The media has been on a feeding frenzy concerning the Catholic Church scandal that has captured the attention of our nation and even the world. Leaders of the Catholic Church aren’t the only ones that have been hit with allegations concerning sexual misconduct—leaders of the protestant church have made front-page news as victims of abuse have garnered the courage to tell their story.
Many have called for these leaders resignation while others seem to be satisfied with an apology and out of court settlement.
Some of the followers of Catholicism are up in arms that their cardinals were aware of improprieties but sought to cover them up with big payoffs and transfers of the accused to other parishes.
Out of all the questions asked by reporters and journalists I’ve never heard anyone ask the question, “What does the Bible say about all this?” But isn’t this where we need to start? Yes it is.
We must start here because the Bible, which is the Word of God, defines the entry requirements for those who would serve as shepherds of God’s people.
We must start here because it is the Bible that contains the “job description” for those who would serve as officers and overseers of the church.
We must start here because it is the Bible that contains the “code of discipline” for those who would occupy this place of prominence in the church of God.
As Cliff Huxtable once told his son Theo—“I brought you into this world, I can take you out…” The Word of God qualifies the pastor for the job and the Word of God is the church’s authority to remove him.
Let me go on record and say that if the church would only ordain men into pastoral leadership who were qualified according to Scripture, a lot of the misconduct that we observe both inside and outside of the church by so-called “men of God” would be minimized.
In addition to this, the testimony of the church would be spared a great deal of public embarrassment and humiliation and more importantly, the Name of Jesus Christ would be spared much of the reproach it has been receiving of late.
In the New Testament letter of I Timothy, the Apostle Paul is writing to Timothy his “true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2) and a fellow church planter. In this letter, also called a “pastoral epistle,” Paul is giving Timothy instruction and guidance concerning the care and protection of the churches. The letter focuses upon church life as well as upon leadership qualifications and responsibilities. In chapter 3, verses 1-7 Paul writes:
1 Tim 3:1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.
1 Tim 3:2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
1 Tim 3:3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money.
1 Tim 3:4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
1 Tim 3:5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?);
1 Tim 3:6 and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
1 Tim 3:7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
In Paul’s letter to Titus, another church planter, Paul writes to instruct Titus in how to appoint pastors in the church:
Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
Titus 1:6 namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
Titus 1:7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,
Titus 1:8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,
Titus 1:9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
Paul is reminding both Timothy and Titus that not everyone is qualified to become an overseer or pastor of God’s church. There are certain characteristics that should mark the man who takes on this position. It is sad that men and women are allowed to become pastors for reasons that have nothing to do with the Scriptural requirements.
For example, if someone has the “gift of gab” or in other words can communicate well, sprinkling a few Bible verses here and there, they are considered.
If they are considered “natural born leaders” they are put on a fast track to ordination.
Some are given positions of leadership because they give large amounts of money to the church.
Many are selected for positions of leadership because of fame, friendship, family, personality, charisma or good looks.
Many in the kingdom of King Saul followed him simply because he was taller than anyone else:
“…when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?" So all the people shouted and said, "Long live the king!" (1 Sam 10:23-24)
King David is described in the Bible as “ruddy, with bright eyes, and (cute) good-looking.”
Again, these traits have nothing to do with the Scriptural requirements for leadership.
The leadership problems of the church can be blamed to a large degree on the failure of potential leaders to first be examined and proven qualified and then be held accountable to maintain their qualification.
Notice the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are focusing on the character of a man's life not his performance. They center on who he is and not what he does. This is the difference with how the world qualifies a person and how God approves a man for the pastorate. The world’s qualifications are performance-driven-- just as long as he gets the job done-- just as long as he makes the numbers-- does a million in sales-- produces a product on schedule. All that matters is that he performs--it doesn't matter who he walks over in the process.
The qualifications for leadership in the Body of Christ are character-driven—who the man is. We have to remember this as we seek to answer the question "Should fallen leaders be restored?"
Too many churches have placed men and women into positions of leadership in the church because they were successful in the marketplace or even because they were good communicators. They are looking at performance.
