Understanding the Qualifications of a Leader
Whoever Aspires To The Office Of Bishop Desires A Noble Task
“The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunk, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way—for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:1-7).
The two words used to identify leaders in the church, namely bishops and elders, were synonymous and applicable to the same person. The title elder, made reference to one’s dignity and status, while bishop related to one’s function or duty. The former referred to one’s person and the latter to one’s duty (Ac 20:17, 28). The primary task of a pastor/elder in the church is to fulfill and uphold 1 Timothy 3:2-7. The passage specifies the biblical qualifications/expectations of this spiritual office in connection with the following six levels of the pastor/elder’s relationship:[i]
In respect to those within the church, the pastor/elder must be “above reproach.” His life and character should not leave him open to attack. And if a charge is leveled against him, he should be able to withstand his adversary and silence his critics. As to those outside the church, he is to be “respectable” or of good reputation. Needless to say, the outside world is privy to the behavior of the pastor/elder’s life. The genuineness of his daily dealings with unbelievers will either define or malign his public office. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” The pastor/elder’s actions should speak louder than words. He must ‘walk the talk’ in order to influence and inspire unbelievers toward the Christ life.
In a world where morality is compromised and under constant attack, the pastor/elder must be blameless. He is to be “married only once” in a society where divorce and remarriage is rampant and goes unchecked. He must maintain a high standard in the marital relationship in regard to his love, care, and faithfulness to his wife. He must also be temperate, “not a drunkard, not violent, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.” He must refrain from any indulgence in secret that would undermine his character, ruin his public witness, and disgrace the church he serves. For we can best be sure our sin, even our secret sins, will find us out (Num 32:23; Ps 90:8). Bottom line, the question of his morality must go unchallenged within the walls of the church and the world at large.
The pastor/elder must be “sensible” or sound-minded. In order to develop a well-balanced state of mind in his inner character, he must be tempered daily with self-discipline. A well-ordered life is the outcome of a well-ordered mind.[ii] The life of a pastor/elder should reflect the beauty of orderliness of God.[iii] He should not only possess the ability as “an apt teacher,” but also the readiness to teach—a desire and constraint to entrust to others the truth that the Holy Spirit has taught him from the scriptures (2 Tim 2:2). This necessitates that he must be a serious student of the scriptures. And his instruction must have the support of a holy and blameless life before God and the church.
The pastor/elder must not be violent or quarrelsome, but “gentle.” He should not be given to or dabble in contentious controversies that lead to ugly disputes and damaging division. He should not be a peacekeeper, but peacemaker, seeking ways to resolve painful problems and diffuse explosive situations (Mt 5:9). He must be “hospitable,” a friend to strangers (Mt 25:35-39; Heb 13:2). He must not be “a lover of money” or covet it “for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10a). He must strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, trusting God to meet his every need (Mt 6:33), or he may pierce himself and wander away from the faith chasing after riches (1 Ti 6:10b).
The pastor/elder who is married must “manage his own household” in a Godly manner “keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way.” He must be in sync with his wife sharing these spiritual aspirations and willing to make necessary sacrifices. While caring for the church, it is his responsibility to not neglect his own family. The family is his first priority. After all, his wife and kids validate his ministry, “for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:5). Anyone who aspires to this office has got to have his house in order—not a flimsy house of cards, but one built on solid rock (Lk 6:48-49).
Spiritual maturity is indispensable to a pastor/ elder’s life and experience. It’s not a position for the new convert or neophyte[iv]—for novices are in danger of pride and prone to fall into the condemnation of the devil. A recent convert lacks the wisdom and stability essential in providing good leadership. Under the authority of the pastor/elder, any promising candidate for a leadership role should be given opportunities to serve at a humbler and less prominent task that would develop his natural and spiritual gifts. He should not be placed on the fast track to leadership lest he be puffed up, but should be proven faithful in the little responsibilities before tackling the greater tasks ahead (Lk 19:17). The idea being that to all those who have been trustworthy in the small things, more will be given or placed under his authority (Lk 19:26).
[i] J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986 rev. ed.), 49-58. The six qualifications of bishop/elder are adapted and distilled from Sander’s chapter entitled, “Pauline Sidelights on Leadership.”
[ii] Ibid., 53. Sanders explains that as to the outer conduct of the pastor/elder, he must be respectable, decorous—“the word is kosmos, the order that emerged out of chaos at the fiat of God.”
[iv] Ibid., 56. According to Sanders, the word neophyte is a figure taken from nature meaning “newly planted.”
© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
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