We just recently ordained another elder for our congregation. This has been one of the greatest joys I have had in pastoral ministry. I am excited about our newest elder, and I am looking forward to sharing with him the leadership of our congregation. The last several months of elder training have been refreshing as well. It was great to be reminded of the necessity and seriousness of pastoral ministry.

We used as one of our references, “Biblical Eldership” by Alexander Strauch. Strauch puts a lot of emphasis on the character of the elder. He does so without minimizing the need for continuous theological training and development. However, you get the sense he really wants the church to rediscover the necessity of godly leadership.

Therefore I was extremely pleased the examination counsel spent a considerable amount of their allotted time with questions on character. We spent well over half of the examination period on questions regarding his home, i.e. his wife and children, temperament, view of riches, and his overall moral character.

I was grateful for their line of questioning because it fell right in with the same emphasis Paul put before Timothy and Titus. The character of potential leaders gets the lion share of the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. This emphasis needs to be rediscovered.

Sometimes a brother has a moral failure and it’s a complete shock to everyone who knew him. Then there are times when it seems everyone was waiting for it to happen. The former happens simply because both the candidate and the examiners are men at best. However, the latter is almost inexcusable, especially when those responsible for making the appointment to leadership had well deserved reservations about his character prior to his appointment.

Although we are not omniscient, we are responsible for holding the qualifications banner as high as the Scripture does. The qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus provide an unambiguous list of character qualities that must be present in the leadership candidate, even before he’s being considered as a leader. Actually his moral character should be one of the reasons he’s being sought for leadership in the first place.

Moral character does not qualify for “on the job training” in pastoral ministry. It is to be in place way before the brother even reaches the candidate stage for leadership. I’m not advocating for perfection in the leadership candidate, nor should you. However, imperfection should not cause us to lower clearly defined qualifications. Clearly defined qualifications are exactly what we have in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

Whenever a Church leader fails morally it causes shame and dishonor to the Lord Who is Head of the Church; it discredits the gospel witness of the Church; it causes a tear through the hearts and lives of the community of believers that’s almost unbearable.

Perhaps, and I’m saying just perhaps, a lot of the moral failure we see in ministry could have been avoided on the front end. Maybe if seasoned pastors/elders and church members spend a little more time revisiting these precious qualifications and seek the Lord for discernment and resist the tendency to compromise due to the perceived giftedness, notoriety, education, etc. of the candidate. Because like our friend whose gone to be with the Lord used to say, “He might be gifted, but he’s not good.”

Here is a brief refresher on some of the things “he must be” according to Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-2. In another post I’ll work through the rest of the qualifications.

According to Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-2a, a church leader must be:

Above Reproach

This is the key qualification. It is the sum total of the other qualifications. In short, his reputation is to be a credit to the Church. What he is known to be does not shame the testimony of the Church, cf. Titus 1:6; 2:5. The opponents of the gospel were dragging the Church down and the character and reputation of the true leaders of God’s people must do the complete opposite.

Husband of One Wife

Marital fidelity. One woman man. He is to be marked by faithfulness to this wife. If married he is committed to his wife, she’s the only one for him. The opponents were seen as womanizers, no woman in the congregation or the community was off limits. Their marriages meant nothing and the divorce rate was high and unquestioned. It was not a culture of marital faithfulness and the false teachers were part and parcel of the problem. There was no place for the people to look and find God’s design for marriage. So the Apostle lined up the true leaders of God’s people next to the unfaithful false teachers and invited all to see God’s grace in marital faithfulness.

Self-Mastery

The next three characteristics form a triad of disciplines that fit under the heading of “self-mastery.” The man of God is sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, dignified, and decent. In other words, he is  clear-headed, disciplined, sensible, and easily observable by others and thus they respect him. What sober-mindedness and self-control are on the inside, respectable is on the outside. The net effect is “self-mastery.” In “modern day” (that’s 70’s for me, folks!) parlance, he does not easily “trip out.”

Hospitable

This quality is enjoined upon all believers. It is to be exemplified by the church leaders. It literally means “love of strangers.” Having folks in our homes is the Christian way. It highlights our willingness to really share what we have. It is a chief way to demonstrate that the Pastoral ministry is not on the take, but on the give.

