I have been asked to write a series of articles for this blog on the topic of “Pastoral leadership – What should it look like?” As we begin to look at this subject, I want to focus my first article on the biblical qualifications of a pastor/elder (I will use the term “elder” and “pastor” interchangeably in these articles since they refer to the same office in Scripture).
If elders are to lead a group of believers (the church, the called out ones), what should we look for in order to find men who can get the job done? What would we expect to find in a job description for a pastor? A quick look at a website that posts job offers for pastors revealed that most churches are looking for similar things. Here is a quick summary:
– A seminary degree
– A certain number of years of experience
– A visionary leader
– An excellent communicator
– A proficiency in computer skills
While these requirements can be very useful, are these the things that matter the most when it comes to leading a church? Let’s look to God’s Word for the answer! On two occasions, the apostle Paul writes about what kind of men to look for when appointing elders to lead local churches, once when writing to Timothy and the other time when writing to Titus. Let’s look at that last one. In Titus 1:5-9, Paul tells Titus to look for men who are:
– faithful to their wife;
– have children who are believers and who are not accused of having wild lifestyles or of being rebellious;
– appreciate what is good;
– upright, moral;
– self-controlled and disciplined;
– not arrogant;
– not irritable or quick-tempered;
– not drink too much;
– not a violent person;
– not greedy, does not make money in shameful ways.
We might be surprised that Paul didn’t put the emphasis on the level of training they have received, the years of experience they have in leading people, or to check if they are great communicators. As useful as these might be to a pastor, Paul bypasses them. Instead, he tells Titus to look at the character of the men and see if any qualify. Paul goes for the most important thing and lays out guidelines to help churches find leaders. That’s because God considers the character of a man (what that man is like) to be very important! If serious flaws are detected in the character of that man, then his training, his experience and his skills (like being a good communicator) don’t matter. That’s why God wants the focus to be on the heart of the individual. That’s where the search should begin.
To summarize this first article, pastoral leadership requires a Godly character. When a church looks to appoint or hire a pastor/elder, the first place to start is by looking at the character of that man and see if it lines up with the list of character traits God gives us in Titus 1:5-9 and 1st Timothy 3:1-7. Many churches today are experiencing leadership problems because they have skipped this very important first step when they appointed their leaders.