My life alongside God's word, volume 3. 'The pastor's own Christian life' section.
– by Israel Angelo Adeldong
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task”, 1 Timothy 3:1.
From the outset of the Church, Jesus declared to Simon Peter that He was going to establish His Church on the rock of faith. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (hell) will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”, Matthew 16:17-19. Peter’s name means rock. Based on this declaration, the need for leadership and the pastoral care of all followers of Jesus helping build His Church, takes legitimacy, authority and power. Someone who Jesus Himself appoints, and to whom He gives the “keys” of authority, power and authenticity, is to care for God’s flock, the Church, which is the body of Jesus Christ on earth. The apostle Paul recognised this important need when he set a standard with the essential characteristics and qualifications that the person seeking to become a pastor must fulfil before he takes office. The body of Christ needs order and organisation, sound teaching of the Bible’s doctrinal truths against all false teaching, proper worship, order, exhortation and edification of the followers of Christ, and discipline for individuals who sin. Therefore the characteristics and qualifications for ministry in the Sudanese and South Sudanese churches, as elsewhere, demand that spiritual leaders must be beyond reproach themselves and set a standard for other believers to emulate. These characteristics and qualifications are applicable to various church offices as we read in Paul’s pastoral writings.
In the New Testament earliest church there were three key terms used for the office of a pastor:
1. Bishop, as used in the Bible and early Christian contexts, is derived from the Greek episkopos from which the English term Episcopal is derived. It’s original, political sense referred to the city administrator, inspector or financial manager. For the Essene Jews of the Qumran Community it was used to refer to their overseers who preached, taught, presided, exercised care, authority and enforced discipline.
2. Elder, Greek presbuteros, was used to indicate spiritual maturity, not based upon age, but on Christian spiritual growth seen in dedication, maturity and walking with God.
3. Pastor, Greek poiemen, originally was used for a “shepherd”. It describes a man with a heart of concerned compassion for those over whom he has been placed as their key spiritual leader. He may or may not have a stellar resume but he will have heard and received a clear call from God, have clear vision and conviction, have the ability to preach powerfully, teach authoritatively, to pastor and keep his church growing and thriving, ably satisfying the spiritual hunger and thirst of his sheep. A pastor is a dedicated man who can counsel wisely, who has been proved to be flawless and trustworthy in administration, an honest man who relates equally to all ages in his congregation, who builds relationships easily, who joyfully sings praising the Lord in his daily life, who knows a little about almost everything from horticulture to agriculture, mechanics to motherhood, and how to help people through the havoc caused by disasters in human life. While doing all of this to the best of his ability, he must live above reproach, respecting everyone and everything, and most importantly live Christianly by feeding on the living word of God daily, meditating on it diligently so that he can be apt to teach the congregation, making fervent, persevering and earnest intercessory prayers. This will keep him from falling into the temptations and snares of the devil, the lusts of the flesh, and the love of the material world.
In a nutshell, according to Paul’s emphasis, the bishop, the elder and the pastor must be men who primarily exhibit godliness in attitudes, way of life, morality, ethics, character and relationships with women and girls. The way they dress must be modest, discreet and acceptable. Their spirituality must indicate continual growth into Christian maturity.
In this short endeavour to describe the pastor’s own life, I will solely depend on the Holy Bible, Bible dictionaries and commentaries for explanations of the theologically difficult terms. I will also use my pastoral and administrative knowledge and expertise, which mainly comes from the Sudanese/African context. I will also use explanations from my current pastor at Westwood Baptist church, Fresno, California. Pastor Sam Farlow’s teaching on the “Qualifications, Conduct and Characteristics of a pastor”, found in
1 Timothy 3:1-7, I have found very useful. I am tempted to quote word for word some of his sentences, as I do not want to lose the effect of his teaching. I want the same benefit and blessing to extend to my colleagues and friends, the Sudanese and South Sudanese pastors. By excerpting from my pastor’s teaching, I am not seeking celebrity, fame or financial gain. These will never be my intention. My sole aim is to present what God has put on my heart to share with my co-partners in the Lord’s vineyard. It is my prayer that by reading this article your own spiritual growth, maturity and perspective will be widened and you will gain greater understanding of your pastoral duty. To fully attain this, pray much, be loyal to your Lord Jesus, be faithful, obedient to your Lord Jesus and worthy of His trust.
I will mainly shed light on the essential qualifications and characteristics of the pastor based on 1st & 2nd Timothy, Titus and a few Bible portions elsewhere. These biblical and spiritual qualities are basic prerequisites for the men whom God calls to serve in the office of a pastor.
Before I end my introduction let me remind all Christians that these abilities to do the job, life qualities and things that must be seen before Christian ministry can be successful, are mandatory for all lay Christians, both males and females. They should be seriously, observed and applied, then obeyed with absolute honesty and reverence. Together as local congregations, we should strive to exhibit these practical godly qualities throughout all our earthly life and ministries.
The pastor’s calling is a divine calling
Divine calling is a method used by God, through which a person is elected and ordained to serve in a certain church office, as God is seen to direct. The person then uses the abilities and qualifications that God has given them. The individual who is called by God must clearly receive the call, just as the Old Testament prophets and New Testament disciples did, see Jeremiah 1:4-10; Mark 1:14-20, 3:13-19. Often time divine calling includes both spiritual leadership and political/civic responsibilities. This divine calling was demonstrated by Jesus Christ who Himself was the Messiah, the Prophet, the King, Son of God and Son of Man. Paul declares that he became a servant of Jesus Christ by the commission God gave him so that he may present the word of God to the Gentiles in its fullness, Colossians 1:25. He was affirming to his readers that he did not appoint himself, but he received the divine calling from our Lord Jesus Himself, Acts 9: 1-31; Romans 1:1;
1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1. Notice carefully how the words “servant” and “apostle” come together in Romans 1:1.
In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 Paul starts with the term bishop/overseer which carries the administrative and leadership role, since Timothy was appointed as the leader of the church in Ephesus and was given the authoritative mandate to organise and lead the church spiritually and administratively.
Contemporary use of the term pastor varies throughout Christian denominations. The Church of England/Anglican/Episcopal churches use it beside priest, vicar and curate; Roman Catholics beside the title of Pope, cardinal and priest; the Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox churches alongside Pope, priest and deacon. Methodists use the term District Leader with superintendent and minister; Presbyterians and Evangelicals use moderator with minister and elder; Baptists use general superintendent, area superintendent, minister and pastor. In the Sudanese Church of Christ and the Sudan Interior Church the terms used are president, pastor, elder, evangelist and deacon. All these terms carry spiritual and leadership responsibilities that must be clearly bestowed on, and received by, an individual from God.
Whatever the job title, spiritual and administrative roles are to be performed by the key spiritual leader. He must be the embodiment of his role, spiritually mature and have attained an always deepening relationship with God, presbuteros. He must be wise enough to rule well over the flock as the spiritual leader, episkopos. He must be a man who has an always growing shepherd’s heart of concern for the spiritual well being of his people, poimen.
Notice this divine calling is limited to men only, 1 Timothy 3:1 quoted above. Bible versions like the NIV, the NLT, ESV and CEV all use “anyone” or “whoever”. But the KJV and NASB choose to use the word “man”, similar to “This is a true saying, if any man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work”, AKJV. Grammatically the word “any” is a masculine form and we can see all the pronouns of verses 2-6 are also masculine (he, his), which clearly denotes that this divine calling is mainly for men as it was practised in Old/New Testament times. Today some liberal churches and traditional western churches violate this divine calling by ordaining women into the office of priesthood, claiming that women have equal rights. If their claim is true, why did God not clearly call and appoint a woman to the priesthood and why did Jesus not include women among the twelve closest disciples? The apostles observed and taught the same principle they received from our Lord Jesus Christ. They had women who helped and served them with their physical and social needs but taught that men were to lead churches. Some liberal and conservative churches argue that in the Old Testament there were prophetesses and political or civic women leaders such as Anna who was a prophetess in the Temple, Miriam – Aaron and Moses’ sister, who was also a prophetess; and Deborah who was a prophetess and judge. Yes, true! But no women held any priesthood office or played priesthood roles did they? We should lovingly and fearfully follow the Bible’s examples of divine calling into Christian ministry; walking circumspectly rather than carelessly, imitating God rather than men and living carefully in Jesus Christ’s love. Bear in mind that the keys to successful ministry are only achieved through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to walk in a way that honours God, Ephesians 5:1, 15-17; Exodus 20:20; Proverbs 16:6. Pastors, we ought to be extra careful regarding how we live our lives as we walk daily among possible dangers that snare our way. Struggle manfully to climb the perfection ladder while in this mortal life. It is vital we take each step with Jesus wisely and cautiously, not as a fool whom the Bible says walks carelessly. The wise person watches each step so they do not stumble and fall. Let our ultimate goal be to imitate God in holiness, love, kindness, mercy, humility and faithfulness. As we continue trust God to rule our hearts. Seek to serve Him and our feet can walk with Him on His way, one step at a time. Let us all adopt this short prayer:
How much we need to walk a measured pace,
to live the life of which we speak,
until we see Christ’s face”.
