submit that all
of the terms in this listing are masculine. The term overseer and all the
adjectives are in the masculine. This would be a strong indication that
women are not in view when it comes to the office of elder.
This is becoming more and more important in our day and age. There are
many Churches moving toward the use of women in leadership. I have observed
a number of women as chairperson of pulpit committees as well as on boards
1. blameless: "above reproach" according to the New American
Standard Bible. (This will be abbreviated with "NASB" from this point
Literally it is "not to be laid hold of" - the type of life that no
one can lay charge against or gossip about. This is nearly impossible because
the gossiping person will always be about their business. This idea of
blameless would mean that the man lives a life that leaves little to gossip
about. Many pastors are beset by nasty rumors. A 50 year old bald, overweight,
and not very good looking pastor resigned his Church few years back to
start a new Church elsewhere. The rumor was that he left because of a girlfriend
up in the sand hills. A part of this sort of situation is for the congregation
to see to it that the gossips are stopped as soon as possible.
Blameless should be not only in the Church but with the lost as well.
In seeking leaders this may require talking with neighbors and co-workers
to find out how the man is viewed by the lost people that he associates
with. This can be done by mail or in person. It should be a good indicator
of the persons true spiritual walk.
Some have suggested that this means that the person must have had a
blameless life from childhood. I asked one of these people if that meant
that a converted drunk could not become an elder. He replied that this
would be true. To those I submit Gen. 5:21-22 which tells that Enoch did
not walk with God until he had his first son. This man was translated because
of his walk with the Lord. "And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat
Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred
years, and begat sons and daughters:" Surely a converted drunk can walk
with God as well.
He should have a very good testimony in the community. Someone that
is respected. Someone that isn't in trouble or behind on his bills.
2. husband of one wife: This is literally a "one woman man." There have
been several interpretations set forth over the years for this phrase:
a. Married to the Church (Roman Catholic).
b. Prohibition of polygamy. This was held till 325 A.D. and is very
much a part of the thought of the text.
c. Prohibition of unmarried overseers. There is little evidence that
this is the case, although having a family and the congregation being able
to view his control of it would be of great help in evaluation.
This is a serious consideration in many situations, but not necessary
in all situations.
I Tim. 4:3 mentions that some of the false teachers were suggesting
celibacy as something to be desired. "Forbidding to marry, and commanding
to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving
of them which believe and know the truth." Paul mentions that these are
doctrines of devils.
d. Prohibition of divorced overseers. There is some discussion on this
thought, though I think most conservative people hold to this being a prohibition
of the divorcee due to the fact that he has not ruled his house well if
he has failed in his marriage.
e. Prohibition of a widowed deacon remarrying. (Paul says marriage is
okay after the loss of a spouse however, so this position would not fit.)
f. One other possibility has been taught in recent years. "Not a loose
type man," or "a one woman at a time man," which of course allows for divorce
and remarriage of elders. This is a recent addition to the menu of excuses
to skirt Scripture and allow people the freedom to do as they please rather
than as the Lord directs.
A "one woman man" is the idea of this phrase. That is one for life at
a time. If his first mate dies and he remarries, he would be eligible.
A man that has been divorced has not had a properly functioning family
and is not eligible. Some suggest that a divorcee that was remarried after
he was saved would be eligible. This would depend on how you view the Lord's
teaching on divorce and remarriage. He seems to leave the impression that
those that remarry are involved in adultery. Since adultery is intimate
relations outside of the bounds of marriage it would seem to be a continuing
thing. It doesn't seem logical that a Church would want a man in the position
of elder, which was in continuing adultery.
3. vigilant seems to have the idea of being self controlled. Someone
that is not controlled by outside influences. The term is also used in
I Tim. 3:11 (sober) and Titus 2:2 (sober). The elder should be someone
that is on the serious side about what he is doing. He should be in proper
control at all times. One that is of this nature will be open to see problems
arising, to see trouble as well as see good things coming and good things
The American Standard Version adds orderly - as opposed to disorderly.
I have seen some Church leaders that were about as messy as messy could
get in their offices. A messy office often reveals a messy mind. When in
Bible College I needed to talk to the president of the school so knocked
on the door. I heard a lot of shuffling and groaning from inside the office.
Finally the door opened part way. I could see through the door that the
floor, shelves, and desk were covered with little piles of paper. I told
the president that I needed to speak with him. He asked me to wait for
just a minute. Some time passed and finally the door opened just enough
for me to get into the office. What I hadn't seen through the crack was
that the rest of the office was also covered with little piles of paper.
