Thorough exegesis is also required when we look at the reason for the qualifications. Paul explains his reasoning to Timothy, “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” I Tim. 3:4-5. It is to be understood that initially it is the quality of the leadership in question here, not the perfection of the follower. It is the responsibility of the father and pastor which is under consideration, not the response of the church member and child.

The judgment as to whether a pastor is ruling well or not is not in the misbehavior of the church member but in the response of the leader to that misbehavior. If the pastor confronts the sin lovingly and deals with it thoroughly and biblically, he has ruled well. In like manner, if the father confronts the sin of his children lovingly and deals with it thoroughly and biblically, he has ruled well also. Few, if any pastors, are asked to resign over a wayward member if they have handled the situation properly.


Ruling well cerntainly includes discipline, but the need of discipline indicates that there is a misbehavior in the first place. To require disciline from leaders on the one hand, and to assume the absence of misbehavior on the other hand is inconsistent. It is not the absence of misbehavior that qualifies a man for leadership, but his handling of it.


John Vaughn elaborates: “What does it mean to ‘rule well?’ Is this a man who has no disobedient member in his congregation? If one of them requires discipline, is he disqualified? To ‘rule well’ means to ‘stand in front and lead’, to set an example (as an elder) of the truth he is preaching (as a bishop). To assume that a man seeking the office is permanently unqualified, or that a man in the office is automatically disqualified by the disobedience of his child is not illustrated in the many examples of Old Testament leaders whose sons were disobedient. Even the example of Eli teaches that the failure for which he was removed from the priesthood (by death) was that ‘his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.’”

Church's Response

There is a clear link between management in the family and management in the church. The home is the proving ground for leadership skills needed in the church. The requirements of the church mirror the requirements of the home. The church’s response to the pastor’s home leadership should parallel its response to his church leadership. The same standard for determining if the leader is ruling well in one should apply to the other as well.


At some point, of course, a general pervasiveness of disobedience may indicate a lack of gifts, an inability to lead, or an absence of spirituality. This will be revealed first in the home. The leader is required to have “his children in subjection with all gravity” (I Tim. 3:4). His children must be “faithful, not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6). Obviously if five out of five children are publicly insubordinate, disobedient, ungodly, and accused of unrestrained sinfulness, the leader’s credentials may require a renewed scrutiny. But what if most of his children are living for the Lord? Bob Jones III comments: