AN ELDER’S FAMILY
BY JONATHAN LINDVALL
EXCERPT FROM HOUSE CHURCH
CHAPTER 13: MINISTRY HOUSEHOLDS —
KEY TO HEALTHY CHURCHES, PAGES 172-174
BY STEVE ATKERSON
The explicit minimum qualifications for leadership in the body of Christ include other family matters. An elder/bishop (demonstrably the same thing as the pastor in the New Testament church — see poimaino, presbuteros, and episkopos in Ac 2:17, 28; Tit 1:5, 7; 1Pe 5:1-2) was to be “the husband of one wife” (1Ti 3:2; Tit 1:6). There is some controversy, today, over the application of this. Some simply apply this to polygamy, others suspect it precludes divorced and remarried men from being publicly recognized as exemplary, and still others take it to mean that an elder must be a “one woman type of man.”
I suspect the requirement of being “the husband of one wife” not only means a man with more than one wife is disqualified, but that a man with less than one wife also is not qualified to be recognized as a model for the church. While single men certainly have the benefit of fewer distractions and responsibilities, and thus more freedom, this very lack of responsibility is also a handicap when it comes to leading in the church. It is more likely for a single man to be (or at least be perceived as) a novice, but Paul told Timothy (1Ti 3:6) to choose as elders those who were “not a novice.” He further made it clear that the reputation, as well as the reality, of a man’s maturity, was important (1Ti 3:7; “he must have a good testimony among those who are outside”).
Some time after I married my wife, Connie, I began realizing how unprepared for marriage I had been. I was simply not mature enough for marriage. Yet as I pondered the matter, I concluded that I likely would never have been mature enough for marriage, while I was single. But it seems to me that within months of getting married, I had been stretched in wonderful ways that forced me to mature. I doubt I would ever have grown in those areas as a single man. Marriage made me something I could not have become otherwise. Truly in all but a few cases, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Ge 2:18). There are likely exceptions, but a man who is unmarried (or at least who has never been married) is not as likely in a position to be a thorough and balanced role model for the body of Christ as one who has demonstrated his capacity to “rule his own house well.”
In fact, I suspect that a man who has not experienced fatherhood will be similarly handicapped. Paul told Titus (1:6) to only recognize as elders those men who are “the husband of one wife, having faithful children.” Just as I was not ready for marriage until after I married, I was not ready for fatherhood until after Connie and I were blessed with our first child. Being a father pressed me in certain ways that I would likely never have matured in without having children. As the Lord continued blessing us with more children, and as each of them was trained through different stages of childhood and youth, I was being further prepared for eldership.
The other homeschooling fathers and I, in our local congregation, have theorized that God’s reason for leading us to disciple our own children at home rather than sending them to school is not exclusively (perhaps even primarily) for their benefit. God has called us to teach our own children at least partly because of the maturity this brings to us as fathers. Any teacher will acknowledge that the teachers learn as much or more than the students, in the process of teaching. In fact, I suspect one of God’s primary reasons for raising up the homeschool movement in this generation is to prepare truly qualified elders who have learned how to disciple others as a result of discipling their own sons and daughters.
Sadly, as noted earlier, the children of those who are devoted to ministry in the contemporary church often have the worst reputation. I’m blessed to be a PK myself (not Promise Keeper, but Preacher’s Kid). But as a child I learned that the acronym PK is often a derogatory term in the contemporary church. While this is not always deserved (many love to find fault in leaders to excuse their own failures), it is too often true that the children of those in public ministry are not examples to the rest of the body of Christ.
I imagine we have all seen men who seem to have a true call of God on their life for public ministry, yet who are so focused on that ministry that they neglect their own family. Paul included, as a qualification for local church leadership, that an elder’s children must be well trained. He defines “one who rules his own house well” (1Ti 3:4) as “having his children in submission with all reverence.” Then he reasons (1Ti 3:5), “for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God ?”
In his instructions to Titus (1:6) he is more explicit in specifying the expectations of the fruit of an elder’s fatherhood. He must have “faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.” The children of elders must not only be in submission, but their faithfulness must be so evident that they are not even accused of excesses or disobedience.
Obviously elders’ children are going to be selfish and inclined to sin, just as all humanity is. Yet only those men who have proven their capacity to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Pr 22:6) should be publicly recognized as models for the church. The word translated faithful in regard to his children (Greek pistos) is elsewhere translated believing. (For example, Jesus used this word as a contrast to Thomas’ doubting in John 20:27. See also Ac 10:45; 16:1; 2Co 6:15; 1Ti 4:3, 10, 12; 5:16; 6:2.). It is certainly not a stretch to contend that only men who have trained believing children should be considered for eldership.
SOURCE and AVAILABLE AT:
NEW TESTAMENT REFORMED CHURCH