Seventeen Characteristics of a Qualified Church Planter

by | Nov 26, 2012 | Church Leadership, Church Planting

I fly on airplanes a lot. The most difficult thing about flying is not the small seat with little to no legroom, or the long flights with 287 people sharing one Barbie-sized sized bathroom. The most difficult thing is keeping up with the TSA rules for “secure” flying. It seems they change the rules daily just to mess people because their own job is so boring. They now have Imaging Technology that can scan a person’s body for exploding underwear (butt bomb?) or exploding breast implants (seriously).

The qualifications for a pastor have been the same for almost 2,000 years. Don’t tell the TSA or they might mess with it. Jesus came as the perfect fulfillment of this list of qualifications.  He is the Chief Shepherd of the Church and we are the undershepherds.

Before you run a battery of tests to determine if you have the qualities of a church planter, make sure you are first qualified as an elder. I found 17 distinct qualifications for a church planter in Scripture. All elders are guilty to some degree of violating these qualifications. Examine whether this is a pattern of your behavior to fulfill the “above reproach” category.

Above Reproach (Titus 1:6, 7; 1 Tim 3:2)

This is the overarching, summarizing characteristic. You will find a similar (but not identical) lists in First Timothy and Titus. Living a life above reproach is the first requirement in both lists and Titus repeats it. The other items on the list merely explain what “above reproach” means. If we peruse the two lists, as well as First Peter, we find 17 qualifications of an elder who is above reproach.

1. A Pastor must be devoted to his wife; one-woman man (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:2).

The pastor’s marriage illustrates Christ’s love for His church—His bride (Eph. 5:22 ff.). A Pastor must love his wife exclusively with his mind, will and emotions and not just his body.

2. A Pastor’s children must be in submission, though not perfect (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:4-5).

If a man does not know how to manage his own family, he will not know how to take care of God’s church. The first flock for a pastor is his own family as Pastor Dad. A Pastor’s qualification for the church starts in his home management as he leads them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

3. A Pastor is a faithful Steward (Titus 1:7)

Here the term used is overseer (Greek episkopos). It is not another office, but a functional title of the elder. It is what he does. He is a steward, a manager of God’s resources and Jesus’ flock. He takes responsibility, but not ownership.

4. A Pastor must be humble – not arrogant (Titus 1:7)

A pastor must constantly demonstrate the gospel by admitting when he is wrong and assuming responsibility and restoring relationships.

5. A Pastor must be gentle – not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)

No man will be of any use in the kingdom that is quick-tempered. The difference between how Jesus demonstrated anger is that He was angry at the abuse of others in the name of religion and the dishonoring of God. We get angry at how it affects us.

6. A Pastor must be sober – not a drunkard (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)

This is not just overindulgence in alcohol but is idiomatic for any behavior that fuels addictive responses.

7. A Pastor must be peaceful – not violent (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)

A pastor is prone to inflict violence through his words. He is to be a peacemaker.

8. A Pastor must have financial integrity – not greedy for gain (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3)

A pastor is to be upright in his financial dealings and not accused of pursuing money over the kingdom of God.

9. A pastor must be hospitable (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2)

A pastor’s home is to be open for others to enjoy. A pastor’s home is not a heaven on earth, but rather a place of ministry.

10. A Pastor must be a lover of good (Titus 1:8)

A pastor genuinely loves what is good. He does not just think he should love it.

11. A Pastor must be self-controlled (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2)

Self-control is a characterization of every area of a pastor’s life: diet, time, mouth, exercise, relationships, sex, and money.

12. A Pastor must be upright (Titus 1:8)

He has integrity in his relationships and in how he treats others.

13. A Pastor must be holy (Titus 1:8)

His life is devoted wholeheartedly to Jesus externally and internally.

14. A Pastor must be able to teach (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 3:2)

All of the other qualifications are character qualities. This is the only ability-based requirement. He is to be able to teach sound doctrine, not just be able to communicate in an excellent manner. His teaching can be to one or two, to twenty, to a hundred or to a thousand. Most of the churches in Crete were house churches. The elders were to defend the faith once delivered to the saints against the numerous false teachers that arose.

15. A Pastor must be spiritually Mature (1 Tim 3:6)

Positions of authority without spiritual maturity lead to the trap of pride. When pride grows in a man, sin abounds.

16. A Pastor must be respectable (1 Tim 3:7)

That does not mean that everyone must like him or even appreciate him. It means that there is no credible witness to an ongoing sinful behavior.

17. A Pastor must be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3)

Elders are examples of Biblical expressions sexually, time management, marriage, parenting, worship, relationships and any other way. A pastor should be someone your sons could pattern their life after and the kind of man your daughter should marry.


What would you do if an elder violates one of these requirements? 1 Timothy 5:19-20 warns us not to accuse an elder flippantly. Matthew 18:15-18 gives us the steps: 1) Go to the elder alone, 2) If still unsatisfied, go with another person, 3) If still unsatisfied, let the greater eldership know. If accusations are verified and the elder remains unrepentant, rebuking that elder before all is the next biblical step.

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Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas is Pastor of Pastoral Development at The Journey Church in St Louis. He created the Gospel Coach Training and Certification system and has coached hundreds of pastors. Scott has served as President and Network Director of Acts 29 Network. Scott has an MA in Missional Leadership and has been married for 31 years to Jeannie, with whom he has two sons. He planted and replanted churches for 16 years as a lead pastor. Read More About Scott Thomas At His Author Page

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