1 Timothy 3:2
Qualifications for Overseers
Not just anybody can be pastor. It is not a job for which a church advertises and then takes applications from anyone who might be seeking a job. Moreover, Paul does not seek first to list the gifts such a man should have, other than being “able to teach” and “manage his own household” implying that if he will be a pastor he shall have to manage a church. But even so, it is the man’s character that takes precedence; in other words, we must have godly men to be overseers of God’s churches. Next to this, being a great speaker, a gifted manager, even a compassionate man, will not be enough.
So what are those qualifications the Apostle lists? He begins by saying that he must be “above reproach.” Paul mentions this one first because the rest of the list seems to branch out from it. “Above reproach” speaks to having such a reputation and character that the church is not dragged down by the pastor’s faults thereby losing credibility as a result. Saint Chrysostom said, “Every virtue is implied in this word” (William Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary, 169). From this point, Paul writes that the bishop must be “the husband of one wife.” (This does not exclude men who have been widowed, just as we would not assume this passage teaches that every elder be married with a family, as such a qualification would rule out Paul himself.) This qualification speaks to marital fidelity which was something rare in the ancient world and becoming ever so in ours. “Sober-minded” speaks to the serious demeanor required for pastors. I do not say that pastors should never laugh, but I do say that theirs is a task in which the eternal destiny of souls is at stake. It is the highest of all callings and requires a man who understands that the God He serves will one day call him to account for the service he rendered while in that most holy office. “Self-controlled” speaks to the pastor’s personal and public habits. Is he a slave to his desires? Must he have what he wants when he wants it regarding food, drink, or entertainment? Must he have his own way? Can others disagree with him? Must he be stroked and gratified? Self-control speaks to spiritual maturity as much as anything else. “Respectable” speaks to being dignified in our outward bearing. I notice that people demand respect today but are rarely respectable people themselves. No wonder. The word has fallen under suspicion by some as the act of putting on airs or abiding pretense. So pastors now wear shorts and t-shirts into the pulpit. Of course, the heart matters, but respect indicates that our hearts care for the feelings of others. It’s why we open the door for others. Paul nowhere says pastors must be likeable, but they must command respect by their manner of life.