Meditations in Titus: 7: Qualifications for elders (2)
Titus 1:7,8 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined
Here is the second time Paul says an elder or overseer must be blameless. The first time we saw was in respect of family relationships; this one is about general behaviour. The reason for this call to have a good reputation is given: “Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work…..” It is often said that every person who is a Christian is on God’s work but the Bible emphasises that church leaders are in a way that others are not. We have suggested before that spiritual warfare is bruising and that the church leader is at the forefront of the battle that the enemy brings against the church. To be a church leader is to be called by God to a specific and difficult role. It is a public role in that the member of the local church see him, but so does the onlooking world. For this reason he is both a representative of God and of the church and therefore must have a spotless reputation. Now to the specifics.
“not overbearing”. The dictionary definition of this is ‘acting in a dictatorial manner; arrogant; domineering.’ We sometimes speak of ‘the minister’ of a church but the word simply means a servant. Sadly I am afraid I can say I have seen spiritual leaders acting in a dictatorial manner, being arrogant and domineering. It is especially common where you have a large church with a large leadership team and a large staff. The temptation is to become ‘the boss’ in the way of the world and so often these descriptions are what are seen in the world. They should not be so in the church.
“not quick-tempered”. A person who has a short fuse, we sometimes say, lacks self control and is impatient with people. Anger is right in unrighteous circumstances but getting angry with people is not the way of the servant. He is to treat people graciously. Both of these first two are about holding right attitudes towards other people, holding the attitude of a servant, as Jesus did.
“not given to drunkenness”. This is another lack of control issue. Alcohol is not wrong in itself but drinking in excess means you are no longer the person you are when completely sober. Observing a drunk can be a scary thing because you can never be sure how they will act. Loss of control means things can be said that would otherwise not be said. This is not to be the way of God’s servant.
“not violent”. This is the natural follow-on to thinking about drunkenness but it can also have a wider application. In particular this man must not be violent with his wife or children. He is supposed to be an example to the flock. This is also linked to being overbearing and quick tempered. This is a man out of control and such a man should not be an elder.
“not pursuing dishonest gain”. This man is called to a holy profession and God will be his provider. The thought of ‘pursuing’ dishonest gain goes beyond a one-off mistake to an outlook that looks to get benefit and is not bothered how that comes. In whatever form this comes, whether it be in dubious business practices or in other things, it disqualifies a man from being an elder.
So far these have all been negatives, things we should NOT find in an elder and if they are, then I suggest the elder should step down or be stepped down. Now Paul comes to a positive list of things we should find in such a leader.
First, “he must be hospitable.” A hospitable person is one who welcomes visitors or guests and cares for them making them feel at home and looked after. I would also suggest that this makes him approachable and warm.
He is also to be, “one who loves what is good.” Now this might sound obvious but it speaks of one whose heart is sold out to the good, given over to look for and pursue what is good. In reality there are lots of people in the world of whom this could not be said. Goodness is a characteristic of God and it is to be of our leader as well.
Third, he is to be “self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” I link all these together because the first and last are very similar Discipline is simply another way of speaking about self-control. Now they are linked with being ‘upright’ and ‘holy’. ‘Upright’ speaks of ethical correctness and ‘holy’ speaks of spiritual correctness. This man is in control of his life and ensures that he is right ethically and spiritually. As we have said he is to be an example to the flock and to others, a representative of God and of the church before the world. In all these ways he is to be seen to be ‘blameless’.