The Biblical Qualifications for Teaching Offices in the Church

From Extreme Theology comes a post that ought to be read by every Perry Noble wannabe out there, who doesn’t want to actually teach the Bible, but rather uses it as a coaster for his beer as he watches the latest U2 video and calls it “Bible study.” The article is short, but the guys get right to the point–that being a pastor isn’t about stroking people’s delicate egos; it’s not to make people feel comfortable about their sins; and it sure ain’t about telling people that salvation is “so easy a caveman can do it!” Because if that’s all it means to be a pastor, then–well, a caveman could do it.

The reason they wrote this post is to show the deficiencies that are inherent in the touchy-feely, ooey-gooey, watered-down, candy-coated methods of the typical Seeker-Driven™, Purpose-Driven™, No-Talking-About-The-Cross-Allowed™ megachurches that are more interested in numbers than they are in teaching truth. So, how do the people learn at these places? Well, the “elders” (who are not often worthy of such a title) leave that up to the “small-group, in-home” Bible study groups. And the problem with that is…

This leads to a very important question, “who then is responsible for doing the hard and necessary work of “deep” Bible teaching in a seeker-driven mega church”? Answer: Home Study Group Leaders

This leads to an even more important question, “What training and qualification are these Home Group Leaders getting? The reason I ask this question is because public teachers in the church are subject to the qualifications laid down in the scriptures.

Let’s look at some of the qualification thresholds the Holy Spirit put in place for the teaching office in the church.

1Tim. 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Titus 1:5 appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer,as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Titus 1:10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

Have you noticed the problem yet?

26 thoughts on “The Biblical Qualifications for Teaching Offices in the Church

  1. This is point my elders have made on more than one occasion. In addition to the home group issue pointed out in the article – what about Sunday School teachers? Is not the same dynamic working?

    Now, I think it would be an interesting discussion: are ONLY those rightly designated as elders permitted to teach within the local church?

    I know that elders MUST be apt to teach and properly qualified, per the Scriptures. Does this mean everyone else is flatly prohibited?

  2. I am 39 years old and am single (never been married). I occasionaly teach Sunday school when my minister is out of town; should I not do this? Is it wrong? Am I sinning?

  3. fourpointer:
    “Have you noticed the problem yet?”
    Yeah, people don’t know (or don’t care) what the bible says.

    Manfred:
    Scripture is clear that the elder in the faith teach the younger in the faith. And elder women are to teach the younger women. This is a check and balance, in that there will always be someone older in the faith than me (not in years, but in spiritual growth). And by the same token, always someone younger that I am expected to teach the word of the Lord to. Thus the younger submits to the elder in the faith.

    I have seen problems when “elder” (presbyter) is confused with “overseer” (episcopos), though each overseer must be an elder in the faith (not a novice). And I have known many “elders” who are elected by the congregation because the majority likes them, or because they are “active” in the church, yet they know little to nothing about their beliefs (other than they’re usually strong supporters of the church). “I know you may be spiritually older than Joe, but you haven’t been elected as an “elder” and he has, so stop teaching”. That mentality is a problem for any church, because it’s not biblical.

    Wade:
    It’s not your physical age that matters, but your level of spiritual maturity. Unless someone can show me otherwise from the Scriptures, I do not believe you are doing anything wrong as long as you understand the scriptures, fulfill scriptural qualifications, and are teaching those younger in the faith than yourself.

  4. DavidW,

    Yes, older men in the faith teach the younger, same as with women. That does not address the issue of office – elder. In my former church, hired hands were defacto “elders” without any noticeable concern about the biblical qualifications for filling that office.

    In my current church, there is great care in this area. We don’t have an official women’s ministry because we don’t want a women functioning as an elder. We have women involved in teaching one another but not as an officially sponsored ministry. Same reason we don’t do Sunday School – the need for qualified teachers rather than those who are merely available.

    Fathers are responsible to teaching their children (as opposed to government schools doing it) but that also is outside the office of elder.

    We occasionally have men who may in the future be ordained as elders preach.

    That is the basis for my question – within the church, what is the basis for other than elders teaching? I am not on one side or the other – I want to develop an informed opinion.

  5. “sound doctrine no one said this was going to be easy”

    reminds me of something that was said in the small group class that I am in. Someone said to the effect of “doctrine doesn’t matter if people believe in Jesus”. ……sigh

  6. When Pastors appoint leadership who:

    A. Don’t believe scripture is the inspired word of God (merely fables to teach morality)
    B. Have wild wives and children along with struggling marriages

    It’s no wonder a church ‘small group’ Christmas party would evolve into a drunken rock and roll party.

    If a church doesn’t have biblically qualified men for leadership, then they shouldn’t appoint any!

