I saw the guy from my “Always Ready” post today again. He asked me why I became a nurse. I told him, “The short version: I needed a job.” I then proceeded to tell him the long version, including the need to support my family while looking for a church to pastor, while pastoring a church too small to pay a living wage, and while attempting to pay off our debts. Through this he learned that I was trained for the ministry, and was indeed a pastor for a time.
His first reaction: he apologized for using foul language earlier in the day. I told him not to worry about it. I come from a Navy family, and I’ve heard that language my whole life. It doesn’t really bother me to hear it (unless God’s name is involved), I just choose not to talk that way.
But why do people start acting differently as soon as they find out that I used to be “a man of the cloth?” Pastors are people too. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t even close to perfect. So why do laymen act like we are?
In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy he states that a pastor must first of all be “blameless.” This is a matter of debate throughout history. What exactly did he mean by “blameless?” I discussed this with my classmates in Bible college. One classmate went so far as to say he would say someone guilty of a felony is not qualified to be a pastor. I said, “So if I was convicted of murder, I wouldn’t be qualified to be a pastor in your eyes?” He agreed with this statement. I told him, “You just disqualified the Apostle Paul.” (for those of you not familiar with Paul, he persecuted Christians, and stood by collecting the coats for those stoning Stephen. This is, at the very least, conspiracy to commit murder.
The extreme view seems to be that pastors must be a type of “super-Christian” with no “major” sins in their past. This is how most people view the office of pastor (the reader will understand that the terms “pastor” “bishop” and “elder” are used interchangeably for the same office). The Greek word used is anepilempton, which means “above criticism.” the New American Standard version translates the word “above reproach.” This is the only place the word is used in the Bible. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “it means to have nothing in one’s conduct on which someone could ground a charge or accusation.” That’s not exactly helpful.
Here’s what I think. I think the word means that the man desiring the office of a pastor has such character that, if someone said, “Hey did you hear that Pastor Steve did such and such?” the first reaction of the hearer would be, “I don’t believe it.” It’s like if someone said, “Hey, did you hear Steve is shaving his head and moving to Tibet?” People who know me would say, “That’s ridiculous. He wouldn’t do that.”
So the word is vague, but I know one thing for sure: it doesn’t mean sinless. We make mistakes too. We ask for forgiveness just like you. And we receive it.
“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound…”
It’s like if someone said, “Hey, did you hear Steve is shaving his head and moving to Tibet?” People who know me would say, “That’s ridiculous. He wouldn’t do that.”
Now, see. *I* would say that but I’d add, “he can’t afford it and I don’t think he can swim that far!” ;-D
(As to the head shaving part – I just do a summer buzz cut… so I could believe the haircut part. It’s actually quite comfy and easier to keep clean in the dirt of summer.)
Also, I know of a denomination that apparently believes that a man is somehow not “blameless” and is no longer qualified to be a pastor if the man’s WIFE decides to leave him for another man and divorces him. So apparently in that church, the man is responsible for what his wife thinks and does. (No equal rights for YOU lady!)
If you ask me, that position is extreme (the one you described in the last paragraph). Depending on the circumstances, it would be possible to say that the guy was still blameless, however it would be difficult to say that he “ruled his house well.” That phrase may refer only to his children, but if you go there, then that means that every pastor who has a disobedient child is disqualified.