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Hm maybe this dovetails - this was in the Matt Chandler sermon you played part of on 12-23. interestingly enough, though I really can't STAND the Message Bible, Chandler quotes a brilliant passage/observance by Eugene Peterson:


For a long time I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses:

Course I: Creative Plagiarism. I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.

Course II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling. We would develop your distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation an unmistakable aura of sanctity.

Course III: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return al telephone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desks — not too much or we appear ineffient, not too little or we appear underemployed — we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do.

Course IV: Image Projection. Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.

–Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles: the Shape of Pastoral Integrity


oh-- and further, Peterson goes on: “I have been laughing for several years over this trade school for pastors with which I plan to make my fortune. Recently, though, the joke has backfired on me. I keep seeing advertisements for institutes and workshops all over the country that invite pastors to sign up for this exact curriculum. The advertised course offerings are not quite as honestly labeled as mine, but the content appears to be identical — a curriculum that trains pastors to satisfy the current consumer tastes in religion. I’m not laughing anymore”


Very true.

They've blown AC XIV all to pieces, haven't they? The CEO/Pastors have been set up as de facto Bishops, and not very good ones, because they're not exercising much oversight. And they're certainly not ensuring that public teaching is being properly overseen, or done by (as you point out) properly qualified pastors.


Boy does this hit home Chris. I've been a Home Group Leader in our church for many years. I have a Bible College background and over 40 years of study in the Scriptures. I've never been comfortable with the concept of small group facilitator which tells us to value everyone's view on the scripture. I've included a lot of teaching in my leading. I just can't let bad doctrine get a foot hold in the group. Our church has been morphing into a "seeker sensitive" mode. Recently we got new marching orders for small group leaders. We are beginning a new church wide series focusing on social outreach of various kinds from community helps to Aid's comfort to overseas missional work. One of the rules was, we are not to teach as a small group leader. All ideas are to be valued and not corrected.
I have rebelled against this and refuse to step back on what I believe to be true and that as a person with biblical background should include teaching as part of the model. Your comments actually reinforce what I've thought for years.
Right now the only reason I'm staying in the church is there is still one pastor who teaches our senior adults who still teaches reformed teaching. I'm retiring in a couple of years and will be moving to another state so don't see a need for moving to another local church at this time.
I could go on but I get long winded. I've been moving from works oriented teaching for a while now and find your site and Pirate Radio refreshing.
God bless


Wow, thanks. Really. I never made that connection... of course, small group leaders are pastors! Now that I know this, I'll have to rethink leading any more small groups for a while. I'm pretty sure I qualify in all but two areas: the wife and kids. Now, I'm wondering, what kind of ministry do you recommend for the younger generation, or for single people? All the apostles were single at first, right?


What about teaching over the airwaves or internet without having a call?

Steve Newell


In many congregations, there are qualified lay people to can lead a bible class under the supervision of the pastor. The pastor assumes responsibility for determining if the lay person has the proper level of knowledge, experience and godly wisdom and to review what the lay person is teaching. Could an elder in the church act as a bible study leader since an elder is not a pastor by a lay leader of the church?


Remember, there are functions and gifts in the body of Christ. There is no hierarchy. However, we are to be submissive and accountable one to another and also be persuaded by those that have gone before us.

Chris Rosebrough


I agree with you, you probably shouldn't lead ANY small group studies for a long time. Not because you're single but because you obviously don't know how to properly handle the word of God. Go back and re-look at the passages I posted. Do they require a pastor to be married or do they require him to be sexually under control?

Paul Golder

It has always amazed me that most of those who would defend with their life “Sola Scriptura”, seem to draw an exception when the so called “untrained” actually try to use the Scriptures.

I'm not saying that this is current the case, with your post, but the subject definitely made me think.

It is as if Luther wrote: “People do not need Rome to interpret the Word of God, but they do need someone in the pulpit, with an education certified by man”

Chris Rosebrough


The Biblical Text Says (not me) that the person holding this office "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."

How on Earth is someone who is a baby Christian or unlearned in doctrine and theology supposed to do that?

