A few days ago I read an article concerning local church happenings and the comments led to the qualifications of a minister in the Pastoral Epistles. What I took notice of was not the church, or their decision, or the preacher at the heart of the article. I have never spoken with him. I have only seen him in person one time. I overheard him talking about the church with a couple as our children played at a local park. So, I have no informed opinion of the man or any real knowledge of his last year. When the church gave their public statement last year, it brought tears to my eyes. It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen. It also caused me to call a man at our church and say, "Thank you for being someone who tells me what I need to hear. If this could happen to _____, then I know it could happen to me." I pray his life continues to be conformed to the image of Christ and that God will cause all things to work together for good for all those involved. I hope the best is truly yet to come for the previous pastor, the current pastors, and the church body. The church decided to go with a plurality of elders (which I think is good). The only one I have heard used to have a local radio show. In the early 2000's after church on Sunday nights, a friend and I would get a pizza, head to his garage, listen to CK Live, and shoot pool. Ah, what fond memories. Those were the days.
Back on topic... What did surprise me was a comment in the recent article that basically said, "I don't know what the Pastoral Epistles are and I don't care what they say about who is or isn't qualified to preach. I just want to hear _____." While his comment was not the majority view, it was still sad to read. Nobody would say that about other vocations. People don't say, "I don't care if my doctor is qualified or not, as long as he is sincere he can work on me." People don't say, "My $2,000 laptop is acting funny, but instead of going to the Apple Store I'm going to let my nephew try to fix it. He likes video games so I'm sure he could figure out how to glue the logic board together if he breaks it in half." When it comes to the grave responsibility of preaching the word, some (not all) would rather have who they think is best, instead of who the church, guided by Paul, who was guided by God, thinks is best.
Last summer I ate lunch with someone, and we discussed the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3. He said that only a few people could meet the requirements listed and that, of course, was the goal. God did not intend for this to be an easy list that anyone and everyone could pass. God intended it be narrow on purpose. It is a list of requirements that few will meet, fewer will desire to avow publicly to, and even fewer will die having never turned aside from.
Last month I went out of town for the weekend and attended the installation service for a young, but "famous," evangelical pastor. For about a decade he was a faithful pastor to a few hundred congregants in Michigan. Now he is a pastor to a few thousand congregants in North Carolina. Several pastors, seminary leaders, and elders gave him their challenges. Then they asked him to stand at the front of the church for all to see. They read a list of items, and then he publicly said he would fulfill those requirements. Words cannot describe the emotions I felt as I witnessed that event. There's only one reason someone would willingly submit to what that installation service stood for, a desire for the office to which God has called them.
The word used for desire in the first verse of 1 Timothy 3 is used a couple of other times in the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 6:10 it is used to speak about those who covet riches and the love of money. In Hebrews 11:16 it is used to describe the Old Testament faithful who desired heaven no matter the cost. May God give the church men that desire the office more than earthly people covet money. Men that desire their present heavenly calling as much as their future heavenly destination. May God give us men that are filled with such holiness that no public charge sticks, yet filled with such humility that they will confess they are wretched men and the chief of sinners. May God give the church men that crave the knowledge of God so much that teaching others is only an overflow of what God has taught them. Men that are apt to teach. Men that do not run out of sermons to preach but run out of time to preach. Men that, like Paul, if they knew they were about to die would spend their dying hours reading and studying, even if they knew they would never preach another sermon (2 Timothy 4:13). God give us men that have the courage to say in the spirit of Acts 6:4, "I'm not going to neglect what God has called me to do so that I can do what God has called you to do, thus causing us both to be out of God's will. You minister tables. I'll minister the word." May God give his church men that know the most important woman in the church is their wife, and the most important children in the church are their own. May God give to the body of Christ men that preach as if the audience had only one person, God, and everyone else gets to listen in.
God give us men that know you better than anyone else.
God give us men filled with you and not their self.
God give us men that have no sly motivation.
God give us men that thunder your divine proclamation.
Men taught by the divines what is their chief end.
Men taught by Edwards hell's horrors and heaven's bliss.
Men taught by Pink that God rules over all of life.
Men taught by Owen that death died in the death of Christ.
God give us men that will preach your word for your glory,
Instead of random thoughts with a tear-jerking story.
God give us men that will Monday through Saturday to their study retire,
And demonstrate on Sunday that "preaching is theology from a man on fire."
God graciously gives men like this for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4). If you are a church with a man like this, then God has given you a gift. If you are a man like this with a church that supports you, then God has given you a miracle. And, if you are a young man who desires more than anything to be like this, then God, somewhere, somehow, has a place for you.