The divine calling must be a passionate calling
The phrase “If a man aspires”, 1 Timothy 3:1 AKJV, literally means if a man reaches out after something, to stretch out oneself to grasp something. The term has nothing to do with internal motives and inclinations. It rather indicates the hearty burning desire driving the external act of taking steps to become an overseer and serve God faithfully, after receiving a clear call from the Lord our Master. The word “desires”, used in other Bible versions, denotes that a pastor must have a true inward motivation that drives him to continue tirelessly and relentlessly. In other words the term means he must have a passionate compulsion. Paul, in using this term, was saying if the pastor doesn’t have a passion for being in the ministry, he had better find a secular job he can enjoy. Let me clearly warn contemporary pastors who are now in the Christian ministry this is a sacred and crucial ministry given by Jesus Christ only to the faithful servants whom He has called into service in His vineyard. Be sure that you have received the divine calling. Those who have appointed themselves and entered into the sacred ministry are thieves, false teachers and prophets who will receive much greater punishment at the judgement, Matthew 7:15-20; James 3:1, Jude 3-16. It has been proven in our generation that many have accepted the appointment into the office of a minister of the church just because they failed in the secular sector, or they did not do well academically, thus finding it impossible to find a job. So they found their way into the church to gain a guaranteed living for themselves and their families.
These are the false teachers, prophets and evangelists who have invited, appointed and employed themselves in the church using cunning, outward pretence. It is simulation to try and convince the members of the churches and denominations in which they serve, not because they want to serve the Lord, but because they are attracted by large numbers in the congregations which imply larger amounts of tithes and offerings, giving perhaps a good salary, a large house, and big luxury car. Some of them are trying to avoid their academic failure and inferiority complex that haunts them. They will be called upon to preach to large lay congregations who will give them honour and applause for their eloquent and rhetoric speeches thus achieving their goal of fame, which they did not obtain through education. Sadly some ministers found their way into the ministry just because their relatives and friends convinced them to join the church, or because they are pastors’ children, missionaries’ children, elders’ children, evangelists’ children or their relatives are involved in Christian ministries. Such men entered the ministry under pressure and conviction from human beings rather than receiving any divine calling from the Lord of the vineyard. To give an example of this last group of ministers, I share this illustration:
“In 1988 a missionary and his wife who served ten years in Taiwan then returned to USA and joined a pastor and his wife in their church in California. The pastor and his wife were very glad to have him and his family help them, but quickly they found out that the missionary, i.e. the husband, did not have much interest for ministry. In fact, by the time two years had passed by, the pastor really wondered why he had chosen the pastorate for his occupation. In the end, the mission agency that both families were with asked him to resign because they did not sense a genuine burden for ministry with a passion for people’s hearts. When the pastor asked him about his dismissal decision he said, “It was actually a bit of relief for me, because all these years I have been trying to convince myself that what my Bible College and my wife had wanted me to do was what I really felt God calling me to do”. The reality was that he was influenced by his service as a military man in Japan, then marrying a pastor’s daughter who always wanted to be married to a pastor or a missionary. So, when he heard the plea for missionaries to Taiwan, he assumed he was called by God to become a missionary in Taiwan, assuring himself by saying, “surely this must be God’s direction to utilise my wife’s experience”. But he never did really feel a divine calling to pastor God’s flock”.
This missionary is from the group that the apostle Paul warned the pastors and elders of Ephesus about saying, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I did not stop warning each of you night and day with tears.
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”, Acts 20:28-35.
The divine calling is a demanding calling
The divine calling is usually demanding, accompanied by responsibilities, and achievements become known by expected end results. Employers always set vision, objectives and goals, showing the end results they expect to achieve through all hired employees. When God calls a servant into His service, He expects him to be active, productive and successful. When the apostle Paul addressed the Thessalonians regarding work, he used a term that means, “to labour to the point of exhaustion”, 1Thessalonians 5:12. Christian pastoral life is not, and will never be, a life of ease and laziness, 2 Timothy 2:1-10, 15; John 15:16-17.
Sadly, many pastors in Sudan and South Sudan today regard the Christian ministry as a means of accumulating wealth and getting rich, 1Timothy 6:9-10. What Paul describes in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 does not describe them. God’s calling demands that a pastor should:
be totally dedicated to the ministry of God
be concerned with people
feed and care, spiritually and practically, for those who have been put under his care
know that he will give full account to God regarding his task
Such a demanding calling becomes a target of the devil, who usually attacks the most faithful and dedicated men of God. Therefore as a pastor, when you are doing your duty effectively, be sure you will become increasingly a target of Satan. He will use the mean-spirited criticisms of unbelievers, and most likely, some negatives from carnal and disobedient Christians. Finally, you will be compared to near impossible to attain standards of righteousness. Let me advise you to be thick-skinned enough to stand firm without wavering so that you may be able to handle all the devil’s darts, which he throws at you to discourage you and thwart your work for Jesus Christ. You will be overwhelmingly bewildered to find your own colleagues, pastors, elders, evangelists, plus members of your own church, turn against you and falsely accuse you of different flaws and misconduct, just because they envy your faithful, loyal, honest and successful ministry achievements.
This has happened to me personally three times:
1. In 1992 I was accused of 21 wrongdoings by the then Sudanese Church Of Christ (SCOC) president, who was upset with me because I was too strict on controlling the church’s finance and vehicles. Some were not used for church work, but for family purposes. He was able to convince a majority of the General Church Council (GCC) members with these accusations. They voted and sent me out of office.
2. In June 1996 the elders and some members of the Local Church Committee (LCC) filed nine accusations against me, although they later dropped three and kept ‘the six agendas’. Three then Zagalona local church elders, with some members who were persuaded by some pastors who envied the ‘Zagalona sewing centre and workshop’, tried to get hold of it by force. Again the SCOC president, two pastor colleagues, and members from other local churches joined my elders in these false accusations. I am so sad to mention this action cost SCOC dearly, resulting in properties being damaged and lost, the closure and occupation of our church headquarters office and compound by the police for eight years, and most grievously of all the experience SCOC went through of internal division during those eight years when the security occupied the headquarters compound. The church was dragged to the secular court by church leaders, who hoped that the court would decide which party was legally right, A or B. Unfortunately it was just a waste of time, money and energy, because the court did not rule in favour of any group. The judge sent us to go back and resolve our own differences, which we did during the joint GCC meetings in Kauda town in 2005, under the presidency of Pastor Nabil Kodi Omar, when the SCOC churches reunited again.
3. In January 2003, during the GCC meetings in Mayo local church under the presidency of pastor Bolos Suleman Bushara, a group of pastors, elders and some members of the GCC voted me out of office again as the General Secretary (GS) of SCOC, claiming that my term of office had ended, while constitutionally I had another 18 months to go. This group had vested interests in the office of the GS and they also wanted to get hold of the education funds and the schools, which were primarily established for the displaced children of SCOC and their communities. They successfully plotted and voted me out of office.
It is worth mentioning that during all of these accusations I pleaded for the church to prove me guilty, saying that whatever I had taken from SCOC I would readily repay to the church or to any individual from whom I had taken it. To this day no one was able to prove anything against me. Moreover I want to point out that during all of these three times I remained calm and I sought to obey the Bible and the SCOC constitution. I did not fight back although the groups tried to provoke me to anger. I readily respected their decisions the first and the third times. For the second I suspended my pastoral and spiritual work until I was proved not guilty by a committee appointed by the acting President of SCOC during that period.
Extremely sad to mention is the court case in which a pastor and several elders and members accused me with six members of Zagalona local church committee for accepting, receiving and welcoming a group of Zagalona members, who returned to Zagalona local church after they defected and went away during the period of the SCOC division. The allegations made were:
Causing irritation, turbulence and commotion in the church during worship services
Convincing members to return to Zagalona local church, by persuasion
Confiscating their worship centre.
Based on these accusations, three members were arrested after the revival programme and were held at a police station. When I went to release them I was also arrested and joined them in custody. The police asked me to inform the remaining three of my members to come. With joy and euphoria I did. Immediately they came and all seven of us were held for seven hours of grilling and interrogation, 5:00pm to 12:00 midnight, before we were released on a financial bond posted by another elder. With apparent malice, hatred, envy and pride, the accusing pastor and his group shamefully perjured themselves to substantiate their allegations to the court. The process continued for one full year before the pastor and his group withdrew the case when they failed to substantiate or prove their allegations against us. By God’s grace we never questioned, nor fought back or retaliated until this day. The accusers adamantly rejected the Kauda GCC resolution No.1, “All defected groups must return to their local churches”. This group refused to comply and formed their own local church instead.
