Qualifications for Elders and Pastoral Accountability

I meet with two guys every two weeks for pastoral accountability. I hesitate to use the word “accountability” given all its negative connotations. I have written on those here, charting a more gospel-grounded approach to accountability. We read through a book of the Bible every two weeks and then meet to do “Text-Theology-Life”. Currently we are reading through 1 Timothy.

Chapter three is about the qualifications of an overseer/elder. These are easy to read with a view to cultivating more elders/pastors, but the Spirit slowed me down enough to consider, not assume, my own status in practicing these qualifications. The string of adjectives can be intimidating: “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” In particular, I have been lingering over “manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” One way to get at what Paul means is to consider the opposite.

If your house is in disorder, with kids managing the parents based on their incessant wants and unruly behavior, then chances are the household is not well managed. If kids schedules and pleadings are constantly caved into, its the kids that run the home, not the parents.

Some planters/pastors abdicate this responsibility in pursuit of “nobler church ministry,” but the logic of Paul is exactly the opposite: “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” Some are so busy managing their churches, that they neglect their own families. This is a disqualification for pastoral ministry. It puts the cart before the horse, church before family. Some of us need to repent both privately and publicly over this sin.

However, we can’t mistake generally problem free households for well-managed households. My kids have a pretty good tempermants, but am I managing—protectively and caringly leading—my family practically and spiritually? Am I modeling and cultivating tenderness, respect, and obedience? Or am I just coasting on good kid temperament? Do I take time to instruct my children with patience and love? Do I pray with them and teach them about Jesus? Do I spend time with my wife away from the kids discussing family life and just delighting in her? These are questions I am asking myself.

For some helpful audio and notes on the qualifications of pastors/elders, check out Darrin Patrick’s talk “Developing Elders, Deacons, and Members.