The Disqualifier

I have been reading a book about a group in Evangelical Christianity, and the author points out the failures of many of the pastors and leaders, and explains how they are disqualified for ministry because of their indiscretions.  While reading this book, I saw the post from Driscoll and some of his past actions.  These things together have me thinking about how we disqualify pastors.  We look to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 as our guide, but I wonder if we really take it that seriously, or more camp on the things we think are heinous in our own eyes.

In the book I’m reading, the sins that are committed and disqualify the pastors are divorce, drug use, theft and embezzlement, infidelity and adultery.  Now don’t get me wrong, these things are bad.  I am not dismissing any of these things, but the list in 1 Timothy is a little different.  I don’t want to deal with the divorce issue, Dave Miller wrote some great posts on this subject so I don’t really want to rehash it.  What I will say is that I’m not lessening the significance of those sins.  Drug use, theft, adultery, these sins are serious and need to be addressed.  What I want to look at is some words by Jesus and some words by Paul and see if maybe we are off track just a hair.

I think most of us would agree that if a Pastor killed someone in his congregation, that would be reason to have him removed. . . and arrested and probably put in prison.  Murder is a terrible sin, but Jesus said if you hated your brother, called him a fool, you will be liable to the fires of hell (Matthew 5:21 & 22).  It seems to me if you are a Pastor who has gotten angry, insults his brother or calls him a fool is guilty, is that reason to have them removed as a Pastor?

What about infidelity (you knew this was next).  If a man lusts after a woman, he has committed adultery in his heart.  We all know that pornography is rampant in the church, even among Pastors.  Lust doesn’t require pornography, it’s a battle most men (probably all) deal with.  Should a Pastor be disqualified?  If you say “not for lust, but for adultery” then you have pretty much just thrown what Jesus said out the window.  Are we really going to look at the Bible and say we believe in every word?  Are we going to say we love Jesus, but not do what He says?  Are we more concerned with our law than we are with scripture?  Hard questions, things I wrestle with.

Now we have Paul.  Could Paul be a Pastor?  He is the chief among sinners (I Timothy 1:15) yet Paul defends his ministry time and time again.  Would we disqualify a guy if he use to persecute the church, if he was guilty of some of the things Paul did?  We think “but Paul gave us the list of qualifications for a Pastor” but have we created a false ideal based on this list?  If we take the words of Jesus and the words of Paul, who is really qualified?  In order to be qualified, we must dismiss what Jesus said, ignore the “but I say to you” of Jesus and just focus on the act itself and not the intent.  We have to turn away from being a disciple and become more like a Pharisee.

This is difficult, because what is the answer?  If a man is an adulterous liar who has been divorced and stolen money, can we really let him teach and preach?  Most of us would say “no of course not” but if he is angry, often says negative things about people, is strong and maybe even a little rude, looks but never touches and keeps his sins well hidden, can he serve?  What is the standard we should hold our leaders too?  Maybe we should do more work to find their sins and short comings, tell them they are not fit to lead or preach or teach or serve.  In the book I am reading, many have been labeled as “unfit” because they sinned publicly.  They were caught in a lie, they sinned and fell from grace.  What happens if you or I fall from grace?  Do we really want to serve in the structure we created?  Just something to consider.


  1. Adam Blosser says

    I am not sure it is discounting what Jesus said to suggest that there are certain very visible sins that bring such disgrace to the name of Christ that they automatically disqualify someone from serving as a pastor. We should probably be careful about saying that someone is disqualified from ministry if they are truly a believer. All believers are called to ministry, but not all are called to serve as an overseer in a local congregation.

    We can apply what Jesus said in Matthew 5 to this question without saying, “We are all adulterers in our thoughts so we should allow adulterers to serve as pastors.” We should all remember that we are adulterers in our thought lives as we hold those accountable who sin outwardly. This prevents us from being overly judgmental and self-righteous as we carry out proper discipline.