I'm not arguing that they HAVE to go to Seminary. But I am arguing that they have to KNOW sound doctrine enough to teach it and REBUKE those who are teaching false doctrine. That is the BIBLICAL QUALIFICATION.

Pr. Martin Diers


It is one thing to say that small study group leaders "ARE pastors by default", but it is another question entirely whether they are pastors legitimately.

For one to be a pastor, in any way at all, two things are required: First, they must be qualified, as you have beautifully laid out in this post. But second: They must be called by God. The ability to teach does not equal the call to teach. But if either the call, or the qualifications are lacking, then one may in fact be serving as a pastor, but one is certainly not legitimately a pastor.

In the Mega Churches, both these requirements are conveniently said aside. The men who start such churches take it upon themselves, as their own work or ministry. Do they have the qualifications to do this? Maybe. Do they have the call from God to do this? Almost never. They go where they are not sent. They do not go to the church, where they can be ordained into "this ministry", but they so much as ordain themselves, and so arrogate to themselves an office which God never gave them.

What is true of the leaders of the Mega Churches is true of the leaders they cultivate. The small lay study group leaders are neither qualified nor called by God to lead in the church.

As Christians, we are all called to give an account for the hope that lies within us. We are all called to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel in word and deed. This is our privilege as spiritual priests before God. But that is not the same thing as a call to the Minsitry.

I am thrilled that you have breached this topic. I have been hoping for quite some time that you would take it up. I look forward to where this goes.

Pr. Martin Diers,
Augustana Lutheran Church
Chaska, MN

Chris Rosebrough

Pastor Diers,

Well said!!

Over here in the LCMS we've got a huge fight on our hands. The Ablaze™ Movement being spearheaded by President Kieschnick is a very poor "Lutheranized" version of Purpose-Driven methodologies complete with the exact same structure for Home Group Bible Studies. Kieachnick's crowd insists that all these changes and new methodologies do not in any way conflict with our confessions.

As I delve deeper into these methods and altered structures I keep finding deep and significant ways that they contradict our confessions and by extension sound Biblical doctrine and practice. Your comments flesh out those problems even deeper.

Daniel Neades

@Chris – I’m going to have to stick up a bit for Joel here, even if it is at the risk of earning your ire and perhaps exposing my own lack of understanding :-) In any case, I suppose I shouldn’t mind the latter, because that would be a step to my learning better to divide rightly the word of truth.

Joel is clearly trying hard to be faithful and sensitive to the text in a way that I think is commendable. Even if he has drawn an erroneous conclusion, as a young lamb, might not a *gentle* word of correction be more edifying to him than such a harsh scolding, at least for a first admonition? Is he not merely stating what a plain reading of the ESV English translation you have quoted says – that "an overseer must be...the husband of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2)? And the same idea is repeated in the ESV translation of Titus 1:6.

Now, you've read the Greek, "mias gunaikos andra" (lit. "one-woman man"), and probably at least as many commentaries and scholarly articles on this as I have. I suspect you will therefore be understanding this as I do, which is that the intended emphasis here is almost certainly upon the "mias" ("one"), rather than on the "gunaikos" ("woman"). That is, the intent of this phrase is not primarily that the elder has to be married, but rather that he should have an inherent character of sexual fidelity (i.e. that he should be “a one-woman kind of man”).

Thus, your "sexually under control" interpretation is probably not a bad dynamic equivalent to the intent of the Greek. Myself, I'd have translated it simply as "one-woman man", which I think would have conveyed the likely meaning rather better than the more interpretive translation of "the husband of one wife". But then I like formal equivalence as a translation principle, even at the expense of slightly less readability. Of course, I'm but a novice with NT Greek, so what do I know?

Thus, with regard to the marriage qualification, I agree with your point. At least, I would *if* "mias gunaikos andra" were the only phrase under consideration. However, it is not. There is also the question of the phrases translated in the ESV as "keeping his children submissive" (1 Tim 3:4) and "his children are believers" (Titus 1:6).

