The Goals of the Ministry are Simple:
Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Eph 4:12-15 NLT)
The goals are these:
- Equipping the Saints
- Building the Church
- Maintain the Doctrine to produce the unity of the Faith
- Maturing the Saints
In other words, the ministry provides for the Saints a shelter, a place to learn and grow together, and a place to mature in God. The ministry is supposed to be a shield for the congregation, building them into the body of Christ.
The ministry, according to Acts 6 and 1st Timothy 3, is divided into two partitions – the episcopate and the diaconate. I want to focus on the former – the pastors and bishops.
According to Paul’s letter to Timothy, the Overseer/Elder must meet the following qualifications:
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1Ti 3:1-7 NKJ)
We will examine these one by one:
The first set pertains to the private character of the person, perhaps something that the congregation would rarely, or even never see:
Blameless (ἀνεπίλημπτον) means ‘strictly not to be laid hold of; hence, of moral conduct blameless, above criticism, without fault‘ (Friberg). Does the overseer/elder have to be perfect? No – but he must be of blameless moral conduct. People make mistakes, and allowances must be made for that, but when it comes to morality – breaking the law for instance – it should not be tolerated.
The ‘husband of one wife’ is debatable. Some hold that the person must be married, but this is not the case in Scripture. This is not speaking about second marriages after the biblical allowance for separation, but those who go against the biblical allowance for second marriage.
‘Temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior’ (νηφάλιον σώφρονα κόσμιον) – all points to the same thing. The person in question must be someone who is orderly.
The overseer must then be generous to guests.
Further, a teaching ability must be present.
The second set of qualifications are those things seen openly by people:
The overseer/elder cannot be a drunkard. ‘πάροινος, addicted to wine, drunken, of one who tends to be quarrelsome as he habitually drinks too much; substantivally drunkard (Friberg).’
It is not mere violence that the overseer must avoid, but being a bully. (πλήκτης, ὁ strictly striker; hence pugnacious person, bully, quarrelsome person – Friberg). How easy it is to be a bully if you already have the moral authority. It is simply how cults begin, how people are led away and astray. The ministry is not about power, but about taking care of the Church of God. When people began to replace God with themselves, or if the congregation looks to the pastor instead of God, then it is possible for the power to consume the person.
Bullying leads to the violence of loving money and is countered by being gentle, refusing to covet, and being generous with the things that God has given them.
Further, this person must have a well ordered home life.
Finally, and I believe it is placed last for a reason, the overseer must have a good report from without. Do you expect a servant of God to always have a good report – not even Paul could achieve that – but his moral conduct must be so that his morality should be above that of those around him. His generosity must be that above those outside. His well ordered life must be an example to those without.
Finally, Paul’s letter to Titus adds to this set of qualifications, one more:
Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Tit 1:9 NKJ)
I believe this is the good report which Paul tells Timothy – that the overseer should not easily be seen to be inapt when it comes to holding the sound doctrine of the Faith. That his words should not be held against him as a hypocrite. He should have a testimony that he lives the life which he teaches and preaches, doctrinally and morally.