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The Qualifications for Pastors from Acts to Philippians: Courage in the Truth

This paper will argue one thing: that courage in the preaching of true doctrie is the main qualification for a pastor. It is just that the concept of courage must be contextualized in various ways. Both the New Testament as well as the secondary literature–both patristic and contemporary–give witness to the fact that courage is always contextualized, relative to pastors, as a devotion to the faith and the faith alone, to such an extent that all other things are placed in the hands of God.

This paper will give an account from three sources: that of the scriptures, first, from Acts to Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, the ancient patristic teachings on the duties and qualifications of a pastor, second, and lastly, the contemporary witness of authors struggling with similar problems. This work will take each source in turn, and in the conclusion, will attempt to bring it all together. II. Testimony on Pastorship from Acts to Philippians It is very rare for the secondary literature on this topic to stray from the well worn path of Timothy and Titus, the so-called pastoral epistles.

Comparatively little work has been done on the scriptures prior to that, from Acts to the Philippians. But this is a shame, for the latter works are saturated with qualifications of pastors and teachers, and they are often ignored in the secondary sources. This section will attempt a summary of these books relative to the pastorship. In Acts 1 the Apostles are Apostles because they have been given the Spirit to preach and the Spirit chooses who he will from the community.

This is the first issue in the pastorship (in this case, the rank of apostle), that one is chosen by the spirit, one is called, to the duty of this ministry. Self will can never be the cause of the pastorship (as this is applicable to all teaching ministries) but one must be able to distinguish self-will, or the desire to become a pastor, from the specific calling the Spirit is bringing the person to. But in Acts 4, it is made clear that the idea of the Spirit called mission is the preservation of maintenance of doctrine.

Hence, early on, there is a tight connection between the Spirit filled call to service, and the service of doctrinal teaching and preservation. One is brought under the other. In fact, it is not insane to make the connection that one might be able to discover a “self-willed” call to serve in that it is not about true doctrine, but about the egocentrism of the self-willed. In other words, outside of doctrine, and the love of the true faith over the false, there is no call, and no Spirit. The thesis of this paper is that courage in doctrine is the primary qualification for a pastor.

And in this, Acts 5 holds that God must be obeyed over men. Man may threaten, man may persecute, but in no way is that an excuse for te cessation of preaching or the teaching of pure doctrine. In this respect, Acts 8 and 10 make it clear that apostles and pastors will be persecuted and attacked. One can tell the true pastor from the false in that the former is hated by the world, the pagans and Jews, while the latter is loved by it. It needs, in this spirit, to be reiterated that Jewish persecution is one of the marks of a true pastor.

In Acts 13, it is clear that the Jews were bent on doing anything and everything in their power to destroy the witness of the Apostles, and that they were the primary cause for the persecutions of the early Church. But Paul and others make it clear that the fear of the Jews cannot be an excuse for retreat. Hence, courage in the face of both Jewish and pagan attacks is a major mark of the true pastor throughout the Acts of the Apostles, and hence, cannot be ignored. Courage is the primary mark here, but courage contextualized as the preaching of pure doctrine under the harshest of regimes.

In fact, Acts 17 makes clear that open debate with Jews, pagans and heretics is a specific qualification for pastors and all who seek the teaching and preaching ministry. Hence, it is clear from this that the pastor must be trained in doctrine as well as disputation, and in this respect, a “peaceable” disposition is not exactly a requirement. St Paul says in Acts 17ff that, when he is gone, “wolves” will move in a pervert doctrine. This is Pauls’ great worry. In his preaching to the priests of Miletus, doctrine, and courage in preaching this doctrine, are of central importance.

Here Paul predicts that as soon as he leaves, heretics will seek to destroy the church. This is another way of saying that doctrine si at the root and heart of the church, and it does not exist without it. In this vein, then, pastors are primarily called to defend correct, Orthodox doctrine in the face of all circumstances. In the Letter to the Church at Rome, there are two things specifically that deal with our topic. In Chapter 8, Paul makes clear that the primary mark of a good pastor is that they “count suffering as nothing. ” This is of primary importance given the above.

Since persecution and battle are the lot of all good pastors, suffering will occur. But a good pastor will count this as nothing and reject this as an excuse to modify his message. In that vein, Chapter 15 holds that the second mark of a good pastor is based on this: in the process of teaching pure doctrine and accepting suffering on this account, the (local) church is unified as of one mind. But this follows from the above: if courage in preaching the one true doctrine is the basis of all teaching and pastorship, then the congregation must be of one mind within this true doctrine.

