Scriptural Qualifications to be a Pastor

It is surprising how so many people ignore the qualifications for pastors presented in Scripture. Does your pastor meet the qualifications?

The noun form of the word “pastor” is found only in one verse for a church position besides that of Christ in Ephesians 4:11. From Ephesians 4:11, pastors are set apart from apostles, prophets, and evangelists. The verb form of “pastor” meaning “to shepherd”, and besides the Great Shepherd and literal shepherds those doing the shepherding in the Church are the shepherds, the pastors of Ephesians 4:11. “Pastor” from the Greek word poimein means “shepherd”, which the Greek word for pastor is used repeatedly in reference to church pastors especially the Chief Pastor, Christ (Matt. 9:36; 25:32; 26:31; Mark 6:34; 14:27; Luke 2:8, 15, 18, 20; John 10:2, 11, 12, 14, 16; Heb. 13:20, 1 Pet. 2:25).

What the Bible has to say about who these pastors are may surprise you. Those who are to shepherd are clearly presented in Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5. In Acts 20, Paul called the “elders” of Ephesus to him in Miletus (v17), and in his discourse, he instructed these elders, who he also called “bishops”, to “shepherd the church of the Lord” (v28). The only other occurrence of church leaders shepherding are again by “elders” in 1 Peter 5:2, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you”. These elders are the overseeing bishops and pastoring shepherds of New Testament churches. Evidently, the official position of pastor in shepherding congregations are “elders” who are also called “bishops” as presented in the above Scriptures. There are no other positions in the Church for which one is to be a pastor of the flock.

The Scriptural titles for elders are bishops and pastors, and there are other synonymous titles translated too. The position of elder comes the word “presbyter” and in Greek, presbuteros, which means “elder”. A bishop is the position of “overseer”, which bishop and overseer are from the same Greek word, episkopos. The position of pastor comes from the apparent meaning “shepherd”, which are translated from the same Greek word, poimen. Elders, presbyters, bishops, overseers, pastors, and shepherds are all the same position in the churches of Christ throughout the Christian Scriptures. A Bishop is also called “God’s steward” (Titus 1:7). Notice that there are no higher leaders than elders in the Church besides Christ in the Scriptures (1 Peter 5:4). There are no archbishops, high councils, popes, or presidents. There are elders, who shepherd as an “eldership” (1 Tim. 4:14). Note that there is a convention of Apostles and elders in Acts 15. Yet, what is clear in scripture is a plural number of elders at each congregation, and each man met specific qualifications (Acts 14:23, 20:17, 21:18, Phil. 1:1, 1 Tim. 4:14). Being a preacher, minister and, or evangelist does not make someone a pastor.

Such men must meet the qualifications listed in the Scriptures. Give attention to the necessary qualifications of the pastors of Christ’s Church. First of all, those desiring this position by title are working to pastor and oversee. These men are also to be elders meaning elder in age. Two lists of qualifications for pastors are presented in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

First Timothy 3:1-7:

*One must seek the office
*Must be without reproach
*A husband of one wife
*Able to teach
*Not a drunkard
*Not violent but gentle
*Not quarrelsome
*Not a lover of money
*Must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive
*Must not be a recent convert
*Moreover, must be well thought of by outsiders

Titus 1:5-9:

*Above reproach
*A husband of one wife
*His children are believers not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.
*Not arrogant
*Not quick-tempered
*Not a drunkard
*Not violent
*Not greedy for gain
*A lover of good
*Must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught

These shepherds being pastors have specific responsibilities. Most importantly church elders are to lead like Christ, and thus be examples to the congregation rather ruling over the church. In 1 Peter 5, Peter as a fellow elder stated, “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not lording over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (v2-3). By overseeing, church elders are to shepherd by opposing false doctrine and teaching the Truth. Elders are not authoritarian rulers (Mark 10:41-45, Luke 22:25-30). Although, Christians are to yield to the leaders (Heb. 13:17). As seen in the qualifications for these pastors, elders serve in responsibilities loving good and holding to the Word as taught. In Acts 20:28-31, the Spirit of Christ teaches elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock“, to be “overseers, to care for the church of God“, and to “be alert“, because Christ “obtained with his own blood” the Church. Paul warns elders that “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Therefore, the Spirit teaches that an elder is to “be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). While elders do not have to labor to financially support oneself in preaching and teaching as 1 Timothy 5:17 reveals, those that labor are worthy of pay and even double pay and honor for such work. Pastors also are to be there for the sick of the congregation when they are called as James 5:14 states, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Elders also oversee the collection being the treasury (Acts 11:30).

Is this a picture of your “pastor” and the “pastors” that you know? Maybe like most churches, you do not really have these kinds of Scriptural pastors. Instead you have a number of “pastors” who are hired ministers and who do not meet all the qualifications. While supporting evangelists, who minister to the congregation is Scriptural (1 Cor. 9, 1 Tim. 4), these individuals are not necessary qualified “pastors” unless they are older married men with faithful children. What will you do about it? Will you ignore God’s Word and think “Well, grace will cover this”? Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Evidently, grace does not cover those who do not do the Will of God (1 John 1:5-10). If you go to such a congregation having an unqualified “pastor”, please examine the congregation by the Scriptures since such error is usually not alone. Encourage a minister to lead the congregation in selecting elders from among the congregation (Titus 1:5, Acts 6:1-6, 14:23). Many congregations with unqualified pastors or leaders acting like pastors are not Scriptural even by the name of the church. The congregation should bear the name of her Owner, her Bridegroom, and her Savior. If you are a part of the Church of Jesus Christ that He built (Matt. 16:18), saved (Eph. 5:23-27), and bought with His blood (Acts 20:28), why not say that you all belong to Him rather than another man, ideology, organization, or sect? Is that congregation really the Church of Christ or is it the Church named after another man or a tradition?