Friends and colleagues, I am writing this sadly, with candour, authenticity and pure heart. I only want to set these personal experiences before you as a warning for you, pastors. I do not want you to be taken by surprise, to be confused, annoyed or impatient as I was the first time I faced these challenges from within the church, even from my fellow Christians, elders, evangelists and pastors. In time I discovered that it was the devil who was fighting against the church and against me, using the closest individuals with whom I worked and served even from within the church. If you have received the divine calling and you are diligently faithful and successful at your work in God’s eyes, you will become the direct object of Satan’s warfare. Therefore watch out and pray so that you may not fall and enter into the temptations of similarly evil men, Matthew 26: 36-42.
Please do not misunderstand me by thinking I am trying to boast by these examples. I am not. I will never boast because as a human being I am not perfect. I have my own weaknesses and have made many mistakes. I just intend these examples as a warning for those who have sensed and received the divine calling, and who aspire to the fine and noble work of Christian servant leadership, so that you may not fall into the temptations and snares of Satan. Be watchful and pray for wisdom, discernment, guidance, protection, patience, with the power to stand and fight the good fight without reproach, defeating Satan and his agents who are looking for reasons to attack you and destroy your ministry. Beware! Be vigilant! Watch out! And pray!
Characteristics and qualifications of a godly pastor
“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil. He must have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap”, 1 Timothy 3:2-7.
We will now examine these absolute requirements for those in church leadership.
1 Timothy 3:2 begins, “the overseer must be”. Notice the word “must” means the things listed are necessary and essentially important. There is no negotiation over these issues.
A pastor must be above reproach
A godly pastor is required to be “above reproach”, vs2. This literally means, “not able to be held guilty”. The man who is above reproach could not legitimately be arrested and held by people as if he were a criminal. There must be nothing for which he can be fairly and reasonably accused of regarding his moral and ethical life. This quality is asked of all Christians, but most especially of pastors, because if one were taken by some obviously sinful moral defects they would preclude him from setting the highest standard for godly conduct. He must be a model for the congregation to follow and he must not give the enemies of the church legitimate reasons to attack it. Let me make it very clear that God is asking all Christians to be above reproach, but obviously pastors must take extra care for the following reasons:
1. Godly pastors are targets of Satan and he exerts effort using his cunning ways and powers to assault them, often with more severe temptations than others, especially using money, adultery, wine and pride. On battlegrounds it is expected that those on the front lines will bear the brunt of the opposition. Just so godly pastors are on the front lines in spiritual warfare.
2. The fall into sin of a pastor has greater potential for shameful harm to the cause of Christ. Satan knows that when a shepherd falls, the effect on both the sheep and watching unbelievers is devastatingly great.
3. The pastor’s deeper knowledge of the truth brings accountability to live out truth and will bring greater chastening if and when he falls into sin.
4. The pastor’s sins are hypocritical because while preaching against them, he actually lives in them.
The pastor must be the husband of one wife
Still in 3:2 this literally means he must be, ‘a one-woman man’, that is he cannot be a polygamist. He cannot be single or a widower. He cannot be married more than once, unless he is divorced and remarried in the case of his wife’s unfaithfulness, or due to widowhood. The clearest biblical interpretation is that he can only have one wife during his lifetime and be of a ‘one-woman’ mindset. Sadly many men of Christian ministry find these conditions very difficult to respect. Although a pastor may be a monogamist, he can still be as immoral as a polygamist, or as nominal Christians, or even as unbelievers. He may have one or more ‘other women’ with whom he continues to have secret affairs.
Please note that the biblical concept of a ‘one-woman man’ means a pastor must have a ‘one-woman mindset’. This is the most stringent interpretation of any because it demands that a man must be morally and emotionally loyal only to his wife. More specifically:
His romantic and physical affections must be given only to his wife
He must make sure that there is no fantasising about some other women
He should not be prone to pornography, homosexuality, or the visual stimulation of any other woman
He ought not to be a flirtatious type of man, with the danger of wandering emotional intentions
He should be absolutely faithful to this one woman, his wife. His faithfulness must be so strong that he never even gives a second thought to having an affair with another woman
With such mindset a pastor should never desire to be as immoral as they come! Rather he ought to desire to be as moral as he can possibly be. Friends, here is the dilemma of most of us ministers of the word. Many of us struggle with lust and immoral thoughts as we interact with females in our daily lives. Sadly, some pastors who did not dedicate their lives to a living relationship with Jesus by fervent and earnest prayers have been lured into adultery. Serene women have cunningly enticed and destroyed many strong men of God. So, watch, watch again, and watch out! Be extra careful in dealing with the female members of your church, the community, the neighbourhood; your female secretary, female youth, and especially single women, needy widows or hurting women. I personally know a minister who had a successful ministry. Sadly, at the same time, he was living in sin, living an adulterous life with another woman until God sent a ‘Nathan’ to confront ‘David’ and tell him, “you are the man”! 2 Samuel 12: 7. Thank God, like David, this minister repented and confessed his sin, but despite God’s absolute forgiveness, the marks and effects of his sin continued to follow his household, 2 Samuel 12:8 to 18:33. My dear co-partners, ministers of the word, let us get down on our knees and seek God’s grace and power so that we can stand up against this lethal temptation, which has led many mighty men and women of God to fall, ruining their spiritual lives and their ministry impact.
The apostle Paul himself struggled with sin in his life while ministering as we read in Romans 7:7 onward. He concludes, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”, verses 24-25.
Let me spur my readers on to be men and women of prayer so that you may continue to be a ‘one-woman man’ (or ‘a one man-woman’) through and through, bearing in mind that this is the highest standard of moral character for the people of God. Ask yourself this question daily, “What should I do to make sure that my heart and my eyes are not attracted by the affections and beauty of the opposite sex, in order to stay above reproach?” One thing is certain, you cannot pray too much.
The pastor must be temperate
The term temperate in 1 Timothy 3:2 denotes the idea of wineless or unmixed with wine. The Greek word nephalios means “free from the influence of intoxicants”. In some Bible translations the term is translated as “sober”, “sober-minded”, “sensible”, “watchful” or “vigilant”. Sometimes the Bible speaks about wine in a positive way, for example Psalm 104: 15, where God makes “wine that gladdens the heart of man”. But in most cases wine is described as a dangerously destructive weapon and it kills millions of lives each year. Solomon wrote: “It is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights”, Proverbs 31: 4-5. This means that a pastor is to be alert and watchful at all times, because if he is affected by wine, it will hinder him from being a sober, temperate and vigilant minister. Wine may lead to weariness, dizziness and drunkenness. Pastors need to be clear headed, alert and watchful, avoiding any excesses that would hinder their capacity to serve in a godly way. Whatever might interfere with his spiritual life, or control him physically, should be avoided, totally eliminated from his life. In a nutshell, he should not allow anything such as the effects of wine, other alcohol, drugs or even taking excessive hobby time to diminish his clear-headedness for a God-honouring, even-tempered Christian ministry.
The pastor must be prudent
Prudent in 1 Timothy 2:3, means acting only after careful thought or planning. A person who is well disciplined and knows how to correctly order his priorities when making decisions sensibly with his right mind, ably making a balanced judgment, is a prudent person. This is referring to a self-controlled person, who is serious about spiritual matters, and typically has well-thought out plans without the need for snap judgements. He is not cold or humourless, but he views the world around him through God’s eyes. This is the person who sees little frivolity to be found regarding the prospect of unsaved persons ending up in hell for eternity. A prudent pastor will discipline himself in order to have a steady mind about the things of God. He must never rush in judgement, but rather be thoughtful, earnest and cautious in all his plans, be it administrative, pastoral or financial. He must put foremost his care for his church and his family. These are the kind of ministers who excel in their work, thus setting good examples of servanthood, being godly men of God, men who are obediently fulfilling God’s will and purpose in calling them into the divine and noble Christian ministry.
The pastor must be respectable
The Greek kosmios from which the English cosmos (universe) is derived denotes the sense of order, definitely the opposite of chaotic. In our context,
1 Timothy 3:4 does not mean neatness in housekeeping, but rather refers to someone who is not confused but deliberate in what he does. It describes a person who is not characterised by disorderly behaviour. The term also carries the idea of prudence and denotes the idea of using good self-discipline with the ability to determine the steps necessary to bring order to the church. This enables him to be responsible both inside and outside of the church family, as he shows integrity, honesty, humility, respect and love for all humanity. To be a respectable Christian means to live by the accepted moral standards of a genuinely Christian society. Church members are all called to do this within the larger community in which God has placed them.
