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The Qualifications Of The Church Leaders

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Prior to explaining the qualifications of a church leader, we should first consider what their roles are. In 1 Timothy 3:1 we see that Peter calls the leaders “overseers”. In various denominations, pastors, elders, and bishops carry different responsibilities or roles. In certain regions or cities, bishops oversee pastors, and pastors oversee elders in a church. But we read in scripture that these titles refer to the same thing. When we see the word, “Deacon” it is referred to as a “servant, helper and refers to the bishops’ assistants, who take care of the mundane matters of church life” (Gundry, 2012, p. 489).

So, why are there three titles used for what seems to be the same role? Each of them represents different abilities as leaders. When one thinks of an “elder”, you think of someone who is older, wiser, and spiritually mature. A pastor is looked at as a shepherd leading lost sheep. Lastly, a bishop is referred to as the overseer and has oversite over the church.


“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous” (King James Version, 1 Timothy 3:2-3). “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6). These verses are highlights to Paul’s lists of qualities of an elder (or overseer).

With this said, there are certain expectations in order to become a pastor, deacon, and elder. Having defined who an elder is, we turn to the character of the elder. It is worthy to note that all the characteristics listed by Paul have to do with their character and not with their ability. Too often we choose our spiritual leaders based on their theological degree, the personality they may possess, or their ability to lead in a social setting. We must understand that this is not the way God chooses leaders. He bases them on the spiritual character they have and not on the natural abilities they possess.


The first character trait is blamelessness which is the foundational character quality of which all others are built. To be blameless refers to not having any critical area in which one is guilty of significant sin. This does not refer to perfection, rather to a life that can be a model of virtue to all who see it. If a man has a severe sin in his life, he becomes disqualified from this office because he is no longer blameless. God wants men with integrity to lead the church, so one who has failed to live a life of integrity cannot be an elder of God’s church.

The second character trait is that an elder must be the husband of one wife. This refers to a man who is entirely devoted to the wife that God has given him and is not one who is looking at every other woman that he may encounter. A man can violate this requirement not only by engaging in physical acts of immorality, but in cultivating a heart of lust or sexual desire outside marriage. If a man reads pornography, he is just as disqualified from church leadership as one who commits adultery.

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The third character trait is that an elder must not be violent. This goes hand-in-hand with the characteristics of patience and not a brawler. He must be in control of his temper and not fly off the handle. We should already know that Satan will do everything in his power to make the man of God lose control, so an elder who is easily given to outbursts of anger is one who cannot lead the church. A true man of God will allow themselves to be hurt rather than bring shame on the cause of Christ by resorting to physical violence.

These characteristics are important for all within a church, whether old or new believers because they set the example for not only how a leader should conduct themselves, but also how a Christian is to conduct themselves. By not having good moral integrity, it can, and often does, lead others astray. Those in a place of leadership over a church are held to a higher standard than the rest of the church members (James 3:1).


If all church leaders were to live out each of the attributes listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, it would challenge others to have a desire to grow, spiritually. “Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of these descriptions of Christian character. We trust that Jesus will transform our life according to the same character, as we put our focus on him” (Guzik, David, ‘1 Timothy Chapter 3’, 2018). God requires a higher level of integrity as well as accountability, especially for those who hold positions of leadership.

If churches were to live out these characteristics, we would probably see a lot more churches prospering and growing. The problem comes when the “shepherd” neglects their sheep or leads them astray by portraying themselves one way within the church and living a completely different way outside of the church.

I, myself, desire to live above reproach. Being a wife of a pastor, I realize that what I say, do, and how I act, can cause an impact on the ministry because the community around us will form their opinion of God based on our character.


“A culture of leadership must have a shared set of values and goals, and an agreed upon and shared lifestyle. As a leader, you can’t ask someone to do what you yourself aren’t doing” (Putnam, ‘8 Key Attributes of An Effective Church Leader’). I hold myself to a higher standard than others within the church and must be cognizant of how I say or react to various situations.


  1. Gundry, R. H. (2012). A Survey of the New Testament (5th ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  2. Guzik, D. (2018). 1 Timothy Chapter 3. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from
  3. Putnam, J. (n.d.). 8 Key Attributes of An Effective Church Leader. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from

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