They pay no attention to character. How does this man treat his wife-- his children? What do his neighbors think about him? How does he spend his money? Is the sports event more interesting to him than fellowshipping with God's people? Is his love for his “toys” and “projects” more apparent than his love for Scripture? Does he value time spent in front of the TV more than he does time spent before the Lord?
We must pay particular attention to the character of the man, because this is to be the deciding factor as to whether he gets the job and whether he keeps it.
Over the last several weeks we have read in the paper or watched on television the events surrounding pastors and other religious leaders who have sinned. Whether abuse, embezzlement or adultery, it made national news and the media and Hollywood have made a mockery of it.
We have also watched how many of these sinning leaders have been placed back in public ministry.
Pastor John MacArthur writes:
Gross sin among Christian leaders is epidemic. This is a symptom that something is seriously wrong with the church. But an even greater problem is the lowering of standards to accommodate our leader's sin. The fact that the church is so eager to bring these men right back into leadership indicates a rottenness that goes right to the core.
We must recognize that leadership in the church cannot be entered into lightly. The foremost requirement of a leader is that he be above reproach. (1 Tim. 3:2, 10; Titus 1:7). That is a very difficult prerequisite, and not everyone can meet it.
Some kinds of sin irreparably shatter a man's reputation and disqualify him from a ministry of leadership forever-- because he can no longer be above reproach. Even Paul, man of God that he was, said he feared such a possibility. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 he says, "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified."
The office of overseer or pastor is a high and holy calling. There is a principal taught in both Old and New Testaments. This principle tells us that “as the priest is the people become.” Hosea 4:9 says, "like people, like priest".
Hebrews 13:7: "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith."
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul writes, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
In all these passages of Scripture we learn that believers should be striving to become like their pastors who are striving to become like Jesus Christ.
When pastors refuse to strive to become like Jesus Christ, the high and holy moral standard he is called to is lowered. When the standard is lowered the people he leads begin to adjust their behavior to meet with the new standard.
The reason why people are so willing to restore leaders back to public ministry is because the standard has been lowered. It is easier for one to justify his or her sin if the leadership isn't modeling a high standard of godliness.
For example, let’s say a member of the congregation goes fishing. The pastor overhears him inviting another member to come along and he inquires about participating. The member who goes fishing routinely brings a six pack of brew to enjoy while angling. He brings it on the trip but doesn’t dare show it while his pastor is around.
Let’s also say his pastor while looking for bait comes across the brew and pops a lid. What do you think the member will do after he gets over his shock? He’s going to drink one too. But he may not stop there; he may even break out the Johnny-Walker Red.
If a church has a pastor who isn’t modeling a high standard of godliness one of two things will happen—
The membership will be grieved by the unrighteous lifestyle of their pastor. Perhaps they will be led to pray for him and maybe they will appeal to him to repent and live righteously, or
They will begin to settle down and relax their convictions to conform to the lower standard of their leader.
The leadership problems of the church can be blamed to a large degree on the failure of churches to examine potential leaders, prove them to be qualified and then hold them accountable to maintain a high standard of righteousness.
How does a church do this?
Earlier in this message we read from 1 Timothy and Titus the spiritual qualifications for would-be pastors or elders.
If you were to drive a car the State of Maryland says you need to be qualified. In order to get just a provisional driver’s license in the State of Maryland one must:
* Minimum age, 16 years, 1 month
* Requires successful completion of Driver's Education for all ages
* A parent, guardian, or supervising driver must submit a completed and signed practice log documenting a minimum of forty (40) hours of supervised driving
* Must be held for eighteen (18) months with driver conviction-free
* Driver must restart 18-month waiting period if convicted of a moving violation; sanctions will be imposed for convictions:
If you or I were to dispense medication as a pharmacist, we would need to be qualified. To become LICENSED as a pharmacist in California, you must:
* Be a graduate of a school or college of pharmacy in the U.S., or if you are a foreign graduate, possess equivalent education and have completed the foreign graduate application process.
* Submit proof of 1,500 hours of intern hours experience; completed institutional and community experience affidavits, or the equivalent.
* Pass both multiple-choice and essay sections of the California pharmacist licensure examination.
* Submit the required licensure fee
Now to become a minister in many churches all one has to do is say he or she has been “called.”
To become a pastor all you have to do is find enough people who are willing to follow you and start a church.
