In part one of the Requirements for an Elder we discussed that an elder must be above reproach and briefly examined what that meant. Today, I want to look at the second Biblical qualification for eldership – that an elder be the “husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3.2).
Now let me preface this article by saying that I do not believe that this statement precludes female elders. I often use “he” as a shorthand for “he/she” and it seems obvious Paul is doing the same here. I don’t have time to deal with the entire women in ministry debate, but in Titus 2.3 when Paul asks the older women to teach the younger, he actually is using the word elder in the feminine form: the female elders should be teaching younger women. So there are female elders in the church and Paul approves – that should solve that one! So if you are a female elder, or aspire to be one, just reverse the genders and apply what is said to yourself as the wife of one husband! Nor does this verse exclude single people from church leadership – just like
The phrase “husband of one wife” in Greek literally means a “one woman man”. This obviously means that bigamists and polygamists are not allowed to be elders in the church. But what else does it mean?
It’s in the present tense, so past indiscretions are not being referenced here. The man who is on his second or third marriage is not disqualified. In fact a man who is on his second marriage is the husband of one wife – that’s why his ex-wife is called his ex and not his first wife still. Now divorce is wrong, and also it cuts your soul to pieces and it would be difficult for a divorcee going through the divorce to be in church leadership, so you need to exercise wisdom but when someone has remarried with a healthy second (or third, or fourth, etc.) marriage then this verse is not applicable to them. I am not brushing aside divorce lightly – it is a grievous thing that takes a lot of time and effort to recover from, and should never be considered lightly. However, there is grace for divorcees, there is restoration, and part of that restoration involves open doors to leadership.
Your past cannot disqualify you from church leadership – but your present can! The way to enter leadership if that is your heart to do so is to make your present your past by dealing with situations and moving on!
However, this qualification for church leadership is a lot broader in scope than just “married with one wife”… a lot of people think they have that therefore they are qualified for church leadership just because they have a marriage certificate. But I think most people are aware that there is a lot more to being a one woman man than being married, and most people know at least one married man who is not a one woman man!
You see the role of an elder is not just a ceremonial title because someone reaches 55, so they can see in a council of elders and discuss the colour of the church carpet or pull the pastor apart week after week. An elder is someone who is regularly making disciples and running a discipleship group in their house. They are people who are looking after people – people who may be broken, lost, immature, going through grief and loss. They can be vulnerable people.
If you have vulnerable people visiting your house regularly, you need to be a one woman man.
You can’t be flirting with people, giving people the wrong impression, fantasising about other people. You need to be in a healthy marriage, one that is stable and secure, and women need to be able to trust that you see them as a whole entity, not just a body or someone to exploit.
The New Covenant warns against coarse jesting and language that should be not be used!
You must be someone who can treat others with respect and dignity and want their best, whether they are male or female, whether they are pretty or pretty ugly, whether they are in need or anything. Another thing that could easily happen is that someone in the group of people you are discipling could develop a crush on you, or start to elevate you and honour you in a special way. You need to be in a healthy marriage, not looking for a way out or else these things will end up problems. You need to be a one-woman man!
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