Today’s Reading: 1 Timothy 3
One of the toughest tasks for a church is choosing a pastor. One church was in this painful process, as the board kept rejecting applicant after applicant. Finally, frustrated with the board’s No one is good enough attitude, one of the members submitted a bogus application to see what the board would do with it:
“Gentlemen: Understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for the position. I have many qualifications. I’ve been a preacher with much success and also some success as a writer. Some say I’m a good organizer. I’ve been a leader most places I’ve been. I’m over fifty years of age. I have never preached in one place for more than three years. In some places I have left town after my work caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any real wrongdoing. My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities. I’ve not gotten along well with religious leaders in towns where I have preached. In fact, some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I have baptized. However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you.”
The board member looked at the others on the committee. “Well, what do you think? Shall we call him?”
The board was appalled. “Call an unhealthy, trouble-making, absent-minded ex-jailbird? Are you crazy? Who signed the application? Who had such colossal nerve?
The board member looked at them. “It’s signed, the apostle Paul.’”
Drop the mic. I think we have gone adrift from what a Christian leader looks like and have bought into the lie of what we see in the media. In today’s chapter, Paul gives criteria and qualities of what a pastor and deacon should have:
A pastor must be a good man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must have only one wife, and he must be hard working and thoughtful, orderly, and full of good deeds. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be a good Bible teacher. He must not be a drinker or quarrelsome, but he must be gentle and kind and not be one who loves money. He must have a well-behaved family, with children who obey quickly and quietly. For if a man can’t make his own little family behave, how can he help the whole church?
The pastor must not be a new Christian because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and pride comes before a fall. (Satan’s downfall is an example.) Also, he must be well spoken of by people outside the church—those who aren’t Christians—so that Satan can’t trap him with many accusations and leave him without freedom to lead his flock.
The deacons must be the same sort of good, steady men as the pastors. (1 Timothy 3:2-8, TLB)
If this is the criteria for hiring a pastor or selecting a deacon, I think we have been using the wrong grid and criteria. Some places have used the vote method instead of following this passage. Titus 1 adds a few more things, and they both comprise a powerful grid for pastoral leadership.
Paul lists twenty-five qualifications. Of the twenty-five, only one deals with preaching. Several translations, including the King James Version, says the pastor must be “apt to teach.” I love that word apt. It sounds like he doesn’t have to be an amazing preacher. Why? Because there are twenty-four other things churches have to look at. If this list is a good grid to start, that means “communicating” is 1/25 of the pastoral skill set, which is 4 percent. If the main thing we do in choosing a pastor is simply listen to their sermons, we may be in for a train wreck. Remember, I am speaking as a pastor. Preaching is hard work, but so are the other twenty-four things. I’m afraid we have exalted and been in awe of that 4 percent in pastors, but neither them nor churches ever examined the other 96 percent.
Think about some of the other things pastors are challenged with keeping in order:
• being free of greed
• keeping their households the priority
• being the husband of one wife
• being self-controlled
• remaining above reproach
• being prudent
• being hospitable.
Think of the challenge your leaders have to face to be an effective husband, father, and minister all at the same time. How do they schedule all of this? I have always said it’s harder to be a pastor than a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You can be a CEO and have a messed-up marriage. You can be a CEO and have messed-up kids. You can be a CEO and have a messed-up life. You can be a millionaire, an entrepreneur, a successful businessman and have everything in your life falling apart yet still have a job. This is what makes ministry different. If your personal life, your marriage, and your children are messed up, then you’re out of a job. In fact, if only one of these areas are messed up, your job is in jeopardy. Your pastor has got to give his attention to three priority areas of his life.
Therefore we need to find a way to help our pastors and leaders and not criticize them. So as a pastor and on behalf of my fellow pastors, let me say this: we need your help and we need your support. When someone says we are dropping the ball in one of those areas, it would help us if we can have a support system who says, Let’s pray for our pastor and find a way we can make him the best he can be.
Every Sunday will not be a Billy Graham message. At times our marriages will need an oil change to get better. And our children will not always be the poster kids from child expert Kevin Lehman’s books.
When you hire us, help us.
When you are disappointed by us, help us.
When we don’t meet your expectations, help us.
How can you help your pastor? Yes, pray. And you can do more. Just to hear a word of encouragement or a board finding a way to give a pastor’s family time off to recharge would be amazing. Remember that pastors are never off the clock. So they need your support.