I came across what I believe to be a disturbing set of verses in scripture the other day. It was one verse in Titus in regards to overseers (or pastors) and to be blunt it totally blew me away.
In order to understand its significance though, I think it’s important to start in Timothy since both 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 are our primary verses when assessing qualifications for leadership such as pastors and elders.
If you don’t want to read all the verses just focus in on the bold face print.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 (v4-5)
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Nothing particularly surprising about these verses. What I gathered here is that God has a very high standard for leadership, plain and simple. Next we’ll look at Titus.
Titus 1:5-9 (v6)
“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order and appoint elders in every town as I directed you – if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick -tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
Wait?! So is God saying that if a pastor’s children are un-saved, that he is unfit to hold the position? I really can’t find any other answer other than, yes. The text seems pretty black and white to me. The question is why?
1 Timothy 3:5
“For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”
Essentially it comes down to discipleship. If you can’t disciple your own kids, then why would should you be allowed disciple beyond that. To much who is given, much is expected right?
It occurs to me then that I’ve never seen any pastor step down from leadership because his children were unbelievers even though I’ve known some who clearly have unbelieving children. Maybe this is one of the reasons for our spiritual malaise in the American church?
What does this mean for the Church of God?
- God puts high emphasis on the family. It is a pillar that helps to uphold the church. Good families make good disciples. Is God’s house not a family? Does not the bond between believers run deeper than blood? If he can disciple well on a small scale, only then is he qualified to disciple in a larger setting.
2. Parents are responsible largely for their children’s salvation and I believe this lines up very well with other parts of scripture (see Proverbs 22:6). Hebrews 13:7 makes it clear that all families are to model themselves after leadership so in a sense the rules given in Titus apply to common folk outside of leadership as well.
Sometimes we have a tendency to dispel parental responsibility. We blame our children’s actions on the world or their friends or video games and television. The bible however seems to say that all those things we see wrong in our children are just symptoms of the sin in our own lives or in other words our inability as people to parent our own children.
I will most likely post a whole separate blog on this second issue but for now I think it gives us something very deep to consider.
What do you think? Do you believe that pastors are only qualified to lead if their children are believers too?