Able to Teach

This quality combines ability and character. Not only must he be able to teach (or “skilled in teaching”) but he must see teaching as his principle responsibility. There was so much at stake, i.e. the clear articulation of the Gospel message (1 Tim. 1:11; 2:3-6) and the correcting of false teaching, (1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). For more on Godly Leadership, see Reviving The Black Church (p. 107-109).

These are just a few of the qualifications I’ve been thinking about lately. Revisiting them causes me to be thankful for the faithful godly men God has given our church to lead our congregation. I’m equally grateful for the opportunity I had to sit on their examination panels. They have been a real blessing to me and the rest of our congregation. They’re not perfect men, yet they meet these qualifications. May their tribe increase.

This is the first part on a series on the character of church leaders. See Part Two here.

The Front Porch
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Receive the latest updates from The Front Porch

Invalid email address
Stay up to date with us.

18 Comments

  • Avatar Ian Turner says:

    Pastor Love, Thanks for the good refresher and reminder.

    I appreciate your emphasis that “his moral character should be one of the reasons he’s being sought for leadership in the first place… Moral character does not qualify for ‘on the job training’ in pastoral ministry… It is to be in place way before the brother even reaches the candidate stage for leadership” (para. 6 & 7). The post reminds me of something Tim Chester said in “Total Church” (2008: 120): “the qualities [Paul] outlines are not skills-based but character-based.”

    Character is king. This post resonates with me because I’ve been coming face to face with the fact that I’ve tended to overemphasize skills (or “doing tasks”) over character. In my job, for instance, I’ve seen that it’s often less about the “skilled work” I do, but more about those “invisible soft-skills” of having a servant’s heart that is willing to drop what you’re doing, look the other person in the eye (who is asking you for the fifth time where the replacement staplers are, for instance), and treating that person like the most important person in the world, orienting the moment around their interests (Phil 2)–a heart-quality of humility and service. Yeah, Dr. House was highly skilled, but he was a JERK!

    Your post also brought out a very sad dynamic we often find. You said “there are times when it seems everyone was waiting for [the moral failure] to happen… when those responsible for making the appointment to leadership had well deserved reservations about his character prior to his appointment.” Acknowledging your point about being heedless of the red flags of character, I also see another layer of failure in this: a failure of community. I wonder where the brothers were to address and counsel this man through his issues–in the context of everyday discipleship and community–WAY before he even reached the examination meeting. Perhaps no one ever felt comfortable rebuking this brother. Chester (2008:123) said “church discipline needs to become a daily reality in which rebuke and exhortation are normal. Without this, any form of confrontation will itself create a sense of crisis.” Strong community is one of the best deterrents to pastoral counseling crises. Heck, a culture of church-wide discipleship makes pastoral counseling (relatively) easy.

    So, it’s like a coin: on one side, character should be in place WAY before that examination meeting; and on the other side, community (to deter a man full of red flags) should be in place WAY before that examination meeting. Thank you for bringing these things front-and-center.

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey Ian;
    Welcome again to TFP, brother. As always your comments are thoughtful and helpful. I like the way you placed church-wide discipleship “WAY” before the examination process. I think you’re right, and could even be an entire post all by itself.

    I’m sensing things get real cloudy when there is a certain level of giftedness in people. Think about how many folks should not be on the praise team, leading worship, etc. but are allowed to because brother man can “sang” or really play.

    Great points Ian.

  • Avatar Tony Carter says:

    Lou, the longer the Lord delights to grow me in the ministry the more he impresses upon me that leadership is inside/out. Thanks again for reminding us that faithfulness is measured by character – and that not often observed by others but clearly overseen by our Lord. May the Lord raise up more such men for the good of the church, and the glory of Christ. Thanks my friend.

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey Carter,
    “Leadership is inside/out”. Now that nails it, my brother.

  • Avatar A Amos Love says:

    Louis Love

    From one Love to another Love…
    L. O. V. E. – the L.anguage O.f V.ictorious E.ternity – Is LOVE
    ———-

    Your about page for The Front Porch sounds inviting…

    In this article I can agree with…
    “…we are responsible for holding “the qualifications” banner
    as high as the Scripture does.”

    In my experience, NOT many elder/overseers do this.

