What a pastor is at home is the first area he must be proven. At home he fulfills two principal roles: husband and father – and it is in these two roles he must be proven. His example in marriage must be exemplary – his marriage must be worth imitating. This week we turn to the pastor as a father. He must be a faithful father.
The Pastor Must Be A Faithful Father (v6b)
Paul says, “An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”
Just like a pastor doesn’t have to be married, neither does he have to have children if he is married. There may be physical reasons they cannot have kids, they may be young and have not started to have children and so forth. But, I would argue that with children he has an advantage because parenthood, like marriage, is crucial to a man’s character development. Leading a family at home requires skills that are also necessary to lead the family at church.
So, what does all this mean? It means that if he is a father, a pastor must be a faithful father. His children must be taken into account when considering his qualification for the pastorate. This qualification is important enough to be listed over in 1 Timothy 3, another passage describing the qualifications to be the pastor. Paul says in verse 5, “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” The point is again made that leadership at home either qualifies or disqualifies him for leadership in the church. What kind of father is he? What he is will play out in the way his children are turning out.
Does this refer to young children in the home or teenagers and adult children out of the house?
Well, when we look to the pastor’s children, what ought we to look for? According to verse 6 Paul requires two things of the pastor’s children. First, they must believe. Second, they must behave.
First they must believe. He must be a man “whose children believe”. If a man cannot lead his own children to faith how can he lead others? Leading lost people to Christ and explaining the way of salvation is a core task of the pastor. If it’s not successfully being done at home can it successfully be done elsewhere? His concern for the lost starts in his own home. His first mission field, as every man’s, is those under his roof. This infers something very important: He is concerned for people coming to Christ for salvation. Has a man been concerned for his children’s salvation? Has he taught them about salvation in Jesus Christ? Has he lovingly, respectfully, and intentionally sought to bring them to the cross of the Savior?
This raises an obvious question for us: How can a man be held responsible for his children coming to faith in Christ? If it is each person’s individual choice and it can’t be forced or coerced, then how can he be held responsible for someone else not coming to Christ – even his own children?
Warning: We need to avoid the extreme ends of the spectrum here. On the one hand, our children coming to faith in Christ is not the guaranteed result of a formula. In other words, if we plug in church, Awana, Sunday School, Christian School and “Christian parents”, it does not automatically result in a child becoming a believer. Every person has free will and is to choose for themselves what they will believe. Including the children of good Christian parents.
On the other end of the spectrum however, we must not lose sight of the powerful influence parents have on their children and the way they end up seeing God, the world and life decisions. How well do parents explain to their children the way of salvation in the home? How do parents live out their faith at home? Are they sincere, humble and concerned for what pleases God? Or are they hypocrites – expecting of the children what they don’t expect of themselves and pretending to be one thing at church while in reality what they are at home is vastly different?
So we have here a balance between the free will of children to accept or reject the Gospel, and, the tremendous persuasion parents have on the way their children will exercise their free will.
Second, they must behave. They cannot be accused of being wild and disobedient. If he cannot lead his children to proper obedience, how can he lead adults to proper obedience? He must have successfully taught them to honor their parents (Eph. 6:1-3) and learn the godly virtue of submitting to authority. Behind a child’s willing obedience is a father who holds that child’s love, respect and honor. He has not and does not exasperate them or make them bitter towards him (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:18?)
Being the pastor of a church is a role that has powerful influence on how other people live. The expectation is that a pastor’s teaching and lifestyle are leading people to faith in Christ and a faithful Christian life. That’s the point: if you’re going to step up to a position of influence in the church then you need to demonstrate how you have been an influence at home. It is absurd to demand a man can force his children to believe. But it is equally absurd to say those under his roof have not been under the profound influence of his teaching and example.
What if the children are too young to believe when he candidates? What if his children are all moved out? What if he doesn’t have kids? Can a pastor lose his job if his children reject the faith and live wildly over the course of his career at the church?
Warning: We must be careful to avoid forcing his children to live in a glass bowl always being judged by the church. Wisely and graciously we must balance the requirement his children believe and obey on the one hand while having a gracious allowance for growth and mistakes on the other. Too many “PK’s” have marred their father’s role as pastor in part due to the unrealistic expectations put on them from their dad and from the church. There is this bizarre contradiction people seem to hold in their minds where the pastor’s kid is expected to be the perfect Christian child and yet the rebellious child as well.
