Praying for Your Pastor According to His Qualifications, Part 3: Self-Control, Family Life, and Money

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?
Praying for Your Pastor in Light of His Qualifications, Part 1: The Necessity of a Qualified Ministry
Praying For Your Pastor According to His Qualifications, Part 2: A Holy Ambition and a Holy Life

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Related to the last qualification is Paul’s requirement that the pastor exhibit self-control. The pastor is to be “sober-minded, self-controlled, [and] respectable” (1 Tim 3:2). While each of these words provide their own unique emphasis, all three carry the similar idea of self-control. The word translated here as “sober-minded” (nēphalios) can also be rendered “temperate” and can denote self-control in one’s drinking of wine. In the context, it refers to the pastor’s judgment. In his book, Biblical Eldership, Alexander Strauch comments, “Negatively, it indicates the absence of any personal disorder that would distort a person’s judgment or conduct. Positively, it describes a person who is stable, circumspect, self-restrained, and clear-headed.”

The word rendered “self-control” is similar to nēphalios but describes one who is “sound-minded, discreet, and sensible, able to keep an objective perspective in the face of problems and disagreements.” Such a character quality is essential for a pastor as he daily deals with people.

Finally, the pastor must be “respectable.” This word refers to the pastor’s behavior and highlights how a pastor conducts himself around others. A qualified shepherd is someone whom others can look up to and someone whom, as the idiom goes, “acts his age.” A respectable man is not entranced by the trappings and temptations of youth, nor is he lazy and unwilling to work hard and assume responsibility. In other words, he is disciplined (Titus 1:8). He manages his time well, does what is most important first, and is willing to set aside something good for something better.

The requirement for self-control, sober-judgment, and respectability also relates directly to Paul’s requirement that an elder must not be a drunkard, quick-tempered, violent, or quarrelsome (1 Tim 3:3; Titus 1:7). Each of these qualifications obligates the pastor to gain control over his appetites and over his emotions.

The temptation to forsake self-control in each of the areas I just mentioned will be particularly acute for the pastor. If the trials of ministry become too much, a minister may look to alcohol or other substances (including food) in order to ease the pain. When confronted with difficult and divisive Christians, a minister may be tempted to handle such people with explosive, intimidating anger. And, because one of his primary responsibilities will be to teach the truth and correct false doctrine, a pastor may find himself prone to quarreling with others who oppose biblical instruction.

A congregation that prays for their pastor, therefore, will pray that he continually grows in each of these virtues and in the broader quality of self-control. Without self-control, all else in a man’s ministry will be lost. He will be, as the Proverbs tell us “like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov 25:28).

A pastor must gain control over his physical appetites and over his mind. An elder should take care with how he eats, how he thinks, how he conducts himself around others, and how he responds to difficult circumstances. He must grow in his ability to restrain and righteously focus his anger while avoiding the temptation to pick fights with others. And because self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23), our pastors need our consistent prayer that God would cultivate in them this vital quality.

The development and progress of self-control in your pastor’s life is not something that he can muster on his own: he needs the Spirit of God to work on his behalf, which means he needs you to pray on his behalf. Furthermore, the cultivation of these vital character qualities will help ensure that the pastor fulfills Paul’s requirement that he be “well thought of by unbelievers” and kept from “fall[ing] into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:7).

Qualification #5: An Orderly Home Life
Paul’s logic for this qualification is inescapable. A pastor “must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church” (1 Tim 3:4-5). If a man is unable to oversee his family with dignity and order, why should one expect him to oversee the church with dignity and order? A man’s family is the testing ground to determine whether or not he has the requisite skills to cast a compelling vision, cultivate genuine obedience among the members, and lead the greater church to discipline unrepentant members.

If a man cannot love his family—the people to whom he should have the most natural affection—how can he love God’s people, most of whom he shares no ties of kinship? If he isn’t sacrificing for the welfare of his family, why should we be confident he will put the needs of the congregation above his own desires? If he isn’t diligent to teach spiritual truth to his family, why should we expect him to take his pulpit ministry seriously? If a pastor cannot cultivate wisdom and temperance among his children, how will he train his people in similar qualities (see Titus 1:6)?

A praying congregation will pray specifically and regularly for their pastor’s home life, and they will pray that the pastor make his family a priority. Indeed, it is for the benefit of the congregation that he does so, for when he devotes himself to the spiritual good of his family, a church can know that they will receive the same kind of care. And, not only can such a church count on competent spiritual attention from a pastor who prioritizes his family, they can also count on care that endures. A pastor whose family life is falling apart will soon be out of the ministry, and for good reason. But a pastor who, in the midst of his ministry, seeks the happiness and contentment of his family, will remain long in his role and prove to be a lasting benefit to the people under his care.