  7. Manfred:

    Some verses come to mind on this:

    “And the things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim.2:2)

    “and God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thrdly teachers…Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?…” (1Cor.12:28-29)

    “And He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henseforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Eph. 4:11-15)

    “For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and have become such as have need of milk, and not strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for his is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to descern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14)

    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16)

    “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts. 18:24-26)

  8. David W.

    Thanks – I am familiar with these verses. I am not saying that people who are not in the office of elder should not teach; I’m asking if there’s an argument from Scripture denying people who are not in the office of elder from teaching within the church.

  9. To all,

    The point of this post was not to say that no one other than an elder should lead a Bible study. The point was that in the Purpose-Driven™/Seeker-Driven™ model, the “pastor” does not preach the “whole counsel of God” during what is supposed to be a sermon (but is usually a little 20-minute pep talk designed to boost people’s self-esteem). He leaves that up to these “Home Study Group Leaders,” most of whom are no more qualified to teach biblical doctrine than a newly-saved person.

    In fact, Chris Roseborough makes his point clear when he says in this paragraph (all emphases mine):

    So in today’s seeker-driven mega churches, the head pastors think they’re CEO’s and as a result they are refusing, in the name of growth, to dispense the Biblical duties of the pastoral office and instead they are “empowering” lay people to ‘do ministry’ by having them lead Home Study Groups. It’s time we faced the reality of this model and called a spade a spade. Here’s the hard reality of the Seeker-Driven model…ALL Home Study Leaders ARE PASTORS by default. They are the ones in the Seeker-Driven mega churches tasked with dispensing the duties of the pastoral office laid down in the scriptures because they’re the ones responsible for teaching in-depth Bible study and training people up in sound Biblical doctrine.

    It is not wrong to have a small-group Bible study. It is not wrong to have lay people teach Sunday School–so long as the person has been examined by elders of the church and is found to have proper life and doctrine.

    But in the Purpose-Driven™/Seeker-Driven™ model, these “Home Study Groups” take the place of the duties that are to be dispensed by the pastor, who probably doesn’t give a lick what’s being taught in these groups. Which is why Paul gave Timothy this warning–“Do not lay hands on anyone hastily…” (1st Timothy 5:21). The warning being to not appoint anyone to a position in the church without scrutinizing their life and doctrine–an idea that is unheard-of in the Purpose-Driven™/Seeker-Driven™ model.

  10. “It is not wrong to have a small-group Bible study. It is not wrong to have lay people teach Sunday School–so long as the person has been examined by elders of the church and is found to have proper life and doctrine.”

    BINGO!! This puts it in the proper context and under the proper authority of the elders. This link is missing in most churches – based on unscientific sample of what I’ve seen.

  11. fourpointer:
    As always, you have a way of wording things much clearer than I, and I thank you for your excellent post. I totally agree.

    This issue has been a personal concern of mine for many years. The first “home bible study” I attended after we relocated some years ago was led by not just one of the “elders”, but a “senior elder” in the church. The small group wasn’t working through the Bible at that time, but through Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline”. Everyone else there seemed to think it was great. They trusted their elders would not lead them astray. After I got into the book, I was horrified. Upon going to the “senior pastor” with this, his take was basically “Joe [not his real name] is sound in doctrine, and if he is teaching through that book, I’m sure it’s solid”. Yet this same pastor preached a good solid gospel on Sundays from the pulpit. Nevertheless, discernment was lacking at the highest level in that church. And it trickled down from there. Thus, this system was under the oversight of the pastor, and still it was in error. (Nor was this my only such experience over the years). I shudder the think of all the home studies that go on without any pastoral oversight, without any elder presiding, but just of bunch of babes in Christ getting together.

    A home bible study, if led by a mature Christian man, full of discernment, mature in understanding of the Word and the ways of the Lord, broken and committed to the true Jesus Christ of the Scriptures, can be a source of spiritual nourishment and fellowship during the week. But I very much agree with fourpointer’s post, that all too often such is not the case with “home bible studies”, “small groups”, “community group”, “coffeehouse fellowship”, or whatever other form it is manifested.

  12. For a really, really good message about the surpassing value of teaching the whole counsel of God, John MacArthur gave a two-part message during the “Expositor’s Conference” a couple years ago at my (hopefully) future church (Christ Fellowship Baptist, Mobile; Pastor: Steve Lawson).

    These message literally changed the whole way I teach. Dr. MacArthur lays out the reasons why he is a doulos (literally, “slave”) to the Word of God. We are truly at the mercy of the Scriptures. Unfortunately, many in the Seeker-Driven™/Purpose-Driven™ crowd think the opposite is true.

