This may seem like a strange post. Some of you may wonder why I even bring such a topic up for discussion. Well, the reason I want to discuss it is because it is an issue that has impacted me directly.
When I finished seminary, I interviewed for a pastoral position at a medium-sized church in Michigan. Over the span of several weeks, I met with the senior pastor and church leadership to interview and discuss my thoughts on how to effectively run their student ministry. The leadership was convinced. They wanted me on their staff as an associate pastor. The only thing left to do was to introduce me to the church membership and allow them to vote on the matter.
A weekend was arranged for me to visit the church so that I could speak and engage in a question / answer session with the people. During the question and answer time, a young man stood up with his Bible and stated, “1 Timothy 3:1-2 tells us that ‘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.'” The same young man went on to say that he could not vote for me because I was not biblically qualified to be a pastor. I was single. I did not get the job.
Is this really what this passage is saying? If so, then pastors are also required to have children because in verse 4 we are told that he must have submissive children. These same requirements are listed for deacons in verses 8-13.
However, this seems to contradict the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul states that it is better to remain single as he was because single people do not have the obligations that naturally come from marriage and children. They have more time to dedicate to serving the Lord.
It is also interesting that the passage in 1 Timothy 3 is often used to disqualify those who have been divorced because they are not the “husband of one wife”, but more than one wife. If the passage is telling us that people who have been married more than once are disqualified, it makes no sense to also read it as a requirement to have a wife. These are two totally separate issues!
The passage is not concerned with the marital status of a person, but the person’s character. Is the man faithful to his wife and is he a good father? If he the answer is “yes”, then he may be a good candidate for a pastor or deacon. If he is unfaithful, he is not biblically qualified. In the case of a single man, since the questions about wife and family are not relevant, we must look at the other qualifications listed in this passage to judge his character. Is he above reproach, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, not a recent convert, and well thought of by outsiders (these additional qualifications are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7)?
If a man is qualified in all of these areas, he is biblically qualified. He does not have to be married.
What are your thoughts? Is marriage a requirement to be a pastor? Would you consider a single person as a candidate for a pastoral role in your church?