    And, I kinda feel like I’m barging onto your porch, because…
    I have some very different views about…
    Very challenging commentary about…
    Pastors, leaders, church leadership…
    And these Qualifications…
    When I read the Bible…

    Was wondering…
    You use as one of your references, “Biblical Eldership” by Alexander Strauch. Overall, I’m NOT a fan of Strauch. But, he does say something I can agree with but is NOT very popular today about “Titles.”

    Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership:
    An Urgent Call To Restore Biblical Church Leadership, (pp. 114-115).

    “So in the first century, no Christian would dare take the position *or title*
    of sole ruler, overseer, **or pastor** of the church.

    We Christians today, however, are so accustomed to speaking of “the pastor”
    that we do not stop to realize that *the New Testament does not.*

    This fact is profoundly significant, and we must not permit our customary practice
    to shield our minds from this important truth.

    There is only ONE flock and *ONE Pastor* (John 10:16),
    ONE body and ONE Head (Col. 1:18), ONE holy priesthood
    and ONE great High Priest (Heb. 4:14ff.), ONE brotherhood
    and ONE Elder Brother (Rom. 8:29), ONE building and ONE Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5ff.),
    ONE Mediator, ONE Lord.”
    ——–

    I agree with Strauch, about the “Title” pastor, because…
    When I searched, In the Bible…
    NOT one of His Disciples had the “Title” pastor.
    NOT one of His Disciples called them self pastor.

    How do you reconcile what Strauch says…
    We Christians today, however, are so accustomed to speaking of “the pastor”
    that we do not stop to realize that *the New Testament does not.*

    How do you reconcile what Strauch says…
    With what goes on today? With “Titles?”

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Hey Brother Love:
    Welcome up on the porch. Thanks for the good question.

    As I understand Strauch, he is coming against one man leadership, favoring a plurality, to which I agree. Addressing those men as pastor, not as a “title” but out of respect for the office does not constitute a biblical violation.

    Growing up in the Black Church, respect was a big deal. Honor was something you demonstrated by how you addressed people. Therefore, he was “Pastor” West, “Deacon” Bolden, and they were “Brother” and “Sister” Turner.

    I agree with Strauch’s concern about the use of “titles”. We just need to be aware that in all places where “pastor” is used to address someone, it’s not used as a title.

  • Avatar A Amos Love says:

    Louis

    Thanks for the conversation.

    “However, addressing those men as pastor,
    not as a “title” but out of respect for the office
    does not constitute a biblical violation.”

    But, in the Bible?
    Did any of His Disciples address themselves as pastor? Or shepherd?
    Did any of His Disciples address another Disciple as pastor? shepherd?
    As so many do today?

    NOPE – NOT one…

    If WE, His Sheep, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Kings and Priests…
    Are encouraged to be as one of His Disciples in the Bible…

    Why would WE, His Sevants, call ourself pastor? Take this “Title” pastor?
    That His Disciples, in the Bible, did NOT?

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Brother Amos:
    You offer a tight argument from silence, my brother.
    However, I think you’re needlessly conflating “office” and “title”.

  • Avatar A Amos Love says:

    Louis

    Thanks for the compliment.
    “You offer a tight argument from silence, my brother.”

    When I started to research pastors in the Bible…
    The “silence” in the Bible about pastors was amazing.

    Almost nothing about what today’s proffesional pastors get paid to do.

    I noticed, in the Bible…
    Jesus, who called Himself the “Good” Shepherd, the “ONE” Shepherd.
    Was the only “ONE” with the “Title” Shepherd.

    And you could be correct…
    “However, I think you’re needlessly conflating “office” and “title”.’

    Can you explain the difference between, “office” and “title?”

    Can you name one of His Dsiciples who had the “office” of pastor/shepherd?

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Brother Love, I’m not sure where you are taking this conversation, but I am sure I don’t want to go. You got the last word on this one, my brother.

  • Avatar A Amos Love says:

    Louis

    I’m sorry you do NOT want to continue the conversation.
    I understand the angst. I was ordained. In leadership.