What the pastor must be is what everyone else should be, or should becoming. It is one thing to recognize our weaknesses in these areas and to press on in growing where we are weak. But it is another thing altogether to excuse myself from growing in these character traits because I’m not the pastor so I don’t need to be. The pastor must be all of this in his character precisely because that is what God expects the people he leads to be in their character as well. He is a visible, in the flesh, example of what everyone else should be like, or becoming like.
What the Pastor Must Not Be (v7)
Our next section contains the traits most undesirable of those becoming pastors. Paul begins this list of 5 negative traits by stating a second time that the pastor must be blameless. Iin verse 6 Paul says he must be blameless, particularly in his home life. In verse 7 Paul reiterates that he must be blameless, and moves to describe specific areas of his individual character. What you will notice is that these 5 areas demand in different ways the pastor be self-controlled. He must keep himself under control regarding his will, his use of authority, his passions, and his wealth. Then he will be blameless – if these five things don’t characterize him.
First, he must not be overbearing. Someone who is overbearing is someone who is self-willed; someone who is going to have it their way one way or another. He lords it over people, seeing them more as his servants than redeemed brothers and sisters who are members of Christ’s Body and gifted by the Holy Spirit. The overbearing pastor disguises his arrogant self-interest in Christianese, making it sound like it’s God’s will when at the heart the man is concerned only about his own will for the church. A pastor must not be overbearing. He must see himself as a servant: first to Christ. Then the outworking of his service to Christ is service to the Body of Christ. Matthew 20:20-25
Secondly, the pastor must not be quick tempered. Not being quick tempered means he can’t have a short fuse. He has to keep his angry emotions under control and not be the guy that loses his cool as a first reaction to everything. James 1:20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and even slower to become angry…” God takes seriously a man’s ability to be self-controlled. Moses served God for 40 years leading the whole nation of Israel to the Promised Land. Because of one instance where Moses lost his temper God forbid him from entering the Promised Land. James 1:20 goes on to say, “For the anger of man does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Now, people learn from the pastor. People should be able to look to the pastor as someone to imitate. What happens when the pastor is the guy you should avoid because of his quick temper? Proverbs 22:24 says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.” If you shouldn’t make friends with one you certainly shouldn’t make one your pastor! (See also 14:29; 15:18; 16:32; 17:27).
Thirdly, the pastor must not be a drunk. Notice the way Paul says it: “not given to drunkenness.” The language of “not given” impresses the idea of devotion. He can’t devote himself to drunkenness. He can’t hand himself over to drunkenness. Now while the strict reading here cannot be understood to forbid ever having an alcoholic, I believe it is wise for those in leadership to adopt such a practice. It is my practice and the practice here at EFC of church leadership.
Fourthly, the pastor must not be violent. He cannot be a man who is quick to fight. This means physically as well as verbally. As awful as it sounds I have heard more than one story of church meetings ending with fist fights. All I can say is “despicable.” But a man can be verbally “violent” if not physically. He can abuse people with his words, striking them with his violent mouth; hurting and injuring people by his way of speaking. Describing people with violent mouths the Psalms uses graphic language like that in Psalm 64:3, “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows.” Their mouths, like weapons of war, are used to verbally stab, slash, and shoot down others.
Violence is the way controlling people react when they sense they are losing control of what they selfishly want. That’s the problem: what they selfishly want. Their agenda, their ideas, their plans, their wants. Not Christ’s. A pastor must never see himself as the one who “controls” the Body of Christ. Teach, preach, encourage, rebuke, correct, train? Yes. Control through intimidation, abuse, manipulation, flattery? Never. I’ll suggest this: man who is obsessed with controlling others is only doing so because he is not controlling himself. He is not displaying the fruit of the Holy Spirit: self-control (Gal. 5:23). Second Timothy 2:24 describes the proper attitude of a pastor, “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth”.
Fifthly, he must make an honest living. Paul says, “not pursuing dishonest gain.” What Paul brings together here is both a man’s money and a man’s integrity. He can’t cheat, steal, or compromise his character to get ahead financially. His gains must be displays of his integrity and not strikes against it. In his heart he can’t be greedy, exploitive, or be angling his ministry around how he can achieve affluence. He has to set his heart on riches above to come, not riches here and now. His desire must be for the wealth of heaven he is promised, not the wealth of this passing world. He can’t think ministry is a place to make money. It’s not a place that a man should become impoverished, as his spiritual work is compensated materially. Nor, however is his service to God a means for becoming rich.