The Bible tells us what qualifications a man must meet in order to pastor God’s church. 1 Timothy 3 spells them out:
This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop [pastor, elder, overseer etc], he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
- husband of one wife
- good behavior
- given to hospitality
- apt to teach
- not given to wine
- no striker
- not greedy for money
- not a brawler
- not covetous
- rules his home well
- not a novice
Wow! A man has to meet 15 qualifications if he wants to be a pastor. Let’s go over some of them.
Blameless, of good report, in and outside the church
This means, nobody has anything bad to say about the guy whether inside the church and outside the church among sinners (2 Tim 3:7). If the candidate is known as a good guy in the church, but outside, his neighbors, co-workers, and family members raise red flags about his character, he may be disqualified.
This goes to show that a Christian’s testimony must be visible to everyone, not just other believers. The true test is the report among those outside the church.
The husband of one wife
What this means is that the man only has one wife and hasn’t divorced and remarried. I’ve done a study on divorce and remarriage, and basically, God considers a couple married for life. For a man to marry another woman after divorcing his first wife would be viewed, in God’s eyes, as having a second wife, and also adultery.
And why is this “husband of one wife” mandate here? because how can a man manage the flock, but can’t keep his own marriage together? Or, how can a man manage two wives and care for the flock too? Most married men will tell you, one wife is enough, but multiple wives plus the responsibilities of managing the flock—well, that’s just too much.
This also disqualifies women from the pastoral role because how can they be the husband of one wife? That’s impossible. In another article I dig deeper into the real reason why God prohibits women pastors.
Vigilant, sober and of good behavior
A vigilant man is one who keeps careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. This is important for a pastor because he has to protect the sheep from wolves and pitfalls.
“Sober” is referring to having a sound mind and sanity in one’s senses. In other words, he can’t be “driven crazy”, nor is he easily manipulated, he doesn’t let emotions take over, and he’s in control of his desires and impulses. This is also important because the devil attacks the mind and works through the emotions.
Good behavior means: he’s modest, seemly and respectable. There are certain men who are flamboyant and do things that are inappropriate—these guys don’t qualify because their behavior makes it hard for people to respect them—making it hard for them to lead a flock.
Must be hospitable
A man that doesn’t like people in his home or doesn’t know how to accommodate them would not be a good pastor. The early church met in homes and this is where most of a pastor’s ministry will take place, so it’s understandable why this mandate was included.
Must be able to teach
I’ve come across a few pastors that just didn’t have the gift to teaching (Rom 12:6-7). I believe the gift is necessary if a man is going to be a pastor. If all a man can do is give motivational speeches and encouraging words, but can’t explain the word of God with exposition, pastoring should not be his role.
Expository teaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The goal of expository teaching is to simply expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse. We know that feeding the sheep the word of God is one of the main duties of the pastor, being able to break the food down for the sheep to eat is essential.
Not a striker or a brawler
A striker is a man that’s quarrelsome and contentious; quick to argue or fight, confrontational, threatening, hostile and aggressive; causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial, loves to debate and “gets into it” with people.
A brawler is a person who depends on ferocity, toughness, and strength to win fights. While the man of God wouldn’t go around physically fighting, this can be applied to his spiritual walk. Does he approach situations of opposition in his own toughness and strength, or does he allow God to fight for him?
I’ve seen this happen too many times. While the “man of god” usually wins the argument against the atheist or that person of an opposing religion, they never win their opponent to Christ because it wasn’t done in the loving Spirit of God.
There are even so-called Christians who believe we need to take martial arts to defend ourselves in the streets as we preach the gospel—this is just plain stupid. Jesus, the apostles and the disciples weren’t drop-kicking the opposition. They prayed for them knowing that they “wrestled not against flesh and blood”, but against spiritual forces (Eph 6:12).
What a brawler doesn’t understand is that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Cor 10:4). In the end, a man will be cursed if he continues to draw strength from the flesh (Jer 17:5). Therefore a striker and a brawler cannot serve as pastors.
Not greedy for money or covetous
How many pastors do we see on TV who are obviously greedy for money—they’ve disqualified themselves as true pastors of God. But if it isn’t money, it could be a lust for material things which is covetousness. Covetousness is having or showing a great desire to possess something, typically something belonging to someone else.
What a man covets could be anything. If he doesn’t get through his mind that the “Lord is his shepherd and he has no need” (Ps 23:1 NLT), he can’t be a pastor. With covetousness in his soul, who knows what compromises he might make and what damage he might cause to the sheep.
He’s patient, rules his home well, and not a novice
A pastor needs great patience to work with sheep. The true test of a pastor is if he’s able to raise his own children to be orderly, obedient and respectful. How many of us have known the pastor’s son or daughter to be a “wild-child”—disrespectful and rebellious? Stuff like that disqualifies a man, “for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (vs 5).
Finally, the man must not be a novice. A novice is an immature man in the faith. Newborn babes don’t qualify and while a 10 year old Christian might believe he’s qualified, he needs to recognize that maturity doesn’t come from age but from consistent obedience. The man that obeys God the most, is the man that is most mature.
When leaders ordain men who haven’t matured what will undoubtedly happen is pride. Paul said, “lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (vs 6).
So humility should be a biggest attribute to look for in the candidate pastor. With humility in place, he’ll be able to hear God and be corrected if need be (1 Peter 5:5) , he’ll walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16) knowing he can do nothing without Christ (John 15:5), and because of all that he’ll be a powerful tool for God to use.
Well, those are the qualifications. While they are strict and while there are many, God’s doesn’t want just anyone over his sheep, he needs men he can trust, and through the Spirit of God, many men can be pastors and shepherd the flocks of God successfully.