    I also want to say that it is not just adultery that prevents one from being a “one woman man.” Are you a flirtatious womanizer? Do you ogle over other women? I would argue that being ensnared by pornography is disqualifying as well. Here I would make a distinction between someone who is truly fighting against this sin with accountability and other protective measures and someone who is continually gratifying the desires of his flesh.

    I agree with you that “one woman man” and other qualifications are not as cut and dry as we would like them to be. I would add that this should motivate us to greater degrees of holiness rather than saying that it isn’t important because we are all adulterers.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Adam, but you said the one thing I was afraid people were going to say, that isn’t what I’m saying. You said “it isn’t important because we are all adulterers”. I am not saying it isn’t important, I’m saying none of us are really qualified. I never want to make light of sin, what I am saying is we judge the visible more harshly, but in reality, there may be men not qualified who fill pulpits every day because they don’t hit our “categories” of sin. Maybe we have set up a strict guideline, kept good people out and let not so good ones in.

      • Adam Blosser says

        Yeah, I don’t think you intend to say that it isn’t important because we are all adulterers. The post does have that feel to me though. That could very well be my fault on the comprehension side rather than yours on the writing side.

        I am disagreeing with you a little though. We have to judge the visible more harshly. We have no other choice. We cannot know a man’s heart until it manifests itself in his actions. I agree that the root is the issue, but we are left to evaluate the fruit. No bad tree bears good fruit, and no good tree bears bad fruit.

        “What happens if you or I fall from grace? Do we really want to serve in the structure we created? Just something to consider.”

        Yes, I do want to serve in a structure where my brothers and sisters in Christ call me to account when I sin. For the sake of my soul and because they love me, I would hope that they would call me to repentance.

  2. Andy says

    I would agree with Adam that I DON’T believe we are throwing Jesus’ words out the window if we disqualify a pastor for adultery, but not for lust. I think Jesus was speaking of God’s standard for those who would live in the kingdom, which none of us measure up to, and which drives us to rely on Christ’s righteousness for entering the kingdom.

    I don’t think that’s what Paul is talking about in 1 Tim. 3. He is talking about actual, visible, behaviors of elders, or potential elders. The primary focus seems to be not, “is this man perfect?”, but “is this man living in such a way that he (1) does not bring public shame on the name of Christ or the church, and (2) can serve as a generally good example for other Christian to emulate. Paul was able to tell people to imitate him as he imitates Christ.

    That said, I think you ARE correct when you point to the need to evaluate a person’s spiritual fruit beyond large public sins. A pastor who is perpetually angry, speaking hurtful words about others, rude, leering purposefully at women in the church…etc…should be confronted, and if in repentant, perhaps removed from eldership.

    What is the standard we should hold our leaders too? What happens if you or I fall from grace? Do we really want to serve in the structure we created? Just something to consider.

  3. Jeff Johnson says


    Thanks for your post. It raises some tough (but important) questions. Here are some observations, in no particular order.

    1. The list of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 starts with the requirement that an overseer be “above reproach.” It gets more specific from there, but the overall theme seems to be that a pastor’s lifestyle should be one that will not bring reproach (public condemnation) upon himself, the church, or the name of Christ. Accordingly, the sins we usually think of as disqualifying are public ones. They have a greater tendency to undermine a pastor’s credibility, distract from the mission of the church, cause confusion and dissension among members, and give unbelievers a reason to be skeptical.

    2. That’s not to say that a pastor’s personal integrity and private character don’t matter. However, we are warned not to “admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19). Thus, a pastor’s sin must be public, at least to some extent, before the church can take action against him.

    3. Although churches can and should have some sort of accountability structure in place for their pastors, spiritual heart monitoring is impossible. Even if the pastor has Covenant Eyes on all his internet devices and sends reports to the deacons or elders, there’s no way to get notifications about lustful thoughts (or anger, bitterness, pride, etc.).

    4. Ultimately, the private sin, left unchecked, is going to become public. At that point, the problem will (a) be visible enough to allow action and (b) be serious enough to require action.

