If a man must first be qualified in order to become a pastor, it stands to reason he must retain those qualifications to remain a pastor. But what exactly is the church to do when a pastor becomes unqualified?
The role of a pastor
A church is made up of believers who are a part of the overall body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5). This local organization was designed by God to be under the care and leadership of a Spirit-led pastor (Acts 20:28). In fact, we are commanded to respect and submit to this leadership in the church (Hebrews 13:17).
The first major role of a pastor–also called elder, bishop, overseer, leader, shepherd–is to govern the local church (1 Timothy 5:17). He is to be a leader and an example to the flock which is not the same as being an executive administrator who makes all of the decisions (1 Peter 5:2-5).
It should be noted that pastors were never overseers of multiple churches in the Bible. Also, it would seem most churches during the first century, no matter how small, had multiple pastors (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5).
The second major role of a pastor is to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). Paul encouraged the Ephesian elders to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-28). He also told Titus to exhort others with what he had learned (Titus 1:9). Timothy was encouraged to study and meditate on God’s Word in order to teach it to others (1 Timothy 4:12-16). This is such an important part of a pastor’s work that deacons were first appointed to lighten the load and give ministers more time to devote to these things (Acts 6:1-7).
The qualifications of a pastor
The qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are relatively simple and obvious. A pastor is to be:
1) Blameless – void of scandal, criminal behavior, or general unrighteousness
2) Husband of one wife – upholds good morality in marriage whether he is single or married
3) Vigilant – sober and sound judgement or watchfulness
4) Of good behavior – modest, graceful, and altogether loving
5) Given to hospitality – willing to love and entertain even strangers
6) Apt to teach – knowledgeable and able to educate others
7) Not given to wine – not a drunk or consumed by it (wine often represents material abundance)
8) No striker – not violent or offensive in words or actions
9) Not greedy of filthy lucre – not concerned with amassing wealth
10) Not a brawler – not prone to argue, fight, or stir up strife
11) Not covetous – not consumed with a love of money or material goods
12) One that ruleth well his own house – able to successfully lead his own family
13) Not a novice – not a proselyte in the church who has just come to his faith
14) Good report of them which are without – good reputation in the community (outside of the church)
Choosing a pastor in the first place
Historically, there have been two methods for choosing a pastor–selection by a higher authority of men, or selection by the local congregation. In the Bible, it would seem decisions of this nature were made more times than not by the local church (Acts 1:15, Acts 6:3, Acts 15:22, 2 Corinthians 8:19). At the very least, the local church needed to be in relative agreement.
A pastor is ultimately accountable, not to other pastors or other churches, but the particular congregation he serves. Perhaps this creates a better a system of checks and balances in the church. The pastor is accountable to the flock and the flock is accountable to the pastor. This also prevents the easy spread of false doctrines and ideas through a hierarchy.
Dealing with an unqualified pastor
If the church truly understands the role and necessary qualifications of a pastor, and feels certain their pastor falls short, that man is indeed accountable to the church. Keep in mind, pastors are held to a higher standard than everyone else. This is implied in the special qualifications written to Timothy and Titus.
It would be the church’s first task to discern whether the pastor is living in sin or if he simply does not meet that higher standard. The difference determines whether the man is unfit for the role of pastor or unfit as a member of the church–members are required to be repentant (Acts 2:38).
Either way, Jesus gave us steps for dealing with these situations (Matthew 18:15-20). First, privately speak to the offending person and express your concerns (Matthew 18:15). In the case of pastors, we should skip to step two (1 Timothy 5:19). Once step one has been exhausted, we are to take two or three witnesses which are in agreement to talk with the offender (Matthew 18:16). If all else fails, we take the matter to the whole church (Matthew 18:17-20, 1 Corinthians 5:4-5).
In the best case scenario, the initial private conversation(s) will cause the man to consider his faults, change his ways, and be restored (Galatians 6:1). In the worst case scenario, the man never repents and is removed by the church (Matthew 18:17, 1 Corinthians 5:7). Lots of prayer and godly discernment should be utilized.
Thanks for the Bible question. I hope my answer is correct and a benefit to you. Please, don’t hesitate to ask your questions now or in the future.