The other day, I finally had a chance to get together with one of my pastors, have some coffee and chat. As we talked about books, ministry, stuff going on in our lives, he mentioned, “Say, have you seen this video?” A well-known Canadian pastor had shared a satirical video about why men couldn’t be pastors. The idea behind it was to redirect the reasons women hear about why they can’t be pastors to show the ridiculousness of each: so lots of talk about reproductive cycles, moodiness, emotionalism, and that sort of thing.
I went home and checked out the video. And it was… kind of silly, really. And I don’t mean the humorous sort of silliness. It was sad. It was sad because if women are actually being told they can’t be pastors because of the effects of the reproductive cycle1 then the person saying such things needs to be corrected, and quite firmly. Those aren’t biblical reasons—and whenever Christians say we believe something is or is not acceptable, it should be because of what the Bible actually says, not because we’re making stuff up.
But it wasn’t only sad because of this reason. It was sad because, in their redirect, the organization making this video made the same error—they failed to deal with what the Bible says about who can and cannot be a pastor. In fact, there are a lot of really good reasons why a man can’t be a pastor or overseer according to Scripture. Here are seven found in 1 Timothy 3, though they could all be summed up in the first point:
His character is easily impeached (1 Timothy 3:2). “An overseer must be above reproach,” Paul wrote. This means, quite simply you’re the kind of man “no one suspects of wrongdoing and immorality.”2 We should be shocked when we hear about immorality amongst Christian pastors and elders because it should be unheard of among them. We should not have moments of cynicism because there should be nothing about them that would make us cynical. Being above reproach doesn’t mean being perfect, but it does mean being a man of integrity. If a man is not that, then he probably shouldn’t be a pastor.
He can’t teach (1 Timothy 3:2). This is kind of a deal breaker: if a pastor or elder can’t teach—whether that’s preaching, or some other form of teaching (which includes one-on-one explanation, and writing)—then he can’t be a pastor. Teaching is an essential component to this ministry, which is built upon the idea of equipping the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
He’s a bully (1 Timothy 3:3). If a man tries to intimidate people into doing what he wants, yells and berates others, calls those who disagree with him names, he can’t really be called gentle or respectable, and chances are he probably shouldn’t be called a pastor either.
He’s mastered by something other than Christ (1 Timothy 3:2, 3). Jesus said no one can serve two masters—you’ll always have to choose one or the other. Greedy people, for example, see ministry as an opportunity to personally enrich themselves. They’ll promise the moon and the stars if you’ll sow a seed. Similarly, those who lack self-control are mastered by their indulgences whether they’re pornography and sex (thus violating that whole “husband of one wife” deal), alcohol, or even food. If something other than Christ reigns as supreme in his heart, a man cannot be a pastor.
His family situation is a disaster (1 Timothy 3:4-5). I’m not talking about the typical stuff of life, where kids test boundaries periodically or we have occasional disagreements with our wives. I’m talking about the man who’s not respected by his kids or his wife because he’s not respectable, who tries to coerce submission instead of being a servant himself (which in turn leads to a desire to behave in kind). Pro-tip: if the words, “you have to submit,” leave a man’s lips, he probably shouldn’t be a pastor.
He’s a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6). This isn’t a warning against age, but about character. A mature believer might be 27, even as an immature one might be 57. The principle here is that a pastor should be someone who would not become conceited by being in a particular position. They have sufficient character to accept responsibility and authority with humility.
He has a bad reputation among unbelievers (1 Timothy 3:7). Pastors are to be thought well of by outsiders—meaning those outside the faith. They might not like him, but their distaste should be because of the One he represents and the gospel he preaches, not because he’s an offensive person. If a man is known as being a jerk among his neighbors (and there’s grounds for such a reputation), chances are he’s probably not terribly hospitable. He also probably shouldn’t be a pastor.
We can argue about whether or not women can hold this office or not until we’re blue in the face.3 But what I believe is the most tragic thing about this silly video that’s been making the rounds and has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times is that in “flipping the script”, they miss the bigger picture—if we’re going to have a real conversation on this issue, we need to deal with what the Bible says. And while I don’t see a compelling egalitarian case from the Scriptures, I do think we can all agree what the Bible does make a very compelling case about what sort of man should never, ever be a pastor.