We are still looking at 1 Timothy 3:1-7, especially verse 2. Having seen key characteristics and qualifications for a Christian pastor, shepherd or overseer, we are moving on through their duties and especially their own discipleship.
The pastor should work hard to fulfil the following required duties that will prove to himself and to others if he is a true servant of God or not. Please take time to carefully meditate on these responsibilities. Make sure you, as a pastor, know them, apply them and show them in your daily life.
The pastor must be hospitable
The Greek word philoxenia is a compound word that literally means, “a love for strangers”. It is an often-mentioned virtue in the Scriptures. It is easily misunderstood when taken to mean ‘entertaining friends’. But it does not mean this. The intended meaning in the days of the New Testament context is, “showing hospitality to strangers”. Because of persecution, poverty, orphans, widows and the travelling Christians of the early church, hospitality was essential. The followers of Jesus were advised to welcome strangers into their homes. Ancient inns were notoriously perverted, bad and dangerous! Many were brothels or places where travellers may be robbed or beaten. Even today many of us hesitate to welcome and show hospitality to strangers because of our concerns about rampant crimes. We are uncertain of someone we have never met before to the extent we have developed a paranoia, so afraid that we are no longer willing or prepared to be hospitable to strangers, to the poor, to orphans, to widows or to the elderly who are in and around our communities.
To obediently fulfil this biblical virtue, few Christians today are willing to put aside some money for booking a place in guesthouse or hotel for the visiting stranger, if we do not have enough room in our own home. The majority of Christians appear neither willing nor prepared to assist a stranger. They hope that a stranger will never come their way. Given the fact that contemporary incidents of robbery, killings, rapes and assaults are many, it is perhaps understandable. But it has become too convenient for many Christians to overcautiously avoid these latent dangers when dealing with strangers.
This may sound acceptable to most Christians in the Western world and in some big cities around the globe, where living standards are too costly thus forcing those who are desperately in need of the essential needs for survival to commit atrocious crimes. But we must always ask, ‘what would Jesus do in such cases?’. What does He want us to do for any given stranger who crosses our path with a simple need that we can actually meet? He definitely wants us to show hospitality to strangers. Remember He said:
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”, Matthew 25:35-36. As pastors we should set the example in showing hospitality to strangers before we ask other followers of Christ to fulfil this biblically important obligation themselves.
A story was told of a godly Christian who welcomed a vagrant who was passing in his neighbourhood and needed some place to stay. Although he had never met the needy person, nor did they have a room in their house to have the stranger stay, he welcomed the man overnight. He trusted the stranger’s claim to be a born again Christian when he saw a demonstration of trustworthiness on the surface of his life. This godly Christian was mindful of the story of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told His followers. He mimicked that example remembering Jesus told His followers to go and do likewise, Luke 10:25-37. The family had taken a big time chance of being ripped off or being attacked and robbed by someone who had neither credentials nor references, just because they were willing to joyfully be hospitable to someone in need. Friends, this is the kind of spirit the apostle Paul is saying that all pastors and their wives should have.
We may ask the same question as the lawyer did to Jesus, “who is my neighbour?” Luke 10:29. The answer to our question is this. Our neighbour can be:
· the person you find going door-to-door seeking help
· the person who just shows up at a worship service unexpectedly
· the house neighbour whom you have never had a chance to meet
· the fellow worshipper whom you have never known well
· the elderly person whom you know and are aware of his spiritual needs
· the disabled person with all of her physical needs
To meet this required hospitality – as long as they lead by example – pastors should spur on their members to form groups of “Friends Loving One Another Together” This F.L.O.A.T evening/night ministry is where church members get together, and deliberately sit next to various people they see in our church Sunday after Sunday, yet with whom they remain virtual strangers. Opening homes to one another and sharing meals together will strengthen our love for each other and help us to be prepared to show hospitality to strangers, and especially to the “moderate strangers” within our own fellowships”.
Therefore, a pastor must be characterised by a desire and the practice of opening both his heart and his home to show love to strangers. This is one of the most effective ways to present the good news and love of Jesus to strangers. They sometimes come off the streets for a meal and a warm bed, but of course they do need to hear the Gospel of salvation, the love and care Jesus has for them. There are many other ways a pastor should use in attempting to reach out to the strangers in his neighbourhood, encouraging them to come to Christ and join the church. By so doing a pastor will prove to his members and to the community that he genuinely has a philoxenia ‘hospitable’ heart, being a man who is willing to truly demonstrate Christ’s loving, friendly, generous behaviour towards strangers.
A pastor must be able to teach
Teaching is one of the components of the Great Commission, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”, Matthew 28:20.
Paul was keen that Timothy and other younger ministers could teach. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men, who will also be qualified to teach others”, 2 Timothy 2:2.
“Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers”, 1 Timothy 4:11-16.
Based on these references above we realise that this is the only qualification in Paul’s list for Timothy that relates specifically to the pastor’s giftedness and function. It is also the one qualification that sets him apart from the office of a deacon, 1 Timothy 3:8-10. This entails a pastor should have the spiritual gift of teaching, which is completely different from the mere human capacity to impart truth. This teaching is only possible with spiritual giftedness. In secular education we find a lot of teachers who have excellent ability to convey information, but that does not make them pastor-teachers. The pastor-teacher has a Holy Spirit given enabling to teach truths from the word of God applicably and effectively. This spiritual gift is not just ‘the gift of the gab’. It is the gift given to a person when he stands in the pulpit, or leads the Bible study, to always present a clear, authentic, genuine, life-changing message for the audience. He himself will sense God’s direction and guidance in giving the message. His teaching is always an outcome of the hard work of his Bible studying and sermon preparation, from which he proclaims the whole truth of the word of God. Therefore a pastor should never cease from studying the word, meditating upon it daily, obeying and applying it to his own life before teaching it to others. By so doing he will dramatically grow in knowledge of the word, in wisdom, in grace, in love, and he will thrive spiritually until he reaches toward maturity, becoming more and more like Christ.
Let me warn you from one pastor to another, never, never, and never merely go through the motions of preaching a bunch of old sermons because you have no time to pray, study, and prepare a message, to let the Holy Spirit lead you and speak to your own heart afresh. Many ministers are so lazy, reluctant to do the preparation until Saturday night for Sunday’s services. Then they will take the Bible and browse through it before going back to their old preaching notes to quickly choose a message without any prayer or application to their own hearts! Such practice will preclude the precision and power that God intends to impart through the pastor to His (God’s) children.
A pastor must always maintain the habit of diligent studying the word, in order to teach it with effectiveness and with humility, honesty and holiness. For a pastor to teach without preparation but with arrogance and pride will be to undermine the very truths he is trying to get across to his people. Friends, only teaching with holiness will allow your life to be a prototype of what you are asking members of your congregation to be. Please do not be the kind of a pastor who says to his congregation, “Do what I say, but do not do what I do”! The bottom line is that the pastor-teacher should fulfil what Paul asked Timothy to do, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”, 2 Timothy 2:15.
This means a godly pastor-teacher should diligently seek to avoid teaching error and should be willing to humbly admit it, if by ignorance or choice, he makes such a mistake while neglecting this role of his office as a minister of God’s word and a shepherd of God’s flock. Pastors, please take this truth from me that, “If a pastor cannot feed his flock from the word of God, it is better for him to leave the ministry and look for other work to do. If you insist to remain in the ministry of the word, your sheep will either starve or get irritable or both”. So, regularly check your divine calling and your ability to teach the word of God. Let us all make this prayer by Joe Stowell our personal prayer as we continue to serve the Lord, “Lord, remind me often that You have been exceedingly generous to me. Help me to extend that generosity of Spirit toward those around me, so that they may know who You are and rejoice in You”.
A pastor should not be addicted to wine
The term wine refers to all alcoholic strong drinks usually made from the fermented juice of grapes, grains, other fruits or vegetables. Millions today around the globe including Sudan and South Sudan are victims of wine addiction, which causes them to lose their memories and equilibrium when they are drunk, and become easily irritated and quarrelsome all of the time. As a result of wine many households are devastated. Many marriages end in divorce just because the father or mother is addicted to some alcoholic drinks. Many Christians today in our contemporary generation use some Bible references to justify the use of alcohol, such as 1Timothy 5:23 and John 2:1-11. Sadly some eventually end up destroying their lives, their families, friends and most sadly they forfeit their salvation and eternal life by showing they were never saved. They also argue that the Bible is not against wine, but it is against drunkenness and addiction. This is true, but then these people continue to drink until they reach drunkenness and the addiction level thus disobeying God’s word: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the (Holy) Spirit”, Ephesians 5:18. Numbers 6:1-5 explains the Nazirite vow for those separated to the Lord.