So its no surprise in Chapter 16 that “dissenters” are to be expelled from the community. Doctrine leads to suffering as the negative, but the positive is the creation (or preservation) of a church dedicated to the one true and pure doctrine and hence, a church that acts as one. Dissent is a self-willed rejection of the church and hence, must be dealt with. This is reiterated in First Corinthians 1 where “factions,” similar, but not identical to, heresies, are also rejected. The church as a doctrinal unity based on the singleness of mind relative to doctrine is the basis of the church under Christ.

The pastor is then in charge of its health and maintenance, but that will stir up the enmity of the Jews, pagans and “dissenters,” leading to suffering. Hence, so far, the basic thesis of this paper is born out by the evidence. But this is merely introductory material. The first real “list” of pastoral qualifications is given in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4. There seems to be 4 specific qualifications for pastors in these two chapters. They are, first, the keeping of Christ at the center of all one’s work. But this is merely saying that true doctrine is kept at the center.

Since the “preaching” of Christ is the preaching of true doctrine. If one does not know true doctrine, one does not know Christ, or knows a counterfeit Christ, or a Christ of one’s own imagination. This is the basis of all heresy, all contempt and faction. At the same time, this pastor that teaches pure doctrine should not be wise in the world. He should be a man of simplicity and directness in preaching, not concerned with contemporary “issues” and fads, but with the doctrine pure and simple. At the same time, the preacher must “lack in self-importance,” he is to count himself as nothing and Christ as everything.

But this leads to the final mark of a good pastor, the accepting of martyrdom (1 Corinthians 4:9). Again, St. Paul makes the connection between the virtues of a good pastor, leading to the acceptance of suffering for th truth’s sake. One leads to the other, one implies the other. Hence, a pastor must be humble, count himself as nothing in that the preaching of the truth leads to suffering, nor the good life. In fact, it is clear from the above that the good life is opposed to the Gospel, and pastors that do not suffer are likely to be wolves, and not pastors.

Later in First Corinthians, two more marks of a good pastor are mentioned: first, in Chapter 9, one must be like all men so as to convert them, and in Chapter 12, a good pastor must honor the lowly, and never treat congregants as anything other than equals, especially in relation to class status. In Second Corinthians, there are several additional marks of a good pastor. In Chapter 5, similar to Chapter 12 above, a pastor must never look to people “according to human judgement. ” In other words, those who are part oft he chosen community are equal in the sight of God.

God has brought them to the pastor, not the reverse. Since it was the Spirit that created and undergirds the community, the members of that community must be seen as comprising one body in doctrine and life, and hence, though different, equal in the moral sense. The world honors riches and reputation, while the true church rejects these things in favor of moral consensus, but a consensus in truth, never fashion. But all the above is summarized in Ephesians 4: that there is one Lord, one Faith, One Baptism. ” Hence, the marks of a good pastor are reduced to that: the faith, which is single and excludes all others.

The truth excludes the false by definition. Ecumenism and relativism are rejected out of hand, and this exclusivity will lead to suffering and possible martyrdom. The Jews and others will be stirred up by this intolerance and seek to destroy the good. But this is a sign of the good and their destiny. At the same time, Philippians holds that, given the above, many false prophets will arise to seek the destruction of the faith. Christ, or what the heretics imagine Christ to be, will seek to use His name not to build the faith, but to destroy the faithless.

Here, the courage of a pastor reaches its full height: the life of a true pastor will never be easy, it will be a life long combat against the forces of darkness that take human form, that is, heretics and others who will pretend to “preach Christ,” but their only purpose is to destroy, to divide and to confuse. Hence, in this respect, our thesis is confirmed: courage is courage in the preaching of pure doctrine, inevitably to result in the hatred of all worldly powers against the pastor who embodies this virtue.

In Philippians 3, finally, this singular virtue: courage in the face of assault, is mentioned again in the idea that the true minister of the Gospel must “forfeit everything” in the preaching of the Gospel. This is inherent in such preaching and is unavoidable,. Hence, for the layman, the pastor who is not persecuted is living such a life because he has conformed to the world, and is hence loved by it. This is a sure mark of heresy or some other corruption. This message is not merely meant for the ancient world, but if anything, has more salience now than then. III. A Survey of the Patristic Literature on Pastorship

The other important source for information on this all important topic comes from the church fathers. These men were responsible for the establishing of the church on earth after the apostles, and all of them embodied the virtue that is at the root of this paper: courage in the preaching of true doctrine. Nearly all of these man suffered for the faith, and not a few were murdered. The Apostles themselves, whose successors the fathers are, nearly all died the deaths of martyrs, giving flesh and blood suffering to the words of Paul, words that Paul was to live given his own martyric death at Rome.

But since the patristic corpus is so vast, this section of the paper can only give a cursory summary of the major teachings of the fathers on pastorship, nevertheless, the point of this section is to add more light to the teachings of St. Paul mentioned above, as they agree with Paul in every respect, but at a very different time. Hence, in a paper concerting the New testament ideas on pastorship, the ideas of the church fathers, since they are the successors to the apostles, cannot be ignored. The fathers of Mount Athos have some interesting things to say about the nature of pastorship in the world.

