Remember, pastor, God requires clarity, not cleverness; doctrinal fidelity, not rhetorical flourish. As others have said, others may be able to preach the gospel better, but they cannot preach a better gospel. You may not be eloquent or effective by the world’s standards, but God may still consider you “able to teach.”
“I just don’t think Colin should be a lead pastor . . . you know, he’s an INTJ.” I was dumbfounded. I’d known Colin for years. He was a good preacher, sound theologically, he loved people, and he had proven grit. I couldn’t imagine why my friend was expressing concern about him being a pastor, particularly on account of some pre-fabricated personality type.
I asked for clarification. My friend replied, “Well, he’s a 4 and we know 4s struggle as lead pastors. They’re more suited for administrative roles.” Seeing my confusion, my friend explained what a “4” personality meant according to the enneagram and what it might say about someone’s suitability for pastoral ministry.
I started to wonder: what initials and numbers characterized my life and fitness for ministry? I’d never taken an official personality exam, but a Facebook quiz once told me that I’m most like Charlie from The West Wing and BuzzFeed seems to think that, among Disney Princesses, Cinderella and I would likely be BFFs. I’ll let others decide how that ought to shape my ministry ambitions.
Sure, few of us would so confidently equate personality types with specific ministry roles. But at some level each of us is tempted to follow the world’s logic when it comes to identifying future pastors and elders, to look at the outward appearance rather than the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). We can value gifts, charisma, and stage-presence over godliness, clarity, and sober-mindedness. Scripture, however, checks our worldly outlook, reminding us that God wants his church in careful hands, not necessarily charismatic ones. Each qualification for pastoral ministry in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 focuses on character, not gifts.
Except for one.
Paul tells Timothy that elders must be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). He tells Titus that elders “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” (Titus 1:9).
The only particular gifting pastors must demonstrate is the ability to teach. But what exactly does this mean? Must pastors be able to captivate an audience? Must they have a good stage-presence? Are pastors just faithful Christians . . . with a few extra doses of charm and charisma? What does “able to teach” mean?
Able to Teach Isn’t Primarily About Rhetorical Ability
It’s easy to assume “able to teach” must have something to do with preaching. Simply put, if you want to be an elder, you have to be able to preach. But equating able to teach with preaching is an over -reading of this qualification. After all, Paul doesn’t mention preaching in this passage and neither he nor any other New Testament writer assumes that preaching is the only context in which teaching occurs. In fact, elsewhere in his writings Paul clearly refers to “teaching” that occurs in the church outside the preaching ministry (Rom. 15:14; Titus 2:3). Further, Paul also recognizes that, even though every elder should be able to teach, only certain elders within the church will have any significant, consistent public teaching ministries (1 Tim. 5:17).