Friday, June 02, 2006

Have You Asked?

The Bible gives us standards for those who hold the office of leaders and servants in the church. Consider these qualifications for elders and deacons given in 1 Timothy 3:
An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife ... He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), (1 Timothy 3:2, 4-5)

Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households (1 Timothy 3:12).
Often, we are quick to look at a man's family to see what they are like, but we are slow to ask their family what he is like. Why is this so? If the requirements for pastor and deacon are so closely tied to his family relationships, should we not take all possible steps to find out what those relationships are like? If a man's wife and children do not respect him, why should we ask the church to respect him? If a man's wife and children will not follow him, why do we want the church to follow him?

So I ask you: Have you ever asked the families of men nominated for positions of elder and deacon if they think he is qualified?

Have you ever asked a wife what kind of husband he is? Does he care for her emotionally? Does he take care of her sexually on a regular basis? Does he respect her all over the house, including the bedroom? Is he passionate in his love and devotion to her? Does she desire him? Or does she merely put up with him? Does she feel respected and cherished? Does she feel like he listens to her? Does he talk with her? Does she feel at one with him? Is he selfish? Is he aloof? Is he non-communicative? Is he cut off from family affairs and concerns? Does she see him connecting with the children? Would she say their marriage is better today than it was a year ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago? Are they closer today than they were then? Does he regularly pray with her and lead her spiritually? Does she trust him explicitly and without reservation or hesitation? What would she change about him if she could?

We should also observe them when they are together. What are they like when they are together? Are they distant? Are they merely "getting along"? Are they passionate about each other? Do they show a marriage that you can hold us as an example? If some young couple comes to you and says "We want to learn have to a have a godly, biblical marriage," would you point them to this man and his wife? It is hard to hide the signs of a bad marriage over the long haul. Things that begin in the privacy of arguments and tension in the house will usually slip out in public.

Do you talk to his children? Have you ever asked the children what kind of father he is? Does he care for his children emotionally? Does he play with them? Read to them? Plan for them? Put aside the phone and books for them? Turn off the TV for them? Put aside the job for them? Do you ask them if they respect him? If they want to be around him? Have you asked them what he does when he gets mad? Have you asked them how he responds when he is upset with them? Have you asked them what kind of TV programs he watches? What kind of TV programs and movies he lets them watch? How often is the TV on in their home? How many of their ballgames, school concerts, and special occasions does he attend?

We should also observe them when they are together. What is he like when he is around them? Do they love him? Do they respect him? Do they want to be around him? How do they talk to him? How does he talk to them? Does he look at them when they are talking? Is he trying to get the conversation over as quickly as possible? Do they obey him immediately? Does he correct them with firm love and direction?

The recent charges and arrest of a pastor has brought this to my mind again. If these questions had been asked and answered truthfully, it is likely this would have been known many, many years before it became public. A man is usually not able to completely and permanently hide the disrespect for his wife and family that such actions require. It is hard to imagine that there were no signs that his wife picked up on, or that his kids experienced.

It is understandable that a family might be hesitant to tell the truth, and great discretion must be exercised in asking these kinds of questions. But I have yet been able to find a reason why we should not ask them. How else will we know if a man is qualified in these areas?

In fact, maybe we should ask his business partners, co-workers, clients, supervisors, and employees, and neighbors what kind of person he is.

There's too much at stake to take these things for granted, or to guage them based merely on the public demonstration that can be observed a few hours a week in the artificial setting of church.

Do you have a strategy for evaluating a man's qualifications, along with an ongoing accountability partnership of mutual guarding and care? If not, why not?

1 comment:

Derek Makri said...

Definitely wise counsel. Too often the pastor does not fulfill those qualifications and the church thinks it is okay. Too often the pastor's kids are the worst in the church. Churches would do well to focus on this often passed over qualification.