    5. “I would argue that being ensnared by pornography is disqualifying as well. Here I would make a distinction between someone who is truly fighting against this sin with accountability and other protective measures and someone who is continually gratifying the desires of his flesh.” I agree with your overall point. It depends on what you mean by “ensnared.” If a pastor is plunging headlong into pornography and there is no battle or repentance, you don’t want him leading the church. But what about the pastor for whom it is a genuine battle? He has far more good days than bad, but occasionally succumbs to the temptation. If pornography is the line the church wants to draw, then it can label him as disqualified. As you pointed out, however, pornography isn’t the ultimate problem: Lust is. You could have another pastor who never looks at pornography but habitually lusts after women (at the beach, on TV, in the choir . . . wherever). Bright lines can be over-inclusive and under-inclusive at the same time. I think you have to consider the circumstances.

    6. Rightly or wrongly, Baptist churches have a reputation for “shooting their wounded.” It’s sometimes easier just to dismiss a pastor or staff member than work through issues. At times, disqualification and termination are necessary. At other times, churches can take other measures that will in the long run be better for the church, the pastor, and his family. I pray we will have discernment to make wise decisions in this area.

    • Jeff Johnson says

      The quote in point number 5 is from commenter Adam Blosser. I mistakenly thought it was from Dan’s original post.

  4. says

    Adultery of the heart and physical adultery equally incur the wrath of God, but only the latter is grounds for divorce. Hating your brother without cause and murdering him equally incur the wrath of God, but only the latter is grounds for your execution. Would you say that in Matthew 5, Jesus meant to include in the grounds for divorce, verse 32, the kind of adultery he speaks of in verses 27-28, or would you acknowledge that even Jesus did see a difference between the two?

    • says

      When it comes to the issue of divorce, I recommend reading Dave Miller’s posts on the issue. There is the issue of the “any reason clause” divorce that was being used, which is why they asked “is it lawful to divorce your wife for any reason (aka using the any reason clause) and Jesus said that type of divorce was not permissible. Like I said, read Dave Miller on the subject.

  5. says

    There is a Pastor in N. Miss that makes a strong argument to remove the title of Qualifications/Disqualifications from the text in question. He states that a better title would be Assets and Liabilities. He uses Rom. 11:29 to buttress his interpretation because Paul wrote, “God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable.” He further states that the minister isn’t disqualified because God’s calling “is without repentance” but the minister has so many liabilities that he cannot serve.

    I feel that this interpretation best fits the overall theme of scripture. The text in 1 Timothy 3 reminds me that I am sinful and its only by God’s grace that I am a minister.

  6. says

    Just to clarify, I’m not making a stand one way or another. I’m not saying not to remove the pastor, I’m not saying that we should remove him, just want to open discussion and consider things.

  7. Dale Pugh says

    So what do we do with the axiom, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called”?

    I’ve messed up more times than I care to count in a few of the “qualification” areas. If I repent am I then okay? What determines when I should be kicked out? There are many questions raised by this particular post.

    • says

      That is my struggle too Dale. Moses killed a guy, Abraham had a concubine, David messed up a lot, Solomon had his fair share of bad moves. Paul and Peter both had some serious problems. Could I be a pastor if I cut some dudes ear off and had a felony assault charge? I don’t know. I know pastors who are angry and yell and are seen as strong and take charge leaders. I know gentle, meek men who made a mistake 30 years ago and are not qualified. It raises a lot of questions in my mind.

  8. Mike says

    Angry, proud and contentious pastors usually run up against whatever oversight mechanism is in place in the local congregation, whether it be elder led and pure congregational models. Most SBC churches have their ducks in a row when it comes to accountability systems.

    I just came out of the wild, wild, west of non-denominationalism. The same cannot be said about many of these churches. Yes, the NAE does require member churches to have transparent oversight, but most of the small “pastor-owned” churches popping up everywhere do not associate with the NAE.

    If there is no viable, transparent oversight or accountability structure in a church for the pastor(s), then that church is “pastor-owned”.

    We left the pastor-owned church led by an angry, proud, defensive and contentious pastor. The amount of wreckage that has come from that church has been heart breaking.

