“[An elder] 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 saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach.” — 1 Timothy 3:1-2a
Qualifications for ministers are listed in several New Testament passages, including 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and at every point they are rigorous, to say the least. All who sense God’s calling to ministry will be wise to consider the biblical requirements of a minister. Why, then, are the qualifications for ministers so demanding?
The wisdom of Paul’s instruction in these passages relates to the fact that an overseer will lead God’s people as they grow up into the fullness of Christ through the careful study and application of God’s word. Simply stated, an individual whose life has not been transformed profoundly by the power of the gospel is hardly in a position to lead others in this way of life. People who do not clearly commend the Lordship of Christ will lack credibility in exhorting others to obey Jesus’ teachings.
Key Qualifications for Pastors
One of the only skills that Paul includes in the list, is the ability to teach. This ability distinguishes the pastor from the deacon and others who serve in the church. The ministry of teaching and proclaiming God’s Word is central to the role of the pastor who must lead the church in the wisdom of God’s Word.
Paul explains the nature of this ministry more fully in Titus where he writes that an overseer “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine,” (Titus 1:9). Therefore, he connects instruction with holding firm to the trustworthy word, which is a way of saying the leaders of the church should adhere to the church’s message.
Elaborating Further On 1st Timothy
As Paul continues, he fleshes out what he means by the phrase “above reproach” in greater detail. An overseer must be the “husband of one wife,” literally a “one woman man,” which speaks to loyalty and commitment in the home.
The pastor is to be serious, self-controlled and hospitable to others. Excess must be avoided whether it relates to anger and violence, abuse of alcohol, bickering or the love of money. Furthermore, one who fails to manage his own house well should not presume to be capable of managing the household of God. Recent converts should not be considered because their character has not yet matured and the temptation to pride will be strong.
Finally, the list comes full circle by requiring that overseers be highly regarded by outsiders. This is to say that an overseer should be above reproach not only in the estimation of the church but also in the estimation of the community that the church will reach through the gospel.
Paul’s Point Could Not Be Clearer
The messenger’s life must be consistent with the message that is preached. As chief messenger the pastor must be capable of delivering the healthy doctrine that will sustain the health of the church.
One may serve in a number of roles within the church without possessing the gift of teaching, but one who aspires to be an overseer must be capable of explaining and applying the word of God clearly. Doctrine and lifestyle are connected in the ministry of a pastor to such a degree that the pastor’s spiritual health, the health of the church and the church’s ability to minister within the community are all at stake.
From the start the apostle points out that one who aspires to the office of overseer or pastor desires a noble position. He then proceeds to describe the nobility of character required of all who seek to fill the role. Essentially, such persons must be “above reproach.” It is fairly easy to overlook the need for strong character when you think of a pastor because we tend to focus on more glamorous aspects of the position to lead the church. We pay attention to a pastor’s personality or we concern ourselves with charisma and gifts for leadership.
Sometimes we admire eloquence in leading prayer and the ability to deliver stirring messages week after week. While these characteristics are of some value, Paul clearly indicates that the pastor’s character is indispensable. In fact, those who lack depth of Christian character need not apply.
Types of Theology Degrees To Consider
If you possess the qualities for leadership, then consider pursuing a degree in Theology. When delving into theological studies, it is important to understand that there are many different areas of emphasis. An emphasis can provide more in-depth training in the ministry or discipline you want to pursue.
When raising up a new generation of Christians, they will have a different set of troubles that are a part of growing up. It is important to help younger Christians deal with their adolescent troubles. Youth ministry helps you learn about teaching and applying the Bible for children and teens. The core theology degree classes will still focus on the same biblical principles for teaching theology. However, there are several other classes that look at how the Bible can help the youth with common issues associated with adolescence.
Do you enjoy thinking about how everything in God’s world fits into the big picture? Do you like trying to understand ethical problems and decisions or how Christianity differs from other religions? If you answered yes, then a degree in theological studies with an emphasis in philosophy might be right choice. Philosophy classes teach you to think critically about a variety of topics including ethics, religion and theology.
Missionaries play a vital role in spreading God’s word around the world. Global ministry help prepare you for teaching in different nations and cultures. You will learn how to communicate with different people groups and make the Bible more tangible to those with different backgrounds culturally. Also, you will be taught about different religions and how they differ from the Christian worldview.
Want to become a pastor or help lead worship in a local church? Pursuing a bachelor-level theology degree with a worship leadership emphasis can help. The courses look at a theological-based view for leadership similar to the passages discussed. You will also learn how to be effective in modern ministry. If you believe God is calling you to leadership, consider pursuing a worship emphasis.
With the Bible being a large part of Christianity, it’s important to apply its teachings to everyday life and leadership. An emphasis in biblical studies as part of an undergraduate theological studies degree will help you to understand a deeper view of the Bible.
As a student, you will be taught about both the Old and the New Testaments. You will also take classes on the different epistles and prophets. All these classes can help form the bigger picture of the Bible's message. These courses can also help you broaden your understanding of the Bible and make you a valuable member of any church.
Grand Canyon University has been training Christians in ministry since its inception. If you are interested in pursuing a career in ministry, GCU's College of Theology has many theology degree programs, including Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry, Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Christian Ministry.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.