As we approach our study of the qualifications for Church leaders we should remind ourselves of two texts. 1 Timothy 3:1-14 and Titus 1:6-9. Please take time to read these texts before you proceed.
We will look at the Timothy qualifications first and then we will look at the Titus standards.
Vs.-1, “This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”
Q. So if we are being so Biblical in our Churches, why don’t we have bishops? The office of a bishop is a good work. (overseer New American Standard Bible same as the elder of the Church.) This is the Greek word “episkopos.” It has the idea of taking the lead and care of the sheep.
In New Testament times the Churches had elders Plural. Usually, one was in overall charge. As I view the Scriptures, the elder is the highest office of Church leadership. The pastor is an elder if you have a hired pastor. The spiritual leadership of the Church is in the elders. Some Churches call the pastor elder, and the deacons are the board of the Church. Some have the elder as pastor, the deacons as spiritual leaders under the elder, and a trustee board to care for the material items of the Church. As we discuss elders I am in my mind speaking of the pastor and board. The teaching elder or pastor should be an integrated part of the elder board and the deacons should be separate from them. The deacon board then is the part of Church leadership that cares for the material end of things.
Paul mentions the desire of a good work in one verse and uses six verses to show the spiritual qualifications for the work. As you think of this verse just how would you describe the man who “desires the office of bishop?” What does the term desire communicate to you? The term desire seems to have the idea of really exerting effort toward something that you want or want to do. Something that you work for, or something for which you will give of yourself.
It would seem that this thought would eliminate most Church government ideas where the men are nominated from the floor, or nominations in any manner. The desire would indicate to me that the man really wants to do this ministry and lets others know of that desire. It would require that those in charge be knowledgeable of this desire as well. As they see the desire then they should evaluate the possibilities of this man taking on the position.
Evaluation should be made on the basis of what we will be seeing. The qualifications seem to require more than just a “yes” when asked to take the position. The evaluation should include the man that has the desire. He should be honest and open as to his qualifications in all of these areas before he looks to seek the position. He should also be open to the input of the leadership as to the needs of his life. They may see some failings that he needs to work on.
This idea is shown very nicely in relation to the workmen of the tabernacle in Exodus 36:2, “And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it:” God moved the men to minister.
There are fifteen to seventeen qualifications depending on the translation of the Bible you use.
Vs. 2 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
Just a side note before we begin the list, we might submit that all of the terms in this listing are masculine. The term overseer and all the adjectives are in the masculine. This would be a strong indication that women are not in view when it comes to the office of elder. This is becoming more and more important in our day and age. There are many Churches moving toward the use of women in leadership. I have observed a number of women as chairperson of pulpit committees as well as on boards of Churches.
Blameless: “above reproach” according to the New American Standard Bible. (This will be abbreviated with “NASB” from this point forward.)
Literally it is “not to be laid hold of” - the type of life that no one can lay charge against or gossip about. This is nearly impossible because the gossiping person will always be about their business. This idea of blameless would mean that the man lives a life that leaves little to gossip about. Many pastors are beset by nasty rumors. A 50 year old bald, overweight, and not very good looking pastor resigned his Church few years back to start a new Church elsewhere. The rumor was that he left because of a girlfriend up in the sand hills. A part of this sort of situation is for the congregation to see to it that the gossips are stopped as soon as possible.
Blameless should be not only in the Church but with the lost as well. In seeking leaders this may require talking with neighbors and co-workers to find out how the man is viewed by the lost people that he associates with. This can be done by mail or in person. It should be a good indicator of the person’s true spiritual walk.
Some have suggested that this means that the person must have had a blameless life from childhood. I asked one of these people if that meant that a converted drunk could not become an elder. He replied that this would be true. To those I submit Genesis 5:21-22 which tells that Enoch did not walk with God until he had his first son. This man was translated because of his walk with the Lord. “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:” Surely a converted drunk can walk with God as well.
He should have a very good testimony in the community. Someone that is respected. Someone that isn’t in trouble or behind on his bills.