  9. dr. james willingham says

    One pastor reminded me that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance (on God’s part)(Roms.11:29). Concerning the matter of adultery and murder, one might note that David who was, indeed, chastised for his sins, yet winds up in one of the highest positions of the faith. He is called a patriarch as well as a prophet (Acts 2:29,30), besides being an ancestor of our Lord through the woman with whom he committed adultery and to cover that act he committed murder. Another matter that needs to be considered is that of God’s identity of Himself with the divorced in Jer.3:8.

  10. says

    If we disqualify men from the ministry for past, repented of sins, then it is my opinion that we are trashing the entire concept of biblical forgiveness and redemption. Whether or not the person was a believer or not at the time of their sin(s) does not matter if they are repentant of that behavior now.

    Consider this story, its made up, but I think that we could find men who fit its story.

    A man from a broken home, in the “bad part of town” in a major city. By the time he was a teenager he already was involved in drugs and gangs. He was a womanizer, married twice, divorced twice, and to this day does not honestly know how many kids he has. He was violent and spent several stints in jail. Now in one particular stint, God moved in his heart. He found and began reading the bible, began to spend time with the visiting chaplains and ministry teams. Eventually gave his life and heart to Christ Jesus. He was saved. After release he does his best to turn his life around. He attends church and becomes involved with a local prison ministry. Everyone recognizes the impact that God has had in his life and love and encourage his growth and testimony. After several years, he feels the call to vocational ministry. He wants to plant a church in his old neighborhood to reach the loss and keep young men (and women) from following the path he did.

    But the local association that his “host” church was apart of declines to help sponsor this church plant. The reason? Because of this man’s past actions, he is “disqualified” from the ministry. After all, he was an adulterer, he was violent, he was a drug user, he likely has kids he was/is not a father too, ect.

    I would hope that most of us would be outraged at the actions of some in the “local association” for how they are treating this guy. Again, this story is made up, but I hope it can show how an extreme position on “once disqualified, always disqualified” can be.

    Let me also throw this into the ring. I put forward that sometimes, it is better to have a minister who has “been there” and can relate to his congregation, and minister to them how God helped him as an inspiration to how God can/is helping them. This is not to say that pastors should go out and sin so they can gain experience, but it IS saying, that sometimes God can use a once broken man, to help fix currently broken people. If we permanently disqualify men because of their past actions, we are throwing that out. Indeed, we are throwing out the redemptive power of God.

    • Adam Blosser says

      I am not aware of anyone here who is arguing for the position you are arguing against.

      • Dave Miller says

        Yeah. It is a common position in the wider Christian world, Adam. Many believe that certain sins once and for all disqualify someone from holding office in the church.

        I think it is an unbiblical position, but it is common.

        • Adam Blosser says

          Right, I was not clear in my comment. I should have simply said that it was not the argument I was making.

  11. says

    Let me make one or two observations.

    1. The behaviors taught in some scripture (not all) are written in the ideal. Much of the Sermon on the Mount and the qualifications in Timothy may well fit into this category. It is always essential to hold the tension toward that ideal. The greatest sin would to release that tension and say that it is not important or relevant to todays world. But the question remains, did Paul believe that we could always, under all circumstances, everyday, live by those qualifications. I think not. To state again we must always hold that tension, but we will fail.

    2. When we must deal with a situation in which the pastor has been found in a sin that leads to a discussion of termination we must also look to the value and good of a church, not just the man. Some churches would be able to handle a failure, repentance, counseling etc. then restoration and employment. However, some churches would not be able to handle this process. To keep a man would utterly destroy, right or wrong, some churches.

    I have said all that to say.

    1. One size may not fit all. While the Bible teaching is constant, how that is applied might be different from situation to situation, pending the effect it would have on the church in question.

    2. Legalism does not benefit anyone in such a situation. There must be a sincere, “agendaless” (is that a word?) dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

    3. Scripture is still scripture even though the situation is messy. It must be the determining factor.

    4. While discipline is necessary, “shooting our wounded” is never acceptable.

    If I am wrong I would welcome and in fact request corrective instruction.

