I want us to wrestle with an idea/question: when it comes to the biblical requirements for a pastor, should the pastor be an older man who is married and has a family that has proven faithful?
Certainly throughout history there have been a plethora of younger men in the pastorate, we have plenty who post and read here. Some have young children, some are just beginning families, and some are single. (I fit into the young and presently single “category” of pastors). I’m sure that those who are younger all feel called into pastoral ministry…but as we know, desire is not enough. Through the hands of Paul God gave particular qualifications with which a church is to test a man who desires to be a pastor/elder/overseer.
I must admit there has always been a part of those qualifications that have made me uneasy, so I have wrestled with the text, researched opinions and have still been left without an answer satisfying my heart and mind.
The qualifications I have in mind are: “Therefore an overseer must be…the husband of one wife…He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”—1 Tim 3:2, 4-5; and: “…if anyone is…the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.”—Titus 1:6 (all from ESV).
So here’s the grand question: are these qualifications necessary or only applicable if the man has a wife/kids?
And some thoughts to go with this/spur discussion:
1. Many will argue that line “if he is married,” but: is it our place to add an exception when Paul (at least in 1 Tim) makes such a strong statement “it is necessary”?
2. Paul’s argument is: if a man can’t manage his home (via his children’s behavior), then he won’t be able to care for the flock. Certainly, if a man has out of control kids under his roof, then there’s something going wrong and he shouldn’t be pastoring. But if managing a home provides experiential knowledge for managing a church, then what about a man whose home is simply himself?
3. Often the term “elder” is said to apply to the office and has less to do with the age of the person. But the term does carry obvious age implications, no matter how we try to define it. And in 1 Peter 5, Peter talks about the work of “elders” as a position/office, but then he says: “likewise you who are younger be subject to the elders.” I have heard arguments that say Peter suddenly switches his definition of “elders,” and I’ve heard arguments that younger and elder here refer to spiritual life. All of this in an attempt to reconcile the supposed age-is-not-a-big-issue factor of the office with Peter’s context. But wouldn’t a more natural reading be that Peter can give such a command to those who are younger to obey the elders (in office), because the elders, like their title, are actually older men?
4. Finally, yes I know the arguments: if pastors have to be married and have kids then that disqualifies Paul, Timothy, and above all Jesus. But such an argument from Timothy, as far as I’m aware, is an argument from silence. And I’m not comfortable using an apostle who was hand-picked by Jesus, and God himself as exceptions to the qualifications of pastors who are not God and who were not blinded on the road to Damascus.
So there you go. I’d like to see some good discussion and thoughts. Where do you stand on this issue and why?