I love the ministry. That, of course, is not to say that parts of it are not exceedingly difficult. It can be exhausting and challenging. At certain times, we all have probably been about two steps away from throwing in the proverbial towel. But I have to pinch myself about every other week. I get to spend hour upon hour every week in the deep study of the Scriptures. I have the opportunity to exhort and encourage and equip the children of God, both corporately and individually. I have the wonderful privilege of seeing firsthand the Lord birthing a new local church. A challenge—yes; a blessing—absolutely. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
Therefore, one of my greatest fears is to be disqualified from the ministry. My heart breaks every time I hear about the moral failure of another pastor. My mind goes to the damage that it has caused the name of Christ in the eyes of a watching world. I ache for the families and churches of those pastors. My heart goes out to the pastors themselves who are now unable to fulfill the role to which they had been called by God. I cannot look down on them, for I realize that, were it not for the grace of God, I would be in their shoes at this very moment or in the near future. Therefore, all of us who are in the God-given position of pastor should take the qualifications for that position found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9 seriously. We are to be above reproach in many different areas.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Tim. 3:2-7, NKJV).
If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict (Titus 1:6-9).
Generally speaking, when a man finds himself disqualified from the ministry, it has been on the basis of sexual, financial, or temperance issues. We could all name several high-profile ministries that have been through these kinds of difficulties. If the truth were made known, there are probably many others who have fallen into these traps and are still currently in the ministry, though unqualified to be so.
My intention is not to draw attention to those pastors who have failed in these areas but rather to draw attention to one of the areas in which we are to be above reproach—an area that seemingly flies under the radar in most churches. That is the area of anger. Contained within the two lists found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus are four words of interest as we endeavor to examine ourselves in this area of controlling our passions.
Not Violent (plektes)
The KJV translates it “striker.” It describes someone who is always ready for a fight. They excuse their sinful behavior by claiming that they are simply “contending for the faith.” And while we should always be ready to contend for the faith, we must not be pugnacious people. There is a big difference between the two. People fear even to approach them because they know the probable repercussions of such an action. Pastors should be the most approachable people on earth, but often they are the least approachable.
When I was a youth pastor in Virginia, I traveled one Friday to watch our school soccer team play. I do not remember one thing about the game. My only memory is what I saw after the game. The pastor of that church was in the parking lot literally red-faced and yelling at the county referees as they went to their vehicles. After grieving over what that episode did to the testimony of Christ in the eyes of those (probably unsaved) men, I remember thinking, He would be infuriated if a woman walked into his church with slacks on that Sunday, but it is all right for him to be screaming at some refs on Friday.
Not Quarrelsome (amachos)
We are not to be “brawlers” or “contentious.” These are pastors who walk around as if they had a constant chip on their shoulders, daring someone to come and knock it off. They have the reputation of “do not cross him, or there will be trouble.” They take every act of simple inquiry or disagreement as “questioning their authority,” even when that disagreement comes from outside the church.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive [machomai]; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
Rather than being a man whose tendency is to strive, the pastor is to be a man who is gentle toward all people, inclined to teach, patient, and meek in all things. There are some pastors who exemplify none of these qualities on a regular basis.
This is one who has a propensity to anger. He is easily provoked. It is worse than just simply losing control of one’s passions. It is a complete lack of love for others (1 Cor. 13:5). How could a man with this kind of deficit in character biblically fulfill his role as an overseer? “One who cannot control his own emotions cannot exercise proper judgment over church matters, especially those issues that inevitably evoke strong feelings.”
In his commentary (on CD) on the book of Titus, John MacArthur writes the following about this word:
The qualified pastor must carefully guard against a spirit of hostility, resentment, and anger—even when everything in the church seems to be going the wrong way and the people are critical or indifferent. He is a man who can delegate responsibility to others, who may not fulfill a task in the exact way that he would. He can work with others in kindness, patience, and gratitude. He can allow dedicated but inexperienced people around him to fail until they learn to succeed. His own ego is not tied up in everything that is done in the church. He is as quick to share in others’ failures as in their successes. He joyfully submits to God and serves all.
Yet, how many pastors do you personally know who have a short fuse? It takes surprisingly little to send them into orbit. They are quick-tempered and have been that way for some time.
This is a man who is amiable and kind; longsuffering and forbearing; gracious and courteous; forgiving and tender. He is not one who holds grudges. Paul encourages the Philippian believers to let their “moderation [same word]” be known to all (Phil. 4:5). It is also one of the distinguishing marks of the wisdom that is from above (James 3:17). What a sobering thought! Many pastors in our churches obviously do not possess this wisdom from above, yet it is their responsibility to be teaching the people under their care how to be scripturally wise.
Imagine you are a staff member walking into church one day. Someone whispers, “You had better not go into the pastor’s office. He is being immoral” or “laundering the church’s money” or “throwing down a Jack Daniels.” We would recoil in horror. I presume that such an event would happen only once before he would be removed from office. But in how many churches do people whisper, “You’d better not go into the pastor’s office today. He’s in one of his moods”? There are members who are hesitant to go and talk to their pastor because of his reputation for being an angry person. There are pastors who are known for being unforgiving and hostile and unloving. There are pastors who are slanderous. They have no concept of how to handle things in a biblical manner. And some of them have been that way for years.
By the way, I write this because of my own battle with anger. I desperately desire to be a man who is marked by kindness and tenderheartedness; patience and longsuffering; love and meekness. Let us stop the excuses and justifications and be men who honor God and love others by controlling our passions. May we not continue to neglect this “forgotten” qualification of the ministry.
Andrew Henderson is a church planter in the Tampa, Florida, area. He graduated with a B.A. in Bible and M.S. in Biblical Counseling from Bob Jones University and is currently working (very slowly) on a D.S.Min. from Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI). He is the husband of Melinda and the father of Drew, Austin, and the most beautiful baby girl ever, Alyssa.