However, the Scripture has this to say about the one who would Shepherd God’s people:
“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be…”
The following sets of qualifications are taken from both 1 Timothy chapter 1 and Titus chapter 3 and are divided into four categories:
* Personal Qualifications
* Domestic Qualification
* Mental Qualifications
* Public Qualifications
1. Husband of one wife (mias guniakos andra) 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6 - " A one woman man" totally devoted to his wife. Not flirtatious; not accusable regarding any relationships with other woman.
"The husband of one wife" is not the best rendering according to the Greek text. The words translated "wife" (gunaikos) and "husband" (aner) are better translated "woman" and "man". The Greek construction places emphasis on the word "one", thereby communicating the idea of a one-woman man.
Some teach that in order to be a pastor one must be married. The phrase "one-woman man" doesn't refer to marital status at all. Paul is giving moral qualifications for spiritual leadership... "one-woman man" speaks of the man's character, the state of his heart. If he is married, he is to be devoted solely to his wife. Whether or not he is married, he is not to be a ladies man.
2. Hospitable (philoxenon) 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6 - A lover of strangers was one who welcomed and cared for visiting Christian travelers.
3. Not addicted to wine (me paroinon) 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7 - He must not be one who sits long beside his wine. The mixture of wine today requires abstinence. Prov. 23:30-31; 1 Tim 5:23 ("wine" in biblical days was one part wine to twenty parts water)
4. Not pugnacious (me plekten) 1 Tim. 3:3 - Not quarrelsome; not prone to strike back with a blow when offended or annoyed. You can't be a man of God if you settle disputes with your fists or in other violent ways. The Greek word translated "violent" means a "giver of blows" or a "striker". A man of God isn't quick tempered and doesn't resort to unnecessary physical violence.
A spiritual leader must be able to handle things with a cool mind and a gentle spirit. Paul said, "The servant of the Lord must not strive." (2 Tim. 2:24).
5. Self-controlled (egkrate) 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8 - Having the moral strength to master one's sinful impulses, particularly regarding sensual appetites.
6. Not quick tempered (me orgilon) Titus 1:7- Not given to outbursts of anger.
7. Gentle (epieke) 1 Tim. 3:3 - Considerate of the feelings of others. He refuses to insist on his own rights. This word also means "to be considerate, genial, forbearing, gracious, or gentle". In a practical sense, patience (KJV) is the ability to remember good and forget evil.
The man who aspires to be a pastor must discipline himself not to talk or even think about wrongs done against him because it serves no productive purpose. It simply rehearses the hurts and clouds his mind with anger.
8. Uncontentious (amachon) 1 Tim. 3:3 - Not a fighter; he doesn't go around with a chip on his shoulders.
This word is similar to pugnacious--not violent. The difference is that pugnacious refers to not being physically violent, whereas "uncontentious" or "not a brawler (KJV)" refers to not being quarrelsome.
The man of God must be a peacemaker.
9. Not self-willed (me authade) Titus 1:7- Not self-pleasing or self-indulgent to the point of showing arrogance. See 3 John 1:9 - Diotrephes loved to be first.
10. Free from the love of money (aphilarguron) 1 Tim. 3:3- Literally, "not fond of silver". Money does not dictate his decisions, his attention is not fixed on monetary reward.
11. Not fond of sordid gain (me aischrokerde) Titus 1:7 - One who is trustworthy and has financial integrity and honesty.
12. Just (dikaion) Titus 1:8 - Having conduct that meets God's approval.
13. Devout (hosion) Titus 1:8- Holy, having conduct which is pure and consistent with one's moral and spiritual commitment.
14. Not a new convert (me neophuton) 1 Tim. 3:6 - He must not be one newly planted into the faith or assembly. Only time in the faith can produce a mature believer.
1. Manages his own household well 1 Tim. 3:4 - The family must recognize the headship of the father. He must preside over a well ordered household.
A man of God's home life is an essential consideration. Before he can lead in the church he must demonstrate his spiritual leadership within the context of his family.
The Greek word translated "ruleth (KJV)" means "to preside, have authority over, stand before, or manage." He is the manager of his home.