Now, take these phrases in the NKJV: "having [his] children in submission" (1 Tim 3:4) and "having faithful children" (Titus 1:6). What does the Greek say? Well, "tekna echonta en hupotage..." ("having children in obedience") for 1 Tim 3:4, and "tekna echon pista" ("having believing children") for Titus 1:6. I'd say that the NKJV is spot-on in its translation, and the ESV has chosen to convey the same idea but with different grammar. Both are therefore reliable in this case (although I prefer the more formally equivalent NKJV).

So, whether we are reading the English or the Greek, what is the qualification conveyed by a simple literal reading of the actual text of these phrases? It is that an elder is to have children, and that those children are to be submissively faithful. Now it might be that this is not the final interpretation, but we would have to do rather more work to get there. The immediate simple plain-text meaning is straightforward enough and, perhaps, should not be lightly dismissed without good cause.

Now, I have read far and wide on this issue, and it is true that most (but certainly not all) commentators and scholars say that Paul means that *if* an elder has children, they are to be faithful. However, that is not what the text actually says (or am I mistaken?), and I have yet to find a treatment of the grammar and context of these passages that demonstrates *from the text* that it is legitimate for us to interpolate an "if he has children" clause into our understanding of the passage. What one nearly always finds in the commentaries is something that is effectively along the lines of "Paul says *this*, but he really means *that*", with just a dismissive wave of the hand rather than any attempt at justifying such a conclusion. I don't like that approach to Bible interpretation. The Holy Spirit could very easily have inspired Paul to write "and if an elder has children, they are to be faithful", but He did not choose to do so. Why is that? It certainly isn't because Paul expected all Christian men to get married and to have children, and so was only dealing with the common case (cf. 1 Cor. 7:8).

Furthermore, it is interesting that Paul considers the case of "an elder" (singular) in 1 Tim. 3:2-7, but deals with "deacons" (plural) in 1 Tim. 3:8-12. He says that "Deacons", as a class, must "be the husbands of one wife, ruling [their] children and their own houses well" (v. 12, NKJV). [Note: The ESV mangles things a bit in 1 Tim 3:12 by adding an “each”, which obscures the point I am about to make. And don’t get me started on the NIV’s rendering of this verse. Go with the NKJV or the Greek.] Thus, there is certainly room within the *strict* plain meaning of the text for a particular *deacon* to be childless. But, the deacons as a whole must meet the requirements Paul gives. So, if a deacon happens to have a child, that child must be ruled well. In contrast, Paul says with regard to elders that “if anyone [singular] is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children…” and “an elder [singular] must be…one who rules his own house well, having children in submission”. The inference is that, unlike with deacons, each and every elder must meet the stated conditions.

Given that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use plural language with respect to deacons (treating them as a class) that would easily accommodate an individual deacon being childless, shouldn’t we ask ourselves why the Holy Spirit did not inspire similar syntax for the case of an elder? Why the difference, for what are essentially parallel lists of qualities? And if this grammatical detail is truly insignificant, what do we make of the fact that Paul chooses in Titus 1:5 to introduce his topic with the plural “elders” (“presbuterous”), but then, quite pointedly, switches to the singular with “if anyone” (“ei tis”) in Titus 1:6 immediately before making his list of qualities?

Now, as you are constantly reminding us, it is important that we look at context. I certainly would agree that the general thrust of these passages is to deal with the overall character and qualities that an elder must have. Thus, it is, I think, legitimate to argue that these lists are not so much an exhaustive check-list of *qualifications*, but rather an indication of the kinds of characteristics that an elder must possess. But we must be very careful not to use such arguments to dismiss the actual, specific, plain meaning of the text. That’s exactly the kind of thing that the liberals like to do.

So, considering the context and overall dynamic of the passages, what do we make of the requirement for children? After some thought, might this not in fact be a very wise precaution for the protection of the church? After all, we know from experience that children, especially younger ones, tend to pick up and imitate the worst character traits of their parents. The children see their parents every day, behind closed doors. They reflect in public the true private character of the would-be elder, regardless of how fine a persona he might put on in public. If the children are turning out to be faithful and obedient, that public witness alone tells you much about the character of their parents in private. Furthermore, is it not excellent training for an elder to have to learn to manage and discipline his children, and to arbitrate sensitively between their competing needs and requests for attention? Elders are to be “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 3:5). What greater proof of their fitness for this office than the demonstration that they have been godly examples to their own children? Elders are to be, as 1 Tim 3:2 tells us, “didaktikon” – skillful in teaching. What better sign of this capability than the evidence that they have brought up their own children in the “training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4)?

