WE DISCUSSED in the previous edition that God, the creator of the heavens and earth, placed humans in the garden of Eden to work and keep it. In other words, we must work to among other reasons or purposes earn our own bread. Besides lawful works humans do such as accounting, teaching and farming they are also expected to do God's work.
We pointed out that God's work specifically involves making humanity reconcile to God through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It entails snatching sinners from eternal damnation to eternal salvation, from poverty to true riches, from darkness to light, from captivity to freedom, from ignorance to knowledge, from blindness to sight and from oppression to liberty.
People who are engaged in this special work of God from the Christian perspective are Holy Spirit-filled men and women, charged to actively participate in the ministry of God, using the spiritual gifts the Spirit of God has endowed them with. But then, God in His infinite wisdom has ordained that the community of Christian believers be equipped for the work of ministry.
Fellow Christians who are appointed to play this facilitating role aimed at preparing the saints to actively participate in God's work are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In this article, I generally refer to them as pastors. These are not babies but mature ministers in Christ Jesus.
This makes them servant leaders of the churches throughout the world. This, however, does not make them the owners of the churches but under-shepherds with Christ Jesus as their chief Shepherd.
A careful study of the Bible reveals that boys or spiritually immature Christians are not appointed to assume the responsibility of pastoring or overseeing churches. We can see this in the life of Christ Jesus Himself. When He was a boy, He did not pastor a church, but committed Himself to preparing for His future ministry. The same can be said of Samuel, who as a boy, ministered before the LORD under the tutelage of Eli until he matured spiritually.
There is a reason for God not permitting boys or immature Christians to be ordained to assume pastoring roles in churches. In his epistle to the church in Corinth, Paul, the apostle, warns that it is dangerous for an immature Christian to hold the office of a pastor. Paul says those who disregard the caution and go on ahead to hold the office may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of devil (1 Timothy 3:6).
We should remember that our walk with the Lord to the Promised Land involves satanic battles which include persistent temptations and trials aimed at overthrowing our faith in Christ Jesus. Indeed, an immature Christian may not have trained himself in the word of righteousness to develop strong Christ-like character relevant for pastoring ministry.
This is why Paul, again, emphasized qualifications which church leaders must meet before they can be appointed and set in the church. There is no doubt that good character is a necessary pre-condition for Christian ministry. Christ-like character not a clerical collar is a virtue a Christian leader must possess in addition to the anointing of God for effective ministry. A pastor with a questionable character dishonours the name of God and falls into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
A calling to Christian ministry is a high, heavenly and holy calling. Knowing the implications of these, Paul takes his time to spell out detailed qualifications for those who aspire for Christian leadership. This means not every believer can occupy a leadership position in a local church. He or she needs to qualify for it. They must be people of proven character reminiscent of the humble, gentle, loving character of Christ.
Thus, Paul insists and writes: “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 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” (1Timothy 3:1-7).
The apostle discusses similar qualifications in other passages of Scripture. Clearly, pastoring is not a job for the boys, those feed on milk of God's Word and tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:14).
Rather, they are men, those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish between good from evil (Hebrews 5:13-14).
Indeed, the early Christian leaders worked hard to discourage boys and girls i.e. spiritually immature Christians from being ordained as pastors, considering its dangerous consequences.
Thus, in 1 Timothy 5:22, Paul, again, instructed Timothy to avoid being quick to lay his hands on those who sought leadership positions in the church.
The apostle extended these qualifications in the selection and appointment of deacons. He insisted that these leaders must be tested first before they may be permitted to serve (1 Timothy 3:10). But what do we see today? An idol worshipper gets up one day and announces her conversion and days later she is ordained as a pastor. This ought to be discouraged in the church of God.
By James Quansah