Is your pastor, elder, or overseer competent? Does he possesses the character qualities need to lead, guide, and shepherd the people of God? Naturally the above question begs the questions of essential qualities? What qualities or things should define the pastor? Should the effective pastor be engaging, open-minded, kind, empathetic, and funny? Does the effective pastor need to follow the Huffington Post’s advice and have “a healthy appreciation for pet participation, children squirming in the pews, and people in bike shorts and uniforms?”
Thankfully, God has not hidden the answer to this question in popular magazines, academic books, or opinion polls. He address pastoral and elder qualifications in 2 Timothy 2:24-26. Paul writes:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
The effective pastor, the elder, and the overseer avoids quarrels, is kind to everyone, is able to teach, is able to patiently endure evil, and is able to humbly correct his opponents.
The pastor should be defined by these qualities because he is the Lord’s servant. He is the Lord’s slave. The Greek word translated servant or bishop is actually doulos. It means slave. The pastor is not God’s co-pilot. The elder is not an employee who can improve the church through his ingenuity, skill, or aptitude. He is a slave. He is beholden to the God of the universe. He lives, moves, and does in accordance with the Lord’s commands. He is the slave of Christ.
1. They Avoid Quarrlesomeness
And because he is the slave of Christ, the Pastor should reflect the character of Christ in his character. He should not be quarrelsome. The one who quarrels is one who is always ready for physical combat and who is always ready to toss out heated words. The quarrelsome man attacks others with his words, his body language, and possibly even his fists. When his sermons are criticized, when his ideas are rejected, and when his ego is not praised, he strikes out with vengeance. He insults his opponents. He takes to his cell phone, to Facebook, to Snapchat, and to Instagram to defame, insult, and criticizes his opponents.
The pastor should not be such a man. As Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:2, the pastor should be “above reproach…sober minded, self-controlled…not violent…not quarrelsome.” If a man is violent, a bully, or someone who attacks, assaults, and belittles people to shape the church into his image, he should not be an elder. He should not pastor. If your pastor becomes angry quickly, insults others quickly, and takes offense quickly, pray for him and encourage him to repent. The faithful pastor must not be quarrelsome.
2. They Are Kind To Everyone
Rather, he should be kind to everyone. He is not just kind to those who look like him. He is not just kind to men or to women. He does not just welcome the whites, or the blacks or the Hispanics. No, he is kind toward everyone.
He visits the poor and the wealthy. He counsels the both the millionaire’s daughter and the young couple that struggles to arrive to church on time. He spends time with the senior adults, the children, and everyone in between. He welcomes Asians, Whites, Hispanics, and African Americans into his church. He is just as excited to talk sports with the men as he is to talk about sports with the ladies. He is kind to all. He avoids all appearance of partiality and favoritism. He is kind to everyone regardless of who they are and what they have done or could do for him or the church.
3. They Are Be Able To Teach
And then the elder, the pastor must be a teacher. The pastor, the elder, and the overseer must be apt to teach. He must be skilled at teaching. He should posses the skills needed to rightly divide the Word of truth (2:15). He must be able to fully grasp the meaning of each Scripture passage. And then, he must be able to convey that meaning to his hearers and help them live out the Scriptures that they have just studied together. In short, the apt teacher will teach so well that his hearers will be able to develop their own sound study habits and grow in grace. While not all elders or pastors have the opportunity to preach a Sunday sermon, they all should be teaching. They should be expounding the Word to children, youth, or adult classes during the week. The overwhelming witness of Scripture confirms Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. The terms pastor, elder, and overseer all appear with the verbs “to teach” or “to shepherd” (1 Tm 2:2; 3:2; Ti 3:2, Eph. 4:11; 1 Pt 5:1-3). The faithful pastor, the qualified overseer, and the competent elder must be a teacher.
4. They Endure Evil
And he must endure evil. Instead of getting anger and attacking people, the pastor is supposed to be kind to all and he is to patiently endure evil. The pastor should patiently endure the slanderous attacks against his character, his plans, his visions, and his actions. He should endure. He should see the attacks of others and remember that he is the slave of Christ. He should entrust his soul to Christ and extend, love, mercy, and forgiveness to his opponents. The pastor does not always have to be right. He does not always have to force others to see things his way. He does not attack his opponents through Facebook and church wide emails, and the gossip chain. He endures.
Is he a doormat? Does he allow the forceful and belligerent men and women of the community to dominate, control, and run the church while he is enduring?
5. They Correct With Humility
Paul says no. The faithful pastor is a corrector. He sees men and women running towards a cliff of and calls them to stop. He tells the married man that divorce will end in death instead bliss. He calls the greedy women to abandon her credit cards, warning her that the enticement of happiness ends in slavery to bills and stress. He pleads with the young man not to embrace homosexuality, recognizing that sin ends in broken relationships and physical hurt.
Some pastors take issue with Paul’s teaching, believing they are only called to preach. The preacher preaches the Word but the Holy Spirit must bring conviction. The preacher is not to call be to repent of specific sins. God does that. I just let the chips fall where they may. Paul is emphatically saying no. If you are this kind of preacher, repent or get out of the ministry.
Paul is telling Timothy that God has called him to confront those in sin. Faithful, godly pastors will confront their flock because they want to save them from destruction.
Pastors must be willing to seek out those who have been overcome by sin, because sin is not rational. Those in sin have been ensnared by the devil and have lost their normal ability to reason. They will not understand their sin on their own. They are not attuned to the Holy Spirit. The have exiled themselves from truth. They will rationalize away the absurdity of paying for a $125,000 boat on a $30,000 income. They need help. We need help. We all need pastors who will pursue us and call us away from destruction and death while we are within midst of our sinful absurdities. Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightfully said,
“Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”
Do not promote cruel men to the office of pastor, elder, and overseer. Appoint men who will lovingly confront your sin. The devil prowls about as a roaring lion (2 Pt 5:8). Shouldn’t your pastor be just a vigilant in protecting and caring for your soul?
Is your pastor a faithful pastor? Is your friend qualified to be an elder? Does he avoid quarrelsomeness, is he kind to everyone, he is able to teach, does he endure evil, and does he correct in love?
Does these five things define your pastor(s)?