    • dr. james willingham says

      Well, Brother, D.L., I always did say you were one sharp fellow, and, as usual, you have given some good evidence of it.

      • says

        I don’t know about that my good brother, but I have had a good man in my life for over 50 years now, which helped me to see the importance of study. Just sayin…

  12. Sam Downey says

    This is a problem we continually face. I once pastored a church whose previous pastor -married with children- had run off with the church secretary. After being gone a few weeks, the two returned with great apology, and promised to never do it again. Amazingly, the church reinstated their well-liked pastor, until the two ran off again a few months later. When he returned and asked to be forgiven, again, they forgave but did not return him to his former position. The actions of this man had a very negative effect on the church and its reputation in the community. the church never mentioned this situation to anyone outside the church, and didn’t tell me, the prospective pastor, until I had been there a few months.
    A few years later, I somehow received a letter from this man, wanting to know if I would recommend him to a particular church. I was not able to do so because I really did not personally know him, but was aware that he had gone on to pastor other churches in the intervening years. The thought that crossed my mind was whether to share what I knew with someone else. I did not know what this man’s intervening experience had been, and was hoping that God had turned him around. I did not.
    I also knew a preacher 40 years ago that was released by his church for certain immoral behaviors, who wound up as a DOM a few years later.
    As far as disqualifications are concerned, I live with the certainty that I, myself, do not qualify to be anyone in leadership, apart from God’s grace, and His call on my life. I believe that we are all living out what the Apostle wrote in Romans 7, and our only hope is in the Lord, Jesus Christ. If we no longer struggle with the desires of the flesh, and keep our bodies under control, then we risk disqualification by the One Who Matters. In the meantime, I awaken almost every day feeling my 47 years of failure, ill-suited for what God has called me to do. When we believe that our indiscretions are OK with God, whether inner struggles, or public, then I think we have become disqualified.

  13. Jerry Smith says

    We need to remember in the qualifications for being a pastor of a New Testament Church its not that a person cannot be forgiven for past sins. There’s just certain things the man can do that after having done them Jesus cannot use him as a pastor of His New Testament Church. In not being able to be qualified to be a pastor that does not make that man a 2nd class Christian. He has just done things to the point God cannot use him in a certain position.

    Plus, there’s none of us perfect, yet thank goodness that there’s some of us that can be used by Jesus to pastor His local churches.

    • says

      Maybe I am misreading what you just said, so let me point to my hypothetical story. Should that man, in your eyes, never be allowed to be pastor of a “New Testament Church”. This is also where I want to bring up a man like Paul, who called himself “chief among sinners”. Who at the very least, was an accessory to murder (of Christians), if not directly guilty himself. Would Paul be disqualified to be pastor of a “New Testament Church” in your eyes?

      Adam questioned my story saying no one here on this board was advocating what I was bringing up. Dare I say, I don’t think we can say that any longer.

      • Jerry Smith says

        1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-10 lays out the qualifications for pastor of Jesus’ New Testament Churches. Sadly not many wants to go by them, but ask questions, ‘What if.’

        • says

          Great, so in your world Paul is disqualified from the ministry, good to know where you stand.

          I hope Adam B. is paying attention. Maybe I jumped the gun, but as it turns out, there are reasons for my reaction against Pharisees in today’s church.

    • Stephen says

      Jerry, can you help us out by naming some specific things that make it so that “Jesus cannot use him as a pastor.”

    • Greg Buchanan says

      My problem with your comment is that anyone can say this and mean it:

      “God cannot…”

  14. Stephen says

    A common “hypothetical” often asked in seminary is if you are a missionary/church planter in a part of the world where polygamy is common and you start seeing people converted and a church formed. A village elder/chief who has many wives at first resists to the gospels, but eventually converts. The people already respect him above others and naturally becomes a leader in the church. According to 1 Tim he is not qualified to be an elder because of his polygamy, but it would also be a likely disaster if he decided to annul all of his marriages (the bible never approves polygamy but it also never suggests divorce of multiple wives once the relations are already set).