The Gerontikon, or the saying of the Athonite fathers, speaks of several virtues that a pastor must have. Importantly, a key segment of these sayings seems to report that a good pastor must leave the unimportant aspects of pastorship to others so that he can focus on the most important: prayer and the acceptance of suffering (Gerontikon, 1997). In other words, a pastor cannot really be involved in the “administrative” side of such work, as his job is far more intensive and spiritual. The first priority is prayer and the acceptance of suffering.

At the same time, heretics and representatives of other religions should be avoided at all costs, as these can harm the soul in the preaching of heresy (Gerontikon, 1997, 47-50). Heresy is soul destroying by definition, and hence, should be avoided. Of course, this will lead to charges of intolerance and fanaticism, all of which must be borne with patience and the understanding that such mindless accusations are partly proof that one is on the right path. The world preaches tolerance (without sincerity) yet the church, as cited above, preaches truth, and hence, intolerance as the greatest virtue.

The famed Russian mystic and bishop St. Tikhon of Zadonsk has much to say in two major works dedicated to the issues of the pastorate and the Christian life in general. St. Tikhon holds that the pastor, above all things, is a “messenger of God. ” (Tikhon, 1991, 114). As such, he is to be honored above all others in the church. He provides, in addition, for the common good of the whole, rejecting class or faction as a mode of judgement. All are equal in the body of Christ. As above, the good pastor rejects things that are temporal for things that are eternal: hence, suffering is to be “counted as nothing” as St.

Paul writes. At the same time, the good pastor will be a target of slander both from without and within the community and that the must bear such sufferings with patience. Finally, St. Tikhon (1991) writes that, since the good pastor is a servant and messenger of God, he will be subject to temptations more often and more severely than the common layman. This must be understood by all those who are under his pastoral care. The good pastor will be a sinner, but this does not vitiate his pastorship. He is a sinner because he is under greater attacks from demons than others.

(Tikhon, 1991, 114-116). In his famous (2004) “On the Duties of Pastors,” St. Tikhon reiterates that the good pastors will suffer. This comes up again and again in all forms of the literature on this topic. This is related to the manifold temptations he will suffer, but is also related to the nature of the truth amidst a world that rejects it. As such, the good pastor will administer rebukes (so long as they are general and not directed to a person) harshly, so that the “lash” of the rebuke will “sting” those under his care (Tikhon, 2004).

The famed Elder Gervasios of Patras deals with the duties and qualifications of pastors relative to their courage in the work (1995, esp. chapter 3) by the Hierdeacon Kyrill. Several things stand out on the elder’s teachings on the good pastor and his qualifications. First, his service should never be routine. The love that he has for Christ and his doctrine should be intense and that intensity should be felt by everyone. The routine, bureaucratic sort of pastorship is sinful and is not pastorship at all.

His life, as has been mentioned, must be one of constant courage in trials, as the elder himself suffered slanders and attacks, and any good pastor needs to recognize that a mark of the good pastor is a life of constant struggle. As Paul says above, money must mean nothing to the good pastor, and good pastors often life quite poorly as a result. Mercy is a mark of the good pastor, as is the loathing of self-righteousness. All here is based on courage in preachign true doctrine, and all here leads to a life of suffering: the pastorship is a burden. St. Basil is in full agreement with St.

Paul above: first, the primary qualification for a pastor is the integrity of the faith. A pastor is not a pastor without true doctrine. Second, that the souls within that body, that body of doctrine that is the church, are to be treated like one’s own children. And lastly, the faith needs to be the foundation of all personal counsels. Equality is only equality in the faith and is manifested by the fact that the faith is the same in all, and that the Spirit, as a result, is the same in all. Outside of the faith, there is no spirit, and the body is torn asunder (Basil, 1898, 262). IV. The Contemporary Literature

The contemporary literature in this field is also, as a matter of course, in general agreement with St. Paul and the New Treatment qualifications for a pastor. The interesting and highly circulated pamphlet from an anonymous pastor holds that there are basically three qualifications for a good pastor, closely aligned with the ideas mentioned in reference to Acts above. First, that a pastor must be called: self-will is not a calling and leads to heresy and disaster. The gift of the spirit is not only the means to good pastorship, but also its beginning. One of the marks of the Spirit’s presence is the “desire to serve.

” (Anon, 2006) Another important offering here is another anonymous tract (2009) dealing with the qualifications of pastors in the modern world. As this paper has done, this author stresses the idea of the call in Acts. For both these anonymous authors, the calling is the central idea for it, if it is genuine, is the mark of the Spirit, the Spirit that will call the minister, strengthen the minister in true doctrine, and strengthen the minister in the sufferings that are inevitably attached to this ministry. In addition, the work by Dale Robbins (1995) is very important and highly read concerning the pastorship.

