It is tragic but undeniable: There are many, many people in positions of church leadership who should not be in positions of church leadership. There are many pastors who should not be pastors, many elders who have no business being elders.
This is not a new problem. In the pages of the New Testament both Paul and Peter labor to describe the man who is qualified to the office of elder. It is noteworthy that almost all of these qualifications are related to character. Where we are drawn to outward skill, God cares far more for inward character. There are millions of men who are great teachers and great leaders and great C.E.O.’s, but still completely unsuited to leadership in the church. God’s standards are very, very different.
In the book of Titus, Paul writes to a young man and charges him to appoint elders in every church in Crete. He tells him what kind of man to look for and as he does this he gives a glimpse of the anti-elder, the kind of man who may seek the office but who is absolutely unsuited to it. Paul offers 5 anti-qualifications, 5 things an elder must not be. He may not display all of these traits, but he will display at least some of them.
Here are the 5 qualities of the anti-elder:
The anti-elder is a dictator. Paul says, “He must not be arrogant.” The anti-elder is marked by arrogance and aggression, and therefore he makes decisions that are to his own advantage rather than to the advantage of the people in his care. He has a kind of unrestrained ambition that causes him to run over people rather than care for them. Instead of listening carefully and leading gently, he cuts people off and demands that he have his own way. The anti-elder is a dictator over his own little dominion.
The anti-elder is short-fused. “He must not be … quick-tempered.” The anti-elder has a hot temper and a quick temper. He lives by his passions, and refuses to exhibit any kind of mastery over his anger. Instead of leading in love, he leads through fear and when people get in his way, he explodes at them. All the while he justifies his anger by his ambition or his sense of calling, convincing himself that anyone who hinders him is actually hindering the Lord.
The anti-elder is an addict. “He must not be … a drunkard.” The anti-elder is addicted to alcohol or other addicting substances. He has surrendered control of his life to some kind of substance, over-using it, and eventually becoming dependent upon it. But as an arrogant and quick-tempered man, he will not allow others to speak to his sin or curb him from his sin. He is addicted, but still considers himself suited to ministry.
The anti-elder is a bully. “He must not be … violent.” The anti-elder bullies and abuses other people in order to get his way. He is a brawler, a man who is itching for a fight, willing to use force to get his own way. He will bully people with his words or even his fists. He will use force of personality or the strength of his position to coerce people to do his will, and to be domineering over them. Rather than using the Word to gently lead and guide people, he uses the Bible to bully them and to force them to do his bidding. He is an abuser.
The anti-elder is greedy. “He must not be … greedy for gain.” The anti-elder is greedy for financial gain. For this man pastoral ministry is not a calling and not a means through which he can serve God by serving God’s people; rather, ministry is a means to personal enrichment. He demands an exorbitant salary, and hops from church-to-church to climb the financial ladder. He does not regard his congregation as people God has entrusted to his care, but as marks through which he can enrich himself. The anti-elder loves his paycheck more than his people.
Alongside this anti-elder Paul holds up the elder, the real elder, the called and qualified elder who is different in every way. He is a man who is above reproach, who loves to extend generous hospitality, who loves what is good, who exhibits self-control, who is upright, and holy, and disciplined, and who holds fast to the truth revealed to us by God. He is a man who subjects his entire life to God and who serves him humbly and faithfully.
Thank God for godly elders.
Credit: Shutterstock provided the image, Paul Martin provided a lot of the information.