I suppose some might object that Paul was unmarried. But Paul held the office of Apostle in the Church, not Elder of a local congregation. Is there any example in the entire NT of an elder who is expressly stated to be unmarried or without children? I haven’t found one, but if there is, I shall concede the entire point immediately. (I am aware that some try to prove that Paul was an elder by connecting 1 Tim. 4:14 and 2 Tim 1:6, but that is a rather desperate attempt and logically does not in any case prove the intended point.) Another objection might be that Paul commends singleness, because it enables one to devote one’s attention more fully upon the Lord (1 Cor. 7:7-8, 32-35). Yet Paul includes women in his commendation of singleness there, and so it is most doubtful that he has eldership particularly in mind. Paul knows full well that there are many ways that we can serve our Christian brothers and sisters other than by being an elder. (The Lutheran view of what constitutes a good work is distinctly helpful in demonstrating this.)

One final objection might be that there are many fine overseers/elders/pastors/shepherds who are unmarried or without children. That is undeniable. But the fact that God in His boundless grace might use us *despite* our sinful conduct should not surprise us at all, for we are all sinners who sin daily, saved by grace through faith in the death of our dear Lord on the cross and His resurrection. Christ's righteous life is put to our account – we do not depend upon our own perfect living out of His commands to receive God's favour. We should not therefore determine doctrine based upon our experience, but rather upon the written word of God.

That an elder should both be married and have children is, to be sure, a minority view. And I would be reticent to impose it upon others. I should like it to be in error. Yet it is not without historical precedent in the church.

Now, have I gone wrong anywhere in my treatment of the texts? It is certainly possible, likely even! And you can have absolutely no idea how grateful I'd be if you could clear up this matter for me in a way that proves, from Scripture (rather than mere human conjecture), that an elder is not required to have children. And, if you are able to do so, I shall most certainly take on board for myself your stern admonishment to Joel. For I am *sure* that I do not yet know fully how to handle the word of God, certainly not in all its nuance. I am a poor student, sitting humbly at the feet of the great saints and theologians who have gone before.

But I wonder whether even the greatest of Bible scholars ever *fully* master the art of Biblical interpretation and reach a correct conclusion on every point? And if we have to attain to *that* bar before being permitted to teach, would not this condition be rather more stringent than that Biblically required of an elder, which is simply that he be “skillful in teaching”? After all, as C. F. W. Walther bids us mark, Dr. Luther himself said regarding that most fundamental issue of all:

“There is not a man on earth who knows how properly to divide the Law from the Gospel. When we hear about it in a sermon, we imagine that we know how to do it, but we are greatly mistaken. I imagined I understood it because during so long a time I had written a great deal about it; but believe me, when I come to a pinch, I perceive that I have widely missed the mark. Accordingly, God the Holy Ghost alone must be regarded as Master of, and instructor in, this art.”

Therefore, I wonder whether perhaps upon reflection, given the complexities of this particular issue, you might not think that you have been perhaps a little harsh on Joel, at least in tone, even if not in content?

Your respectful and humble fellow servant in Christ Jesus, our great God and Saviour.

Chris Rosebrough


Well argued & Well Said!!

Let me begin by saying that my terse answer to Joel may have been on the harsh side. I work from a general principle that a real question deserves a real answer. I may have wrongly mistaken Joel's comment as a swipe that avoided the heart of my argument rather than a 'real question'.

Joel, I apologize for the terse and harsh answer.

Daniel & Joel,

I submit Lenske's explanation of the statement "husband of but one wife" from his commentary. I think it adds nicely to the points/questions Daniel has already brought up and adds further historical light onto the passage in question.

Says Lenske...