    In my first comment I kinda warned, explained…
    “I have some very different views…” When I wrote…

    “And, I kinda feel like I’m barging onto your porch, because…
    I have some very different views about…
    Very challenging commentary about…
    Pastors, leaders, church leadership…
    And these Qualifications…
    When I read the Bible…”
    ———–

    When someone challenged “my traditions,” about pastor/elder/leaders…
    I quickly rejected those thoughts also. But, I heard it. And wondered…

    Eventually, I began to see verses in the Bible that challenged what I believed…
    Verses that challenged what my then pastor/elder/leaders, taught…

    I began to question, and search for answers…
    And came to understand…

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

    This next comment was already written when I read your comment.
    If you do NOT want to reply I understand.

    Be Blessed in your search for Truth – Jesus…

  • Avatar A Amos Love says:

    Louis

    And in your post about qualifications for elder/overseer…
    You mention, “church leaders,” “leadership,” etc., a lot…

    “…the leadership of our congregation.”
    “…the necessity of godly leadership.”
    “The character of potential leaders…”
    “…the appointment to leadership…”
    “…in the leadership candidate…”
    “…being sought for leadership…”
    “…the candidate stage for leadership.”
    “…in the leadership candidate…”
    “Whenever a Church leader fails…”
    “…a church leader must be…”

    But, in the Bible, “church leaders,” “leadership,” is NOT mentioned at all.

    Jesus, in the Bible, has a unique take on “Leaders” for His Disciples. – “ONE”

    Have you ever wondered? Why? In the Bible?
    NOT one of His Disciples called them self “leader?”
    NOT one of His Disciples called another Disciple “leader?”
    Or church leader? Or Leadership?

    Could it be, because…
    Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called “leader?”
    For you have “ONE” leader, the Christ?

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible
    Do NOT be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant”.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Mat 23:10-12 – The Message
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only “ONE” Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    If Jesus instructed *His Disciples* NOT to call themselves “leaders?”
    And, NOT one of His Disciples called them self “leader?”
    And, someone calls them self a “leader?”
    Allows others to call them “leader?”

    Are they one of “His Disciples?”

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? 😉

  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Brother
    Amos:

    Please know that your so-called challenge to biblical eldership is not the reason I did not want to continue the conversation. I have been down this road many times, my brother, so my rejection of your view on this topic is not done “quickly” or without being settled on what the Bible clearly teaches.

    I chose to discontinue this conversation mainly because of the way you truncate the
    scripture’s clear teaching by your untenable use of silence.
    Here’s a quick tip:
    You will understand the Bible better by discovering what it actually says as opposed to what it does not say. What the bible does not say is helpful, but it has huge
    limitations. So I recommend you spend a little more time on getting at the
    meaning and intent of Scripture utilizing what it says. Just a little tip, my
    brother.

    Also I chose to discontinue this conversation because I know a little bit about myself. I know I will quickly grow impatient with how you miss something so clearly taught in the bible. Already I’m really bothered by the fact that you can read the bible so often and miss what the books of Acts, Thessalonians, the Pastorals, Hebrews and 1st Peter just to mention a few, clearly teach regarding church leadership. I find that completely remarkable. As a matter of fact, I probably would eventually conclude that you are deliberately missing this clear teaching due to some agenda like an ax to grind. That’s how clear the Scripture actually is on this subject, my brother. The old guys call it the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture.

    I really don’t want to get into all that, brother. Therefore, in an attempt to submit to
    Paul’s clear instruction regarding church leaders, cf. 1 Tim. 3:3, I’m going to avoid quarreling with you about this biblically clear subject of church leadership.

    BTW, I read your latest post and your use of Matthew 23:10-12 to support your position about church leadership is almost unbearable. I’m tempted to have the entire comment withdrawn. However, in the spirit of front porch conversation, I’ll let
    it stay on. I will again let you have the last word.

    But don’t push me, cause I’m close to the edge, 🙂

  • Avatar A Amos Love says:

    Louis

    Thanks for continuing the conversation.

    Now, I did appreciate, and agree with much of your post about the very challenging “Qualifications” for elder/overseer. And the focus being on “character,” as well as ability, in 1 Tim 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-9.

    “Strauch puts a lot of emphasis on *the character* of the elder. “
    “The qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus
    …..provide an unambiguous list of *character qualities*…”
    “*Moral character* does not qualify for “on the job training”…
    “Perhaps… a lot of the moral failure we see in ministry
    …..could have been avoided on the front end.”

