The Pastor’s Children
We may tend to overlook a key aspect of a leader’s qualifications for his position and work in the assembly. We refer to his children. And this is discussed briefly in the two places where the elder’s qualifications are mentioned (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
First, let’s clarify terminology here. We’ll not sue “pastor” since this term is greatly abused. It comes from the Latin language, whereas the New Testament was written in Greek. The term in question is from the Greek poimen, from which we receive the English word “shepherd.” Paul more specifically refers to the shepherd as an “elder” (Titus 1:5) or an “overseer” (v. 7; 1 Timothy 3:2). We may also use the term “manager” (using the noun form of the verb at 1 Timothy 3:4-5) and “steward” (Titus 1:7).
The main import of our comments relate to the qualification of the overseer and his children. Of course, this leader must be a man and must be married (Titus 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:2), but what about his children? It is assumed that the elder or overseer will have children—something that not every “pastor” in the religious world today has!
What scriptures will help us to answer our inquiry? We find two (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). From these inspired passages, we make these observations:
- The overseer’s children must believe (Titus 1:6). To be specific, Paul says that the leader must have “children who believe.” In other words, they must be converted or saved from sin. This would mean that they were not to be so young that they couldn’t believe or come to Christ. Today, sadly, we find some men claiming to be “pastors” who either don’t have children or the children he has are too young to savingly believe in Christ.
While this refers to the elders or overseers, it is important that all Christian parents lead their children into a saving relationship with God through Christ. Don’t just rely on the child’s own natural inclinations, but parents need to carefully, consistently lead in the child’s spiritual formation. This is done through giving thanks at meals as well as in the morning and at night.
It comes from instructing the child from the Scriptures. It also comes from showing the child a worthy example of godliness, purity, and righteousness. As Deuteronomy 6:5ff points out, parent needs to lead every day and all through the day. “You shall teach them [the commands of God] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” This is how parents need to lead their children to salvation as well as a walk with the Lord.
- These children must be respectful and obedient (Titus 1:6). That is, they must not be accused of “dissipation or rebellion.” Dissipation comes from asotia, meaning “prodigality, a wastefulness, profligacy” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words). And rebellion is from anupotaktos, meaning “not subject to rule” or not in subjection (Vine).
We can see that this qualification goes to the core of the whole child-raising issue in modern life. Most of us (especially those who have studied both the Scriptures and modern culture, and particularly those who have the benefit of teaching their own children at home) would agree that children today, in general, are wasteful of food, of money, and of time. Further, it is self-evident that most children refuse to be obedient and reject placing themselves under the authority of their parents. They are insubordinate.
Thus, it is utterly important that overseers or elders raise their children to obey their righteous orders and be in subjection at all times. They must not be wasteful in their demeanor, but respectful of their parents and other adults (as well as children). This is a high calling not only for the children of overseers but it should be the aim of all Christian parents.
- The children must be under control (1 Timothy 3:4). As Paul puts it, “. . . keeping his children under control with all dignity.” In other words, they must not be out of control or uncontrolled. Obviously, this is the normal way that children are raised today. Walk through a grocery store and you will probably find children who are not under control. When in a crowd of people, notice that many children are uncontrolled. This is the parents’ fault primarily, though children share in the blame.
The overseer must keep his children “under control” with “all dignity.” The term here is semnotes, meaning “venerableness, dignity.” He is not to be out of control himself or he won’t be able to keep his children under control! He is to be dignified in his relationship to his children. Here again is good counsel to all Christian parents as they relate to their children. Determine now to raise your children differently from the world around you!
- The children must be managed or manageable. The overseer must be “one who manages his own household well” (1 Timothy 3:4). Beyond children, the overseer must “manage” his whole family well. The term manage is from proistemi, literally “to stand before” and hence, “to lead, attend to” (Vine). Our society has large given up on the principle of fatherly authority and leadership. The idea is to be a friend to one’s child and not a leader or manager over the child. How far our societal standards have drifted from Biblical principles! (By the way, deacons or servants also must be “good managers of their children and their own households,” 1 Timothy 3:12).
If the overseer doesn’t manage or lead his family well, “how will he take care of the church of God”? (1 Timothy 3:5). He is to prove himself with his family and only then will he be qualified to manage the family of God.
- Evidently there must be a plurality of children. Both 1 Timothy 3:4 and Titus 1:6 refer to “children” in the plural. Some may question this, saying that to require that an overseer has “children” may be obeyed by having only one child. We can see the reasoning here, but it surely would be “safe” for the overseer to have more than one child. Generally speaking, the tenor and tone of Scripture would point to families with many children (cf. Genesis 1:28; 9:1, 7). Having a large family will help prepare the overseer to have experience dealing with a range of different personalities, as in an assembly of believers. However, we do know that not every couple is able to have a large family, thus we cannot at all make this a definite rule.
We should be glad that God, through Paul, has given us instruction on choosing godly men as elders or overseers (or shepherds). As we have seen, one of the primary qualifications is that the overseer must be married and have children who are saved, who are well-managed, and who are under control. This is a weighty responsibility for those who are over the community of Christ.
But this is only reasonable. Why? Overseers are to be “examples to the flock” of God (1 Peter 5:4). Brothers in the Lord (as well as the sisters) should be able to look to the overseer and notice how he guides, directs, teaches, and trains his own children and find help in their own family responsibilities.
Let’s make sure that any local community of Christ that is selecting overseers pay special attention to this important one of raising children that are exemplary. Let’s not be like denominational leaders who often have disobedient, rebellious, worldly, and fleshly children that are a disgrace to the name of Christ. God’s way is the best way…. God’s way is the only way!