Four personal qualities are then mentioned: “one wife’s husband—temperate—sober-minded—orderly.” The emphasis is on one wife’s husband, and the sense is that he have nothing to do with any other woman. He must be a man who cannot be taken hold of on the score of sexual promiscuity or laxity. It is plain that Paul does not say that none but married men may enter the ministry, that every pastor must be married. Since the days of Origen the question has been raised as to whether a widowed pastor is here forbidden to remarry. The fact that Origen stoutly affirms this is not strange when we remember that he castrated himself; his exegesis is dominated by his peculiar asceticism. Others conclude that remarriage is here forbidden because they think that “one husband’s wife” which occurs in 5:9 refers to a widow who had never had more than one husband. But the two passages are identical in wording, their sense is entirely the same so that we are able to get nothing out of the one that is not already contained in the other. We need not review the protracted discussion of this item, the non-exegetical arguments, the church legislation, etc.

Paul had a reason for beginning with “one wife’s husband.” In those days mature men were chosen for the eldership, who, as a rule, were married and had families; there were no seminary graduates who were awaiting calls. The bulk of the membership from which the elders had to be chosen had come from paganism. What this means as to sexual vices is written large in the New Testament and in the moral records of the day. Even the early apostolic conference in Jerusalem warns against “fornication” and uses this wide term to cover all the prevalent pagan sexual excesses (Acts 15:29). The epistles fairly din the word into their readers’ ears. There was the regular institution of the hierodouloi, pagan temple prostitutes; the common custom of having hetaerae (“companions,” see Liddell and Scott ἑταῖρος), girls from non-citizen families who were used by unmarried and by-married men; and thus, besides these standard practices, all the rest of the vileness that formed the soil from which these grew. Converts to the gospel did not at once step into perfect sexual purity. Hence this proviso regarding the “overseers”: to begin with, a man who is not strictly faithful to his one wife is debarred.

Daniel Neades


Thank you for the irenic response :-) I took a quick look at Joel's blog, and he seems to be a nice guy who genuinely has a heart for the Lord, well aware of his own sinfulness and shortcomings. He's only 22, and undoubtedly has a lot still to learn. But, the latter is true of us all...

Lenske (or is it Lenski? I couldn't immediately find any commentaries by the former) certainly offers some more food for thought, and the historical background is especially helpful. I had not actually read him before, so I shall have to see about adding him to my library. I would most definitely agree with him that Paul does not mean to imply in any way that a remarried widower (or even a widower who has not remarried) would be disqualified from eldership. But, I'm wondering, does Lenske address the "having children" aspects of our pericopes at all?


Daniel and Chris,

Thank you both for the amazing answers and insights! Chris, I looked back at my post from yesterday, and it does look like it could be taken sarcastically. I'm sorry. I assure you, that was not my intention in the least. I really just want to know God and His Word, and your original post definitely gave me an awakening as to the assuming of leadership positions, however "small" they may be. Looking back, it was not wise of me to assume I had "all the other qualifications," because I'm definitely a young, immature man with a lot of shortcomings. I need work in all of those areas. Fortunately, the Spirit is sanctifying me more every day.

Thanks again,

Kim M.

My husband and I have been involved with small group studies for the better part of our 28-yr. marriage. So while I don't disagree with anything you've said, I would like to add, wouldn’t this be an "itching ears" symptom? Those who are genuinely interested in God's Word will not stick with a vapid Bible "study". Also, God's Word is sharper than a two-edged sword, even if the one wielding it is inexperienced. If a study gets people reading large passages of scripture that is a bonus. God's Word will do what it will do.

I don't mean to say this situation should not be dealt with - my heart aches for Richard's dilemma. But this is another one of those situations where the problem starts at the festering top with the pastor/ceo and is fostered by the itching ear-ees.


The problem I have with Joel is not the fact that he is as yet unmarried and childless. It is the fact that he thinks he qualifies... with just those two little "details" that can be worked out later. Those are very valuable little 'details' because those things will round out a person's personality in a way that other life experiences just can't do. I am not sure that being married and having children is a hard and fast rule however.

But saying "I think I qualify" seems far too confident. Eldership is a huge responsibility. It's almost akin to saying "I think I'm humble enough."


i.e. (continuing my previous post) if an elder / pastor MUST have a wife and children, why would paul have written in 1 Cor 7
"1 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. ... 7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. ... 32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—34 and his interests are divided. ... 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord."

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