Is Your Pastor Qualified?
Is your doctor qualified? Months ago I was watching TV and there was an ad that asked that question. The ad had a two-step agenda: First, they wanted you to doubt that your doctor was smart enough and able enough to be your doctor. Second, they were more than happy to tell you that they had doctors who were very qualified. And this ad reminds us of a very important truth. We need people who are qualified to care for our sbodies. But, as we walk through these words in 1 Timothy this morning, we see that the same is true for our souls. Paul tells Timothy, “1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:1–2 NIV)
Paul starts off by telling Timothy that being an overseer is a beautiful task.1 But then, immediately after he says that being a pastor and an overseer is a beautiful calling and task, he lays down qualifications. He tells Timothy that there are qualifications that are absolutely necessary that a pastor have and use. And we don’t have enough time this morning to walk through them all. But there are two basic categories. There are professional qualifications. And there are personal qualifications.
In the category of professional qualifications, Paul says that the overseer must be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2 NIV) Being able to teach boils down to two details: First, the pastor has to know God’s word well. Second, he has to communicate it well. There is a reason why I went to school for ten years to be a pastor. A doctor holds a person’s earthly life in his hands. A pastor holds a person’s soul in his hands. If a doctor is incompetent, he sends a person to death. If a pastor is incompetent, he sends a person to hell. And that’s why we pastors learn the greek and hebrew of the bible well and go to school for so long. But communicating that knowledge is just as important. It is a pastor’s role to preach that truth contained here in the bible. It is his role to teach that truth.
Now, notice that this is the only professional qualification for being an overseer. He needs to be able to teach and preach. When this qualification is not met, Satan carries away a church. And it isn’t difficult to find examples. If qualifications from the business world are brought into the church, God’s truth is destroyed. If we say that it’s the pastor’s job to get new people into church. And if he doesn’t get new people into church, then he’s not qualified anymore, that’s a sin. It’s a sin because you’re adding qualifications that the bible doesn’t.
Or another example is getting a pastor on the cheap. It is costly to train and keep a pastor. It costs the student lots of money and effort. And it costs you in the pews lots of money as well as you send in your Congregation Mission Offerings too. And it’s costly to keep that knowledge sharp. This last week I walked through Genesis 37-50 with my fellow pastors. That was costly in time, energy and money. And there is this temptation to get a pastor on the cheap. There is this temptation to conclude that your pastor doesn’t need to know all of that fancy extra stuff. He just needs to read his bible and have a good heart, right? But look at what Paul says. Your pastor needs to be able to teach. That requires years of training before he’s a pastor and a lifetime of learning after.
And so, a pastor needs to be qualified. He needs to be qualified professionally. But he also needs to be qualified personally. And Paul pours out a huge list here showing that there needs to be this active and aggressive struggle against sin in the pastor’s life. But let me focus in on one of those details. Paul writes: “Now the overseer must be above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2 NIV)
Being ‘above reproach’ does not mean ‘being sinless.’ Your pastor is just as much of a sinner as you are. No, instead, being ‘above reproach’ means not having a public and shameful sin attached to your name. And so we make a distinction. There are private sins that you or only a few people know about. And then there are public sins. There are the sorts of sins that everyone finds out about and bring the name of God’s church and his ministry into disgrace. When a pastor falls into a public sin, he can no longer be a pastor.
Let me give you an example or two. There was a pastor who went out to get a beer and burger with a guy on his church council. After the meal he drove home. The police officer pulled him over. And his blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit. He got a DUI and his name was published in the town paper. He brought shame on Christ’s name and his ministry. So the pastor resigned.
Or another example: There was a pastor whose wife was unfaithful. She cheated on him and was unwilling to repent of her actions. He had to divorce her. But that public nature of his divorce brought shame on the ministry in his church, so he resigned.
And you’ll notice a difference here in these examples between pastor and parishioner. One man might be able to have a DUI and then go back to work on Monday morning—but not a pastor. Another guy might have to file for divorce because of his unfaithful wife, but he too then goes to work on Monday morning. This is not the case for pastors. Now can you understand the seriousness of Paul’s final words?: “6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” (1 Timothy 3:6–7 NIV)
It is difficult to become a pastor. It is extremely easy to lose the privilege of being a pastor. All us pastors were gathered together eating lunch this week and my hebrew professor said how he stands in awe of those special services that churches hold when a pastor retires. There are so many traps that the Devil throws in the way. And it is so easy for a pastor to get caught in them. And that’s why, when you consider the guy who was in this pulpit for the last three weeks, you should stop in wonder and amazement. Because men like Gary who have served faithfully and then retired are pretty rare.
Is your pastor qualified? The answer is ‘yes.’ I am able to teach. And I am ‘above reproach.’ But if I say both of these statements, the words I need to add are “for now.” There are traps that the Devil has thrown in front of me too. And so, tonight and every night, I ask that you would pray for me. And please pray these two parts. First, pray that our Savior Jesus would forgive me just as he forgave angry Peter and blasphemous Paul. Ask that Jesus would forgive my sins in his own blood just as he has forgiven yours. Second, pray that our Savior Jesus would continue to deliver me from the Evil One. Pray that I would not fall into sin and public disgrace. Pray both of these so that your pastor who is qualified professionally and publicly would remain that way. Amen.
1 “καλοῦ ἔργου” (1 Timothy 3:1 NA28-T)