Over the years I've been involved in dozens of church planter assessments and the training of pastors and elders. The important task of training and installing servant leaders in God’s church is of utmost importance and the Lord in his kindness has shown us what to look for in those who would lead. In 1 Timothy and Titus we have a wonderful window into the character he desires for his leaders in the gospel community. As we read these texts something becomes resoundingly clear. God cares immensely about how men care for their own families and, in a sense, the qualification to be pastor or church leader begins at home. There are three particular passages that have leapt out to me over the years with some resounding clarity.
2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? – 1 Timothy 3:2-5
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you- 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. – Titus 1:5-6
These two passages describe a man who would desire to give oversight to and shepherd God’s church. There are many things we can see in these texts but I’ve highlighted the words husband of one wife (literally one-woman-man), household, children and church for you.
Furthermore, if one continues to read on in 1 Timothy 3 you will find similar language speaking of the church broadly in verses 14 and 15.
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. – 1 Timothy 3:14-15
If we take these passages together we notice something very important and indispensable to assessing and evaluating a leader for God’s church. Leadership in the household of God has as its qualification godly leadership in the home. When assessing pastors and church planters there is always a keen interest given to the men's leadership of those closest to him and for whom he is most responsible. How does he lovingly serve and lead his wife and children? This question must always be asked of those who would serve, shepherd and give oversight in the household of God. If you can’t manage the little house, you have no business overseeing the household of God. The home is a training ground for men who aspire to lead.
Yet to all the pastors and aspiring pastors out there I want to say something else in an equally clear way. Your wife and children are not "your qualification." What do I mean by this? Let me explain.
Recently, I sat on a panel discussing how as pastors and church planters are to care for those in our homes. Sober reminders were given to all that our first flock is in our house and that we should not neglect our families as we serve the family of God. Can we get an amen? Yes, we can. Yet something struck me during the discussion when we kept telling the men that their families were part of what qualifies them to be a pastor. We were speaking of women and children almost as something to be maintained in order to demonstrate or justify that we should be in our roles.
It is true that a man who does not manage his own family well is not fit to manage God's church. Yet I do not wish the brotherhood of ministers to see their family as something either hindering or helping them obtain a certain role or goal. What we need is more men who look with joy at the calling of God to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25) and to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
If we see our lives as having a woman to love and children to shepherd and raise we will serve them well as human beings made in the image of God. Out of love for Jesus and for our people, we should care deeply about how we steward the calling of husband and father. It is when we love and serve in this way, out of love for God and closest neighbor, that men should be recognized as potential candidates for being good pastors.
So brothers, your family is not your qualification! You've been given a wife to love and some kids to raise and this should have our full focus and zeal. When we shepherd this little flock with skill, it may mean that God will call you to leadership in the larger flock of a local congregation. If we see life ordered in this way, we also can free our wives and kids from the fishbowl mentality of the church where a pastor worries what "his family looks like" to those who employ him. Believe me, everyone can do without this dance.
I want my family to flourish not so folks in the church will think this or that of me. I want my family to flourish for the glory of God, their own joy and their own true good. Is my privilege to manage my household well and to teach my children to love and follow Jesus. If this results in formed character and a platform from which to lead well in the church, we then joyfully accept His call.