“Do you like snow?” There was not a single other question as the pastoral candidate stood before the congregation. In just a few moments, they would vote to have him as their pastor. True story. I only wish that was a reflection of the health of that church, but I fear that this only is a reflection of the of the American church as a whole. It is a reflection of doctrinal indifference, juvenile complacency, and a lack of concern for a biblically qualified shepherd. This also demonstrates that many people fail to realize the important role of the pastor, and the critical part he plays in the their sanctification. That is far too often forgotten in a society that has done everything possible to promote every form of individualism imaginable.
This is the deadliest threat to the church which is designed to be a community, a body that functions together for the work of the Kingdom. But is the church, and the integrity of its pastor really that important? After all, what do I really need the church for? If I don’t like my church, I can leave. If I don’t like their church, I can leave. If I can’t find any church I like, I can listen to sermons I do like online, while not listening to the ones I don’t like.
Obviously, if I have that attitude then I also have the attitude that I don’t really need my pastor either. He is dispensable. But this is wrong.
Every Christian needs the church, and they need their pastor as well. Even more, they need their pastor to be spiritually healthy, and qualified. The health of the pastor affects the health of the church, both corporately, and individually. That means every believer should be concerned that their pastor is one who is first and foremost, qualified. Make no mistake, the spiritual maturity of your pastor directly affects your spiritual maturity. There are far too many men in ministry who should not be. They are not qualified men, and what’s worse is how many churches have shown little interest in qualified men. Even more, many churches go so far as to dismiss the biblical qualifications of an overseer! Surely God can’t actually expect to hold them accountable to such high standards!
But, He can. And He does.
I remember in undergrad a pastor/professor swore in my church history class. A student responded, “I’m glad to know my pastor falls short just like I do.” What was she really saying? “I’m glad my pastor makes me feel better about my sin.” This is not who a pastor is supposed to be. He should be able to say with Paul, “Follow me, as I also follow after Christ!” (1 Cor. 11:1).
But churches have written their own qualifications, which in many cases, are as trivial as the necessity to “like snow.” Corporate experience, culturally knowledgeable, intellectualism, cool, social media savvy, funny, and so on – these aren’t things necessarily bad in and of themselves, but should these hallmarks characterize your pastor more than being a man of God, then your church may be marketable, numerically successful, or your pastor may have a celebrity status. But your church will be juvenile. What kind of church do you want? The leaders of your church will be shepherding your souls.
Many shepherds adopt “church growth” tactics, and countless other unbiblical philosophies of ministry rather than laboring to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:19). These men lack discernment and are carried away by every next best thing. Perhaps now more than ever, for the sake of the health of the church, we need to be diligent to appoint qualified men to the ministry, and hold pastors already in the ministry accountable. It doesn’t help that pastors already live in an environment that pressures them to conform to the world, to “be like the world.” Temptation is everywhere, from all sides, and while there are many ways a pastor might show himself to be disqualified, I think there are three particular areas of the greatest danger, and where pastors fail the most. We would do well to appoint pastors who show themselves exemplary in these areas. We would also do well to help our pastors succell in them.
1. They must be a one woman man.
This is where far too many men fall morally in ministry, showing themselves to no longer be above reproach. Unfortunately, while in some ways, modern technology has made us more accountable, it most ways it has not. Sexual sin of the past used to be much more premeditated, calculated, and planned out. A magazine would have to be checked out at the store, or a movie had to be rented out. Now you can download images directly to your password protected phone, taking them with you wherever you go. Furthermore, only a few years ago, you had to go to a coffee shop, or speak to someone in person to get to know them. Developing a romantic relationship had to be done in person. Now, a follow-up text or Facebook message (maybe even from a counseling appointment) can quickly lead to a slippery slope. What may have started as an innocent note, can just as easily turn into “Where are you? Are you alone?” Wise pastors are aware of all this, and they WELCOME accountability in this area. If they are resistant… watch out.
2. They must have an orderly family.
This one is hard for many people to swallow because in their minds, this doesn’t have anything to do with the pastor’s character, but the character of his family, especially when it comes to unruly children. The mandate, however, is firm. Titus 1:6 even says he must have “children who believe.” Come now, really? Isn’t it up to God who He saves? How can we hold pastors to that standard? Many argue that the Greek word for “believe” can also mean “faithful.” This is true. But then they argue that it is to the parents that the children are faithful, not to God. The problem with that is, every single usage in the NT where this word is used, it is ALWAYS an adjective to describe the believer, i.e., the Christian. This would have to be the only exception. Indeed, this is a hard saying, but nevertheless a standard of God. Surely if He is capable of choosing a man for ministry, He is capable of saving his children if that man is faithful.
3. They must love God rather than money.
This is branching out somewhat from the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy and Titus, but it is important nonetheless, and I think the love of money is the third area where many pastors show themselves to be disqualified. To say the least though, this could fall under the category of “not fond of sordid gain” (Tit. 1:6). The love of money is dangerous, and if this is a pastor’s motivation or what he pursues, it is deadly. We all know how many celebrity status pastors have fallen to their doom after failing in this area. The langue of Paul is graphic in this regard. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:10). If a pastor loves money, he has a conflict of interest and will “tickle ears” rather than speak truth. This cannot be.
As I sum up, just a final note. Remember, it doesn’t matter if how badly someone may want to be in the ministry. No doubt there are a lot of privates that want to be generals, but it would be disastrous to appoint them as such if they don’t meet the necessary qualifications. It would be equally disastrous to keep them there if their track record shows them disqualified. This is true of pastors as well, sometimes due to sin on their part, sometimes due to family, or maybe they just show themselves not able to do the work. Either way, if this is the case, they need to lovingly removed for the spiritual health of the church, for your spiritual health, and the spiritual health of your pastor or pastor-to-be.