In The Trellis and the Vine, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne suggest a three-fold schema for training church leaders: character, convictions, and competencies. I’ve found it helpful to apply these three categories to the various qualifications for the shepherd/elder/overseer in the Pastoral Epistles.
Character: The Lifestyle of a Pastor
Combining the list of character qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 with those found in Titus 1, we find sixteen:
- Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6)
In both 1 Timothy and Titus, the quality “above reproach” heads the list, not so much as an independent qualification, but as an overarching description of what is to follow. In every area of life, the pastor’s character should be beyond question.
- Husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6)
- Sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:2)
- Self-controlled (1 Timothy 3:2)
- Respectable (1 Timothy 3:2)
- Hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
- Not a drunkard (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)
- Not violent, but gentle (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)
- Not quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:3)
- Not a lover of money/not greedy for gain (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)
- Lover of good (Titus 1:8)
- Not arrogant (Titus 1:7)
- Not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7)
- Upright (Titus 1:8)
- Holy (Titus 1:8)
- Disciplined (Titus 1:8)
Convictions: The Beliefs of a Pastor
In his letter to Titus, Paul insists that an overseer “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” (Titus 1:9). The “trustworthy word” refers to the body of teaching which can be summarized by the message of the gospel. In 1 Timothy, Paul implies that pastors must hold to this “trustworthy” word, for he requires that the pastor be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). If a pastor is expected to teach, he certainly must have a firm grasp of Christian doctrine.
Competencies: The Skills of a Pastor
Besides these character traits and convictions, the pastor must have two key competencies: teaching and leadership/management.
Unlike the deacon, the pastor/elder must not only have a firm grasp of the gospel, but he must be able to teach it to others (1 Timothy 3:2). In fact, the pastor’s grasp of the gospel must be so thorough that he is able to “rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).
It is clear from the very designation “overseer” that a pastor must possess the skill of leadership. Yet the testing ground of a pastor’s leadership is not his public performance, but his private influence—at home (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). Paul makes this clear in his letters, both to Timothy and to Titus. If a pastor fails to exercise gospel leadership with those closest to him (his wife and children), he cannot be trusted to exercise gospel leadership with the church. If he demonstrates incompetence on the basic, private level of leadership, he cannot be trusted with this public sphere of influence.