July 1

Character counts! That is the key to pastoral leadership. However, we must let God define who the pastor is, and not we ourselves. I have seen too many abuse the “above reproach” statement in I. Timothy 3 to mean, “If I don’t like what the pastor did, then he is not above reproach”.

  • One person I was reading conceded that “Husband of one wife” did notrefer to divorce, so he found a way around it by stating, “However, if he’s ever been divorced then he’s no longer without reproach”. Is that true even if she was the one who committed adultery and left him for another? He’s guilty of her sin?
  • Another pastor had made a statement many years ago in a text that was pulled out and used against him. The context was not easy to judge, and it wasn’t explicit or vulgar, but the insinuation levied against him was that his statement was an indicator he had probably committed adultery. I reviewed the statement and I never saw anything that indicated such. But, one of the people that left that church told me that the pastor was no longer above reproach—all from an old text from years ago.

Point is, the pastor should never be put on a pedestal. If you put him up there, I guarantee you he will fall off it. However, on the other hand, I. Timothy 3 gives you God’s guidelines to ensure you choose a man who is respectable and biblical, and then to gauge his conduct of life. He should hold those ideals up as well knowing he will answer to God for his actions someday.

  1. Do you recognize these names:
    1. Ted Haggard _______________________________________
    2. Jim Bakker ________________________________________
    3. Mark Driscoll _______________________________________
    4. Tullian Tchividjian ___________________________________
    5. C. Sproul Jr. ______________________________________
    6. Bill Hybels _________________________________________
    7. Paul Jennings Hill ____________________________________

Each of the above names is someone who has brought national shame on the name of Christ:

  • Ted Haggard was a mega-church pastor who taught often against homosexuality but was caught having solicitated a male prostitute.
  • Jim Bakker’s affair cost him his marriage, and that plus mail and wire fraud cost him his ministry and sent him to prison.
  • Mark Driscoll is theologically orthodox, but has self-control issues and was fired from his Seattle pastorate for abusiveness, among other things (in fact, his mega-church went belly-up after he was fired).
  • Tchividjian was the grandson of Billy Graham and replaced the late D. James Kennedy as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida. But, his extramarital affairs cost him his church.
  • C. Sproul Jr., not to be confused with his father, has had more than one moral issue damage his ministry. Having the same name as his father has probably damaged his late father’s ministry to a small degree as well.
  • Bill Hybels was the pastor of the well-known mega-church, Willow Creek Community Church which influenced Rick Warren and countless others. He had to step down last year due to accusations of affairs.
  • Paul Jennings Hill was an anti-abortion preaching pastor in Florida who decided God wasn’t moving fast enough to end abortion, so he killed an abortion doctor. He was imprisoned and executed.

Pastoring is one of the hardest jobs in the world because of the continual attacks from Satan, the Christ-hating world, and our own flesh. This is why it is essential for there to be a group of men in the church who are close to the pastors, who pray for them, who hold them accountable, who are not “yes men”. Most pastors do not have this and I believe the toll is greater than we would like to admit. And don’t be mislead to think pastoral problems are only in mega-churches. They just get the biggest media notoriety. All pastors are continually under attack and many pastors fail their ministries despite the size of their churches. We pastors must guard our ministries and fight against failing (or as Paul would say, of being “disqualified” –I. Corinthians 9:27).

“Above reproach” is defined by those things Paul listed afterwards in I. Timothy 3 and all are equally important. Too many churches get hung up on one or two items. What good is a faithful pastor who is drunk? Or, a hospitable pastor who is verbally and physically abusive towards others? Does it matter if the pastor is an outrageously dynamic and charismatic teacher who draws in the crowds, but who can’t manage his family well? (the answer is yes, it matters significantly).

  1. Remember that of the 15 traits listed, only one of them describes what the pastor does (teach). The rest are about his character and lifestyle. Why do you think that is? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. So let’s discuss teaching. What does the Bible tell us the pastor is to be teaching? ________________________________________________
    1. There are a few different ways of teaching the Bible, the expository is the primary and preferred because its goal is to draw out God’s meaning, not the pastor’s. The popular style today is topical which begins with the topic and then tries to find some Bible verses that support that topic. Unfortunately, it is too easy to take verses out of context, and it is too easy tailor the messages to the peoples’ whims and desires. There is what is known as topical expository teaching, but few practice that unfortunately.
  • Deuteronomy 32:47 “For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”
  • John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
    1. Why is the Bible all that needs to be taught to you? __________________________________________________
  • “A good church is a Bible-centered church. Nothing is as important as this—not a large congregation, a witty pastor, or tangible experiences of the Holy Spirit.”—Alistair Begg
    1. What do you like better: a thick, juicy, grilled steak, or a slab of tofu? ______________________________________________
      1. Assuming you prefer the steak, the more of the Bible you ingest (from reading, studying, and hearing solid Bible-focused teaching), the hungrier you are for more. In time, the tofu teaching you get from lightweight topical, felt-needs, motivational sermonettes become tasteless and bland. You begin to crave more meat (no offense to tofu, of course).
    2. I mentioned Apollos on Sunday ever so briefly. Acts 18:24 tells us he was quite learned in the Scriptures. He was discipled by two, ordinary church members, Priscilla and Aquila. If Apollos showed up in Waikoloa this weekend, with a seminary Ph.D. in Bible, but young in the faith, would you feel confident that you could embrace him and help teach him the spiritual depths of the Word? ________________________________________________________
      1. Remember, Apollos knows the technical procedures of Bible interpretation, but the spiritual things of God are only understood by those who have the Spirit (I. Corinthians 2). You have the Spirit in you, so you should be able to take him deeper and help him apply that knowledge. Even Pau, a Pharisee whose training in the Old Testament was more in-depth than you could imagine, was discipled over the course of a couple years, and not by another theologian.
      2. Furthermore, this is why your pastors teach you the Bible—so that you will be equipped in the Word and able to do the work of ministry.

I Love Thy Kingdom Lord  Hymn by Timothy Dwight

1 I love thy kingdom, Lord,

The house of thine abode,

The church our blest Redeemer saved

With his own precious blood.


2 I love thy church, O God:

Her walls before thee stand,

Dear as the apple of thine eye

And graven on thy hand.


3 For her my tears shall fall,

For her my prayers ascend;

To her my cares and toils be giv’n,

‘Til toils and cares shall end.


4 Beyond my highest joy

I prize her heav’nly ways,

Her sweet communion, solemn vows,

Her hymns of love and praise.


5 Jesus, thou Friend divine,

Our Savior and our King,

Thy hand from ev’ry snare and foe

Shall great deliv’rance bring.


6 Sure as thy truth shall last,

To Zion shall be giv’n

The brightest glories earth can yield,

And brighter bliss of heav’n.