    I think this is the case that at least minimally sets the bar on one end – it is possible to otherwise be repentant of all visible sins and be “able” to lead but still be biblically disqualified from eldership.

    • Don Johnson says


      That is exactly what Paul is expressing in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The man should not be a pastor, elder or deacon because of some wicked sin of having more than one wife but because of time constraints. Any pastor worth his salt already has a difficult time trying to balance ministry and personal time. At the very least, either the ministry or his family time is going to suffer. Probably both, simply because there is
      not enough to time properly have both. Just look at anyone in the OT who had more than one wife.

      No, he should not divorce his additional wife or wives. Instead he should serve the church in some capacity where the time constraints are not as demanding as pastor or deacon.

      • says

        The problem with your time analogy and its relations o the discussion f “disqualified” is the concept of remaining single and going into the ministry. Indeed even Paul recommends that. However, many churches would consider a single man as “disqualified” for the ministry. As in you MUST be “a husband” of one wife. I personally have been declined for a bi-vocational position because I was/am single. But if we are truly concerned about a pastor’s time management issues, then surely a “single” man who has no immediate family concerns, should be wanted for our churches, right?

        • Don Johnson says


          No. Time management is only one of the concerns of a pastor. I as well would not vote for a single man to be pastor of the church, unless all the members were single. Which probably is not likely to happen. If a pastor is to preach on the home, husbands, wives or children; I would want some one who’s “been there and done that.”

          • says

            I think Jesus and the Apostle Paul both did a pretty good job teaching on the family.

            And both were unmarried.

            A single man can preach and teach on marriage. But he needs to be careful how he does so. Don’t come across as a know it all. Rely often on Christian authorities who are married. Use good common sense. Use organizations like Focus on the Family, LifeWay, Baptist Press, etc. Use Focus on the Family’s church bulletin insert once a month.

            David R. Brumbelow

          • says

            So when it comes to “good things”, like marriage, family, ect, you want our pastors to have “experience”. But when it comes to practical sins, you DONT want pastors to have such “experience”. I find that interesting.

            And frankly I also find your views here greatly offensive. Paul, clearly, was single for his entire ministry how do you deal with that!! I, and I bet many others like me, already are struggling to deal with being single and being called into the ministry, only to have attitudes like yours shoved in our face from within the “Church” body. Do you even comprehend the pharisetical nature of your bigotry here?

          • Don Johnson says


            I don’t know what you mean by “practical sins.”

            It is true Paul was unmarried during his ministry for Christ. But it is probably also true that Paul had been married. Paul never states that he has never been married. He always makes it clear that he is not currently married. If Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin as many believe, he also should have been married. As that was one of the requirements of being on the council. What happened to that marriage, I don’t know. My guess is he was divorced, but I can’t prove it. But whatever happened, it was something he didn’t want to discuss. At least not in the Scriptures.

          • says

            By practical sins I mean to say every sin that you and others would hold as permanent disqualifies to the ministry. That is to say, you want your pastors to speak against those sins, but defiantly NOT from experience and personal testimony. Where as you state that a pastor HAS to be married so he can speak from experience. Notice the double speak there?

            Let me ask you something else. Paul in 1 Tim and Titus, not only does paul say “husband of one wife”, which you take as saying a Pastor HAS to be married, but he ALSO says Pastors should A – Have children, and B – who are believers. Does this mean that you would argue that any pastor who has a child who grows up and rejects God at a point in their adolescent or adult life should be disqualified? And further, what of a man (or his wife) who is unable to have kids? Is he to be disqualified? If you wish to hold to the same standard you place on pastors have to be married, you would have to say yes in both cases. Otherwise you have some hypocrisy in your eisegesis.

