In our society, a minister is a generic term that
usually refers to a pastor, preacher or clergyman. For our purpose here, we
are referring to all such ministers in general, who are officially ordained
or commissioned by a church to carry out some form of spiritual leadership.
Above all things, the qualifications of a minister
must first include a divine calling (Acts 13:2). Someone once said that
there are two kinds of people who enter the ministry: Persons called by God
or fools. The meaning of this is, due to the many adversities faced in
ministry, it is a great mistake to become a minister, especially a pastor,
unless you have received a specific call from God. No amount of education
from a Bible college or seminary can ever compensate for its absence.
A call from God is somewhat difficult to describe, and
may vary in interpretation from one person to another. Some have heard
audible voices or seen visions, while others have simply discerned an inner
"awareness" of God's calling upon their life. A wise, elderly pastor once
spoke to prospective ministerial students on the subject. He said, "Do
anything you can to stay out of the ministry, unless you can't do anything
but get into it. If God has truly called you in the ministry, He'll put you
there — He'll provide the opportunity and make the way. Don't seek the
ministry unless it's something you can't avoid. Then you will know that it's
His doing and not yours, and that He'll see you through when things get
Those who answer the call to become ministers, should
be mature, Spirit-filled Christians who possess an intense love for Christ
and their fellow man. They should show signs of the appropriate giftings in
their inclined field of ministry, and seek to enhance these through applied
study and training — by attending a Bible college or seminary if possible.
But more than preaching ability or other gifts, a minister of the Gospel
must be a person of exceptional character, endowed with spiritual fruit,
devoted to prayer and the study of God's Word.
A minister must have a sound mind and common sense. He
should possess wisdom and tact in dealing with people, and be able to
communicate clearly and authoritatively. He must understand how people live,
work and struggle, and be able to be empathic and compassionate to their
concerns. His own financial affairs should be in good order, and he should
have a strong understanding of the business aspects of a church.
A minister must be an impartial person, who will care
for all the sheep of his flock equally. He must have a love for the souls of
people, and a longing to lead them to a personal relationship with Christ —
to contribute to their spiritual growth and development. One of the
minister's greatest characteristics must be "patience," as people are very
difficult to deal with, and only someone endowed with an unusual measure of
patience can tolerate the ordeals of humanity. The heart of a pastor will be
that of a shepherd — one who leads, feeds, cares for, and protects the
A minister is a general term that refers to any of the
Lord's servants or preachers, but probably more specifically relates to what
the New Testament calls an "elder." Elders are an order of mature believers
charged with the spiritual supervision and ministry of the church. The terms
elder, bishop, and pastor were used interchangeably in scripture, and their
qualifications were the same (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 1:5-9). (A deacon is also
another type of minister, but with a separate list of qualifications in 1
There are two scripture passages which specify the
qualifications of the bishop, pastor, or elder. Both were authored by Paul,
first to Timothy and then to Titus.
1 Tim. 3:1 "This is a faithful saying: If a man
desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.
Titus 1:5 "For this reason I left you in Crete, that
you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in
every city as I commanded you;
You will notice that both passages are very similar,
but not identical. By combining what he expressed in the separate epistles,
we gain a broad picture of what were considered the prerequisites of elders.
Epistle of 1 Timothy
1) Above reproach, 2) Husband of one wife, 3) Temperate, 4) Prudent, 5)
Respectable, 6) Hospitable, 7) Able to teach, 8) Not addicted to wine, 9)
Not belligerent, 10) Gentle, 11) Uncontentious, 12) Free from love of money,
13) Manages household well, 14) Not a new convert, 15) A good reputation
inside and outside the church.
Epistle of Titus 1)
Above reproach, 2) Husband of one wife, 3) Having children who believe, 4)
Not self-willed, 5) Not quick tempered, 6) Not addicted to wine, 7) Not
belligerent, 8) Not fond of sordid gain, 9) Hospitable, 10) Lover of what is
good, 11) Sensible, 12) Just, 13) Devout, 14) Self-controlled, 15) Holding
fast the word —both to exhort and refute.
In his highly respected book, Biblical Eldership,
Alexander Strauch wrote the following commentary regarding these passages on
"The elders, as Peter says, are examples to the people
(1 Peter 5:3). Therefore, they must represent what God desires every member
of the congregation to be in character and conduct. Those inside as well as
outside the church first look to those who stand as leaders. It is
understandable if a new or struggling believer falls prey to sin or
hypocrisy, but when one who leads the congregation is found in reproach, the
world blasphemes the teaching of the gospel, and saints within the church
become disillusioned — some even turning away from the church. For these
reasons, the stewards of God's household must be above reproach."
"Furthermore, local congregations tend to mold
themselves according to their leaders — a tendency clearly seen throughout
the Old Testament. When Israel had a bad king, for example, the people were
sinful. When Israel had a good king, the people followed the Lord. Because
people are like sheep, their shepherds have a profound impact on their
direction and spiritual well-being. Therefore:
(1) "If an elder has a contentious spirit, the people
will inevitably become contentious. So, a man with a contentious disposition
is not qualified for eldership — even if he has the greatest teaching gift
in the world (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7).
(2) "If an elder is not hospitable, the people will be
unfriendly and cold (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8).
(3) "If an elder loves money, he will subtly use the
people and work for his own ends (1 Timothy 3:3). Following his example, the
people, too, will become lovers of money.
(4) "If an elder is not just and devout, he will be
unable to rightly discern critical issues and problems (Titus 1:8), causing
the people to become unjust and disloyal to the truth.
(5) "If an elder is not sensible, balanced, and
self-controlled, his judgments will be characterized by disorganization,
aimlessness, and ugly extremes — as will the judgments of the entire
congregation (1 Timothy 3:1,2; Titus 1:8).
(6) "If an elder is not a faithful, one-woman husband,
he will ultimately encourage others to be unfaithful (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus
(7) "If an elder does not faithfully hold to the Word,
the people will not. Such an elder will be unable to guide the church
through the fierce storms of Satanic error (Titus 1:9)."
"What the churches of Jesus Christ need in the way of
leadership is men of deep inner spiritual and moral character. The best
systems, laws, and constitutions are impotent without men who are just,
devout, lovers of what is good, sensible, self-controlled, forbearing, free
from the love of money, uncontentious, and faithful keepers of God's Word.
These are precisely the qualities that God requires of those who lead His
In scripture, we will often see a common theme that is
emphasized again and again. Spiritual leaders are supposed to be primarily
examples to the flock. That is, the godly lifestyle of ministers, preachers,
elders or pastors is critically important as it is the visual sermon that
people see and emulate with their lives. Paul told Timothy, "...be an
example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith,
in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12).
Furthermore, the lifestyle of the preacher is what
brings credibility to his message. How can he hope for people to believe in
a teaching that he doesn't live for himself? Someone once said, "Your life
speaks so loudly, I can't hear what you're saying." It is ever so true that
if we wish to influence lives for Christ, we must continually practice what
we preach. "The elders who are among you I exhort... Shepherd the flock of
God which is among you, serving as overseers, not... as being lords over
those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:1-3).
¹ Biblical Eldership, Alexander Strauch
This article is copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1995, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA 95949. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.You may download for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain published quantities of this title, email us.