Whenever someone refers me to a church’s website, one of the first things I do is read their history. You can find out a lot about a church by reading its history. I find them encouraging and sometimes alarming, but always interesting.
I read the history one church recently that documented the present pastor’s activity in licensing and ordaining ministers of the gospel. The history reported that he licensed and/or ordained eighteen people to ministry so far in his sixteen years of pastoring. That means he’s putting at least one person in ministry per year—WOW—that’s a lot.
As I read of the amazing number of ministers coming through this church, I could not help wondering what, if any, role did 1 Timothy 3:1-7 or Titus 1:5-9 play in the process.
In my last post, we discussed what the character of the prospective church leader must be. In this post, I would like to discuss what he must not be and what he must be doing.
HE MUST NOT BE:
A Drunkard: The fact that this same injunction is repeated in all three lists in the Pastoral Epistles dealing with church leadership suggests that alcohol abuse was either a serious problem in the Ephesian Church or that ministers may have a certain susceptibility to abusing alcohol (perhaps). The term “drunkard” pictures a person who spends too much time sitting with their wine. I have heightened sensibilities regarding this qualification, brothers and sisters. I have known too many ministers of the gospel who abused alcohol, and no one seemed to really care. Christian liberty and drunkenness are two entirely different things. One is permissible, the other condemned.
A Violent Man: By a” violent” man, Paul means that the man is untamed, a brawler, who loves to get his scrap on whether verbal or physical. This could be linked to the abuse of alcohol. Violence is the opposite of gentleness, which involves a graciousness that does not insists on rights, but is willing to rise above injury and injustice. The qualified elder is open to reason. As my spiritual father Pastor Crockett used to say, “sometimes you have to be willing to take it from people.”
A Quarrelsome Man: The connection is clearly seen between graciousness and not being quarrelsome. Quarreling is active and serious bickering and is quite common among the opponents whose lives Paul was contrasting with the true men of God. They were characterized by their quarrelsome attitudes (1 Tim. 6:4).
A Lover of Money: Greed is another characteristic of false teachers. The same prohibition is repeated for deacons in 1 Tim. 3:8 and for elders in Titus 1:7. This is the first hint of what Paul will later spell out with absolute clarity. The false teachers were teaching not for the sake of the gospel, but in order to make money. Not only were they liars; they were hypocrites (1 Tim. 6:5). The leadership was to be above reproach in the area of finances. Hebrews 13:5 says that we must keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what we have. People in the last days are described as “lovers of money” (2 Tim. 3:2; Luke 16:14). Loving money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). One of the old Church instruction books says this regarding apostles, prophets, and money: “If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. Appoint for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money.”
A Recent Covert: This character trait speaks of spiritual immaturity. Aside from inexperience, the recent convert in a leadership position is a recipe for pride and spiritual disaster. The temptations and consequences are great. Conceit (puffed up) and condemnation await the spiritually immature man who is placed in leadership.
Manage His Own Household Well: The man of God is never disassociated with what he is at home. This trait is the opposite of the character Talkative in Pilgrim’s Progress, who John Bunyan described as “a saint abroad but a devil at home.” A godly man’s children are not perfect, yet they understand and submit to his authority as head of the home. His home is not in disarray; it is well ordered. This is the much needed connection between a person’s ability to manage his family and his ability to manage the church.
All of these characteristics make up what is meant by being “above reproach”—that’s the description that rounds off the qualifications for church leadership in 1 Tim. 3:7. A godly man has the testimony of a man whose life is ordered by God’s Word. This man is marked with integrity and even those on the outside know it. He is completely different than the false teachers who have been entrapped by the adversary and bring disrepute upon themselves and the Church.
LET THE SCRIPTURES DRIVE OUR ORDINATIONS
I must say it again: Wow—I can’t get over it—licensing and or ordaining eighteen people for ministry, averaging one person per year is absolutely amazing to me. I sense it’s time for those responsible for selecting church leadership to be led by 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and the host of other passages instructing us on who should and should not be church leaders.
This is the second part in a series on the character of church leaders. See Part One here.