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What are the qualifications
of ministers and pastors?

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 tough."

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 flock.

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 Tim. 3:8-13.)

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.
3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
3:3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
3:4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
3:5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
3:6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
3:7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."

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;
1:6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.
1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,
1:8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,
1:9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict."

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 church eldership:

"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 1:6).

(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 people."¹

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 from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article 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 use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. A newer revised version of this book is available from Amazon. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.