a. The importance of character: Christ-like character is described in several passages such as 1Tim.3, Titus1, Gal.5:22-23, and 1Pet.5:1-4. A lead pastor must desire and demonstrate these traits above and beyond those he will lead. For example, all followers of Jesus are to be temperate, and loving but a leader must “have more” to influence others positively for Christ. A church planter must be able to see these characteristics in himself and receive confirmation from other spiritually mature leaders. Since leaders are charged with the spiritual well being of others, their character is the most important qualification.
Since leaders are charged with the spiritual well being of others, their character is the most important qualification.
It is remarkable to read a passage like 1Timothy 3 regarding the qualifications of elders and deacons and discover that the only qualification dealing with ability relates to the requirement that elders be able to teach. Otherwise, all the qualifications deal with character. Integrity is the key! Whatever the leader is the followers will become. Jesus declared, “a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” [Lu.6:40] – people rarely rise above their leaders.
Whatever the leader is, the followers will become.
b. A snapshot of necessary character traits: Paul provided a list of qualifiers in 1Tim.3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 as a matrix to evaluate elders [elder as used in this context is synonymous with pastor or in this instance, lead church planter]. With the exception of the ability to teach all of the qualifications deal with character. They are described as follows:
i. Above reproach: There must be nothing in your life that others can use to attack Jesus or His church. Not perfect but generally blameless in the sense of no glaring sin or simply right with God.
ii. Not given to drunkenness: Alcohol is not forbidden but abuse of liquor disqualifies. The addiction to alcohol appears to be the key issue.
iii. The husband of one wife: A one-woman man is faithful to his wife. He doesn’t flirt, doesn’t observe pornography and lust for another woman, and is disqualified if he is an adulterer. One need not be married, nor is one who is widowed or has a biblically-based divorce disqualified from the call.
iv. Temperate: Not given to extremes and thus, reliable and trustworthy. You don’t have wide swings of vision, mood, or actions.
v. Sober-minded: Able to think clearly and with clarity. Able to be serious when necessary.
vi. Of good behavior: Orderly or modest, an appropriate sense of Christian dignity.
vii. Hospitable: The ability to welcome others and make them feel at home, a willingness to open your home to friends and strangers.
viii. Not violent: Not given to violence either publicly nor privately.
ix. Not greedy for money: If money is a motive for ministry or if you are continually seeking more money you are not qualified.
x. Gentle: Like Jesus avoids being harsh, cruel or insensitive.
xi. Not quarrelsome: A person who generally has a chip on his shoulder usually has wood higher up. If you desire to win arguments more than people, it is a problem.
xii. Not covetous: A man who is constantly dissatisfied is not fit for leadership among God’s people. Covetousness is broader than greed for money.
xiii. Who rules his own house well: The godly leader demonstrates his leadership ability first in his own home; Paul recognized that it is in the home where our Christianity is first demonstrated. It is true that a child may rebel from even a good home; but is the rebellion because of the parents or in spite of their job as parents? This is the question that must be asked.
xiv. Not a novice: New converts should not be given leadership authority too quickly as it cultivates pride and abuse of power. One needs to be tested and proven. Thus, ideally a planter is sent from a local church where the man’s integrity and character are known.
xv. A good testimony: Leaders must have a good reputation even among pre-believers, and the community outside the walls of the church.
xvi. Just: Being right toward men. While no one is perfect, you must generally have a reputation for seeking to do the right thing towards other people. When someone points out something that you’ve done is wrong you must be willing to listen, receive correction, confess, repent and ask to be forgiven.
xvii. Holy: Right towards God. You need to be right and get right not only with men but more importantly with God. Remember, the ministry is a “holy calling” there is no place for any profane element in your life.
xviii. Self-controlled: Right towards himself, “How unfit are those to govern a church who cannot govern themselves!” (Matthew Henry)
ixx. Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught: You must be a man of the Book; Learn it, love it and live it. Teach the Word! don’t rely on fads or gimmicks. As he has been taught: This means that the leader has been under the teaching of someone else. A qualified leader doesn’t necessarily need to go to Bible College or Seminary, but they do need to be taught and discipled by someone, not just themselves.
c. The keys to influence are character & vision: Leaders who are able to communicate a clear, significant vision for themselves and their ministry will draw people. Leaders with integrity [truthfulness, purity of motive, & honesty] are likely to retain people. Pastors who lack integrity leave in their wake wounded, confused, discouraged and distressed followers. During the years, I’ve seen too many pastors become disqualified for ministry because of moral failure – it is always incredibly messy and maligns the name of Christ. The answer is attaining and maintaining Christ-like character.
Lead pastors must be able to protect from false teachers, encourage and equip with sound doctrine, be men of prayer, have tested character and a reputation for integrity. Also, they must have self-discipline, maturity, and ability to relate to others. Leaders must have a sound family life: faithful to their spouse and able to lead their children; their family should be an example for others to follow. A church planter has to be self-controlled [re anger, addiction, diligence], gracious [not quarrelsome 2Tim.2:24-25, & hospitable to those who struggle], not covetous [must love God more than money 1Tim.6:7-9, Heb.13:5], and a hard-worker Col.3:22-23.
Jesus made it clear that the key to greatness in God’s kingdom was to learn to be a servant to all…
Are you a servant? Philosophically, you either choose to serve the people or you’ve implicitly chosen to be served. Jesus made it clear that the key to greatness in God’s kingdom was to learn to be a servant to all [Mt.20:8] it does not come naturally to our flesh. The Master Himself observed that He had not come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many [Mk.10:44-45]. This is not only what Jesus declared but what He modeled – He put the needs of others before His own. Choose to be [become] a servant. Don’t look for the applause of people.