Years ago, back in Canada, I had coffee with one of my pastors. As we talked about books, ministry, stuff going on in our lives, he mentioned, “Say, have you seen this video?”
It was a satirical video about why men couldn’t be pastors. The premise was to redirect the reasons women hear about why they can’t be pastors to show their ridiculousness. Reproductive cycles. Moodiness. Emotionalism. You get the gist.
The video was silly. But it wasn’t funny silly. It was sad. If the kind of nonsense is what so many women are being told in some circles, it needs to stop. It’s wrong, unbiblical, and demeaning. It is sinful. And anytime a Christian wants to be a voice of dissent on any issue it should be due to what the Bible says, not because we’re making stuff up.
But the video was sad for another reason. In redirecting the nonsense women hear, they failed to deal with what the Bible says about who can be a pastor. And the Bible has a lot to say about it, giving seven very good reasons to not allow a man to be a pastor. All of them come from the same passage, 1 Timothy 3:1–7.
His character is easily impeached (1 Timothy 3:2)
“An overseer must be above reproach,” Paul wrote. This means, quite simply you’re the kind of man “no one suspects of wrongdoing and immorality.”1 We should be shocked when we hear about immorality amongst Christian pastors and elders because it should be unheard of among them. We should not have moments of cynicism because there should be nothing about them that would make us cynical. Being above reproach doesn’t mean being perfect, but it does mean being a man of integrity. If a man is not that, then he probably shouldn’t be a pastor.
He can’t teach (1 Timothy 3:2)
This is kind of a deal breaker: if a pastor or elder can’t teach—whether that’s preaching, or some other form of teaching (which includes one-on-one explanation, and writing)—then he can’t be a pastor. Teaching is an essential component to this ministry, which is built upon the idea of equipping the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
He’s a bully (1 Timothy 3:3)
If a man tries to intimidate people into doing what he wants, yells and berates others, calls those who disagree with him names, he can’t really be called gentle or respectable, and chances are he probably shouldn’t be called a pastor either.
He’s mastered by something other than Christ (1 Timothy 3:2, 3)
Jesus said no one can serve two masters—you’ll always have to choose one or the other. Greedy people, for example, see ministry as an opportunity to personally enrich themselves. They’ll promise the moon and the stars if you’ll sow a seed. Similarly, those who lack self-control are mastered by their indulgences whether they’re pornography and sex (thus violating that whole “husband of one wife” deal), alcohol, or even food. If something other than Christ reigns as supreme in his heart, a man cannot be a pastor.
His family situation is a disaster (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
I’m not talking about the typical stuff of life, where kids test boundaries periodically or we have occasional disagreements with our wives. I’m talking about the man who’s not respected by his kids or his wife because he’s not respectable, who tries to coerce submission instead of being a servant himself (which in turn leads to a desire to behave in kind). Pro-tip: if the words, “you have to submit,” leave a man’s lips, he probably shouldn’t be a pastor.
He’s a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6)
This isn’t a warning against age, but about character. A mature believer might be 27, even as an immature one might be 57. The principle here is that a pastor should be someone who would not become conceited by being in a particular position. They have sufficient character to accept responsibility and authority with humility.
He has a bad reputation among unbelievers (1 Timothy 3:7)
Pastors are to be thought well of by outsiders—meaning those outside the faith. They might not like him, but their distaste should be because of the One he represents and the gospel he preaches, not because he’s an offensive person. If a man is known as being a jerk among his neighbors (and there’s grounds for such a reputation), chances are he’s probably not terribly hospitable. He also probably shouldn’t be a pastor.
We should be offended by unbiblical arguments against ordaining women. We should also keep having real conversations about our views on the issue. But I hope that, no matter what side of the debate we’re on, we will agree about this: the Bible makes a very compelling case about the sort of man who should never, ever be a pastor.
- Thabiti Anyabwile, Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons, 57.