J Marshall on Elder Qualifications: Checklist? Or Portrait?

Jeremy Marshall asks us how we treat the “elder qualifications” passage in Titus and what kind of leaders we appoint as a result.

via Re-thinking the “qualifications” of elders: Thoughts on Titus 1.6-9 and elsewhere.

  1. The husband of one wife. This means that he has to be a dude, first. Beyond that, we tend to quibble over the meaning of “the husband of one wife.” Does this mean not divorced? Not divorced and remarried? Not polygamous? If his wife dies, he has to quit being an elder? If he was widowed and then remarried, does this “disqualify” him? But assuming that it is a dude and the particular church has a working definition of “husband of one wife,” they move on to the next checkmark.
  2. Having children that believe, who are not accused of riot or unruly. In practice this typically means that all his young ‘uns are baptized and aren’t as bad heathens as the preacher’s kids. Unless of course you’re “installing” your preacher as an elder.
  3. Not self-willed. This one seems to conflict too much with American boot-strapsism, so we sort of nod and chuckle and check this one off with our fingers crossed behind our backs, which is typically a source of grief and strife later on.
  4. No brawler, no striker … a lover of good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled. We tend to lump these all together into one category. Assuming Joe Bob meets qualifications 1 and 2 and hasn’t been in a fistfight since at least the early 1980s, and he’s a pretty good old boy, we’ll go ahead and give him a pass here, too.
  5. Not greedy of filthy lucre. But it helps if he is a successful businessman. 
  6. Given to hospitality. Is he apt to throw a good barbecue? Does his wife serve a mean casserole? Hospitality so defined is generally treated as a plus rather than a necessity. Check.
  7. Holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers. In practice this often means that he is capable of conducting a Bible class with Gospel Advocate Quarterlies.
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