Titus 1 & 1 Timothy 3: Six Things the Bible doesn’t say

Here are the two most often quoted passages from the New Testament about the qualifications of a pastor.

Titus 1:5-9 [Brackets, mine]

The reason I [Paul] left you [Titus] in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders [some translations use the word leader] in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 [Brackets mine]

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer [elder, pastor, overseer are basically the same word] desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

6 things that Paul doesn’t say that American church culture often says are qualifications to be considered a pastor.

  1. You have to be a leadership expert, a proven leader with years of experience, a reader of books on leadership, aspiring to be a leader, and a regular at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit and/or somehow tangentially related to John Maxwell.
  2. You have to be an employee of the church. The same passage describes the biblical qualifications for a pastor as they do positions the American church almost never considers staff-level. (Elder, overseer)
  3. Aspiring to be a well-known preacher. “Able to teach” is a pretty low standard. I am fully “able to run” but you won’t catch me out there doing it too often.
  4. Be in possession of an Masters in Divinity from a denominationally approved seminary prior to seeking ordination. That said, education was a high priority in the early church. You couldn’t even be baptized or label yourself a Christian until you’d gone through about a one year process of intense discipleship. (Prior to baptism, new believers were called catechumen.)
  5. Be a great manager of programs and projects. Since the early church was organized around the idea of family, you didn’t need to take classes in organizational leadership to understand the dynamics of a family.
  6. You have to be an amazing self-promoter of both the church and your “personal brand.” Paul didn’t have a blog, Twitter, or Facebook. And yet he somehow managed to be spur on the most powerful viral message of all time.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

19 comments

  1. I agree with all but the low standard part. Teachers don’t have to be perfect (Thank goodness) but they should be qualified. (2 Timothy 2:2
    And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.) Teachers also need to correctly handle the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15b

    I knew it was more but couldn’t remember exactly so I looked it up on http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/1timothy.pdf

    The phrase “able to teach” (Gr. didaktikos, v. 2) means apt, qualified, and competent to explain and defend the truth of God. This is the only qualification that involves ministry skill or gift. Some elders evidently gave more time to this ministry than others did (5:17), but all had to be competent in the Scriptures (cf. Titus 1:9). The style of communication undoubtedly varied according to individual gifts (mass communication, small group teaching, personal instruction, etc.).

    The primary leaders of the early church were the teachers. And the need for any teacher/leader in the church is for them to watch their life and doctrine closely and persevere in them so they can save themselves and their hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16

    I love the pastorals. 🙂

    1. Likewise, I’m able, competent, apt, and even qualified to run. (Or a bunch of other verbs.) There is a big difference in both the everyday realities and the motivation behind it between being a runner and aspiring to be a well-known runner. That was my only point.

      I could give you a little higher criticism and say that it was probably the motivation of the commentators to protect the priesthood of the stay, thereby skewing the commentaries towards a level of expertise attained by those who say… would be the same as those in seminary reading their books.

      But I’ll just go back to the point of the statement: You don’t have to be stuck on aspirations of greatness to be a pastor.

  2. Interesting follow up on #4. I hadn’t heard that before. It seems the very early church was baptizing right away. “Repent and be baptized” and all. I wonder when the additional training period was added. It seems dumb, if I’m being honest.

    1. You can look at it two ways. Clearly, the early church put a high, high calling on those who wanted to call themselves believers. Do some research before you label it dumb. In fact, I believe the practice Pre-dates the authorship of Luke-Acts. It is mentioned in Galatians 3, I think. It could be that both practices were active during the 1st century….

      Likewise, a catechism process has been a part of the church since the earliest days. (and catechism is active within most Protestant denominations, orthodox churches, and roman catholic churches in various forms)

      And yes… I learned all of that at a Brethren seminary! (who are anabaptists)

      1. I know discipleship and education has been important always. The thing that struck me as odd was requiring such an extensive amount before baptism. My understanding has been that the early church baptized quickly. I didn’t realize the practice of requiring this sort of “training period” before baptism began so early in the church’s history. It’s definitely something I want to look into now that you’ve piqued my curiosity on the topic.

        1. Tim- this discussion reminds me a ton of something I thought of before. (In a good way) I dug around and found an abstract for a paper I wrote as a student at Huntington Grad School. It’s just a snippet, I think this was the abstract and I haven’t been able to find the final paper yet. But it might give you some more background info.

          The history of baptism completely fascinated me. Basically, it lead me to the conclusion that people should get baptized in whatever way they’ve been convicted.

          Here’s the snippet:
          http://adammclane.com/bio/free-downloads/?did=12

          The final piece was called, “Who Stole My Baptism?” I’ll keep digging.

  3. God can, and does, use anyone who willingly comes to Him to carry out His purpose. Not all of us can be a Billy Graham. Only Billy Graham was created to be Billy Graham. But we all can teach in the most basic of ways–through the example of our living.

    Our action carries more weight than many words will, simply through loving others the same way as God loves us as we share the Gospel. I think this is why Paul speaks of mature believers with sound doctrines based on Scripture, so that through their action, more than from their words, people will see Jesus.

    The Bible even warns of the use of excessive words to hide sin in Proverbs 10:19, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” We run the risk of passing judgement or feeling superior to others when we get too “preachy.” I know that I struggle with it every time I sit to write in my own little blog, to not come across as feeling superior to anyone.

