Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Office, Qualifications, and Life

We are coming up on the time of year where we see the saints days for Timothy and Titus.  We get Peter and Paul on Sundays this year -- Timothy and Titus flank Paul.  It's sort of one of those times where pastors get the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus brought up... and there is a reason this tends to annoy me.  Why?  Well, let's look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 for the list:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

 These are high standards that no one obtains to perfectly.  At least if we believe Jesus in Matthew 5 -- but they are the standards, the goals towards which all pastors should strive.

And yet, when discussions about the qualifications for pastors come up, or reasons for pastors being removed, everyone seems to stop at item number 1 - "husband of one wife."  Adultery.  Sexual scandals.  The salacious and juicy horrible stories that explain why a fellow gets the boot.  And yes - you diddle - you should be gone.  And then, of course, there are the debates about what happens if a man was divorced before he became a pastor... or even worse, what if his wife up  and leaves him - shock, horror!  Wringing of hands.

That is around 95% of the discussion on the "qualifications" for pastors.  95% might be a low estimate.  Yet there's a much longer list to follow -- and actually, most of those are the things that are more often to hurt and harm a congregation.

Yes - if your pastor is sleeping around in the congregation - that is bad.  But what happens if a preacher isn't self-controlled... runs his mouth?  How much damage can that do -- and to how many?  What if he's inhospitable... and more dangerously what if he hides his jerkish approaches under the guise of "being right"?  How much damage does that do to a congregation, to the preaching of the Gospel?  What of the warnings of conceit, of not being able to teach?

Adultery is bad - but unless the pastor is sleeping with EVERYONE - other than embarassment that's sort of contained to one or two families.  But disrespect spreads everywhere.  If he can't teach, that hits everyone.  Greed harms everyone.

Of course - part of it is that the non-adultery items are harder to pin on a guy.  A pastor can say, "I'm not quarrelsome, not really... but Bob just got me angry because he was wrong."  You can't say, "Well, I don't normally sleep around, but she looked good in that dress" and have anyone buy it.

"Husband of one wife" becomes the thing on the list that we can hang our hats on (if we ignore Matthew 5, but still)...  *I* have never had an affair, *I* am not divorced... so there's nothing to see or think about here... move along, move along.

God be merciful to us pastors, for the temptations surround us, as do plenty of paths to self-righteousness and the puffing up that Satan desires!

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