“He must be…hospitable, able to teach.” -1 Timothy 3:2
Hopefully you've had some time to catch up on prior posts in this series. If not, you should take some time to read from the beginning as there are some important points to note before you press further into the list. If you’ve already done so, let’s move to the next two pastoral qualifications mentioned by Paul to Timothy:
I grew up down south in Savannah Georgia. So when I hear the word “hospitable” I have flashbacks of hot muggy summers, ice-cold sweet tea, good home-cooking (with lots of butter of course), pecan pie, and generally kind people who wouldn’t hesitate to ask you to stick around for dinner. These things are great and wonderful, but they are not necessarily biblical hospitality, although the components of it are present. At it’s heart, biblical hospitality is “love of strangers” or as Rosario Butterfield frames it: “meeting the stranger at the gates.” In regards to potential pastors, this guards against the ivory-tower mentality. A studious man with keen theological insights, yet as a whole is non-relational, and doesn’t engage people is not fit to be a pastor. It won’t do to love the idea of the church. He must actually love the church and those who have yet to be brought into the fold along with all of their rough edges and struggles.
A few observations to note here: Is this man welcoming to a diverse group of people consisting of those familiar and strangers alike? Do they make a point to welcome and greet others even if they aren’t naturally outgoing or do they use their personality as an excuse not to engage? Are they helpful to those in need? This can be diverse in application, but are they ready to lend a helping hand in serving others? Do they open their homes and lives up to others, including strangers, and proactively seek opportunity to do so? These are all aspects of Biblical hospitality that a potential pastor must model in their life.
“He must be…able to teach.”
This ability is primarily what separates the office of pastor/elder from a deacon so we will spend some time on this one. All of the character traits are shared between the two offices. The distinction is mainly one of ability and maturity (not a recent convert - vs. 6). This presupposes a sound grasp of God’s truth AND the ability to communicate it. Some people have an incredible grasp of the Scriptures, but can’t communicate it to anyone in a profitable manner. Others are dynamic, engaging, thrilling speakers, and yet have little knowledge of the Scriptures or God and thereby have little substance to actually teach. Sadly, a church that settles for either of those will do a disservice to the people of God. Both situations would render a man unqualified to serve as a pastor.
There are a few points to note here. First, we immediately tend to think of a man’s “preaching” ability, for lack of a better phrase. This is not necessarily what’s in view here. Not every pastor will be preaching or in a rotation, but every pastor MUST be able to teach. I have known men who struggled greatly to preach a sermon, yet in a counseling/discipleship setting demonstrated incredible wisdom, tact, humility and ability to instruct in sound doctrine.
Second, we can make the mistake that the ONLY thing a pastor does is preach on Sunday mornings. After all, pastors only work one day a week right? (Insert eye-roll here). In reality the oversight, teaching, correcting, interceding, and shepherding aspects of ministry demand a wide skill set in application to the diverse needs of the body of Christ. This means there are decisions to be made that may not require a sermon, but absolutely require an ability to think Biblically and critically to extend sound Biblical principles to a particular need or circumstance in the church. This is owing to the reality that a pastor doesn’t only teach in what he says, he also teaches in what he does or doesn’t do. The decisions that are made, how they are made, why they are made, and the manner in which they are implemented all demand a commanding grasp of the Scriptures and ability to apply them accurately for the glory of God and building up of the body of Christ. Paul references this separate function and need of elders who lead in this manner in 1 Timothy 5:17 : “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” All elders have the role to oversee, and some give themselves specifically to labor in preaching and teaching. We do well to broaden our understanding of the teaching function of pastoral ministry in assessing this qualification.
Finally, we can note that Paul does NOT say this man needs a seminary degree or formal Biblical training from a bible college in order to be considered “able to teach.” It does mean they must be consistent students of the Word of God and able to teach what they have learned and practiced.
That sums up the summary of “able to teach” and what it refers to. How do we determine if the criteria is met? We can ask a few relevant questions: Do potential pastors demonstrate this ability to teach in the various venues in which they do teach? Are their lessons biblically clear, full of truth, and faithful to the text? Or are they prone to theological hobby horses or reading into the text what isn’t there? Are they pastoral in nature? In other words, do they beat the sheep or feed the sheep? Is the rod their only tool? Or do they lead in gentleness and thoughtfulness as well? Are they engaged in discipling and teaching on multiple levels? More questions could be asked, but perhaps this one would answer the rest: Are they teachable? Do they model humility in being taught by other pastors and elders? Will they model for the church what it looks like to receive the word of God and accept correction with humility and grace? Part of teaching is to teach others how to be taught as well. As teachers, they ought always to be learning for the good of the church. A man who is unteachable is in danger of being more of a dictator than a teacher. May the Lord grant us humility to always receive His word with humility and joy.
“Hospitable” and “able to teach” are two essential qualifications of a pastor. To a degree, this is expected of ALL Christians. We are all commanded to be hospitable and to make disciples of all nations, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:20). So when was the last time you engaged a stranger in order to demonstrate the love of Christ? Or even had a fellow church member you didn’t know over to your house with the aim of doing them spiritual good? How do you assess your own ability to communicate the truths of the faith? Could you explain the gospel in 5 minutes or less? Can you communicate some doctrinal distinctives of our church? What, if anything, distinguishes us from those around us? What do we share in common? Why does it matter? These are all fruitful questions for you to think through and be able to answer in your own life, but definitely should be present in potential pastors.
Can pastors drink liquor/alcohol? This question and others will be examined in our next blog. I continue to pray with you and for you as we approach our vote of affirmation.
In His Service,
Randy Pauley, Pastor