            As for your comments on Paul, with out getting to far into the divorce issue with has been discussed elsewhere, using your rigid interpretation, if Paul was divorced, then clearly he did not “manage his house well”, as is required of an elder/overseer/pastor. So what do you want to go with? Either Paul was never married, in which he would violate your “pastors have to be married” belief. Or he was divorced, in which he shows he was not a good manager of his house, and thus, should be disqualified for that. Which is it?

          • Don Johnson says


            I never said a pastor HAS to be married. I said I would not vote for a single man to be pastor. It is not a sin to be single.

            I also never mentioned any sin that would permanently disqualify a man for the ministry. As far as I can tell there aren’t any that I’m aware of.

        • says

          Under our current definition of “husband of one wife”, there is no distinction made in the text to separate those who are divorced or those who’s wife dies and remarried. Yes, the scripture says he is free to remarry if his wife died, but even a man who loses a wife, is free to remarry and does, he is still not the husband of but one wife. A strict reading of that translations states if a man has had more than one wife, he is disqualified, no distinction is made to how he ends up with a second wife.

          • Don Johnson says


            A man who gets divorced is the husband of no wife. He if marries again he is the husband of one wife, not two. A polygamist on the other hand is the husband of more than one wife, and should not be considered for the position of pastor. I believe in John’s Gospel, Jesus disagrees with your “strict reading” of the text.

    • says

      Are we still trying to get that tribal chief saved? We were working on him back when I was in seminary (1966-69). :-) Two points I would make

      1. I still believe in a God called ministry, and I understand “pastor”, “elder,” and “bishop” to be the same office. I understand the discussion today in this area but have heard nothing exegetically that has dissuaded me from either position. Hence I would think that tribal chief would need to feel the call of God on his life to serve in that capacity.

      2. The question then becomes would God call a man into ministry who for some reason could not give up a “disqualifier” of having two wives.

  15. says

    One thing that should be remembered is that forgiveness and qualifications are two separate issues.

    We should forgive those who sincerely repent, but that does not automatically now make them qualified for spiritual leadership.

    Frankly, while we are all sinners, some sins will destroy your ministry and reputation. Or at least seriously damage your influence.

    Another thought. It is possible to “shoot our wounded,” but some pastors are not wounded – but traitors, predators, and those who bring reproach on the ministry.
    As Robert L. Sumner said, “An army doesn’t shoot it’s wounded, but it does shoot traitors.”

    David R. Brumbelow

    • Doug Hibbard says

      This is certainly a point we overlook too much. “Can’t we forgive?”

      Yes, we can. But there are certain times where we *must* say “You are forgiven by God, by us, but based on Scripture, we cannot entrust the ministry to you again.”

      There’s judging a soul, which we should be hesitant to do, and judging the fruits of a person’s work in ministry. If they be poisonous fruits, we have the responsibility to defend the flock from the poison.

      Or, if a wolf is in sheep’s clothing, you still shoot it. That someone thinks we’ve lost a source of wool misunderstands the whole situation. You don’t wait for a bigger wolf pelt.

    • Greg Buchanan says

      As Robert L. Sumner said, “An army doesn’t shoot it’s wounded, but it does shoot traitors.”

      It’s a good thing that Jesus isn’t in the Army then or Peter should have gone the way of Judas.

      Maybe we shouldn’t use pithy statements to justify our isogesis. Maybe we should learn to be more like Jesus in forgiveness AND reconciliation. I think it is arrogance to state that “the list” is a once-for-all qualification list.

      Even if there was a pastor who was a great leader, a “man of God” and he cheated with another woman in the community and even killed her husband… say he repents, confesses, and serves his time. If it doesn’t disqualify King David from continuing to be king, why cannot this man be reconciled and restored to a pastorate somewhere?

      And don’t try to say that was the OT and the NT church is different: God doesn’t change and neither do His standards.

      I wonder if we have created our own traditions and false metrics to justify ourselves. Actually I don’t wonder too much for it is still common for people to believe that the quality of their walk with Jesus is measured primarily by how many people they have “led to the Lord,” as though they notch their Bible with their accomplishments. Which by the way is nothing less than robbing God of His glory since HE saves, not us.

