Does a 'Prodigal' Disqualify You from Spiritual Leadership?
- Friday, September 02, 2005
It certainly makes sense that before a man is ordained he should meet some minimal standards, as his adherence to them is some indication of his maturity and his ability to maintain them. But to extrapolate them into the future as inviolable requirements doesn’t make sense. To be “blameless, of good behavior, patient, not self-willed, not soon angry, temperate, and have faithful children (meaning “believing children” or “children who believe”) before ordination does not guarantee that these qualities will be perfectly and perpetually adhered to after ordination.
What if the elder is blamed for something? What if his behavior is not always “good”? What if he loses his patience or worse his temper? What if he is not always temperate or self controlled? What if he has children born to him after entering ministry? Obviously, for a period of time, they will not be “faithful.” Which failure in any of these areas disqualified a man? Who determines whether it is a serious enough offense? Who is to say that sin or failure in these areas cannot be confessed, forsaken and forgiven?
Before hiring a man to work on your staff you will review his resume, check his references and scrutinize his work record. Why? You want to take every precaution to insure that the man is qualified for the position. But once he is hired, if he fails in his responsibility do you fire him outright? No, you correct him, and if he responds, you work with him. But the initial scrutiny of his character is essential before hiring him. In like manner, the pastor’s pre-ministry character is in question in these passages. But to assume that pre-ordination qualifications equal post-ordination requirements is stretching the point.
In many ordinations, this process is reversed. I have sat on many ordination councils and heard few, if any, questions about the marriage of the candidate, his morals, or his children. But questions abound about his knowledge, philosophy, methodology, and doctrinal persuasion. Why is so little attention paid to a man’s character before his ordination, and so much emphasis placed on it afterwards? Maybe we need to “accuse the brethren” less after the fact and examine them more before.
A Sinless Life?
When someone is presented for church membership, we examine them carefully and once assured of the genuineness of their conversion, we accept them into the church family. But does that examination guarantee a sinless life after they join the church? And what if they do sin? We confront them in love and discipline them if necessary even to the point of excommunication in an extreme case. Why? To restore them.
As the goal with the church employee and the church member is to restore them, so should the goal be to the pastor’s child who might have failed. Rod Bell writes of the missionary mentioned above whose daughter rebelled. “He had to leave the mission board because (they) asked him to come home since his family was not in subjection to him. They said he had disqualified himself from the ministry. I told him to be patient and love her with tough love and work through the situation. He certainly was on tope of the situation, a good disciplinarian, and not only that, but a tender and compassionate man. He stayed on the field, left the mission board, and went out under our church. I counseled him weekly by phone and letters. God gave his daughter the victory.
She is now 18 years old, and God has called her to the mission field. While a man must realize he has a holy obligation to have his family under subjection, there is not a family on the face of God’s earth that does not go through some trials with teenagers. Therefore, we must treat our children as God treats His children. I am glad that God does not punish us, but chastens us when we do wrong.”
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