Want your audiences eyes to glaze over? Announce a 5 lesson series on the qualifications of elders. Amazing. All of us who preach have experienced that moment in a men’s or elders’ meeting - “We need to appoint some additional elders. Brother Dale, preach a few sermons on it.” My own wife has threatened to boycott these lessons!
We dare not get creative - the text is the text. We may dip our toes into the disputable matters like number of children, faithfulness of children, percentages, what does husband of one wife mean - the list could go almost as long as the debate about these things. It’s rather ironic that the two books that provide the most fodder for those arguments are the same two books that warn to “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9), and to“…refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23; cf. 1 Timothy 1:4; 6;4).
But the truth is these qualifications are not just random things tossed onto the table to provide college dorm lobby debates. If God wanted to just pull qualifications out of the sky then He could have - but it certainly appears He did not. I believe there is a reason behind each of the items listed.
May I suggest the next time you are “called upon” to roll out the perfunctory sermons on qualifications that you approach it from the qualities. Or we might call it the why behind the what. Why would God want a man with “this” quality to be leading His church. Is it possible there is a reason deeper and that we have missed it in our rush to correctly exegete the word (i.e. what is a “striker” anyway?).
Let me get you started:
“not quick to anger” - If you’ve sat through more than two elders’ meetings you know there are plenty of high emotions involves (and should be we are dealing with souls and truth). So there is going to be plenty of reason for anger. If you have ever tried to love an elder you’ll learn that because of over-reaction, knee-jerk responses and people’s investment (or lack there of) there will be plenty of occasion for becoming bitter.
“not given to wine” - Problems that won’t go away. People who won’t let a matter grow. Immature individuals to do and say really dumb/hurtful/vengeful/insensitive things to and about others. If he has any problem with alcohol he will turn to drinking. Best not appoint a man who has any issue there.
“having believing children” - You want a man who knows the care it takes to train a child for he will be training “children” in the faith. You need a man who has dealt with the dumb things kids can do, so he will have compassion toward us when we do dumb stuff. You have to have a man who has had a child in some sort of danger for he will need a heart and courage to fight for andprotect those who are hurting. You need a man who has brought others to a mature faith.
We could go on and on but I’ll let you write you own sermon. Enjoy it next time maybe a few less eyes will droop.