      I wonder what it will take for us to open our eyes to our culture-colored glasses and take them off.

    • says

      Greg Buchanan,
      Then, are you saying a man can never disqualify himself to serve as a pastor?

      How about a pastor who gets caught molesting children? If he repents, would you vote for him to continue as a pastor? Would you be fine with him teaching, mentoring, and going to camp with children?
      Even if you would, the camp’s insurance company would not permit it.

      Also, there are some differences between a king of 3,000 years ago, and a modern day Baptist pastor. Not sure many would vote for a pastor who, while serving as pastor, committed adultery and murder.
      Again, forgiveness and qualifications are two separate issues.
      David R. Brumbelow

      • Greg Buchanan says

        I don’t exactly know how to answer you because nothing is that simple.

        If you take anything serious that modern medicine would say, then pedophilia is incurable and this guy should be kept away from children forever. But I believe Jesus can heal ALL wounds if it is His will.

        That being said, if this guy did repent, fully cooperated with the police, and surrounded himself with accountability partners, especially including his wife, then it is possible that he can be fully redeemed and return to the pulpit. My fear would want me to think that repentance from something so heinous is impossible.

        It would be wise to be cautious: no he shouldn’t go to children’s camp, not because he will relapse, but to ensure he doesn’t face that temptation again (Gal 6:1-2). This is a temporal consequence of his sin (Gal 6:8) just as the one who contracts HIV through drug use or fornication may be healed from lust or drug abuse, but may still carry HIV for the rest of their life. But in both cases, they may still serve God and preach or teach with certain precautions. Paul probably struggled to be accepted his entire ministry since he once persecuted the church and aided in the capture of Christians leading to their torture or death.

        Can he be voted for? Is he qualified? By the common narrow reading, no he is not due to his temper. All in all, i’m afraid you are making law out of the “qualifications” and participating in legalism.

        Would I vote for the guy… I’m not sure. I don’t know him and I would have to know him. I would have to see his heart for ministry and repentance from something so tragic, namely that he doesn’t hide it or shy away from discussions involving that part of his life; i.e. transparent, cautious, understanding of other’s reservations. It is part of the burden of his past choices. Freed from the sin and consequences eternally, but burdened with the scars until Kingdom come.

        I’d like to live knowing that in Heaven he will be disqualified for nothing and treat him as such here and now… But I know I don’t want to be a legalistic pharisee. I want to be open in faith to Jesus that He can do all things and I (and this hypothetical repentant child molester) can do all things in Him.

        • says


          You have a tender spirit of forgiveness that is indeed admirable. It does get easy to become legalistic especially if we are dealing with a pet peeve. It is good to see someone like you who has that love for people that can forgive and move on.

          There are some points, however, that need to be made (actually made again). David (number 44) correctly states that we much distinguish between forgiveness and qualifications. That I believe has a strong Biblical basis. All who plead the blood of Jesus are forgiven. Yet not all are qualified to pastor. I realize I am stating the obvious but I think that needs to be on the table.

          Another point that keeps coming back to me concerns the call of God to ministry. As I said earlier on this thread I believe in a God called ministry. I know that is not popular in many circles today but I still think that is Biblical. If that be true, then the question to follow is, would God call a pedophile to the ministry?” I am not God obviously but to be honest an transparent I would say he would not. If that is right then the truism would be, it is not man that disqualifies a person from pastoring it is God.

          Guys this is hard stuff I am open to be corrected.

          • Greg Buchanan says

            I appreciate the interaction with David and your response as well DL. I think this is what Dan wanted: the discussion, not necessarily the answer.

            I would need to look more closely than I can now at work regarding qualifications vs. Thomas Magers quotation above regarding “assets & liabilities”.

  16. says


    “the discussion …the answer”

    Good point. Unless we claim inerrancy of our exegesis and the ability to perfectly understand the mind of God, honest “agenda-less” discussion is probably the best we can do on this subject. While we can have some answers based on the word, I doubt we will have THE answer regarding this question…at least one that satisfies all of us.