In the context of the characteristics of the pastor, the Bible speaks less about wine and more about the addictive aspect of all alcohol. It is obvious that when a man is given to drunkenness he is clearly disqualified from being a pastor. In fact the Bible condemns his affinity towards alcohol. A pastor, indeed any Christian, should not be one who has a reputation as a drinker, or one who frequents bars whether he gets drunk or not. Christians should not involve themselves in places where alcohol is a primary element of the social atmosphere, nor should he ever store alcoholic beverages in his home for all too regular usage. The Old and New Testaments are replete with references that are against alcoholic drinks and drunkenness. For example in Isaiah 28:7 the prophet spoke about how bad things were among the spiritual leaders of Israel in the 8th century B.C., “And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions”.
In Sudan and South Sudan we all experience death. We have lost hundreds of our beloved family members, friends, colleagues and our neighbours, some of who have died as a result of the local wine brewing. “Marisa” is wine made from different types of sorghum/grains. “Aaraqey” is date wine. “Aasalia” is wine made from sesame seeds. Add to these the western liquors such as beer, whisky, etc. They can all be potent killers. I was involved in counselling many alcoholics in my clan and other clans in my community, and also in other places whenever I met an alcoholic person. All of them speak one answer for their situation, “Marisa, Aaraqey or Aasalia are part of the food”. My response to each of them is, “The wine contains ethanol that poisons your blood and eventually destroys your liver, brain and the whole life”. It is much the same as nicotine in cigarettes that damages your lungs. Their common reply again is, “I am not the only one who will die. Many have died”! Sadly they do continue to drink until they kill themselves. Friends, it is a common observation that when a person is under the influence of alcohol, his ability to make wise judgements is impaired, his personal example demonstrates he is one who invites others to indulge in unrighteous conduct. It must be apparent to all pastors that craving wine or other alcohol leads to the destruction of life and ministry. Alcohol will affect your relationship with Jesus and force you to join the drunkards rather than clinging to the Lord. It will shift your thoughts in the direction of a drink when you are down or get challenged, thus disobeying God’s commands. You will neglect your task; forfeit your prestige, honour and respect as a minister and servant of the Lord. Let me remind you of what the wise Solomon has written about wine, “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; and whoever is led astray by them is not wise”. “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags”, Proverbs 20:1, 23:20-21. And see 1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Peter 4:3-5.
Please read also about the effects of wine in Genesis 9:20-27, 19:30-38; then decide whether wine and alcoholic drinks are permissible for a believer to drink, or is doing so an abomination abhorred by the Lord? If you are a faithful and obedient servant of the Lord, you will agree with me that wine and all kinds of alcohol are an abomination, abhorrent, heinous, devastating and shameful, and all faithful and obedient Christians must avoid them! Pastors, we should try and exert our efforts to counsel the alcoholics and the drug addicts in our neighbourhood, because alcohol and drugs devastate thousands every year even in our Sudan and South Sudan, including accidental killings, gun-shootings and overdoses. It is absolutely unfortunate that in many nations of the world the devil has enticed and misled most government authorities, in the name of freedom and human rights, to make alcohol and drugs legal. Now to their disappointment they face the consequences of numerous deaths as a result of drunkenness and associated diseases.
The pastor should not be pugnacious
The term pugnacious, (“not violent” 1 Timothy 3:3 NIV), is an adjective referring to a person who is fond of, or in the habit of fighting. He is a person who is cantankerous. Literally the term can be understood as a giver of blows, a striker or a brawler. This characteristic for a pastor requires that he who seeks the noble work of God’s word must be patient, humble, peaceful, loving, kind, meek and self controlled, and definitely not hot tempered.
Unfortunately I am mindful of shameful incidents in which some bishops, pastors, evangelist, deacons, elders and members of Christ’s body, the Church, were physically engaged in fighting, brawling, using abusive words which are not supposed to come from the mouths of followers of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 4:29-32. Most of these incidents began with nasty harsh words which led to irritation and bullying. The apostle Paul urged Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus, to, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”, Ephesians 4:31-32. It is clear that a leader of the church must not be quarrelsome, a fighter or a brawler. He should not be given to physical outbursts of anger or have a tendency to resort to physical violence. If a pastor wants to decide a disagreement with deacons, elders, evangelists or even with other members in church meetings by a fist fight, then he is not qualified to be a pastor. The church must rebuke and discipline him. If he confesses his sin and genuinely repents he should be given a second chance. But if he adamantly refuses to obey the church, then he must be dismissed.
A godly pastor should be able to react to all situations calmly, with a cool head, gentleness and humility. Pastors must follow the example of Jesus Christ and His apostles who did not react to the insults, harassment, rejection and mockery of those who were against the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His followers, Matthew 27:27-44; Luke 9:51-56. Please note that bullies and fist-fighters are not eligible for pastoral ordination. Neither is a brow beater eligible, that is a man who verbally frightens or bullies people. Such a man cannot be trusted to tend God’s sheep. Please set your mind wholeheartedly on serving God obediently. Set your own Christ-like example for those whom you pastor. It will bring a tremendous blessing to your own family, the church and the community. Then the glory and honour will be to the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. They will reward you accordingly. Please let me encourage you to place your confidence in God so that those who are around you will witness your faith and decide to trust Him too.
Remember what the Israelites did when Joshua blatantly told them to choose for themselves whom they should serve, Joshua 24:15-27. Joshua decided to serve God alone. He was determined to teach his entire household to honour his Lord as well. He had trusted God for victory over his enemies and God helped him to conquer and divide the land between his people. Since he understood and trusted God’s power and faithfulness, and was given victory on the battleground, he knew that God would give him the spiritual victory too. Therefore, like Joshua, choose to serve God faithfully, unashamedly with all your heart and obediently. Then watch and wait to see how God blesses you, your family, your church and the community. After all, church work is His work.
The pastor must be gentle
We are still in 1 Timothy 3:3. “Gentle” refers to a person who is kind, friendly, the opposite of rough and violent. This characteristic refers to a man who shows consideration for the feelings of others, who is honourable and understands the behaviour of others. He is a man with a respectable social position, who deals in a kind, calm, pleasant and polite way with every person in his community. The term describes a person who is considerate, genial, forbearing and gracious, a person who is prone to pardon others who are disagreeable or those who fail. A gentle person is one who is most likely to keep a mental record of good things done by others rather than of wrongs committed against him or against other people. This means he does not keep grudges. He is not full of resentment. He never thinks about how to retaliate against others. Instead he shows kindness, love and forgiveness towards his antagonistic rival. Many people today regard gentleness as weakness, but the truth is that gentleness is not vulnerability, wimpiness, or weakness. Rather it is self-control, which itself is power under control. If we take our Lord Jesus’ gentle spirit it does not indicate weakness, but power and might. When He wanted to confront sin, satanic powers, or even the natural world, He demonstrated awesome power with the ability to bewilder all those around Him. The Jewish religious leaders regarded Him as the mere son of a carpenter from Nazareth, Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; but He made a whip and drove the people of commerce out of the Temple, Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-48. He also amazed them with His authoritative teaching and the miraculous work of healing, expulsion of evil spirits, and raising of the dead, Matthew 7:29, 9:35; Luke 7:21; John 11:43-44, 12:17. Friends, if we are faithful, having sincerely and humbly committed our lives to Jesus Christ, and we continue to apply His commands and trust His promises, He will give to us His power and the ability to do even more as He did, John 14:11-12. This will only be our experience when we allow the Holy Spirit to control, guide and empower us, as we fervently pray and remain securely connected to our Lord Jesus.
A pastor should not be contentious (not tending to argue or quarrel)
The Greek word used in 1 Timothy 3:3 is amachos. This is possibly derived from amaxira, which is a short sword used for fighting. Machomai is to fight, hence our English word ‘macho’. In amachos the “a” means “not” or “against”. It refers to a person who is reluctant to fight, a peaceful person, someone who is not contentious. This character is the opposite of the term “pugnacious” above which we saw emphasised a readiness for physical fighting. A non-contentious person has chosen to avoid being a quarrelsome person. He or she is someone who will not be easily irritated or provoked to verbal combat.
