First Timothy 3:1-7
This saying is trustworthy: “If someone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work.” 3:2 The overseer then must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, 3:3 not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. 3:4 He must manage his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity. 3:5 But if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God? 3:6 He must not be a recent convert or he may become arrogant and fall into the punishment that the devil will exact. 3:7 And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith, so that he may not fall into disgrace and be caught by the devil’s trap.
Several weeks back I was having a conversation with a fellow believer. This individual made a remark about her pastor that spoke volumes, demonstrating how Biblically uninformed our culture’s view of a pastor has become. She said, “My pastor is very knowledgeable about the Bible, and is a really good teacher, but he’s not a very good pastor.” Why? Because he was not a very good counselor.
My mind immediately harkened back to the passage quoted above. Have you ever stopped to compare this qualification list against our modern-day conception of what a pastor should be? Paul lists 15 criterion by which we can judge a man’s fitness for the pastoral office: 10 positive, 5 negative. Among those named all but one pertains to the individual’s character and lifestyle. That one criterion is a skill requirement: he must be an able teacher. (The list in Titus 1:6-9 is similar. There Paul wrote, “He must hold firmly to the faithful message as it has been taught, so that he will be able to give exhortation in such healthy teaching and correct those who speak against it.”)
While a pastor will surely be involved in counseling the saints of his congregation to one extent or another, counseling is not a required skill-set for pastors. In fact, many of the skills we often associate with pastors in our church culture (administration, relationship expert, etc.) are not found in Scripture. A pastor who happens to be skilled in those areas will be an added asset to his congregation, but those skills are not necessary to being a good pastor. The only skill a pastor needs to be a good pastor in the Biblical sense is the skill of teaching the Word of God.
Interestingly, the one skill required of pastors is often the one skill they lack. It has been my experience that few pastors do much teaching. Wednesday night Bible studies often differ little from Sunday evangelistic services. They all follow the same basic pattern: read a Bible verse, close the Bible, tell several stories, yell loudly, and then at the end of the message refer back to the Bible verse, taking it out of its context to make it applicable to the point they want to convey. That may be a cynical and generalized depiction, but most of you have been in a church like this so you know the truth of what I’m saying.
It’s a sad reality that most Pentecostal pastors are uneducated in the Scripture. What little they do know rarely comes out in their sermons. They tend to emote rather than instruct. They lack theological content and categories. Their theology consists of catchy phrases and one-liners. Their idea of a good sermon is coming up with a new twist on an oft-read passage of Scripture. They lack the ability to instruct their congregations on meaty doctrinal issues such as justification by faith, the relationship between sanctification and justification, how Jesus can be divine and human simultaneously, the relationship of faith and science, etc. Neither could they intelligently address important cultural and moral issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, cloning, stem cell research, etc. This ought not be. This is not to dismiss the many good things they can do, but all of those good things combined cannot make up for their lack in the one area required of them: teaching.
In light of my recent thoughts on this topic I was more than happy to see that Al Mohler will be doing a three part series on this very topic this week: “The Pastor As Theologian.” The first part of the series was released yesterday. The other two parts will be released on Wednesday and Friday. They can be accessed by clicking on the above link as well. I think you will enjoy what Mohler has to say on this topic.