Why A Pastor Is Called To Be Above Reproach

by Jack Wellman on November 7, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

Why are pastors told to be above reproach?  Knowing that they too are sinners, isn’t this asking too much?  What does it mean to be “above reproach?”

A Definition of Reproach

A reproach is an expression of rebuke, disapproval, correction, criticizing, or open disciplining.  A pastor is supposed to be above reproach meaning that he should possess character that goes well above anything that would require a reproach from the church, his family or from the public.  To be above reproach is to live in such a way that there is not even a hint of scandal or inappropriate behavior that would bring shame to the church.

A pastor is supposed to be above reproach meaning that he should possess character that goes well above anything that would require a reproach from the church, his family or from the public.

A pastor is supposed to be above reproach meaning that he should possess character that goes well above anything that would require a reproach from the church, his family or from the public.

A Pastor’s Job Requirements

First Timothy 3:1-7 tells us just how much above reproach a pastor should be,

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

Paul is saying that God requires a pastor to have a sterling reputation in the community (v 7), he must not be a womanizer (v 2), neither should he be a drunk, brawler, or greedy (v 3), have a godly home with obedient children (v 4), nor a new believer or one that is full of pride (v 6), and have self-control and not have violent tendencies (v 2, 3).  If a church calls such a man, they should ensure that he qualifies by having these in his character.

Paul gives more instructions for pastors, sometimes called elders.  Every elder is not a pastor but every pastor is at least an elder (Titus 1:5) as Paul explains to Titus when he is choosing men for leadership positions in Titus 1:6-9.  Paul says that they must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.  He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

Paul adds to the pastoral requirements that they must “give instruction in sound doctrine” but “also to rebuke those who contradict it.”  That means that the pastor can stay above reproach if he teaches sound doctrine…that is found in the Bible of course…and to rebuke those who contradict what Scripture says.  Not easy no, but there is no choice for a pastor if he is to stay above reproach before the church and the community.

Why Pastors Must Be Above Reproach

The main reason that pastors must be above reproach is because God says so it His word.  That is reason enough in itself but there is more to it than being a direct command from God’s Word.   A pastor is a symbolic representative of the church and of God and if his reputation is one of ill-repute, then this gives the church a black eye and can destroy the pastor and the church’s witness to the community.  Even most of those who do not like the idea of God understand that Jesus was a very good person, a good teacher or had excellent moral qualities.  They may not bend the knee to Him but the vast majority of people, even among other religions, see Jesus as a supreme example of how they ought to live.  Pastors must strive to live in such a way that the community at large will see Christ in their lives.  When pastors live in ways that are contrary to the Bible they make non-believers think that all Christians are hypocrites and live lives of duplicity.

Related reading: What Would Jesus Do? 10 Daily Choices To Be More Like Him

The pastor must also abstain from every appearance of evil because sometimes the church and frequently the public will not give the pastor the benefit of the doubt (1 Thess 5:22).  Even if there is no sin in what he is doing, he must not even appear to be doing what is considered sin. There was a new pastor in one small town that I heard of many years ago.  He was seen coming out of a tavern and was walking rather unsteadily.  Two citizens saw him come out of the tavern and assumed that he was drunk.  He later heard about it by gossip.  What came back to him was that some of the town’s citizens saw him coming out of the tavern drunk.  He was so drunk that he could barely walk.  The truth was that he had been visiting a shut-in widow from the church that lived upstairs.  This building was adjacent to the tavern.  It looked as though he had walked out of the tavern but he was actually coming out of a stairwell from the shut-in’s upstairs apartment and he had sprained his ankle coming down the stairs.  Even though the pastor was not at fault, these people who saw him didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt.  They had assumed that he was drunk when he left the tavern, which he had not actually been in.  You see the point. Pastors must not even appear to be doing evil.  The pastor didn’t do anything wrong and even though the pastor knew it, the two citizens didn’t.  His reputation was somewhat soiled by something that was not even true because appearances can be deceiving.

Conclusion

It’s not only the pastor that should be above reproach, the members of the church should also be because they too can hurt the witness for the church and the cause of Christ.  We too must abstain from every appearance of evil.  I once counseled a young Christian couple who were boyfriend and girlfriend and lived together.  They insisted that they slept in separate bedrooms and never had sex.  I told them that it doesn’t matter because most of their neighbors assumed that they must have been having sex because they lived together.  What was worse, they knew that they were Christians.  They hurt the witness of the church even though they didn’t have any sexual immorality occurring (allegedly).  It didn’t matter if they weren’t.  What mattered was that non-believers thought that they were because they were living together.  I strongly suggested that they live separately because they were giving the appearance of evil and even if there was no sin, they were bringing shame on the case for Christ by their doing so.  May it never be so among the Bride of Christ as He desires we live holy lives and this includes being above reproach.

