Three Ways of Looking at Pastoral Ministry

The most important qualification for a pastor is Christian character. The Bible insists on character first, conduct second, and competence last

During the course of each school year dozens of inquiries come across my desk regarding men who are being considered by churches and mission boards. I am supposed to rate those individuals according to qualifications that are specified in the reference form. Without exception, each inquires as to the abilities of the person being considered, his personality traits and the talents of his wife. Rarely does a questionnaire deal with character traits.

 

I began my Christian ministry class yesterday by taking my students through the qualifications of a pastor, focusing on 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Among all the details of the lecture, I tried to emphasize three main ways to look at the qualifications.

The Three C’s

First, there are the three C’s: Character, Conduct, and Competence. The most important qualification for a pastor is Christian character. Without this we are disqualified. Conduct comes second, that is the outward life of godly living that flows out of a godly character. Third is competence, that is the abilities and skills required for ministry (public speaking, administration, time management, leadership, decision-making, etc).

Sadly, in the modern church, the greatest focus is on competence, with little attention paid to conduct and even less to character. In his pastoral theology, R C Anderson commented:

During the course of each school year dozens of inquiries come across my desk regarding men who are being considered by churches and mission boards. I am supposed to rate those individuals according to qualifications that are specified in the reference form. Without exception, each inquires as to the abilities of the person being considered, his personality traits and the talents of his wife. Rarely does a questionnaire deal with character traits.

The Bible insists on character first, conduct second, and competence last

The Lens of Self-Control

Another way of looking at the qualifications is through the lens of self-control, one of the key characteristics of a mature Christian. For example, the requirements of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 could be presented as:

  • The husband of one wifeself controlled in sexual matters.
  • Temperateself-controlled in behavior.
  • Sober-minded: self-controlled in thinking.
  • Not covetous: self-controlled in use of money.
  • Not given to much wine: self-controlled in use of addictive substances.
  • No striker: self-controlled in conflict.

Of course, this is not really “self-control” but is better defined as “Spirit-control.”

The Lens of Relationships

As a former PRTS student highlighted, we can also frame the qualifications around the various relationships that a pastor must maintain.

  • Relates well to himself: self-disciplined, calm, patient, gentle, not addicted, not thin-skinned
  • Relates well to his family: healthy relationships with his wife, respected by his kids, well-0rdered family
  • Relates well to the people in our church: good reputation, accessible, hospitable, good communicator, peace-maker
  • Relates well to people outside of the church: good reputation outside the Christian community, loves the unsaved
  • Relates well to God: a man of God who serves in faith and our of love, filled with the Spirit, reverent, faithful to the Gospel.

Three ways to look at pastoral qualifications that keep the focus on the most important areas — Character and conduct.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.