If a pastor is not actively living his life “above reproach” and is allowed to continue in his role as an elder/pastor, there are potentially dangerous consequences for him. Paul warns that ministers can “fall into disgrace” and then “into the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7). Again, this is significant. As brothers in Christ, we should never allow a friend or elder to continue to incur the displeasure of God’s judgment or will. We should aim to protect one another from these humbling realities.
It is well-known that the families of pastors/elders can struggle. They often report feeling forgotten and neglected as their husband and/or father spends a notable amount of his time, energy, and emotions shepherding a church of God’s people. I suspect in most cases the lack of attention towards home isn’t intentional. Responding to a supernatural calling, these men are led to care for the flock God has placed under them. Yet, in their efforts to fulfill their calling, they forsake a primary obligation (and prerequisite) – even disqualifying themselves.
This issue has been heavy on my heart in recent weeks as I have watched a close friend walk through the challenging dynamic described above. His love for the church, work, and his flock distracted him from other, higher-ranking priorities. The result has been nothing short of tragic for him, his church, and his family. For others, not yet in such a devastating situation, I hope that this article will spur you to think seriously about your pastor, and his family, and how you can serve and love them. Even as a layperson, you can have a tremendous influence on your pastor. Gentle, loving reminders can go a long way in serving him and his family.
Through God’s tremendous kindness, He has given us His Word to help navigate such complicated issues. It is as the Westminster Confession of Faith says: “The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence, we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture” (Chapter 1, Section 10).
Consider then a few texts on the issue of elder/pastor qualification:
“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach” (Titus 1:6-7a)
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He 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? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
In the two texts quoted above on elder qualifications, we see the Apostle Paul repeat the phrase “above reproach” multiple times. Lending many commentators to argue that this phrase is the summarization and key qualifier of an elder/shepherd. Certainly, no one does this flawlessly; we are all fallen, sinful beings who are in all ways inadequate.