    I’ve noticed, over the years, many, who desire to be known as elder/overseer, tend to “Ignore,” or “Twist,” the tough Qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. And today we get to see these many moral failures. More then 30% of pastor/elders “admit” to having an affair. And a higher percentage battle with porn and obesity, gluttony. 77% of pastors say they do NOT have a good marriage. And the list goes on.

    I’ve also noticed, in the Bible, there seems to be…
    Additional *character qualities,” Qualifications, that can be looked at…
    When someone desires to be known as elder/overseer.

    Here are ten more *character qualities” to look at…
    For today’s potential, and existing, elder/overseers…
    Many apply to ALL, WE, His Sheep, His Disciples, His Servants…

    Since elders are to be examples to the flock. Yes? 1 Pet 5:3.

    Are potential elder/overseers, and existing elder/overseers…
    Willing to be, prepared to be, taught to be…
    Living Examples of…

    1 – NOT lording it over “God’s heritage?” 1 Pet 5:3 KJV
    2 – Lowliness of mind? Phil 2:3 KJV
    3 – Esteeming others “better” than themselves? Phil 2:3 KJV
    4 – Submitting “One to Another?” Eph 5:21 KJV, 1 Pet 5:5 KJV
    5 – Prefering others before themselves? Rom 12:10 KJV
    6 – By love “Serve one another?” Gal 5:13 KJV
    7 – Laying down their lives for the brethren? 1 John 3:16 KJV
    8 – NOT speaking of themselves, NOT seeking their glory? John 7:18 KJV
    9 – NOT “Exercising Authority” like the Gentiles?” Mark 10:42-43. KJV
    10 – Being clothed with humility? 1 Pet 5:5 KJV

    10 – Humility – a modest, or low opinion of ones own importance.

    Was wondering…

    What do you think about these ten as…
    Important *character qualities,” for elder/overseers?

  • Avatar A Amos Love says:

    Louis

    FYI – There is NO, “challenge to biblical eldership” on my end…
    The challenge for me are those things NOT “biblical.” NOT in the Bible.
    Like the “Title” pastor, that even Strauch took the time to speak about.

    You write, a lot, about the Bible being “clear” about “church leadership.”
    “…you miss something so “clearly” taught in the bible.”
    “…That’s how “clear” the Scripture actually is on this subject…”
    “Paul’s “clear” instruction regarding church leaders…”
    “…this biblically “clear” subject of church leadership.”

    I wish the Bible was “clear” about this thing many call “church leadership.”
    Maybe there would NOT be so many different kinds of “church leaders”
    Promoting so many different kinds of “church leadership.”

    Today we have thousands of different denominations… Yes?
    Most started by “church leaders,” church leadership…Yes?
    Who were NOT happy with other “church leaders”… Yes?
    Many like to “say” the Bible is the Word of God… Yes?
    And, they will ALL disagree about somthing… Yes?
    Many disagree about “church leadership.” Yes?

    Some Denominational “church leaders” say…
    The Church can be Led, and taught, by Qualified Men…

    Some Denominational “church leaders” say…
    The Church can be Led, and taught, by Qualified Women…

    And both “church leaders” say, “The Bible “clearly” Says.” Hmmm?

    Nope – I NO longer have much faith, or trust, in those…
    Who call themselves “church leaders.”
    Because, Today, WE, His Ekklesia, His Body, His Called Out Ones…
    Have so many different options for “church leadership.”
    Which “church leaders” have the correct version?

    The Male Led Church,
    The Female led Church,
    The Male and Female Led Church,

    The Elder Led Church,
    The Pastor Led Church,
    The Senior Pastor Led Church,
    The Executive Pastor, Doctor, M.Div, Led Church,

    The Bishop Led Church,
    The Apostle Led Church,
    The Multiple Elder Led Church,
    The Congregational Led Church,
    The Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher, Led Church,

    The “Chief Executive Apostle” Led Church,
    …..There really is a Chief Executive Apostle
    …..No Kidding. Saw him with my own eyes. 😉

    And, The Spirit Led Church.
    For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

    I wish the Bible was “clear” about this thing many call “church leadership.”

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

The Front Porch

Conversations about biblical
faithfulness in African-American
churches and beyond