Although commonly portrayed in the media as untrustworthy, hypocritical, money-loving adulterers, the office of pastor is an essential and valuable asset to culture. Biblical pastors set the example for leadership both inside and outside of the church. When it comes to understanding leadership, there is no better set of qualifications for selecting leaders or determining how they should lead than what is found in Scripture.
Found in the pages of Scripture in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are clear qualifications for biblical pastoring. In this text, Paul is speaking to Pastor Timothy in a time when people were underestimating, disrespecting and lacking confidence in the office of pastor. In the eyes of the culture, pastors were not considered respectable or worthy of emulating, as is often true today. However, Paul understood the importance of this biblical office as well as the hardship and unwarranted persecution that pastors endured. Therefore, he penned this section to encourage them and set the tone for leadership development in the church and culture.
What can leaders learn from the biblical qualifications for pastors in this text? Paul begins by assuring his readers that the principles he shares are trustworthy (verse 1). He then describes the office of overseer (or pastor) as a noble profession — one that is good, respectable and honorable (verse 1). In his letter, Paul clearly conveys that pastors should be skilled men of character who also lead well in their homes and communities in order to be qualified to lead in the church.
Like most worthwhile endeavors, leadership begins with character. Character is what one displays when no one is around. With respect to his character, a pastor must be above reproach (verse 2), which means blameless or “not open to attacks.” A biblical leader is not to allow himself to be open to the attacks of the enemy and should instead diligently guard his heart.
One manifestation of being blameless is to be a one-woman man (verse 2). If a pastor (or leader) cannot commit his heart, time and affection to one woman (his wife), he disqualifies himself from leadership. Many men including pastors, politicians, entertainers, athletes, professionals and others have ruined their marriages and lives because they were not loyal “one-woman men.” Tragically, this has had a cataclysmic effect on our society as marital fidelity has been diminished in its importance and deemed optional.
Within 1 Timothy 3:2-3, Paul mentions other character traits that are required for effective leadership such as being sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable and gentle. In addition, leaders should not be drunkards, violent, quarrelsome or lovers of money. In other words, a leader must not have unrestrained passions, be overly emotional, or lack order and discipline. He should not be isolated from people, habitually drunk, easily angered, argumentative or one who is overly consumed with money and possessions. A pastor who does not meet these qualifications is not fit to serve in the office. In the same way, any leader who lacks these qualities is not fit to lead others.
Along with godly character as a prerequisite for leadership is competence. According to the text, a pastor should be skilled in his ability to teach. Likewise, any leader should be skilled in the area in which he seeks to maximize his effectiveness.
Not only must pastors embrace godly character and skillful competence, but they should also be leading well in their homes (verse 4). According to the text, how a pastor loves his wife and manages his children becomes the litmus test for how he will lead the church. If a pastor fails to lead his home, he has nothing to offer the church. Similarly, leaders should give careful attention to how they are leading their homes before seeking to lead others.
Finally, leadership should be lived out in the context of community. Being well thought of by outsiders as a man of character (verse 7) offers additional credence to the blameless life of a pastor. Likewise, a leader’s reputation within the community offers hints to whether a man is qualified to lead others.
Biblical pastors and leaders who take their lessons in leadership from God’s Word will not only be effective, but they will also provide exemplary role models to the watching world. The impact of their lives and leadership will help to shape our families, communities, cities and nation. May God continue to raise up biblical leaders for the sake of our future and society.