    The rules, bylaws, and hierarchies organized religion uses — well intentioned as they are — are the inventions of man acting independent from the love of God in order to wield power and authority, not to promote love and harmony. We should seek to avoid becoming like the rigid Pharisees, who failed to see God when He was speaking directly to them. The original spirit of the Bible, of the early believers, was precisely that of a loving family who freely love and share. God loves in perfect relationship to Himself in the Holy Trinity.

    But if we are in a right relationship with God, then we can take the love God demonstrates to us and let it come through us to others, without ever needing to quote a verse.

    God has everything already worked out, if we simply trust Him.

  4. To note, Paul did bring out his guns on more one occasion regarding his educational background. Even he recognized it “mattered” to some people.

    Then again, he did say it was all rubbish. 🙂

    1. I know a few people with lots of education who call it all rubbish!

      Like you mentioned, I don’t think we are excused from education. It just isn’t one of the Pre-requisites Paul mentioned. (though it is within many denominations)

  5. Way to channel your inner Tony Jones. ;). I don’t disagree with your biblical interpretation but you have to remember that many many youth pastors are in a system they can’t change. Didn’t you write a blog once saying that “sin” was the reason most churches are started?  

    We are in a flawed system

    1. “you have to remember that many many youth pastors are in a system they can’t change”

      Gosh Lars, I disagree with this on so many levels. I chose to revel in the idea that if we change our hearts first, the organizations we’re called to lead will follow suit.

      The TJ comment was funny, BTW.

  6. I guess that the problem. I don’t lead an organization.  Mainline denominational  churches are not led by youth pastors.  This is where the word “church” and “pastor” have vastly different meanings depending on context.  Some churches will ordain you when they hire you. Others have pretty strict and difficult processes. 

    Hundreds of years of Church history have gotten us to this point. Yes change can happen but  it happens slowly.  To slow for people like you who want to change the world

  7. Agreed, but I would also add the words found in James 3:1
    That being said, I believe we have over professionalized the ministry. Not only does this set impossible standards for church staff (setting them up for failure), it give the layperson an easy way out “that’s what we hired our preacher to do”

    Full Armor!

  8. Great post. Why because you got me to giggle and now think critically.
    My reflections regarding your 6 things Paul didn’t say:
    1. I couldn’t agree more. However this doesn’t give a leader an excuse not to focus on becoming a good leader of his/her people. Leadership is hard and complicated, especially in the church. It may be wise to listen to some of the experts who have been in the fires and have butt loads of experience. I found myself having to refer to the experts because I never ran up against different church leadership dynamics and weird church systems, which I didn’t understand.
    2. Can a pastor not be an employee of a church and still faithfully and diligently carry out the duties of his/her pastoral roles while earning an income outside the church? Essentially can a pastor really be bi-vocational and not compromise his/her church calling? I have seen some pastors do this, and wow! Needless to say, they were never really home with their family.
    Maybe the American church requires too much work from our pastors?
    4. I hear ya on this point on many levels. Degrees are not necessary for ministry. In fact Eddie Gibbs talks about a new type of MDIV in his book: ChurchNext. But like Lars said, there are some who have to go through the MDIV hoops in order to become pastor. Educational value is a very greek idea. But the reason why there were strict educational demands on the early church was due to the fact that there were many crazy heretics. The church was serious about having correct theology and didn’t need some crazy people who called themselves “Christians” and not consider Jesus to be part human. So my question is: how do we disciple/educationally train ministry leaders without the MDIV requirement?
    6. Paul probably intentionally move away from the personal brand thing because some people have noted he was very insecure with his looks. Apparently Paul was pretty ugly.

  9. I like #4, but question the latter part of it. Was education an important value for the church of Acts? Certainly studying the Scriptures was, but it seems that God often chooses weak and foolish things to shame the wise and that his empowering clearly uneducated men to build his church was an example of that.

    I’m guessing you’re basing your assumption that “education was a high priority in the early church” on the Didache? Do you have other sources for that?

    1. Agreed that God seemed to empower the weak… maybe even chose them out.

      I don’t remember a lot about education referenced in the Didache. (It’s been a while since I read it.) I definitely remember that in reading on first century cults of Judaism [like Christianity started] that there was a very high desire to study the Scriptures, read/write midrash, etc. If they were anything like the Essenes or those who ended up in the deserts… which historians would lump them together with… there was a pretty high standard of education. They would have become literate and stuff like that.

      The way I understood in church history (both in undergrad and grad school) was the most males went through some level of education in their local synagogue. And we see throughout the NT that Paul is lifted up in some circles as being much more sophisticated educationally.

      Acts 15 paints the picture of a fairly sophisticated/educated approach to dealing with biblical interpretation. This is probably 10+ years after the day of Pentecost… and the way the council deals with the conflict reveals a certain level of education far beyond a group of men who started as fishers, tax collectors, and guys with swords.

      One of my favorite books on the topic is Communities of the Last Days, by Marvin Pate http://amzn.to/hnrxkU

      John Stotts commentary on Acts is decent
      http://amzn.to/gI34UB

      Longnecker’s commentary was a bit dry for me, but technical
      http://amzn.to/hCLAcY

      Anyway… I’ve read a few commentaries on Acts. It’s a bit of a fascination and I just displayed way too much of my nerdy side!

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