Qualifications for Ministry

Many people desiring to go into full time ministry believe seminary is the only route. Most of them seek a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) which qualifies them to be a pastor. What is interesting is that neither the churches from which these candidates go from or the candidates themselves ask what are the qualifications of a pastor or ministry. Nor do they ask whether the seminary prepares them for ministry or how it is done. Everyone assumes a proper degree from seminary is the qualification for ministry. These assumptions have kept the church from genuinely helping those entering into the ministry. They have limited the value of what could be learned in seminary. Lastly, in many cases what is needed for minsitry is simply not gained.

We would like to discuss God's standards for ministry. We hope this discussion better equips the church to direct those entering ministry, focus the seminary student on essentials and lay the biblical understanding for better training in the future.

Let's start by looking at a well-known passage discussing the qualifications of an overseer. This would be the rulers or leaders of a local assembly or overseers of the more local leaders. The apostle Paul starts the list by an important word, "must." This should convince us that in reviewing the candidates for ministry some things are required as essential. We understand that not every pastor is fulltime. We understand that there are circumstances that would limit and or otherwise prevent this. The main focus is not on quantity of time but the position, though they cannot be totally separated. There is also a list for others who volunteer their services while still having other occupation. This deacon or coworker list starts in verse 8. We will focus on the first list for overseers.

1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.
2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money.
4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity
5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?);
6 and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

In order to help us the most, we should remember that Paul could have stated many things. He was well qualified to train and appoint. His experience no doubt reaches far beyond most of us. He on the other hand limits himself to these. Let us treat these points as very important. We do not deny they might have been shaped by the circumstances in which Paul was writing, but they also hold a more permanent sense of qualification for men in the ministry in general. Let us see why this is so.

Special comment
1) Above reproach
The Standard Setter

He is a godly man and lives uprightly. Many a time we have seen a leader with a sullied reputation discolor the ministry. We must never undervalue the importance of ones influence. Position requires responsiblity.

2) Husband of one wife
The Loyal-Hearted

Just as God provided Adam one wife, so each elder should have only one wife. There should not be any other women on the side. He is not saying that an elder must have a wife for Paul himself was boasting of the advantages of singlehood.

3) Temperate

The Spriit of God controls His life. He is not influenced by alcohol or other things and therefore has a clear judgment. He is not excessive but everything in his life in under good control.

4) Prudent
The Discerner

Those that help see the issues behind decisions are greatly appreciated. By wisely using ones time and resources, this man has first applied God's truth into his own life by which others want to profit.

swfrwn sober 2, temperate 1, discreet 1; 4

1) of a sound mind, sane, in one's senses
2) curbing one's desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate

5) Respectable
6) Hospitable
Responsive to People's Needs

By willing to share ones life and possessions with others, he shows himself carrying out love. He spots a need and fills it along with love. Many churches have kept a good testimony by a family or two that carry out hospitality in love.

7) Able to teach
A Teacher

The elder must be able to express God's teaching to others in somewhat clear fashion. He needs to be more than a people person who just likes to socialize. He needs to be love and teacher of God's Word.

8) Not addicted to wine
Addiction Free

One must not be addicted to anything included drugs and alcohol. If one is controlled by a substance, then he can be bribed and will one day come down. Substance abuse also clearly negatively affects the way one carries out his duties.

9) Not pugnacious
10) Gentle
11) Uncontentious
12) Free from the love of money
13) Manages his own household well (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?) (1 Timothy 2:5)
14) Keeping his children under control with all dignity
15) Not a new convert Lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.
16) Have a good reputation with those outside the church so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Important Observations

The church should join her Lord in expecting Him to lead people into outreach, statesman, shepherding, teaching and evangelistic ministries (Ephesians 4:11). These people are not limited by nationality (Isaiah 66:21) or by education (Acts 4:13). They were limitations, though, on gender. Just preceding this in 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul says he "does not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." Maintaining clear gender distinctions is important over the need of bringing more people into service. This was not new of course but just followed Jesus' clear example of choosing The Twelve and The Seventy.2

We should note that only three of the 16 qualifications have comments associated with them. These comments only help the reader understand why those three are important. All 16 are considered essential and none are qualified rgarding to culture, circumstance or age. He could have easily done this.

Furthermore, having mentioned sixteen items he seems to neglect saying the very things that we would say that are necessary for ministry. What is going on? Are we so far off the mark?

We also must ask, "Can or does the seminary enable this kind of training?" In close examination, we see that though some seminaries would encourage such goals, they are very difficult to actually implement. there are many reasons for this: seminaries focus on educational goals; character is not easily graded; our infatuation with knowledge; lack of accountability and demand to meet outside degree evaluators. In all honesty, these things are not the goals of the seminaries.

In the end we must come back to asking how they can become such men of character. Our answer will be found in the scriptures. It will not involve great involvement of money. Nor will it necessarily require being away with new friends. The key is purposeful mentoring or discipleship. The most likely place is your local church where you are well known.

The Course of Training

As we look carefully at the list above, we will note how the qualifications for the elder or overseer are nearly the same as the deacon. We should wonder what the difference is. What sets him apart is the burden from the Lord to be an overseer. We should not undermine this desire. Of course as Peter has said one needs to check his motives for desiring to be an elder (1 Peter 5:1-6). It shouldn't be for money or reputation. Desires, however, are not sufficient to warrant leadership responsiblity.

The inward call must be verified by the observations of those around him according to the standards laid out for us here in God's Word. If the relationship is not sufficiently close enough to discern these matters, then we should doubt our participation in this appointment process. We should remember Paul's admontion "not to lay hands" too rapidly. Can we not think of serious problems when candidates are only scrutizined according to their doctrine. Certainly we must not undermine the importance of doctrine. Paul mentions it just a littler further on.

If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing .... (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

Doctrine clearly is important. I think as we carefully read through the epistle that we see Paul seing that there is a flaw in those taking up leadership positions. They might have right doctrine at one point but we need to go beyond this and judge character. Jesus said that the real test for right faith is the life one lives. It is not the only test and yet if consistently applied we will in a large way protect ourselves from serious mistakes.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. (Matthew 6:24)

Faith's most clearest detection screen is our lives.

A Description of the Courses

Right now we

The church leaders are in charge of this training process, not ADT. If you would like suggestions, please let us know. We always go back to two main questions,

"Where do we want them to be?" and "Where is he now?"

Having isolated a person's special needs, burdens and gifts, we simply chart a path to develop these outlined areas. Remember the Lord is the ultimate trainer. He is an expert in this area, and we have the privilege of working along with the Spirit of God. For example, if one person is gifted in understanding or in-depth study, then make sure they acquire Biblical languages. If a person tends to doubt God, seek out how he can learn to grow in his faith. The development of character and Christian devotion should accompany the enhancing of skills.

Design of a training process

Most churches and individuals do not think of training on these levels. We need to adjust our expectations and plans so that we can work along God’s own training program through the church.

Look for upcoming updates on the ADT web pages for recommended outside training along with other helps. Send us an e-mail with questions, suggestions or to add your name to the ADT update list. Our hope is to share ideas and resources from each church involved.

Contact Paul at info@foundationsforfreedom.net

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom


(1) We realize that there are many more terms to describe those who serve fulltime but for simplification we merely use pastor and missionary as they are most common and understood.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

2) We are humbled by the great controversy that surrounds 1 Timothy 2:12-15 and women in ministry. This new movement precedes and follows the liberation of women. We believe that true freedom is to stay within the roles that the Lord has clearly appointed.