Pastors and Elders V: The Requirements for an Elder (part 2)

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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Planning Your Preaching (Benjamin Conway)

Planning Your Preaching!


One of the things that I often get asked is “how can I preach better?” or “how can I preach with a better response or better results?”  The fact is that preaching the gospel is the power of God – that’s how people get saved, get healed, get transformed.  Preaching is one of the single most effective uses of your time as a pastor and leader.  It’s that simple.  There is a move in some churches today to denigrate preaching and to minimise it’s power – some people are maxing their preach time to 8 minutes.  Wow!  If you want to be soaked in the Word I believe you should take at least 45 minutes.  I preach over an hour nearly every single week because I know it’s the Word of God that lifts and transforms and builds people up.

A lot of people spend a lot of energy and effort into planning the sermon, and absolutely that is correct, but planning a single sermon is great if you are a travelling evangelist, but for pastors you need to be planning more than one week in advance.

Firstly, as the lead pastor of a church, realise that you will always be and always should be in charge of the preaching in your church.  I have been to churches (and even pastored one) where the eldership or the deaconate were in charge of the preaching calendar, the rota of speakers.  One church I know pastored a council worker to come and “preach” about how awful his wife was for divorcing him.  No!   The lead pastor of the church is in charge of the preaching.  Absolutely, ridiculously in charge of the preaching.  No one gets to preach in the pulpit unless you give the say so.  It’s that simple.  The lead pastor is the shepherd of the flock and is the guardian of the sheep.

I take that approach in Tree of Life Church.  If I ask someone to preach, I am more than happy to ask them to preach on whatever I want, I am happy to ask for their notes before they preach.  Obviously with guest speakers like Arthur Meintjes who I have heard again and again and trust to bring a complete work message, I give a lot more latitude but to a new preacher within the church, I am ridiculously careful.  Why?  Because I am accountable before God regarding what is spoken at the church.

All preaching must be brought into the bigger picture of the church.  At Tree of Life Church our bigger picture is to “inspire people to dream, to challenge people to live the dream”, so I (Benjamin Conway) have to look at my preaching every week and ask myself – am I inspiring people to dream?  Am I challenging people to live the dream?  If not, chuck it in the bin as it is not helping the Tree fulfil God’s will.

So, preparation has a massive role to play: not just preparing the message, but preparing it to fit in with the bigger picture.  Then there is the theme for the season: what are we doing as a church right now?  So at the moment (May 2013) at Tree of Life Church we are hammering home the truth that there is a lot of deception in a lot of the church and that a great deal of this deception is basically obscuring the cross of Christ.  So, every sermon preached in May will be about deception and every sermon preaching in June will be about the complete work.

You need a preaching calendar.  You need to include important dates (not just Christmas and Easter, but Valentine’s Day, New Years’ Eve and September.  When the schools return after summer, lots of people come back to church and you need a powerful series to get them energised for church).  You must have a preaching calendar.  You must not just get in the pulpit and “allow the Spirit to lead you” – it will lead to the same message week after week and your church will have no direction.

I have already penned our preaching calendar for 2014.  Our theme is “Identity” and we have 12 months in which we are going to learn about our identity as reborn human beings.  Our summer conference for 2014 is sub-titled “We are Jesus on the earth!” and will be about our identity as the image of God on earth.  In August our worship leaders are going to find songs that fit in with our identity.  Our leadership conference will be grounded in identity.

Identity inspires people to dream, so the theme of the year fits perfectly with the overall dream of the church.  This planning is so important because to fail to plan is to plan to fail: so many charismatics just give us a piece of their mind when preaching – sort of a stream of consciousness from the pulpit.  It doesn’t help.

Then when planning the month around the monthly theme, I consider what the Bible says about the monthly theme and then consider what I want the people to know.  Good teaching should give information that people don’t have and press people to make a decision they haven’t made before.  So, for example, next Sunday morning, I am preaching on how it is deception to believe that you can have a harvest without a seed.  The information I am going to give people is show them all the different ways Christians try and get a harvest without a seed, and the decision I want people to make is to sow a seed into the kingdom (not necessarily money, but an action of faith and love).  Now I know that, putting the sermon together is much easier.

Not only that there is continuity from week to week.  If another person in the church preaches, they get to know the calendar and have to fit in with it.

Any questions about preaching or sermon preparation?  Please ask them below, I will answer all of them as best I could.

(Benjamin Conway preaches 3 times nearly every weekend, in Watford, Guildford and Dagenham.  Every month over 2000 people download or stream one f his sermons online from their church website,  These messages are free of charge because God’s Word is free of charge.)