It also stresses the nature of the calling. In fact, the first chapter of Acts has clearly filtered down to the contemporary generation: the pastor is a pastor because the Spirit has called him. If the Spirit has called him, then he will preach true doctrine and serve. If the Spirit has not called him, or the pastor-to-be has mistaken his own self-will or demonic activity for a “calling” then he will not preach true doctrine and will fail (at least on Biblical, not worldly, terms). For Robbins, the additional ideas that mrk the Spirit filled calling are mercy, a solid lifestyle and impartiality.

Again, these are taken directly from St. Paul above. The last two substantial contemporary sources derive from LK Landis (nd) and Jonathan Edwards (2007). Both are concerned with the idea of service and vigilance as elements of the spirit filed life of pastors. Landis stresses the keeping of vigil, the ever-watchfulness that derives from the courage granted b the Spirit for all who are called in Him. Landis rightfully stresses, as all the above have done, the lack of self will involved in the call to service. This is immensely important for it derives from the Scriptures and has filtered down thought the ages.

The Spirit guarantees true doctrine and the courage to deal with the sufferings that necessarily derive form this. The Spirit is all, the pastor, nothing. At the same time, Edwards stresses the life of the Spirit in pastorship as the engagement of unity: the pastors first job in the Spirit is to maintain unity, but this, as in Paul, is another way of saying that doctrine needs to be at the head of unity. A unity must be a unity around something, and this something is the community around true doctrine. But the preaching of true doctrine, as Scripture teaches, leads to suffering necessarily, and hence, courage is the virtue of virtues here.

V. Conclusion The thesis stated in the first sentence of this paper has been borne out. Courage is the central virtue of the pastor, whether he be bishop, priest or deacon. All the ministries of teaching are concerned with doctrine. But doctrine must be conetxtualized as the teaching and preaching of true doctrine in a world that has rejected it. This is central and the Holy Scriptures dealt with above, and that lie at the center of this paper cannot be understood without it. It is clear that the Scriptures from Acts to Philippians are concerned with one thing: the courage to preach Christ in a world that has rejected Him.

All of the other concerns of the Scriptures on this issue are secondary. Doctrine immediately bleeds into the virtue of courage, for both the Scriptures and the church fathers hold that true doctrine is hated by the world,. And hence, those who preach it will be hated. This and only this is the qualification of the preacher since all else is included within it. The Spirit chooses who He will out of the community of the faithful. It is the spirit that teaches the true doctrine of Christ on earth, therefore, if the Spirit is truly active in a man, then true doctrine will be preached. By this also means that the preacher will be persecuted.

And hence, the Spirit will be present to provide courage and life. Without this view–that each stage in the vision of the good pastor leads to doctrine and the courage to preach it–the Scriptural descriptions of the good pastor and teacher will mean nothing. Bibliography: Ioannikios, Archimandrite. An Athonite Gerontikon: Sayings of the Holy Fathers of Mount Athos. Athens: The Monastery of St. Gregory Palamas, 1997. Zadonskii, St. Tikhon. From Journey to Heaven. Jordanville Press, 1991. _____. “On the Duties of Pastors. ” in The Journey to Heaven: Counsels on the Duty of Every Christian.

Jordanville Press, 1994. Kyrill, Hierodeacon. Elder Gervasios of Patras: His Life and Pastoral Work. Nicholas Palis, Trans. Thessaloniki, Greece: “Orthodoxos Kypselia” Publications, 1995 Basil, St. “Letter No. 222. ” “Letters of St. Basil. ” in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, St. Basil. Phillip Schaff, ed. The Christian Literature Company, 1898. Pp 261-262. Anon. “The Qualifications for a Pastor. ” Pamphlet Published by Eternal Ministries, Inc. 2006. (http://www. eternalministries. org/articles/PastoralQualifications. htm) Anon. “Biblical Qualifications for Pastors.

” in Observe All Things, January, 2009. (http://deanroadchurch. wordpress. com/2009/01/09/biblical-qualifications-for-pastors) Roberts, Dale. What People Ask About the Church. Victorious Publications, 1995. Landis, LK “The Pastor and His Qualifications. ” (Pamphlet) Wilderness Publications, nd. http://www. wilderness-cry. net/bible_study/articles/pastorquals. htm Edwards, Johnathan. “Duties, Service and Qualifications for a Deacon. ” in Deaaon, Elder and Church. Pastor and People, 2007. (http://pastorandpeople. wordpress. com/2007/08/14/duties-service-and-qualifications-of-a-deacon)

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