The delay in allowing me in was due to the need to clear a path to a chair
at the other end of the office. We were seated at opposite ends of the
office surrounded by paper. He apologized and explained that he was cleaning
his desk off. He had not filed papers for some time and he was trying to
finish the task. He was in need of some organizational skills.
By way of comment we might mention that women can be a witness just
by keeping their houses orderly. The home atmosphere reflects the home
The idea is that this elder should be orderly in life rather than a
person who is known for chaos.
4. sober is "prudent" in the NASB and depicts someone that is fully
rational or well balanced. This word also is translated discreet. Being
careful how your mind runs seems to be the thought. ("sophron" = Titus
1:8, sober; Titus 2:2, temperate)
An elder with a messed up thought pattern will be leaving himself and
his Church open to problems. If he is constantly thinking of money or women,
there will be an improper balance in most of what he does. He should be
stable in mind. He is not easily swayed by error or false doctrine.
5. of good behavior or "respectable" as the NASB translates it. An elder
that can't keep his hands off the women is taboo. We were in a Church were
one of the men was always hugging, patting women on the back and generally
being touchy. Some of the women felt uncomfortable with the way he was.
Some of the husbands also felt uncomfortable. There was nothing wrong with
the man or his behavior, yet the actions detracted from the congregations
view of him.
He must have a proper lifestyle before his fellow believers and the
world or community.
6. given to hospitality or willing to share their home with people.
In the New Testament there was a great need for this in the Church.
Visiting Christians would not want to stay in taverns and inns with all
the brawling and drinking, so they would turn to the believers of the community
for housing. There also seems to have been itinerant preachers that needed
a place to stay. (III John 5-7)
I was told of a couple that was a member of a small Church in the midwest
that in seven years since the pastor had come to town they had not been
in his home, though they had entertained the pastor and family in their
own home several times.
Some pastors on the West Coast will not even offer to house and feed
missionaries that are coming for meetings.
The elders home should be open as much as possible to Church members,
visitors and the unsaved as well.
One pastor of a Church where we had visited a time or two came running
out after Church to catch us before we drove away and invited us to dinner
on a certain night. We were excited until we arrived and found that it
was a demonstration dinner for a new cook ware. We had to sit through the
sales pitch, and endure the atmosphere which we would not have chosen.
This was not hospitality.
7. apt to teach "able to teach" according to the NASB. This text does
not teach that an elder should be teaching, however it would be a good
idea. An elder should be willing and wanting to teach within his assembly,
if there is time in his schedule. This is not only in Sunday School, but
in Bible studies, the pulpit, etc.
This is the only skill in the list and it should be noted that preaching
is not required. This qualification not only portrays an ability but it
also includes desire. If a person desires the office, then they should
be known for their ability to teach before hand. If a person cannot teach,
don't write them off, train them!
Some in recent day try to redefine this to mean teachable. The thought
is not in the text, though the idea is not a bad one for the elder! Anyone
in leadership should be open to the idea of learning from others. If the
elder is closed to new teaching, then he will not be open to being corrected
if he should have problems.
Vs. 3 "Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but
patient, not a brawler, not covetous;"
8. Not given to wine or "not addicted to wine" NASB.
The thought is not long alongside wine. He should refrain from alcoholic
beverages. Drinking is not acceptable to the Lord, the Church or the world.
We have always taken a strong view toward drink of any kind. This is
partly due to the fact that I was very close to alcoholism as a young man.
I also see drinking as a very poor testimony to anyone that might know
of it. Even within my own home, I have no desire to even have alcohol in
the house. I would trust that this would be your view as well.
I spoke with a pastor in the midwest that had confronted a member whose
house some teenagers had stolen liquor from, about his involvement with
alcohol. The teens were in an accident because of the drink. The attitude
of the member was, "Pastor, you get lost! What I do in my own home is my
business and not yours!"
9. No striker or "pugnacious" NASB.
He is not to be given to acts of physical violence. This term is derived
from a word meaning to flatten. Not taken to the fists to settle disputes.
He should be able to settle things peaceably and quietly.
I was in a Church service one evening when the pastor finished his service
with, "Does anyone have anything to say or add?" One of the women of the
Church challenged him slightly on one of his points. She did not push the
subject but one of the board members did. He pushed it until he was on
his feet and he and the pastor were arguing, somewhat heatedly. They did
not come to blows over it, but the appearance was not much better than
In our society there is the thought that the elder should not be a striker
with words. Words can be just as devastating as blows from a fist. The
elder should control his temper and actions as well as his tongue.
10. "but gentle" NASB adds this term but it is not in the KJV. It seems
to have the idea of being kind toward others.