The pastor’s home life should be a subject of much regular supplication among church members for another reason. As many adult children would attest, their life as a pastor’s kid wasn’t always easy, even with the best of pastor-dads. Added to all the other difficulties that attend childhood and young adulthood is the pressure, because of their dad’s position, that young kids may feel to “perform” or demonstrate spiritual maturity among the members of the church.

Our pastors, therefore, often sense a double pressure upon their home life. They must maintain the priority of their family, but they must also help their children navigate the often-unpredictable waters of life as a pastor’s kid. This is no easy task, and many pastors are failing to the uttermost in this area. Because of their dad’s tendency toward workaholism or out of simple neglect, some kids are finding themselves without a shepherd, despite the fact they live with one.

It is clear that our commitment to pray for our pastor and his family is of vital importance. We should pray that our pastors learn how to remain faithful to their post as shepherd of Christ’s sheep while making their family a priority. We must also pray for our pastor’s children, that they grow in a genuine relationship with Jesus and love for His church. Disaster here will mean disaster for the church. Pray for your pastor’s home life.

Qualification #6: No Love of Money
Second only to the lure of sexual immorality is the enticement of wealth, so Paul tells Timothy and Titus that overseers must be free from the love of money (1 Tim 3:3; Titus 1:7). The desire to be wealthy can easily entangle Christians and bring them many temporal and spiritual troubles (1 Timothy 6:10; see also Mark 4:18-19). But Satan is particularly interested in ensnaring pastors with a love for money because he knows how it can dampen his spiritual affections, blunt his convictions, and tame his courage.

Once a pastor has indulged in and fed a love for money and possessions, he will soon find himself with a growing temptation to flatter his people in order to keep them around and stacking the collection plate each week. He will be drawn into twisting the Scripture in order to remove offense from his teaching and fill the pews. Compromises will be made to keep big givers in the church and his courage to confront sin will vanish. Rich biblical insight will give way to platitudes, and a disciplined life of study, prayer, and discipleship will be replaced with more and more hobbies. Like the third soil in Jesus’ parable, the pastor who loves money will become unfruitful to his eternal destruction. And his people will follow (see Matt 13:22; Mark 4:18-19; Luke 8:14).

The answer to the temptation of a love for money, however, is not to keep a pastor poor, as some churches have mistakenly done. I know of men who have applied to churches where the full-time compensation package didn’t even meet the median income for a given area. But relative wealth or poverty has nothing to do with the desires of the heart: a poor pastor can desire more money just as easily as a well-paid pastor can. What matters is that the pastor is an example of how to set one’s affections on heavenly riches rather than earthly treasures (see Matt 6:19-21). He is to be generous, sensible in his spending, and never willing to compromise the truth for the sake of money.

Our prayers, then, should be for our pastor’s heart. Our pastors need the Spirit to give them continually such a sight of eternity and spiritual realities that they are not worried about having enough money, distracted by thoughts of acquiring more money, nor moved (by wealthy congregants) by the promise of large amounts of money. We should pray that our pastors have a heart full of trust in the Lord so that they are able to give generously, spend wisely, and avoid any hint of compromise.

A congregation can also pray that the church will be able to continue to adequately provide for their pastor. While it is true that one’s relative wealth or poverty can’t ultimately eradicate greed or change the desires of one’s heart, deliberate prayer to God can keep our pastors balanced between extremes of great wealth and dire poverty. In Proverbs, Agur asks that God would give him “neither poverty nor riches” but to “feed me with the food that is needful for me.” There are twin motivations for this prayer. Agur desires to avoid great wealth “lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” and he wants to avoid serious poverty so that he is not tempted to steal and “profane the name of my God” (Prov 30:8-9). A pastor for whom a congregation adequately provides will be able to focus his whole heart and energy on serving the flock.

In Titus 1:7-8, Paul connects the qualification of no love for money with the pastor’s practice of hospitality. A pastor must not be “greedy for gain,” but “hospitable.” Why this contrast? Because Paul knows that a pastor whose heart is wrapped up in acquiring more money and possessions will probably be less willing to practice hospitality to others. His greed will dampen his desire to share with others and open his home to those in need or whom he might not know. Prayer for our pastor’s heart and adequate provision, then, will enable him to fulfill other qualifications, namely the requirement to practice hospitality.

In the next post, we will consider the pastor’s humility and his ability to teach.

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