Does a 'Prodigal' Disqualify You from Spiritual Leadership?
- Friday, September 02, 2005
An evangelist is accused of unfitness for ministry because his teenage daughter has committed immorality. A missionary is recalled because his daughter is rebellious and he is therefore deemed “disqualified” for ministry. A pastor is asked for his resignation because his teenage son stole from the local department store. Three potential leaders on the verge of losing their life’s ministry because, they are told, their failure as a parent has rendered them unfit for spiritual leadership.
The fallout from such conclusions is devastating the church. Pastors and wives become discouraged as marriages are brought under pressure in efforts to produce the “perfect” child. Parents of good children judge other parents while those with wayward children assume horrendous burdens of guilt. Children of leaders chafe under the demands of their fishbowl existence and resent the ministry for its unyielding demands upon them. Christians at large unleash barbs of criticism against hurting leaders.
Pressure is brought to bear for resignations, and indeed, many conscientious spiritual leaders do resign their positions and leave the full-time gospel ministry. And what of the danger to our children when we make them the means of our failure in ministry? If the devil “walketh about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,” won’t he, like any lion, target the feeble, the weak, and the young first? Have we set our children up for attack by basing the strength of our calling on the weakest of our family members?
Few questions have plagued the church like the one swirling around the issue of leadership qualifications (I Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9), and few of these have been more misued than the ones related to the leader and his children.
The reasons for this vary. The belief that parenting guarantees or determines a child’s behavior is behind much of it. There is also the “fear of man” which “bringeth a snare.” Furthermore many have never been “fully persuaded” in the “own mind,” but have naively embraced the opinions of others.
As one pastor said to me when I asked him why he believed a leader was disqualified by a rebellious child, “That’s what they taught me in Bible college.” Not to be overlooked is the attack of the enemy, “the accuser of the brethren” who is working overtime at accusing the leader to himself and to others as well.
A careful reexamination of the Scriptures is in order. While there is certainly a need to establish high standards of conduct for the past or, the passages at hand may have been overused for this purpose. Although they may not be intended exclusively for use before the pastor’s call, the context indicates that this is the writer’s primary intention.
It is clear that his emphasis in these scriptures is to establish sound qualifications before enlistment or endorsement. I Timothy 3 begins with “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” followed immediately with the qualifications of the office. The context indicates that the qualifications are for the volunteer to consider before seeking the office. Titus 1 bears out the same meaning.
Before the qualifications are listed Paul clearly instructs Titus to “ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee;” then follows immediately with the qualifications of the elders he should seek to appoint. On the one hand, the seeker of the office is faced with necessary qualifications, on the other hand the appointer of men to the office is provided with qualifications to look for, but in each case the emphasis is on qualifying the leader before ordination rather than after.
Not inviolable requirements
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