Help Paul, Help You: Hiring & Being a Qualified Pastor

Please take a moment and consider again the qualifications for a pastor:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

1 Timothy 3:1-7

And again:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Titus 1:5-9

Pastor: Re-Think Your Qualifications

I come back to these lists regularly, mostly to check myself and discern how disordered my priorities in ministry have become. Pastors today prioritize so many things that are NOT in these lists, I wonder if we have forgotten or simply don’t care.

Leadership ability, for the pastor, is not demonstrated by adherence to time-tested business models or eliminating the latest Top 10 list for why we fail at welcoming guests.

Leadership books are helpful, and not provoking outsiders in our pews are good things, but being charismatic and having a well-oiled communications structure in the church are not listed as pre-requisites for the job. Read them again:

1 Timothy Titus
3:2 above reproach 1:6 above reproach
3:2 husband of one wife 1:6 husband of one wife
3:2 sober-minded 1:8 disciplined
3:2 self-controlled 1:8 self-controlled
3:2 respectable
3:2 hospitable 1:8 hospitable
3:2 able to teach 1:9 able to give instruction
3:3 not a drunkard 1:7 not … a drunkard
3:3 not violent but gentle 1:7 not … violent
3:3 not quarrelsome 1:7 not be arrogant or quick-tempered
3:3 not a lover of money 1:7 not … greedy for gain
3:4 manage his own household well, care for God’s church 1:7 God’s steward
3:4 keeping his children submissive 1:6 children are believers (or “faithful”), not insubordinate
3:6 not a recent convert
3:7 well thought of by outsiders
1:8 a lover of good; upright, holy

Be Okay With Being Normal

This is not a self-help saying, and it doesn’t have anything to do with self-esteem. I want to simply remind you, pastor, to be hospitable, not necessarily proactive. Be a faithful husband, and worry about delegation later. Be self-controlled, and then be enthusiastic. By all means, be resourceful. But don’t let resourceful thinking take precedence over being sober-minded and above reproach.

And notice, ability to teach or to give instruction are definitely part of the gig. But if your ability to teach, if your studiousness and your being well-read does not result in your being respectable and upright, then you have missed the forest for the trees. Let me end with this reflection.

Pay Attention to the Exposition

In both of these lists, Paul gives special attention to the task of parenting. Having heard so many cavalier PK jokes over the years, I wonder if we even care that Paul gave us these lists.

Again and again, we’ve hired the most charismatic pastoral candidate or the most knowledgeable / educated / experienced applicant without even observing how he manages his own household. We short-circuit the church from the start and wonder why the whole building burnt to the ground. Our churches are often known for being unloving, having zero hospitality, and thinking church discipline is an ancient practice for fundamentalists.

Attention to this list will not cure what ails ya. Search committees won’t hire the right guy every time and pastors will get caught up in the administrative minutiae to the neglect of their wives and children. Stop and reflect. Confess again your disordered priorities and motivations. These lists from Paul will, at the very least, reorient our hearts and minds towards the attributes and tasks that really matter.

Why not start tomorrow morning by playing with and teaching your kids so your wife can make a grocery list in peace?

Playing catch with your kids on Saturday afternoon instead of polishing your sermon might be exactly what your church needs.