Another article worth reading : Should Pastors Be Paid? A Bible Study

Resources: New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide



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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

DocReits November 7, 2013 at 9:24 am

Good stuff Jack!

So often compromise is the order of the day in our permissive society. Thank you for holding up Godly standards we should all be exhibiting. The world IS watching, but more importantly, so is God. God died for us…it is our reasonable service to love and obey Him.

“If you love Me, keep my commandments” Jn 14:15

Blessings,

DocReits

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Jack Wellman November 7, 2013 at 9:34 am

Thanks brother…this quickens me to be all the more diligent and I think the pressure on my wife is just as great, if not more, but sadly, the expectations are unreasonable and I believe that she is too often under the magnifying glass which no one likes. Thanks for your support. What you said is so true…love is obedience and no sacrifice.

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Lou November 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

Overall I agree with what you’ve written, but did you mean to imply that the pastor ought not have visited the shut-in lady who lived adjacent to the tavern, since doing so left him open to false accusations and reproach? Because if that’s what you mean, I’ll have to respectfully disagree. The sad fact is, nearly anything a pastor does in the course of his weekday ministry might be contorted by fault-finders and become a source of finger-pointing by people who are inclined to that behavior. For example, I have a pastor friend whose church is located in a low-income, high-crime area of town. In the course of knocking on doors to meet people, it’s pretty much a given that he’ll be knocking on the door of at least one (and possibly multiple) drug houses. Should he stop doing that outreach on the basis that someone might see him there and wrongly assume that he is buying drugs? I’m not trying to pick nits, and I do take seriously the words of 1 Timothy 3. But as we try to understand how to live out those commands I think we need to factor in the reality that the pharisaic types that criticized Jesus for eating with “sinners” (and who accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard) will always be with us; and that those folks shouldn’t be the ones who define what our ministry ought to look like. Blessings to you!

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Jack Wellman November 7, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thank you Lou. I am sorry. I should have made myself more clear. No, I didn’t imply that the pastor should have avoided the shut-in just to abstain from any appearance of evil. I apologize. I should have been more clear about that. No, the pastor who goes into the low-income, high-crime areas should not be inhibited from going there for fear of what people may think. You are spot on Lou. I am with this pastor and agree with you. I have not hesitated to go into the poor district in the city of where the church is that I am the under shepherd of. I think that if someone thinks wrongly about this, then that is their problem. I associated with sinners to share the gospel because I too am still a sinner or as (I believe it was) Martin Luther said, we are both sinners and justified at the same time. My point with the pastor who visited the shut-in adjacent to the tavern was to make a point (which I apparently did a poor job of and I accept responsibility for it) was to make the point that people judge wrongly and that the Scripture that says “love believes all things” I think means we should give people the benefit of the doubt. Again, my mistake for not communicating this more clearly. I am not ashamed to go anywhere and have gone to the park, bus stops, thrift stores, or anywhere uninhibited because Christians are only one poor, beggar offering the gospel to another. Thank you Lou. Great point and thank you for pointing out this very important detail that I missed and I thank God for you and for that pastor who is willing to go where few others are willing to go.

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Lou November 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

Thank you for the clarification! I think you are spot on in your statement that love believes all things, meaning that we ought to give people the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been at my church long enough (nearly 23 years) that the people know me and do want to think the best of me, wherever my ministry takes me. Because of that, I’m able to take some risks in reaching out to folks that others might be hesitant to take. Not long ago, I posed this question to the members of the Bible study class I teach at the church: “If you saw me walk out of a bar, what would your immediate thought be?” One of our most vocal members said, “I’d think that you must have been sharing the gospel with someone in there.” It’s good to have that level of trust with people!

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Jack Wellman November 7, 2013 at 11:21 am

Great example Lou about coming out of the bar. I think since I have read your comments I would know enough about you to realize what your reasons were for coming out of the bar since you have obviously come out of the world and now want others to come out with you in your evangelizing. I thank God for believers like you and your church surely must be blessed to have you there.

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