These two (no striker/but gentle) hint that the outward demeanor or
appearance at all times should be on the meek side, and not of the aggressive
nature. The elder should have his demeaner under control at all times.
This requires that he be walking with the Lord at all times which will
normally require a daily - early morning quiet time, and some periodic
adjustments throughout the day, to his spiritual life.
11. not greedy of filthy lucre or "free from the love of money" as the
NASB translates it.
The Church should watch for their pastor. They need not make him rich,
yet they should watch for his welfare if they are going to have a full
time pastor. The pastor should also look to the welfare of their congregation.
If they see that the Church is struggling, then maybe a part time job would
be the answer. Don't let money control your life because it will ultimately
control your Church as well. Greedy has the idea of really desiring the
money. Spending time trying to figure out ways of getting money.
The term filthy lucre is up for some discussion. Just what does it mean?
Is it dirty money, or is it the idea that the greed for money is filthy,
or is all money filthy? The thought of money being filthy has some real
possibilities, because it tends to pollute so many people. Actually the
term filthy is left out of most translations. Even the New King James leaves
it out. This would indicate that a strong desire for money is all that
is meant. This seems to be even stronger in that any desire that is above
normal is wrong. The elder ought not be in the ministry for money nor indeed,
be in love with money. A well balanced budget will help keep this problem
away from the pastor.
The pastor that is willing to work outside the Church is probably one
that desires to shepherd.
I recently heard of a pastor that took a Church and for several years
kept hitting on the board for raises. Several a year, until the board had
to ask the man to leave.
Someone spoke of a Church in the midwest which had two pastors receiving
$77,000 a year total. The Church was growing but the Church did not want
to build at the moment. The pastors refused to do two services on Sunday
morning because they wanted their way. This is not logical and it is putting
the Church in a bind if they decide to go ahead and build before they feel
they are able.
12. patient is in the King James but not the NASB. It seems to indicate
the idea of being able to wait for things to come to pass. Wait for the
Lord in all things. Don't get in a hurry. Don't be extravagant or radical
in anything (Except God and His program). He should show patience with
all people including the membership! This means the nasties, this means
the meanies, this means the gimmies, this means the sickies, this means
the problemies, this means the normalies. Again this is going to take the
quiet time and adjustments of the spiritual life that we mentioned earlier.
By the way these things aren't hard, for the Holy Spirit automatically
brings many of these about when we are controlled by Him. The fruit of
the Spirit are as follows: (Gal 5:22-23) "But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
temperance: against such there is no law."
13. not a brawler or "uncontentious" according to the NASB.
Don't go looking for arguments. You'll find enough without looking.
This probably extends to the thought that he is willing to give up his
rights in a problem. This is not easy for us in our self centered, my rights
society, but the Lord asks this of His Church leaders and we should ask
the same of our Church leaders.
14. not covetous which seems to include all things. This means money,
things, other Churches, others attendance, etc. Being content with what
God has given you and not your neighbor. God is quite capable of giving
you what He wants you to have.
Vs. 4 "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection
with all gravity;"
15. One that ruleth well his own house or someone that controls his
house and family well. He achieves obedience of his children in this way.
Stands as head - runs it as head. Having a chain of authority with him
at the top. The man should be able to control his children. If his children
aren't saved and turn out bad it is not a disqualification in this area,
unless he has neglected the family spiritual training. He should be able,
however to control the children. Their salvation is up to God, and their
life's decisions are theirs.
One pastor that I met had one good son and one poor son. The poor one
was rebellious to a point - didn't care for Church - long stringy hair
- very rough type. Didn't turn out a pride and joy BUT, he was under subjection.
One look from his father and foolishness or wrongdoing was stopped. He
was always in Church. He seems later on to have turned out okay. He bothered
some people, but they were not seeing the whole story - only the outward
trouble. Before you condemn a pastor for a bad teen see if he has him in
subjection. This is the requirement - not that all kids turn out as super
saints. The result of a good pastor is not 100% spiritual on fire Christian
The father can only teach, guide and exhort. He is to stand before the
family as its leader and guide. (Ruleth is the Greek word "proisteemi"
- Strong's number 4291) and is seen in Rom. 12:8 as ruleth; I Thess. 5:12
as "are over"; I Tim. 3:12 and Titus 3:8,14 where it appears as "to maintain."
Subjection is the term "hupotagee" (Strong's number 5292) and is seen in
II Cor. 9:13 as submission to the Gospel; Gal. 2:5; I Tim. 2:11 as women
learning in subjection.)