By implication a man's home includes his resources. Stewardship of possessions is a critical test of a man's leadership. His home is a proving ground where his administrative capabilities can be clearly demonstrated.
2. Keeping his children under control with all dignity 1 Tim. 3:4 - He must rule in a dignified manner without yelling at or beating his children.
The Greek word translated "dignity" or "gravity (KJV)" blends the concepts of dignity, courtesy, humility, and competence. He demonstrates an air of stateliness or refinement with respect to how he raises his children. As a result, his children bring honor to their parents.
3. Having children who believe (teknon echon oista) - Titus 1:6 - Children who have personally placed their trust upon Jesus alone for their salvation.
4. Having children...not accused of dissipation - Titus 1:6 - They must not be accused of loose living like the prodigal son. cf. Luke 15:13 (asotia).
5. Having children...not accused of rebellion - Titus 1:6- Must not be unruly or insubordinate. His children must not be described as those who have not been brought under subjection (anupotakta).
1. Temperate (nephallon) - 1 Tim. 3:2 - His judgment never leans to the extreme. He is balanced and circumspect in judgment.
The Greek word translated "temperate" means "without wine" or "not mixed with wine". It speaks of sobriety -the opposite of intoxication. It is likely that Paul's usage of this word went beyond the literal sense of avoiding intoxication to the figurative sense of being alert and watchful. A man of God must deny any excess in life that diminishes clear thinking and sound judgment-- drinking, overeating, etc.
2. Prudent (sophrona) - 1 Tim. 3:2 - The quality of mind which is serious, earnest and sound; not long-faced. He relegates fun to its proper place. cf. “sensible” Titus 1:8. The Greek word translated "prudent" or "sober-minded (KJV)" speaks of discipline or self-control. It's the result of being temperate (v.2). The temperate man avoids excess so that he can see things clearly, and that clarity of thought leads to an orderly, disciplined life. He knows how to order his priorities. Prudent indicates a person who is serious about spiritual things.
3. Respectable (kosmion) - 1 Tim. 3:2 - A well-ordered mind and life. In the leadership of the church there is no place for the man whose life is a continual confusion of unaccomplished plans and disorganized activity.
The Greek word translated "respectable" or "good behavior (KJV)" comes from the root word kosmos, which in its general sense refers to the interplay between human, divine, and satanic values. A man of "good behavior" approaches all the aspects of his life in a systematic, orderly manner.
This kind of person diligently fulfills his many duties and responsibilities. His disciplined mind produces disciplined actions- "good behavior". The ministry (or any work for the Lord) is no place for a man whose life is a continual confusion of unaccomplished plans and unorganized activities.
4. Able to teach (didaktikon) - 1 Tim. 3:2 - The skill or ability to teach sound doctrine. He must be able to handle the Word of God accurately when making defense for the fundamentals of the faith.
5. Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching Titus 1:9 - He holds firmly (antecho) to the teaching which was imparted to him.
6. Able to exhort in sound doctrine - Titus 1:9- He must be able to encourage (parakalein) believers in healthy doctrine.
7. Able to refute (elegchein) - Titus 1:9 – The ability to expose those who oppose sound doctrine with diseased teaching of legalism and other errors.
1. Above reproach (anepilempton) - 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6 - His conduct should be of such a nature that no handle is given to anyone by which to injure his reputation. He is to be known for his consistent, mature Christian lifestyle which gives no occasion for public suspicion.
In a recent Wall Street Journal survey, 1,000 corporate executives were asked to name their most trusted confidant when faced with an ethical problem. Only 1% said that they would consult a pastor.
Psychology Today published their results of the ranking of 100 professions according to their level of respectability, desirability, and prestige. Pastors ranked 52nd, just below manufacturing foremen and just ahead of power station operators. Why? Perceived lack of credibility in the community.
Although hypocrisy abounds, there is no room for pastors who are financially irresponsible, sensually stalking women, half-hearted in the ministry, empire builders, glory seekers or money grubbers.
Blamelessness is a fundamental, universal requirement for the one desiring to shepherd God’s people. All the other qualifications in 1 Timothy 3, verses 2-7 define and illustrate what Paul meant by "blameless" or "above reproach".