An incident was reported of a pastor who was asked to support another church by raising financial support, but the elders of that church eventually accused him of embezzlement. He became so irritated and provoked that he responded with multiple verbal tirades to the accusing elders and his deacon board. He also made false accusations against one of the members. This pastor, clearly not having this character quality of a godly pastor, nearly split the church into two groups in less than 9 months! In fact the sad result was that this church lost over 100 people, one third of the church membership, due to his lack of self-control and poor anger management. I wonder if this pastor ever came across what God says about a person who creates divisive turmoil in a church, leading to its demise? The apostle Paul firmly states, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple”, 1 Corinthians 3:17. Please take note that the temple in this context is in plural form. It refers to the corporate body of believers in a local church, “You yourselves are God’s temple”, verse 16. See also 1 Corinthians 3:3, 16-17; 5:3-13; Proverbs 6:12-19. A pastor should always remain calm and self-controlled whenever he faces a situation that may irritate or provoke him into anger. God will help him.
A pastor ought to be free from the love of money
From the outset let me make it very clear what the Bible teaches about money and wealth. It never teaches against money or wealth, but against the love of money, explained in 1 Timothy 6:6-10. We can give several examples of godly persons in the Bible who had a great deal of money. Abraham and Lot were very wealthy with many flocks, herds and servants who served them, Genesis 13:1-7. Job was a man of substantial means, Job 1:1-3, 42:12-13. King David and King Solomon both had much wealth, 2 Samuel 7:8-9,18,28-29; 1 Kings 10:23. Remember also the apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians 16:1- 4, and to Timothy, 1 Timothy 6:17-19. We can see that God does not consider “money” to be evil, does He? Never! Neither did the apostles during their teaching ministry.
Sadly at the beginning of Christianity in our area, that is Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, wrong teaching was given to the first converts. They were told that money and wealth were bad and anyone who was rich would not enter the kingdom of God! I think the first missionaries missed the point. Paul was telling Timothy to be careful about avoiding the love of money, the love that is the root and source of all evil, 1 Timothy 6:10. The Jewish religious rabbis taught an opposite wrong concept in Old Testament times. They thought that if a person was wealthy, well off and seemingly blessed financially by God, he was probably a man right with God. This was a wrong notion about finances and wealth that many Jews held about money. It became an idol that replaced God. Wealth was worshipped rather than worshipping God the giver of wealth and health. They believed, as many do today, that if a person is blessed with wealth and with good health for his family, then it is an indication that this person is right with, and blessed by, God.
But Jesus shot down this concept by rebuking the wealthy about their suspect spiritual lives, and by warning the listeners about the danger of trusting in personal wealth, and finally by exhorting the folks not to worry about worldly things, but to first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness! We can be assured by Jesus’ teaching. He taught that people should first seek the kingdom of God and not worry about possession of things, thus questioning the wealthy, see Luke 6:24, 8:14; Matthew 6:25-34; 19:16-30. Sadly and shamefully many ministers of the Gospel today, in Sudan and in South Sudan, fall into temptation, trapped by a love of money due to their low salaries and lack of support given by their local congregations. When finance becomes the reason why pastors, evangelists, elders and deacons strive to be elected, or ordained as pastors even if a person did not clearly receive the divine calling into ministry, then the churches are in serious trouble. In the Western world money has become the force that drives most of today’s ‘televangelists’ and some mega-church pastors with health and wealth prosperity gospel preachers. They have tainted the church and caused much harm to the cause of Christ. There are bishops, pastors, evangelists, prophets and apostles whose messages are mainly centred on a “prosperity gospel” in which the preacher encourages the listeners to name what they want from the Lord, and then to claim it, assuring them that they are going to receive their requests after they sow a seed of faith by first sending that ministry one hundred dollars, (even up to one thousand dollars). Be it to get a house, a car, a job, to pass exams, to have children, to experience healing from disease and deliverance from satanic or evil spirits, many people sign up and give their ‘seed faith gift’. By doing so they show that their hearts are still set on earthly things and not on heavenly things, Colossians 3:1-2. Beware of people influenced by these preachers now coming into Africa. Be careful of the disciples of Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Robert Tilton, Creflo Dollar, Reinhard Bonkke and Joel Osteen, to name but a few. Protect yourself and your people.
Pastors, please take heed and check your own motives for being in the ministry. If you are in the ministry for what you can make out of it financially, then you are clearly in violation of this qualification. You are a lover of money and that becomes a snare for you. You will know the temptation to seek pleasure for the flesh and joy from the world more than seeking the kingdom of God. Please read slowly and carefully Hebrews 13:5-6, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” See also Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 118:6-7. Greed, covetousness and envy are common temptations that face most Christians. Giving in to them brings a fall into financial scandal which in turn leads many to commit adultery, drinking too much wine, addiction to drugs, following the craving for a luxurious life. This sickness has no cure until you are freed from the love of money and from greed. Then you realise that the sole antidote for greed is contentment, Hebrews 13:5.
The following indicators will help us to know if the pastor is a lover of money or not:
He should be generous as Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”, Acts 20:35. The pastor should believe this wholeheartedly and practice it himself.
His focus should be on trusting the Lord, not worrying about money. He must consider handling both church and his own finances as stewardship only. The money was entrusted to him by God and the people, so he must be concerned about using everything wisely that God has entrusted into his care. He must be a good manager of that which God has blessed him with.
He should not be greedy, nor stingy or a hoarder. He should not expect everyone else to be sacrificial in giving generously to the needs of others, while he is not so himself.
He should not spend excessive time thinking and planning ways for getting more money and luxury things, for example a house, furniture, car and other equipment. Rather, he should be showing a trust in the Lord that gives him total peace about God’s providence and God’s provision for his own and his family’s needs.
He must have a willing and concerned heart to help care for widows, orphans, the elderly, the poor, the sick and the disabled.
He must willingly and joyfully pay his tithe monthly, which is at least 10% of his salary. This is not optional, rather it is the starting point for giving with God, Malachi 3:8-12; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. Then he will certainly experience the fulfilment of the promises of God mentioned in these two passages and other places in the Bible.
What is your status regarding the love of money? Are the qualities mentioned above yours as a pastor or are you lacking some of them? Please be sincere with yourself in answering these questions and then ask God to help you to settle your problems with finance. I concur with John Calvin who once said: “He, who desires to be rich, desires to be rich quick”. It is true that such inclinations will taint a person’s pure desire to minister selflessly and sacrificially. I am also reminded of what Geoffrey Wilson wrote when addressing the issue of money and wealth, “The earth-bound desires of a covetous spirit always clip the wings of faith and love”. My friend and colleague pastor, let me warn you as Paul did warn Timothy against the love of money, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction”. 1 Timothy 6:9.
Paul explained to Timothy that nobody brought anything with us into this world when we were born and we will not take anything with us when we die and move on. Therefore if we have our daily bread and clothing we should be content and be grateful to our God for His providence and for sustaining our lives with reasonable health and protection. Sadly and shamefully we struggle and even disobey God’s commandments in the Bible. We violate our church constitutions in order to gain money and wealth. This ought not to be so.
Our Lord Jesus gave us quite a number of good illustrations regarding money and wealth. Please read about the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30, with the emphasis on verse 23. The young ruler was committed to his money, wealth and power, so much so that when Jesus told him the only solution to his spiritual problems was to sell all of his possessions and give the resulting cash to the poor, and only then come and follow Jesus, he actually chose to keep his money and he walked away.
I want to share a few examples from the Sudanese churches to illustrate this lesson. I begin with my own church, which is the Sudanese Church of Christ, (SCOC). Some time ago we encountered serious biblical, doctrinal and constitutional violations by a certain SCOC President, a General Secretary, and some pastors who were members of the Executive Committee. They had mandated an elder to sue one of the schoolteachers, an act that caused irritation, unsettlement, anger and unrest among other members of SCOC, who for the first time were experiencing a sad and heinous situation. The head of SCOC delegated the director of our education department to sue one of our teachers because she refused to give them her school’s registration money. She informed them that the school’s headmaster did not mandate her to do so. He was away at Bible School. I tried by all means to convince the President, the General Secretary and the Executive Committee that she was acting correctly, but to my disappointment my effort was in vain. The leadership adamantly rejected my counsel and that of others. Fortunately the court case ended by declaring the schoolteacher innocent and freeing her from all accusations. I believe this intentional action from the SCOC leadership was because, sadly, they loved money more than they loved God. Remember what Paul wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. 1 Timothy 6:10.
Another sad incident is the on going strife and contention within the Evangelical Church. It is currently (2014) divided into two groups each exerting all their power to control their church properties and revenue from them. They shamefully accuse one another to the extent they have taken their case before the civil court to decide which group is legally the leader of the Evangelical Church in Sudan. Even more disgracefully and shamefully, according to my reading, some members continue to write on the internet using nasty harsh words to justify their own legality and right to lead, and therefore to control the revenue money from the church properties, plus the financial support given by some external Christian organisations and Mission groups. This is all in public for the world to see.
