Is Your Pastor Qualified? – Part 3

“It would have been a fearful thing for me to have occupied the watchman’s place without having received the watchman’s commission.”- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

In part two we discussed some of the characteristic qualifications of an overseer that were found in 1 Timothy 3:2. These were things like, being sober-minded and self-controlled, respectable, hospitable as well as an obvious trait, he must be able to teach. Verse 3 presents a few new characteristics that might be obvious to some and a bit obscure to others. Let’s dive in.

The first of these qualifications is that the overseer must not be a drunkard. In our day of clean water, pasteurized juices, and a near endless number of soda variations, it seems easy to consider that only a person who wants to be drunk would get drunk and only an alcoholic would be drunk frequently but in ancient times the water was often undrinkable and what they had a lot of was wine. Wine was drank with meals, it was drank for celebration it was drank as part of religious celebration even within the Christian church as we celebrated the Lord’s Supper and even used to make the often undrinkable water palatable for human consumption.

Wine was a fixture in the ancient way of life and knowing that the overseer would be in charge of the sacramental wine for when they engaged in the Lord’s Supper together, in fact it wasn’t uncommon in later centuries for pastors and priests to be paid in barrels of wine or beer, however, therefore it was a requirement that the man of God be a temperate individual. As many churches have opted to use pasteurized grape juice over wine for various points of conviction, the overseer isn’t necessarily faced with the occupational hazard of overindulgence today.

Today, this qualification is simple, the pastor shouldn’t be an alcoholic and likewise should probably not be controlled by any other substances. It may be easy to judge the pastor who drinks a beer with his meal while saying “I would never do that!” but how many pastors cannot function without caffeine?

How many pastors who have no medical limitations can’t go a day without eating? Or perhaps more pointed, can’t go more than an hour without his phone? These points aren’t meant to excuse an overseer who gets intoxicated because there is no excuse for such behavior in an overseer, but we must be careful to both not read the scriptures through the lens of the current day while also not pretending that our current day doesn’t present new challenges that those who came before us wouldn’t have faced or at least wouldn’t have looked different in their day.

It’s also expected that an overseer is not violent, but gentle. This isn’t the same as being a weakling. We often get the image of a soft man who never gets angry, is agreeable and lays down in the face of conflict. This is not who Jesus was, this is not who the apostles were, and this is not who a biblical church overseer is. However, an overseer does not start conflict, does not seek out conflict and is not a hateful man. Recall that Jesus equivocated hatred against your brother with murder in the heart. Church overseers who promote hatred of opponents, are not fit for the position of overseer.

To clarify, I’m also not suggesting that it’s the overseer’s job to help everyone see the good in everyone. Evil people exist. Jesus also told His disciples to beware the leaven of the Pharisees. As Christians, we understand that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one is good, no not one. With that said, we don’t seek the good in people, we magnify the goodness of God in Christ and call all to repentance and faith through the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

I say all of that simply to make the point that the overseer, more than any other Christian, should be able to maintain an even temperament in the face of trouble because when the church comes under fire, he will be out in front of it and his response to it will bring it shame or glory. A man who is prone to wrath is not an ideal candidate for overseeing the church and an overseer who is prone to wrath is not qualified to hold the position.

Our last point for part three is that the overseer must not be a lover of money. It seems easy enough to indict the prosperity preachers and obvious money hustlers and pulpit pimps to say that they should not be overseeing the church, but I think there is a bit of nuance that comes to this quality that goes beyond mere dollars and cents. With money comes comfort. Jesus says that one cannot serve both God and money, and this was told to all, not just leaders. If one wishes to serve God, they must expect a certain level of discomfort. They won’t be preaching the most popular message.

It’s hard to preach life changing truth when you’re not only afraid to offend, but you’re afraid offended people won’t give. Overseers’ lives will go against the grain of society and they should not expect affluence to follow them. For that reason, it is vital that an overseer is not obsessed with money.

Is your pastor a drunk? He’s probably not an alcoholic, but does he exhibit proclivities towards addictive or compulsive behaviors? If anyone has challenged him on these matters, does he push back or can he accept the criticism and see where he might need to readjust his life? Is your pastor an angry man who can’t control his rage and encourages hatred against opponents? Is your pastor obsessed with money to the point where he plays patty cake with sin in the pulpit as to not offend the big givers? All these problems can be a reason to reconsider a pastoral appointment. Join me in part 4 as we close this series.

Rob Porter is a contributor for The Daily Brief and host of Project World View a podcast that gives a philosophical and religious view to complex issues in a easy to digest format in bite size increments. It can be heard of spotify, apple podcasts, or wherever you listen. Click the image below to follow him on Facebook

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