    Why I am Committed To Expository Preaching Part 1
    Why I am Committed To Expository Preaching Part 2

  13. Excellent post, Fourpointer.
    At my former church they are reading Christian Fiction (whatever than means) in their small group studies.

  14. Hey guys I have a question for you. The small group class that I am in is about to start going through an evangelism book. I wanted to ask you guys what you think about this quote. I have a serious problem with it. I think I am going to talk to my small group leader and pastor about to see what they think. I don’t think I can go with this study based on this quot alone. Then again I may just be readin into it.

    Share Jesus Without Fear
    “Debate has flourished about which of the wounds inflicted on Jesus actually caused His death. Among the many wounds He received were lacerations, punctures, abrasions, and contusions. In a sense we can say that none of these killed Jesus. The wound that killed Him was silence. No one spoke up for Him. One of the most painful incidents in Jesus’ life was Peter’s denial of Him the night before His crucifixion. Three times Peter was asked whether he was Jesus’ follower, and three times he said no. I’ve said in my own heart and I’ve heard many others say, “I would never have denied Him like that.”” page12

    To me it seems like the author is twisting what happened to fit into his theology or that he doesn’t understand the Cross.

    Am I wrong?

  15. Shane,

    Seems to me the author is confusing the two natures of Christ. TW Hunt’s book “The Mind of Christ” contains a chapter describing the physiological aspect of the crucifixion, how horrible it was for the human body. Silence doesn’t kill the flesh – but for the Son of God, as God, to not hear from the Father; that has to be tough. But He, as God, was not killed.

    Peter’s denial was sin, which was the cause of Christ’s need to be sacrificed. Our sin caused the wrath of God to be poured out on Christ for our redemption by His blood. But our sin didn’t kill Him.

    Bill Faye is confused on this topic.

  16. Shane,

    Yes, John 10:17-18 show the deity of Christ. He was not forced to yield Himself an atonement for our sin; yet He did so because it was the Father’s will.

  17. I wish I didn’t have to go onto the internet to get some biblical advice. No offense though. What I mean is that other than my wife there is no one locally that I can talk to about bad teaching, doctrine, and etc. It kind of bugs me that people don’t seem to care or that they look at me funny when I bring these types of things out to them.

    Pray on brothers and sisters.

  18. Shane:
    From what you’ve described of that study, they’re reaching beyond the Scriptures into the territory of unsubstantiated psychological damage. I’ve heard it preached before that Jesus died of a broken heart (the whole blood and water from the spear- jabbing argument). To say that the wound that definitively killed Him was “silence”, is to make a pronouncement that is not supported by the Scriptures (yes, the Father forsook Him on the cross, but nowhere does it say that necessarily killed him). Such unsupportive definitive statements from a study manual or leader should be cause for concern.

    And as Manfred said, don’t be hesitant to seek counsel from brethren even if we are only internet connected.

  19. “The wound that killed Him was silence. No one spoke up for Him.”

    I think that statement is what really bothers me the most. It seems like the author is saying that if Peter or someone would have spoken up then Jesus wouldn’t have been crucified. In saying that he denies the sovereinty of God. If Peter would have spoken up he would have been crucified along with Jesus.

  20. Shane:
    I agree. Even if people had spoken up for Him, even if He had a whole bunch of supporters who all were crucified for sticking up for Him, it would not have changed the fact that Jesus still had to die as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. That’s the reason why He came.

  21. Shane,
    We understand Jesus came to do the will of the Father…what was that will? To die, to make atonement for sin. Silence did not kill Him, sin did. He willfully lay down His life, for the sake of the elect. Praise God you see the error in this, ‘“The wound that killed Him was silence. No one spoke up for Him.”
    Let us continue to pray for one another, teaching and encouraging as our Lord leads, giving all glory to Him.

    Lyn

  22. I would throw in my 2 copper coins with lyn and Shane. That sounds like some kind of New-Age, lovey-dovey, humanistic philosophic error that would come from someone like Rob Bell or Phyllis Tickle.

    No, what really led to Jesus’ death–not that He was killed, but rather He died. The Jews didn’t kill Him. The Romans didn’t kill Him. Shane pointed us to the Scripture that explains it all. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. NO ONE TAKES IT FROM ME, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18).

    And just to clear up the confusion caused by those who teach that the spear that punctured His heart was what killed Him–remember, He was dead before ever the Roman soldier thrust that spear. John 19:33-34–But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

  23. I think I am going to talk to my group leader about this. It has really been bothering my. It doesn’t bother me so much if the guy said it out of ignorance but if the guy is changing the truth to fit into the message of his book (being silent and not witnessing to people) greatly concerns me. If he is willing to change the truth into a lie then what would he not do?

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