How to Pray for Your Pastor (Series): Your Pastor is a Desperate Man
How to Pray for Your Pastor (Series): Why Should You Pray for Your Pastor?
Pray for Your Pastor in According to His Qualifications, Part 1: The Necessity of a Qualified Ministry
What are the pastor’s qualifications? Fortunately, the Holy Spirit has given us a clear word on what character credentials a man must possess in order to assume the role of overseer. In straightforward, plain language, God, through the apostle Paul, provides all the instruction we need in the two passages of Scripture we’ve mentioned a few times in this chapter: 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. For the sake of concision, we will examine both passages simultaneously by grouping the qualifications in the appropriate categories. And we will begin where Paul begins: with the man’s desire for pastoral ministry.
Qualification #1: A Desire for the Ministry
In providing the list of qualifications for pastoral ministry, Paul begins at a logical starting point. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). A man must want to serve as an elder before he can actually carry out his role as elder.
While there is such a thing as selfish ambition—when the power and prestige of the pastoral position appeal to a man more than the thought of serving Christ’s church in humble, self-sacrificial labor—there is also such a thing as noble ambition. When the Spirit qualifies a man for ministry, He instills in him a desire for leadership that is characterized by love for people and zeal for God’s glory. He’s not in the ministry for the sake of small or large-scale fame or in order to feel good about how many people need him. The qualified pastor desires to exercise his spiritual gifts of leadership and teaching, not for personal gain, but for the good of others.
Our prayers for our pastors, then, should include pleas to God that He would continually give to these men a desire for the ministry. As we will discover in later chapters, the pastoral ministry is fraught with many discouragements. Over time a pastor may sense his desire for the ministry decrease as he reels from various trials and disappointments. We must uphold him with prayer so that God would maintain the flame of his passion for ministry.
But we should also pray that our pastor maintain God-honoring motivations as he conducts his ministry. Sadly, church history is littered with countless stories of men who began well and with every good intention but who eventually succumbed to pride and an overriding desire to get glory for themselves. We must pray that Christ, through His Spirit, will cultivate and sustain genuine humility during the course of the pastor’s ministry.
Qualification #2: An Irreproachable Life
The second qualification that Paul lists in 1 Timothy 3 refers to the whole of the pastor’s life: in all that he does he is to be “above reproach.” What it means specifically to be above reproach is outlined in the rest of Paul’s instructions for aspiring elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Although the pastor is not sinless, his character is free from sins that tend to bring disrepute upon the Christian ministry. The pastor who is above reproach is one who cannot be finally accused of marital infidelity, a habitual lack of self-control, love for money, a fiery temper, drunkenness, an out-of-control household, or pride. I say “finally accused” because it is possible for elders to be falsely accused of sin, which is why Paul instructs Timothy to only take accusations against an elder seriously if they are based on more than one testimony (see 1 Timothy 5:19). When the dust of accusation settles, the pastor who is above reproach will be found innocent of the sins outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.
Praying that our pastors would maintain an irreproachable life means that we ask God specifically to uphold these men in every category outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. It also means pleading with God that our pastors would take care to watch over their personal lives, the place where integrity is either proven or lost. If a pastor is going to remain above reproach publically, he must be above reproach privately. Just as Paul tells Timothy and Titus, righteousness and holiness must characterize the pastor’s life. Practically, this command refers to the pastor’s recreation, his time on the Internet, what he watches on the television, the books he reads, the magazines he peruses, and the music he listens to. At basic, it means praying for our pastor’s affections, that they would be “lovers of good” (Titus 1:8) and thus not inclined to give themselves to that which is evil.
Qualification #3: Sexual Fidelity
In order to qualify for an oversight ministry, a man must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2). The original text in this passage actually says, “a one-woman man.” Paul’s phrase here can be applied not only to the married man but to the unmarried man as well. In other words, not only does Paul require that married men maintain strict fidelity to their wives, but single men are to demonstrate integrity in how they conduct themselves around other women. Those men who are not married yet aspire for pastoral ministry must not be characterized by flirtatious behavior, or by simultaneously leading multiple women to believe he is romantically interested. The single man is a one-woman man in the sense that he lives respectably toward all women in order to honor one woman, his future wife, if the Lord so blesses.
In light of Jesus’ warning against lust, we can also expand Paul’s instruction here to include the pastor’s eyes, mind, and heart (see Matt 5:27-30). It is not enough for a pastor to maintain a functional commitment with his wife for the sake of his ministry; he must guard himself from the spiritually eroding influences of lust (see 1 Pet 2:11).
Cultivating fantasies about other women and exposing oneself to pornography will disqualify a man from ministry just as quickly as open adultery. By constantly feeding sexual lust by looking at pornographic images or skimpily dressed women, the pastor, married or single, is demonstrating that he is no longer a one-woman man. He has a whole harem of women at his disposal, though they may be only mental or digital.
The specific content of our prayer under this heading should be obvious. Current statistics indicate, if true, that most pastors have struggled or currently struggle with pornography. Our prayers, therefore, should not only include requests to God that our pastors would pursue sexual purity and marital fidelity with all their might, but requests that those who are currently enmeshed in a slough of pornography and lust would confess their sins to those who oversee his ministry (e.g., other elders, certain designated members of the congregation) and exhibit a willingness to step down from his post until he has gained control over this sin. A pastor’s growth in this area is vital not only to his spiritual health and vitality, but to the whole of his ministry. Pray diligently for your pastor’s sexual fidelity.
In the next post, we will examine the qualifications of self-control and the pastor’s home life.