The Greek text indicates that this is referring to a present state of blamelessness. “Above reproach” (NASB) means "not able to be held." A blameless man cannot be taken hold of as if he were a criminal in need of detention for his actions. There is nothing to accuse him of. He is irreproachable.
A man of God's life must not be marred by sin or vice -be it an attitude, habit or incident. That's not to say he must be perfect, but there must not be any obvious defect in his character. He must be a model of godliness.
2. A good reputation with those outside the church - 1 Tim. 3:7 - He must have a good and consistent testimony before the watching world. Hypocrisy in the world on the part of church leaders must not exist. The Greek word translated "good" (kalos) embraces the ideas of internal and external goodness.
A man of God must have a good internal character and a good external reputation or testimony. The Greek word translated "reputation" or "report (KJV)" (martureo) is the word from which we get martyr, but its basic meaning is a "certifying testimony". A man of God's character must be certified by the testimony of other people.
"Outside" has a reference to those who are not in the church. A man of God must have a reputation for integrity, love, kindness, generosity, and goodness among those in the community who know him. That doesn't mean that people will agree with his theology. In fact, there might even be some antagonism toward his Christian convictions, but he is seen as a man of character.
3. Loving what is good - Titus 1:8- Devoted to all that is good and virtuous; ready to do what is beneficial for others.
After reading these qualifications, you ought to be thinking about how much you need to be praying for your pastor and perhaps you see now why so many churches are weak and not effective.
Over the last several weeks the media has reported the crimes of priests who have abused boys who were members at their churches. Let’s say these priests have repented and undergone a year of psychological counseling. The church restores him to his office and now your son wants to be an altar boy at his church. What would be going on in your mind--this is what disqualification is all about.
The word "reproach" in 1 Tim 3:2 means "not to be taken hold of" it means that there is not a blemish about the character of the pastor that someone can make stick and jeopardize the effectiveness of his ministry. It means that the pastor has to be blameless.
An example: The Scriptures teach that a man that aspires to the office of an overseer must be above reproach. The writer of Proverbs 6:27-35 says:
Prov 6:27 Can a man take fire in his bosom, And his clothes not be burned?
Prov 6:28 Or can a man walk on hot coals, And his feet not be scorched?
Prov 6:29 So is the one who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.
Prov 6:30 Men do not despise a thief if he steals To satisfy himself when he is hungry;
Prov 6:31 But when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; He must give all the substance of his house.
Prov 6:32 The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; He who would destroy himself does it.
Prov 6:33 Wounds and disgrace he will find, And his reproach will not be blotted out.
Prov 6:34 For jealousy enrages a man, And he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
Prov 6:35 He will not accept any ransom, Nor will he be content though you give many gifts.
The writer is warning his reader concerning the consequences of committing adultery; in fact he underscores the fact that the consequences are perpetual.
He zeros in on how the reputation on the one who committed this gross sin would be tarnished as long as he lived. He does this by citing how people would be willing to forgive a thief who stole because he was hungry and when he was caught satisfied the Law and made restitution. But there is something about taking somebody's wife that will always be remembered. Hence the adulterer's reproach will not be blotted out or forgotten.
There are certain kinds of sin that people will forgive but most will not forget and for this reason the pastor who commits them disqualifies himself.
Sometimes a pastor may be disqualified even if he isn't personally involved in the sin but he is in some way responsible for it.
For example, Paul teaches in 1 Tim 3 that if the pastor's children are rebellious or his home is out of order he is not fit to be an elder. If he were to have a wife that is unsubmissive, he is not qualified to be an elder. He has to be one that is managing his household well.
Being qualified is all about having the ability to model Christ-likeness to the assembly and those outside of the body of Christ.
Don't take a position of leadership in church unless you are prepared to be honest, pure, and loving in your lifestyle. Leadership is a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. God holds teachers of His truth doubly responsible because we who lead are in a position where we can either draw people toward Christ or drive them away from Him.
This is illustrated in the life of the famous author Mark Twain. Church leaders were largely to blame for his becoming hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith. As he grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them. He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. He listened to ministers use the Bible to justify slavery. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders that he became bitter toward the things of God.
Indeed, it is a privilege to be an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, or a Bible club leader. But it is also an awesome responsibility. Let's make sure we attract people to the Savior rather than turn them away.