Disqualified From Being A Pastor

By Edwin Christiaan

Recently, Sophia and I ran into a fairly wealthy businessman who turned out to have a strong religious judgmental spirit. After receiving our ministry, he started picking our ministering apart saying he liked certain parts of it, and other things he felt “uncomfortable” about. A couple of days later, the truth of this man’s heart came to the surface when he condescendingly told me that I basically was disqualified from being leader of a ministry because I have been married before. Based on this, he felt he could not support us financially for the ministry, even though we never asked this man for any financial support! Coming away from this man, we literally felt treated like second hand Christians. This man decided to mercilessly judge me for my past, never caring to be interested in hearing my story of testimony of how God turned my unfortunate event in my past into a blessing.

Based on this experience, we decided to write two studies we believe are very important issues to discuss. One focuses on the issue whether a pastor/leader is indeed disqualified for ministry if he has been divorced and/or remarried, and the other study, coming soon, explains and exposes the Spirit of Religion.

Let’s start with:

Are You Disqualified From Being A Pastor?
It has been a long-standing tradition that men are disqualified to be pastors when they become divorced. This tradition is based on a questionable Bible interpretation of 1. Timothy 3:1-7 NKJ which says:

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 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.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.” 1. Timothy 3:1-7 NLT

Traditionally, several Christian denominations have interpreted this scripture passage to mean that a man cannot be divorced and at the same time be qualified for the position of pastor of a local church. Obviously, the tradition was meant to honor the Bible in the best possible way, but for generations, the traditional interpretation has prevented multitudes of men from being pastors in churches and in many instances causing much harm in the Body of Christ.

A close examination of this passage reveals that it does not discuss divorce as a possible disqualification for being a pastor [bishop, elder, and deacon]. In fact, the subject of divorce is not even mentioned. The idea that the phrase “…husband of but one wife,” must be interpreted to mean “husband not divorced,” is one born purely out of religious tradition. Since the Greek definition of the word “One” in this scripture reference translates: “First, One, Other” it is clear that the Bible does not exclude a divorced man from serving as a pastor/elder/deacon in the church as long as he is only married to one woman (at a time).

Although 1. Timothy 3:2 does not exclude a divorced or remarried man from serving as an elder/pastor/deacon, there are, however, other issues to consider. The first qualification of an elder/pastor/deacon is to be “above approach” (1. Timothy 3:2), so if the divorce and/or remarriage results in a poor testimony for the man in the church or community, it may be the “above reproach” qualification that excludes him rather than the “husband of one wife” requirement. An elder/pastor/deacon is to be a man that the church and community can look up to as an example of Christ-likeness and godly leadership. If his divorce and/or remarriage situation distracts from this purpose, perhaps he should not serve in the position of elder/pastor/deacon, but each case should be evaluated individually.

It is important to remember though, that just because a man may be considered unqualified by his peers from serving as an elder/pastor/deacon, he still is a valuable member of the body of Christ. Every Christian possesses spiritual gifts and is called to participate in edifying other believers with those gifts (1. Corinthians 12:4-7). A man who is disqualified from the position of elder/pastor/deacon can still teach, preach, serve, pray, worship, and play an important role in the church.

Copyright©2011 Edwin & Sophia Christiaan