The standard to which pastors and elders are held is a very high one. Why? Because they represent Christ to their congregation and they represent the church to the world. We’ve all seen what happens when they fail in this and scandal rocks the church. It not only hurts people within the church, but damages the church’s reputation in the world.
And so while Paul does require two or three witnesses before admitting a charge against the pastors and elders, he makes it clear to Timothy that when the charge is proven, he cannot simply ignore it. Rather he is to bring it in front of the church and rebuke that pastor or elder.
Why? For one thing, it proves there is no double-standard between the leadership and the congregation. Second, it shows the church that sin is taken seriously and will not be ignored no matter who commits it. Third, it serves as a warning to those who are being tempted to sin in the same way.
But as important as it is to deal with these problems when they come up, it’s even more important to do everything possible to make sure that it doesn’t happen at all. That we choose leaders who are full of integrity and won’t fall in such a way that it brings disrepute to the name of Christ and to the church.
Because of this, Paul told Timothy,
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. (22)
When people were chosen as pastors or elders, people like Timothy or Paul would lay their hands on them, praying for them, and committing them to God for that work.
So what Paul was saying was, “Don’t be hasty in choosing someone to be a pastor or elder. Don’t share in their sins by supporting them for that position without checking them out first.”
And the most important way to test a pastor or elder was to watch their lives. Paul said,
The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden. (24-25)
In other words, some people are easy to disqualify because their sins are so obvious. Other sins, though, are not so easy to see, and you won’t notice them until you have spent time with that person and gotten to know them.
On the other hand, there may be other people that you think are not so special or qualified. But when you take a closer look at their lives, you’ll see that they are the very ones that are most qualified.
Either way, watch those within the church who are candidates for pastor or elder. Make sure of them before assigning them to that position. If you don’t, you could very well find yourself with a disaster on your hands.
While Paul is focusing on pastors and elders, I think you could extend this to any ministry where a person needs to take a leadership role. It might be for the process of choosing people to be small group leaders or Sunday school teachers. Anyone who represents the church as a leader or teacher is to be held to a high standard.
So we need to be careful who we choose.
And for those who are in leadership or teaching positions, we need to be careful to always represent Christ well by how we live.
How careful are you being?