Leadership requires qualification. How much more is required for that particular leadership of God’s flock, the shepherding of His people!
The importance of a leader’s qualifications increases proportionately to the importance of those whom he is leading. And there is nothing more important to God than those whom Christ “bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28b NIV). Therefore, the qualifications for elders are significant and should be continually reviewed.
The apostle Paul asserted the importance for elders to guard themselves when he charged the Ephesian elders, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). An elder cannot guard others unless he guards himself.
While Paul primarily talks of guarding against doctrinal error in one’s own life, his admonition would seem to include warning against “character drift” as well. The qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 delineate the standard against which an elder should measure himself—to see how well he is guarding himself.
Clearly, no one measures up completely, but there should be no excuse for accepting major failure in any one area. Rather, an elder should have a good measure of maturity and growth in these areas. We do well to regularly review these qualities and examine ourselves.
Five of the qualifications have to do with an elder’s personal character and his reputation:
- Above reproach: An elder should be blameless, presenting no patterns of Scriptural disobedience or grounds for accusation. An elder should not only be blameless but also appear to be blameless.
- Respectable: An elder should demonstrate a well-ordered life and good behavior. People look up to him with esteem.
- Gentle: An elder should be characterized by forbearance, tenderness, and graciousness. He does not bulldoze his way around and trample carelessly on people’s feelings.
- Loves what is good: An elder must desire the will of God in every decision. He is not given to moral compromise or ethical shortcuts.
- Devout: An elder must be reverent, continually desiring to be separated from sin and devoted to prayer and the study of Scripture.
These character traits form, as it were, a foundation for the rest of the list. Although all Christians should aspire to do well in these five areas, an elder should excel in them all.
Granted, these five areas are difficult to quantify. Who does the judging? A wise leader honestly seeks the Lord as David did, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
An astute elder also recognizes that he can blind himself to his own weaknesses. Pray that the Lord would help you find someone who can honestly level with you about your failings and not be afraid to confront you. Humility at this point will do you a great service. This is too important an issue to soft pedal. We elders must be men of character.