What is a Pastor?

A Minister’s Work in Few Words“.

Where is Christ’s Church Today?

Ten Clear Characteristics of the Church of Christ

Searching for Truth

Church of Christ

About Scott Shifferd Jr.

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]
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46 Responses to Scriptural Qualifications to be a Pastor

  1. Cyril says:

    (1) Is it scriptural for unmarried man or a man whom his children is not of age to ordain as a pastor.
    (2) Can any one be called by God to be a pastor?


    • Excellent questions.

      (1) A congregation appoints pastors if by “ordain” your mean appoint (Acts 14:23). A church without elders is lacking (Titus 1:5). In reading 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, only married men are elders (pastors) and deacons (cf. Phil. 1:1). Pastors are also to have faithful children according to Titus 1, so he should have at least one child who believes and baptized in Jesus’ name by confessing faith. His children should be faithful in the sense that his wife is to also be faithful as in 1 Timothy 3:11. Yet, the Scriptures teach that a young man like Timothy can be a minister and, or an evangelist, but he is never called a pastor (1 Tim. 4). Paul is not called a pastor or elder either, but Peter said that he was an elder (1 Pet. 5:1-4). We know that Peter was married (1 Cor. 9:5, cf. Matt. 8:14, Mark 1:30, Luke 4:38).

      (2) From scripture, not everyone can be a pastor, and yet almost any faithful man can serve as a minister, and the woman, Phoebe, also served as a minister serving for the Church (Rom. 16:1). By providence, God may lead us to serve in the Church as He did with me, but I would be very careful about calling this a “calling” since that reference is not in the Bible.

      Lastly, I am an experienced minister and evangelist, but I know that I am not yet qualified to be a pastor. If I assumed such a role, I would be profaning God’s Word and His institution of the Church. This is a reason for so many types of churches. This is how we have got preeminent titles like Reverend Father, Archbishop, Senior Pastors, Pontiff, and so forth. These are names belong to God. From experience and scripture, ministers and servants of the Church need humble titles since so many can teach error and seek to gather a following to them rather than serving to point to and glorify Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28ff, 3 John 9-10, etc.).


      • Scott (and you, Cyril, should read this too),

        I’ll leave the CofC’s interpretation about “children” for another day, but why do you believe the “congregation” appoints elders?

        You chose the proof-text Acts 14:23 to support your answer, but it actually is a proof against your entire post. St. Paul and St. Barnabas appointed elders for the congregations [the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Ico’nium, and Antioch]. The “they” in the verse were already ordained elders; not the “congregation”. This example does not include any congregational input; the elders were selected and ordained by extra-congregational elders, and therefore, does not rise to the rank of a Protestant Church of Christ / democratic proof text.

        This verse does not support the answer you gave Cyril, but it does give some insight into the already-established Christian hierarchy; elders are always appointed from the top, not elected from the bottom. One more gem from this verse is the fact that congregations were not self-governing; they were under the authority of other elders in the hierarchy.


  2. Lucy Young-Johnson says:

    I also thank God for this encouragement,well said, serve as Phoebe& Priscilla, Amen.


  3. Thank God for this. I was ordained a Pastor about 2 years ago. I’ve since struggled, mainly because i am a woman. I do believe God has and does use women in ministry but I have not seen any scriptural support for them pastoring.

    Thank you for this confirmation.


  4. seeally says:

    Jesus came to ‘destroy all dominion, authority and power.’ He did not reinstate authority of one believer over another. That is from another source.


  5. Pingback: What do you think of Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches? - Page 7 - Christian Forums

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  7. Kenneth says:

    What if you have tried to control and put your children in order and then the are just rebellious to you as a pastor. Can the church remove you from doing Gods work?


  8. Kenneth says:

    Well articulated no doudt if one needs to be a pastor or bishop or a church leader must study the points put forward in order the society to have a church with solid christian values.


  9. lynn says:

    Can I be a pastors wife if I have never been on hospitality or personals ministries counselor or anything deep…….just been in choir for a short time………….will I have the patience to deal with people like I should


    • Let your potential husband help you with this. Sometimes you will probably need to refer to him or someone else while you learn.

      I see your reference to choirs to be consider itself. Be sure that the “choir” is not about show, entertainment, and amusement in place of worship in the Assembly. See Jesus’ words in Matt. 6. If the “choir” is simply singing group improving the congregational singing of the congregation without drawing attention to themselves in different clothing or special seating, then this should not be a concern. Remember that singing is to be congregational (Rom. 15:9, 1 Col. 14:15, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, Heb. 2:12).


  10. lynn says:

    Should you go to work in a particularly sinful area , is it possible to slip into sin yourself. (like a drug and gang infested area, or a homosexual area)


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