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TEXT: I Timothy 3:1-7

SUBJECT: What Pastors Must Be

A couple of months ago, I asked two brothers to join me in the eldership and to help me pastor the church. It's flattering to think I need no help, but it is also untrue. I do need help, every minister does, because caring for the Flock of God is hard, and we need as many hands to do it as we can get.

Does the church call a man to the pastorate? No we don't-Jesus Christ does that. What we have to do is recognize the brothers He has gifted for the work.

What gifts should we be looking for? Traditionally, the gifts are a college education, a seminary degree, and a certain command presence. If a brother's got the sheepskins on the wall and radiates some charisma, he's the man for the job. There is nothing wrong with formal training and the power to lead matters, but these are not the priorities we find in the Bible.

The qualifications are based on what a pastor is supposed to do. If his main calling is to raise money, you need one kind of man, but if it's to shepherd (or care) for the flock of God, you need something else.


This brings us to I Timothy 3:1-7, and the fullest picture of what a pastor must be. What is a pastor? Paul doesn't use the word, 'pastor' here, but bishop. This means 'an overseer'.

God has not called him to micromanage everyone's life-or to pry into ever personal detail-but to keep an eye on the church, to notice when someone is hurting, when someone is being led astray, when someone needs prayer or counsel or comfort, or a hard kick in the pants!

Pastors cannot be self-centered men, caring only for themselves, their fitness, their studies, their families, their politics, and so on. They have to pay attention to the church. And this is why most churches need more than one set of eyes. Some pastors are sharp on doctrine and they can tell when a brother is drifting into error. Others have a more personal touch, and can spot worried people before they go all to pieces.

A friend of mine is really good at catching family problems before the become disasters. He's not a meddler, but when he notices a man talking harshly to his wife all the time, he looks into it. Or, when he sees toddlers running wild he'll gently tell the parents, This won't be cute when they're teenagers. He's got a real knack for that, but when it comes to doctrine or the church service, you need somebody else.

Suppose you're going to entrust yourself to someone's oversight? What would you mostly be looking for? Knowledge is important, but would you ask a six-year-old with an IQ of 190 to be your mentor? Experience is also important, but some fools are old fools! They have experience a great many things, and always learned the wrong lesson from them!

What you need is some combination of knowledge and experience, the best term I know for it is, Christian maturity. This is what Paul emphasizes. A pastor doesn't have to be a perfect (or nearly perfect) man or the smartest human on earth, but he's got to have a solid grasp of what the Bible teaches and the maturity to model it and pass it on to others.

Because what he's called to do is, v1-

A good work.

Good because it needs doing and work because it's hard to do.


Paul names fifteen qualities needed in a pastor. The first is, he's got to be blameless. This does not mean perfect or the next thing to it. If it did, no one could be a pastor, and if he became one, he'd have to resign the first time he got mad at his kids or had a lustful thought or wished he made more money. What it means is: without glaring character faults.

For example, a pastor can lose his temper, but he cannot be an angry man; he might have too much to drink one night, but he cannot be a drunkard; he can say a bad word with he closes the door on his finger, but he cannot be a potty mouth.

The pastor's got to be blameless because-if he's not-he cannot lead the church to holiness. He can tell us what holiness is, but his life makes it impossible to take what he says seriously.

A blameless pastor will be weak in certain areas of life, and when he falls into sin, he'll confess it to God, when he needs to, he'll apologize to the people he has wronged, accept the Lord's forgiveness, seek His grace, and move on. This itself is a good example, infinitely better than the pastor who never admits he was wrong.


The husband of one wife

'The husband of one wife' has been interpreted in different ways, but to understand it, you've got to ask the when and where questions. Paul wrote this in the First Century AD to a man working with former Jews and Pagans. So? How did they hear, 'the husband of one wife'? They took it to mean, Not a Polygamist. A man who needs one wife to be his lover, another to be his friend, a third to be his maid, a fourth for her father's money, and so on, is not qualified to be a pastor.

He should be satisfied with one wife, with her faults and limitations. The Greek here says-

A one-woman kind of man.

That fits the First Century when men could marry multiple wives if they wanted to, and today, when we can't marry them, but can sure lust for them and associate with them in ways not altogether innocent.

Is he the kind of man who's always too friendly with women-even if you can't prove anything? If so, this needs to be resolved before you call him to the pastorate.


Temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior.

'Temperate' means not drunk, but since that comes up later, it probably stands for self-control in general. Does the man get drunk on wine, on talking, on attention, on laughter? In moderation, these are good things, but 'too much of a good thing' is a bad thing.

'Sober-minded' means serious. Must a pastor be humorless? No he shouldn't be; read the parables and you'll see our Lord had a sharp sense of humor. But it means he has to be able to turn off the levity and get serious when he needs to.

'Of good behavior' means orderly and says a pastor cannot be a scatter-brain.


Not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money.

'Not given to wine' does not mean a pastor cannot drink at times, it means he cannot depend on wine. 'Not violent' is explained later in the verse as gentle and not quarrelsome.

'Not greedy for money' means he doesn't hoard his money the way a miser does or spend every penny he's got on himself (and then some) as covetous people do. Like everyone else, the pastor needs money to live on and he has to spend some time thinking about what he has, what he will need in the future, caring for his family, and so on, but money is not his God.

If you say that's not easy to pin down, you know better: we all know people who are misers, who are spendthrits, and who think and talk and live too much for money. These men shouldn't be pastors.


One who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).

A pastor needs to command the respect of his family. Paul doesn't say they have to be saved-for no pastor can do that-and he doesn't say they can never disobey or never talk back or have perfect manners. What he says is, a pastor needs to take care of his family (including the authority part) because if he doesn't, there's no reason to think he can take care of the church.

This brings up an important question: what about children who are grown up and out of the house? What if a man's grown son is a practicing and proud homosexual, is the father disqualified from the pastorate?

As I see it, the man is qualified, unless he promoted this kind of life at home, either by telling his son it's okay to be this way, or by being such an atrocious man himself, the boy didn't want to be a man! Adults make their own decisions, and though parents can advise them, they cannot-and should not-run their lives.


Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he falls into the condemnation of the devil.

A young man can be a pastor, but he cannot be young in the Lord, for if he is the heady experience of being in front all the time and being looked to for leadership will likely puff him up (as it did Satan) and cause him to make more of himself than he ought.


Finally, a pastor needs a good reputation-

He must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Because unbelievers are made in the likeness and image of God, they have a sense of morality. Though they may not live up to it themselves, they expect Christians to-especially Christian leaders. If a man is rude to his neighbors, lazy at work, cusses at the umpire at little league games, and leers at every cute girl who walks by him, he shouldn't be a pastor. Because unbelievers will spot his evil ways, and blame the church-and God-for them. Thus, not only he, but the Lord and His people will be discredited I the eyes of the world.


A friend of mine has described these verses as a picture of the pastor and not a check-list. I think he's right. No man will be equally mature on all these things, but does he more-or-less fit the picture? If he does, he's qualified to be a pastor, and as need and opportunity present themselves, he ought to serve the church in this role.

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