Also, based on information through some of my sources, I was recently informed (2014) that some misunderstandings arose in the Episcopal Church of Sudan, the Coptic Orthodox church, the Pentecostal church, the Sudan Interior Church and the Africa Inland Church, all due to financial crises including dishonesty, fraud and embezzlements, the results of people who cannot resist the ‘love of money’. What a tragedy for the Church in Sudan.
The last sad example of love of money I will share is when a late, respected Mission Society director retired from the Society and sued them, claiming a large amount of money from them for his years of service. The Sudanese court ruled in his favour, against the Society’s board. But immediately after he received the money, he passed on leaving everything behind. I am reminded of our Lord Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:15-21.
I am candidly setting these vivid examples before you, which some of you have experienced or at least heard about, so that you as pastors and people may take heed. Be very careful and sensitive when dealing with money in order to avoid any suspicion, embarrassment, and temptations that spring from the love of money. Ask God to guide you and set you free from the love of money, and enable you to overcome this sin, which appears to continually haunt many of today’s pastors! What is your attitude towards dealing with finances? Does your attitude reveal that you are really a true follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, or are you only a fair-weather friend of God? If perchance God does not take care of your financial needs as you think He should, then by folly, may be you will just do as the rich young ruler did and walk out on Jesus, Matthew 19:22. Please let me remind you that even pastors are capable of being false converts, men who actually love material things more than they love God. See Matthew 7:15-23; Jude 4-19; 1 Timothy 1:3-11, 3:3; 6:1-10; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 1:5-16; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Acts 20:29-35; 2 John 7-11;
3 John 9-11. Assuming that a pastor is a true convert, he may still be overly or covertly wrapped up in financial ambitions. These may steadily lead him further into the love of money and down the slippery slope of dishonesty. So, watch out and pray in order that you do not give in to temptation, Matthew 26:41.
A pastor should manage his family household well
The word ‘to manage’ means to control, preside over or have authority over. So, to manage a household well denotes the responsibility of ruling, presiding, controlling and having authority over the household, accountable to God, see “direct the affairs of” in 1 Timothy 5:17.This biblical characteristic involves a man’s family. Paul was referring precisely to the pastor’s family, which must be an example of a godly family so that members of the church he is pastoring may follow his family’s example in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus.
The husband/father is the head of the family, that is his wife and children. Therefore he has great responsibility to train and discipline his children well, in the fear, obedience and love of the Lord, so that when they grow up they will continue to love and serve God with full obedience and respect, Proverbs 22:6. His parental role requires that he should teach his children by his exemplary behaviour, not only by his words. His character of faith, in obedience to, with love and the fear of the Lord, will consistently produce a life of godliness. He can inspire admiration from his children as he moves in the right direction even though he is not yet perfect. The great desire for good that is seen in him will reflect the character of God and thus influence his children. This parental role is absolutely important to all parents, as well as being challenging to pastors. It is why Paul urges us to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power, Ephesians 6:10. Without divine protection Satan will snatch and control all of our children. All parents should take extra care to teach their children by how they live, not just by what they say. Children learn far better from what they see us doing and observing how we live, rather than by listening to what we say.
The word “well”, 1 Timothy 3:4, is an adjective meaning ‘better or the best’, and it refers to a satisfactory and integral condition. The Greek word is kalos. It has a similar but richer meaning than another Greek word agathos, which literally means morally or practically good. Kalos goes one step further and adds the idea of aesthetically good, beautiful, pleasing to the eyes. Taking a close and deep look at the text, we discover that Paul was not talking about the way we dress or the external features of ‘well’. Rather he was referring to the way we maintain order in the family, the respectfulness of members of the household for one another, and the appropriate responses to each other both inside and outside the home. So, when we speak of a pastor who manages his household well, we are talking about his care, control and the ruling over his children, as well as, of course, his love and respect for his wife.
Paul emphasised this important role of the pastor by adding the phrase, “with all dignity”, verse 4 (NASB). This gives power and importance to this characteristic role. It refers to the method he uses to keep order and respect within his family, rather than how his children respond to the parents, as some commentators suggest. The whole objective in this context asks, “Does the pastor manage his children with dignity or in violation of any one of the other character qualities already mentioned above? Does he manage gently? Does he avoid violence? Does he control himself in his dealings with his family?” “Dignity” carries the sense of respect or stainlessness. The Bible teaches that parents should not provoke their children to anger, Ephesians 6:4, yet many parents, including pastors, in their efforts to keep children under disciplined control use various wrong means including intimidation, threats, physical abuse, screaming, and the denial of rewards and privileges. These can violate the virtue of ruling, “with all dignity”.
Some parents seem to apply the Greek military term upotage, which brings the idea of ‘lining up in rank under one who is in authority’. But this is not what the Bible teaches as is clear in the following Scriptures, Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25; Proverbs 22:6; 2 John 4; Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20-21. So, if the pastor is known to blow his stack often while trying to get his children under control, I wonder how he is going to turn out in the way he manages the flock of God? 1Timothy 3:4-5. Please note that the idea of children being under control realistically means children are to be respectful, responsive to parental authority in obedience and love, always willing to obey parental rules (even if they are not thrilled about them), and most importantly, they should not be in open rebellion against their parents’ authority. Of course this does not mean that the children have to be perfect angels, that they are never disobedient to their parents, that they never make mistakes, bad choices, neither that they never question spiritual things. No. God did not say that pastors’ children should by-pass the normal developmental moral stages of human life. We should remember that even the baby Jesus had to grow up physically, in wisdom, in obedience and in His maturity, but in His case only, without sin. God does not expect pastors’ children to be robots, computerised and programmed only to do what is right. Nor did God expect pastors’ children to merely be parrots, who mimic their parents’ words and actions. God has left us all with the freedom to choose at our discretion so that we can make our own decisions. Yet the children are commanded to be respectful and honourable in how they treat their parents and observe their authority. It is heart-breaking that many pastors’ children nowadays become extremely rebellious and disobedient to their parents, the elderly, their own siblings, friends, and even to God. Many, after they reach the teenage years, live miserable, destructive, sinful and dishonourable lives, which bring shame to their parents, the churches, their community and ultimately, to God. Some parent-pastors give their reasons for leaving the ministry by saying, they want to rescue their son(s) or daughter(s) from the terribly sinful and destructive direction chosen for their lives. Moreover, they add that it is not just because of a violation of one of the biblical qualifications for pastors that they are leaving the ministry, but due to their much love for the child they cannot standby and do nothing to try to redirect their child’s path away from its destructive and spiritually fatal direction. Dear pastor and other Christian parents, this spiritual battle against us and our children should not surprise us, or make us give up our hope in exhorting and advising them. We should earnestly and fervently pray for them, pleading with God to rescue them from the powers of the devil and darkness. We have many sad examples in the Bible of priests’ children, for example Eli, 1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-36; King David, 2 Samuel 13:1-2, 15:1-6, 16:11, 18:1-33; Noah, Genesis 6:9-10, 9:1, 18-29, 10:32. This third example is the one parents should aspire to follow with their children. Although Noah lived in a world where everyone blatantly disregarded God and wickedness was the norm for that generation, his children were faced with a significant decision, either to join the society and live evil lives like the rest of their people, or to follow their father who was the only man walking with God. By his godly example Noah influenced his sons to join him in obeying God. They helped him build the ark, which took them a hundred years to complete. Noah’s sons were tempted to believe those around them instead of their father, but their father greatly influenced them. Eventually they saved their own lives together with their wives, Genesis 6:1-9:28. From Noah’s example, parents should make sure they influence their sons and daughters to obey, fear, love and serve God, and in turn influence those around them to follow God too. As a Christian parent your life should stand out in bright contrast to those around you. You must clearly be a righteous person, who listens to what God tells you to do for your children. In so doing your best with God’s help, the positive effects of your obedience will definitely have a great impact and bring a drastic change to your children’s lives, even if it is only seen when they are much older.
Sadly I heard of some servants of God, who because their children were not under control, have left the ministry either temporarily or permanently. Brethren in Christ, based on my personal experience with my own children, I can candidly assure you that being a pastor can bring out the worse in a man’s demand for respect and authority! In my personal experience of counselling with parents whose children are in rebellion to them and to the Word of God, I have come to the conclusion that Satan is directing all his powers, plans and programmes to fight against God’s children, and in a special way the children of bishops, overseers, moderators, pastors, evangelists, elders, deacons and Christian church members, Revelation 12:1-17.
