What Does It Mean to Be “Qualified” for Ministry?
In 1 Timothy 3:1–6 and in Titus 1:5–9, God requires that pastors conform to an uncompromising, holy standard. When it comes to being qualified for this sacred and high calling, it’s easy to say with Paul, “Who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16). The resounding answer is “No one!”— That is, no one apart from God’s enabling grace. Paul clarifies, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:5–6). Therefore, by God’s grace all shepherds can and must meet these qualifications.
The rest of this article will define God’s qualifications for pastoral ministry, explain the process of raising up men to meet these standards, and then consider why pastors must live by these standards for the spiritual health of the church.
What are the biblical qualifications for a pastor?
Except for the ability to teach, every pastoral qualification focuses on character. These qualifications are not snapshots of a man’s life but characteristics—consistent patterns of his life.
The qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1–6 and Titus 1:5–9 tell the story of a godly leader. What is he like in his home? Is he a one-woman man? Does he have the skill to lead relationally? If not, then he cannot lead the church. What is his reputation with unbelievers on his job and in his community? He must be godly Monday through Saturday, not just religious on Sunday. Is he a bully, or is he loving and kind?
Of course, no one aspiring to be a pastor should declare himself qualified. The church must assess and affirm his character. Without the evidence of these grace-produced qualities in his life, the church must not affirm that a man is fit for this sacred office. Charisma and talent cannot be used as criteria to supplant character and faithfulness.
How can men become qualified?
God calls leaders (1 Tim. 3:1) and gifts the church with them (Eph. 4:11). But before they serve, they must be equipped. Jesus called the twelve and sent them out to preach, but not until he first spent time with them to train them (Mark 3:13–14).
Seminaries may provide wonderful training opportunities, but pastors ultimately learn to pastor from other pastors. Paul saw God’s grace in young Timothy, so he mentored him (Acts 16:3), demonstrating the grace-produced character of a qualified life (2 Tim. 3:11–12). Men must be shown what it means to be godly leaders. Therefore, pastors must use Paul’s list in 1 Timothy 3:1–6 as a discipling guide to prepare men for ministry. Conversely, pastors must use Paul’s list in Titus to keep unqualified men away from the pastorate. The bottom line is that every man who serves the church as a pastor must live a life characterized by Paul’s list of qualifications.
Why must churches require that their pastors meet Paul’s list of qualifications?
Well, the simple answer is because God says so. God speaks through his Word, and his Word says that pastors must be men who meet these standards.
Furthermore, the church is God’s. He purchased it with his own blood (Acts 20:28), so God sets the standard for who leads it. The command must be is the leading verb throughout the list of qualifications. God didn’t leave the pastor’s job description for churches to determine. He wrote them himself, and they are non-negotiable. The man of God must be blameless. His life must be free from legitimate scandal and positively conform to the qualifications set by God. Where leaders lead, people follow. Leaders therefore must be blameless because God desires blamelessness of all of his people (Phil. 2:15).
Through his death and resurrection Jesus reconciles rebels to live in a holy, loving union with the Father. Christ raises up leaders and gives them as gifts to the church to show believers how to do that (Phil. 3:17)—how to live holy lives that please their holy God.
My dearly beloved pastors, it matters how we live. May the measureless love of our Father, who gave us his holy Son to save us from our sin, fill our hearts so that we delight in pursuing holiness. In the end, people will be like their leaders, and Jesus died to make his people, his bride, holy. Therefore, let every church say “amen,” and let every true church pray for and raise up godly pastors whose lives adorn the gospel of grace. In our tumultuous times of dark distress, may our churches radiate with the brilliance of the glory of his grace, that we might all appear as lights of Christ’s saving and sanctifying power.