Please let us as parents be patient with our children bearing in mind that the apostle Paul did not use any term that refers to a certain age of child, such as nepios infant, paidio child below 7 years, or pais 7 to 14 years. Rather he used the term teknon child in general, not referring to any specific age, but simply to the relationship of the father to the child. So, as long as the child is in the household of the pastor (or any other Christian parent), regardless of their age that child should show respectful honour for his parents’ and their authority, Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 13:1, 15:20-21. As parents we should also treat our children with love and dignity all through their lives, so that they may follow our own examples of respect, integrity and dignity, and therefore honour God. I hope and pray that God the Father will enable us as pastors to assist our church families in bringing up their children in a biblical and godly way, as I wholeheartedly believe that if you faithfully seek God’s face on behalf of your children, and those of your membership or of the community, the Lord will listen and rescue our children from the grip and power of the devil.
The pastor should not be a new convert
The Greek term used here to describe this characteristic is neophutos, which literally means a ‘new plant’, a novice and a recent convert, 1 Timothy 3:6. This word is only used once in the New Testament and is importantly used here for two explained reasons:
1. A new-Christian pastor may become conceited. This adjective is a colourful word the root form of which means ‘smoke’. So this means he may be puffed up like a cloud of smoke. In other words a conceited person becomes much too proud, arrogant in himself or his own abilities. He will have too high an opinion of himself. Like smoke rising into the sky he will soon fade away. Therefore the apostle Paul in this context is warning Timothy not to ordain a newly converted person into a position of spiritual leadership and authority. It takes time to become spiritually mature and strong in faith and in the knowledge of God and His word. The temptation to pride will bring with it the danger of falling into the condemnation incurred by the devil, see the end of 1 Timothy 3:6. This does not mean that he could lose his salvation, because God has promised that we can never lose our salvation, which He has given to believers freely. He will never take it from us unless we did not actually believe and did not ever have genuine trust in Him. Satan’s prime sin is pride. That made him puffed up to the extent of trying to be like the Most High God! Isaiah 14:12-14. Satan uses that same sin to deceive people who fall into arrogance and pride and refuse the gift of salvation provided by Jesus Christ who paid for our sins by His precious blood.
2. The second reason a pastor must not be a recent convert is that he must have a good reputation with outsiders and not fall into disgrace and the trap set by the devil, 1 Timothy 3:7. What this refers to is the prospect of a new convert, not understanding his belief in Jesus Christ, being elevated too quickly to the position of pastor, Matthew 13:5-6. Every new convert needs time to feed on God’s word, to grow in faith and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, to become spiritually mature, and to show some aptitude for pastoral work. Only then can he be a legitimate candidate for this noble work, which is undertaken following a divine calling. When the devil in his pride refused to seek God’s glory, God had to humble him by removing him from his high position as the chief archangel of God. Similarly the new convert who becomes sinfully proud of himself because of his high position, God might have to use some radical means by which to humble him, because he has not recognised Who is really in charge and Who is the only One Who can make anything of eternal value happen in and through our lives.
From my experience many who became Christians and were active in Christian and church activities became victims of pride. Self-centredness can then lead to adultery, fornication, or strife, ending up with division in the church. It could all have been avoided if people took time to study the word of God in depth, to grow in personal faith into spiritual maturity, and to be tried and tested to make sure they can withstand the fiery darts of the evil one, such as come through temptations, persecution, and suffering for Christ’s sake. A mature pastor is better able (though not immune) to handle temptations and the challenges of pride, which usually come with spiritual leadership and authority. A newly ordained minister may quickly fall back into the temptations of the flesh and the devil. This immediately brings everything he has said and taught to the people about the power of God during his short ministry into a huge cloud of suspicion and shame. Instead of helping the cause of the gospel of Christ, he becomes a stumbling block for those watching, who were on the verge of believing and accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour. Because of the fall of the new Christian pastor, or some Christians in the community, onlookers will walk away back into the worldly life. Their usual comment is, “If there really is something about this person named Jesus, whom people claim to be God and submit to Him, this pastor or that Christian would have continued and remained in their faith”.
Pastors and Christian brethren, we should always watch carefully those who so powerfully give speeches, preaching at Christian conferences, rallies, youth camps, church occasions and the like. Many of these men and women, who appear to be godly men and women, have ended up in disgracefully bad experiences of adultery, fornication, embezzlement of funds, backsliding or even recanting their Christian faith. We have many examples among Sudanese brothers and sisters who recanted faith in Christ and joined or re-joined Islam just because they wanted employment, marriage, worldly materials, or financial assistance! This is shameful. Such experiences are a clear indication that these brethren were not grown up or mature enough in their faith to withstand the challenges and temptations that came to them, due at least in part to their immaturity or love of worldly things. How are you doing with money, with your office as a pastor, in your relationship with your wife, and with other female believers, and the new converts who have just joined your church? Pastor and all you Christians, be always alert in dealing with worldly and material things, in living with your family, in ministering to the church and the community. Watch out and pray, because the devil is still walking around, roaring out aloud, seeking some Christian minister to tear into shreds, 1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7-10. Do not be a victim of the devil, resist him and he will flee from you, because He who is in you is mightier and more powerful than Satan, his agents and his forces. Jesus has overcome him and we too can overcome him by the power and by the blood of the Lamb, Revelation 12:11.
We have been looking at the pastor’s key characters and qualifications that are crucial requisites for any man who longingly seeks the noble work for God. It becomes unequivocal that God is looking for faithful, honest, obedient, trustworthy, candid and humble servants to be His workers in the vineyard and to save lost souls. All the characters and qualifications mentioned above set the standard for all who desire to be ministers of God’s word. Pastors shepherd, care for and feed God’s flock. They must do it God’s way. Therefore every church must take it as a serious business to pay attention, pray, examine, approve and then consider accepting a person seeking ordination. Proceed only if you are convinced that he has received and heard a divine calling into ministry. God’s word warns us while encouraging us to follow God’s way leading to life, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”, Proverbs 16: 25; Matthew 7:13-14. The easy way will turn out hard! This means that we should be careful in whatever we do for the Lord, because many times we are deceived into believing that we are going down the right path, yet we are actually heading in precisely the opposite direction from God’s plan, Romans 3:10-18; 1 Corinthians 1:18-20. Please take heed, act cautiously, so that you do not assume that every arising opportunity comes from the Lord. Be aware that Satan will always disguise himself as an angel of light to deceive you. His invitations will seem to be in your best interest, 2 Corinthians 11:14, yet his way leads only to death, John 8: 44.
Brethren and sisters, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us it can be extremely perilous to follow a path that seems right without first consulting the Holy Spirit for guidance, John 16:13. Therefore we should take time to seek the Holy Spirit’s direction when we face challenges, choices and decisions. Then we can make wise choices, based on God’s guidance because He knows the full intricacies and ramifications of our choices. He will help us understand the truth, the right things to do, and we will experience abundant life. We should always allow the Holy Spirit to awaken our hearts to the person of Jesus Christ. Then we only desire to aspire and follow God’s guiding will. Trust Him as He leads you in your ministry.
Pastors who have truly received the divine calling are willing to follow Christ’s model of servanthood rather than the world’s measure of esteem that demands the adoption of the master model based on riches, power, celebrity and egotism. Jesus Christ’s model of life and service seeks love, humility, self denial, the serving of others, faithfulness, trust, fearing and obeying God, John 13:1-17; Luke 22:27. Sadly as pastors, or as Christians generally, we like to refer to ourselves as servants while seldom being content to be treated as servants! We are tempted to adopt the world’s evaluation of esteem and importance. But when we look to the Lord Jesus as our model, we see that it takes a far more noble character to serve than to be served. It is evident to us that the world will always esteem human importance by the number of people serving a person, by his education, her wealth, and their social and political positions. But as God’s measures, He is far more concerned with the number of people we love and we serve. Brethren, if we struggle to be servants of others around us, then we should check our calling, and our hearts, which may have shifted away from the heart of God. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you again, selflessness and self denial, and to give you again the strength and ability to follow His example by serving others. Watch out in faith and confidence, trusting God’s promises to be fulfilled in your life, and He surely will remodel your life conforming it to your Master.
The church should never put their hands in haste on any person to lead because he may become puffed up, arrogant and conceited, eventually falling shamefully into temptations and snares of the devil, 1 Timothy 5:21-22, 3:6-7. Please be mindful that pastors are not perfect creatures, no more than any other human being. Pastors are vulnerable, weak, sinful, prone to temptations, fears, anxieties, depression, pains, disappointments, discouragements, sorrow, sickness and suffering. Consequently they need continued support from their church congregations, who must daily pray, encourage, advise, and if necessary from time to time rebuke their pastor, so that he may withstand the forces of the evil one who continually targets him to bring the downfall of his ministry or his family. Prayers and support for a pastor are crucial, essentially needed if he is going to be successful, sustained and enabled to bless the many lives he serves.
Here is my prayer for you:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace”, Numbers 6:24-25.
“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”, Jude 24-25.