In the first article, I addressed ten “pastoral calling” imbalances and the typical inversion of pastoral calling: the local church takes a backseat to the man’s inward call. In this article, I set forward seven biblical categories for a church to evaluate a man’s calling to eldership (these can be used for deacons, as well). The local church serves as the other side of the equation in God’s provided means for discerning God’s calling on a man for eldership. This we call the “outward call.”
Scripture expects that the man whom God calls into the office of overseer and the local church, to whom the man is covenanted to fulfill the commands of Scripture, unite to discern and evaluate God’s calling to the office of elder. Pastoral calling is one key responsibility in maintaining a well-ordered, local church (Titus 1:5). The topic of training and raising up elders is for another article, but it is necessary in this task of calling elders. Christ commands existing elders/pastors to train and raise up “faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
God commands that elders be over every local church to feed, lead, know, and protect Jesus’ Bride with His Word so that Jesus will be glorified as His rule is extended. When we approach the calling to eldership, we ask, “How does Christ set apart elders for His local churches and oversee the care for His people?”
There are seven categories with appropriate questions under each: constitution, commitment, character, competency, confession, circumstances, and context.
A man must answer these prayerfully, from Scripture, with full transparency, personally reflecting on his motivations. He must involve his family and those closest to him. The local church, too, must evaluate him and must not be hasty in “the laying on of hands” (1 Timothy 5:22). In all these ways, all involved are seeking to ask and answer if God the Holy Spirit has made him an overseer (Acts 20:28; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28).
He must be a he. This should go without saying, but denomination after denomination has incarcerated God’s Word in their egalitarian Gitmo and tortured the Text past deformity to a lifeless carcass for their morbid pleasures. In a fetished twist, they then parade their abused relic on social media expecting real Christians to affirm their molested translation because “love for women.”
God has restricted the office of elder to male leaders. All the pronouns in the elder qualification passages (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 20:17-35; 1 Peter 5:1-5) and everywhere else referring to God’s commanded elders in the church are masculine.
Male eldership in Scripture is not something that men chose. Male eldership is God’s chosen, good, and wise design in the created order to provide the utmost care, protection, and prosperity for all men, women, and children (Genesis 1:27; 2:18, 22; 1 Timothy 2:11-3:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:2-11; 14:33-35; Ephesians 5:22-33; Titus 2:3-5).
He must be “hes.” A plurality of elders. As the apostles obeyed Jesus’ Great Commission to spread the gospel and plant churches, they established not just one pastor but a plurality of pastors within each local church (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5). All of these men so appointed to the office of elder, were equal in governing authority and provided the spiritual oversight of the entire congregation.
Commitment refers to a called man’s holy aspiration, zeal, and longing from God to shepherd God’s people. This inward, holy aspiration is necessary, but it is not the only factor; further, the inward compulsion must be evaluated by the local church.
As Chief Shepherd, Jesus gives shepherds to the church (Ephesians 4:11). In Acts 20:28, we read that the Holy Spirit makes men overseers “to care for the church of God, which [Christ] obtained with His own blood.” In so doing, God causes a man to “aspire” and “desire the noble task” to be an overseer of God’s people (1 Timothy 3:1). God gifts certain men and gives them the necessary zeal to fulfill the responsibilities of the office (Romans 12:8). The Lord Jesus, through the apostle Peter, commands that pastors shepherd God’s flock both willingly and eagerly, not under compulsion for “shameful gain,” or false and idolatrous reasons (1 Peter 5:2). The church must evaluate whether the man’s aspiration, desire, willingness, and zeal are for shameful gain or the glory of Christ.
Questions: Candidates should study the office’s qualifications and responsibilities and answer specific questions about WHY they aspire to the office, if they are committed to the Lord and His people in that particular local church, and evidences of their leadership, the local churches reception of that leadership and her upbuilding.
“Character” refers to the qualities our Lord gives, especially in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-3, which exemplify a life devoted to Christ and bringing no shame upon the gospel, his family, or the church. Before a man is called into the eldership, our Lord works out these necessary character qualities. Thus, the saints of a local church will be able to discern and appoint the God-ordained men for pastoral oversight (Titus 1:5-9; cf. Acts 14:23).
Questions: The candidate should define each characteristic in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-3 then self-evaluate, alongside the local church, whether his character is fit for eldership. Neither the church nor the man should expect perfection but must discern evidence of God’s grace working in him an exemplary and imitatable life of godliness mandated of all Christians.
“Competency” refers to a candidate’s necessary abilities for being an elder. Many have recognized that one of the most notable features of the elder qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-3 is that elsewhere in the New Testament, they are commanded of all Christians. There are, however, three qualifiers unique to pastors; all are testable and establish the expectation that elders must possess God-given skills to shepherd the flock of God.
Hold firmly to the trustworthy Word (Titus 1:9).
Elders must possess the God-given ability “to teach” with knowledge and skillfulness (1 Timothy 3:2; 4:16; 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:2, 24; Titus 1:9; 2:1; James 3:1).
Not a recent convert (1 Timothy 3:6). Elders must achieve a measurable time in following Christ and exercising the character qualifications of eldership. “He must not be a recent convert” (1 Timothy 3:6; cf. 1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 5:12-13).
Able to rule his home and church well (1 Timothy 3:5; 5:17; Titus 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Peter 5:2). Men leading their homes is not a unique command for elders, but it is an ability he must possess that will determine whether he is able to “rule” the local church well.
Questions: The candidate and local church must prayerfully consider the passages and competencies above; biblically define what each means; give evidence of their existence in the man’s life; discuss the individuals, preachers, theologians, thinkers, and teachers most influential to him; explain his manner of preparation for family worship and teaching in the local church or otherwise.
“Confession” refers to the candidate’s doctrinal commitments. Our Lord, through the apostle Paul, commands that elders must have a firm commitment to and comprehension of Scripture “so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9; cf. Titus 2:1, 7-8). A man not submitted to the Scriptures or driven by a zeal for God’s Word to govern God’s people is unqualified, under God’s authority, to speak and rule. The elders and local church must protect themselves from men who teach doctrines contrary to “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness” for they are “puffed up with conceit and understand nothing…” (1Timothy 6:3-5).
Questions: The candidate should provide biblical answers, including, but not limited to, the categories of systematic theology and theological distinctives; commitments to the local church’s doctrine and practice (denominational, polity, ordinances/sacraments, constitution, and bylaws, etc.); and, associational relationships with other churches, networks, and the denomination.
“Circumstances” refers to the life stage in which the man, his family, and the church reside. The candidate, his family, and the church must discern if now is the time for him to be set apart as an elder. The man may be qualified in every way for pastoring, but his providential circumstances show it unwise to become a pastor in the immediate future (e.g., the demands required by a current job situation, the limitations caused by a unique health problem, the responsibilities needed by a household ) (Acts 13:7). Neither the man, nor the local church should be forced or wrongly compelled into eldership; compromising the man, his family’s or the church’s well-being, his responsibilities at work, or his effectiveness in shepherding.
Questions: The local church must assist the man and his family in asking, “What might God’s providence be permitting or not permitting at this time?” He must know and consider the expectations of eldership in terms of time, energy, impact on family, prayer, study, etc., and time commitments for managing his “household well” (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Consider also the time involved in teaching and preaching, prayer, meetings, counseling, communications (email, text, etc.), and ministry oversight (Acts 20:17-35, 1 Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:9, Hebrews 13:17, and 1 Peter 5:1-3).
“Context” refers to where the man will serve as an elder. The first six categories have to do with whether God is setting apart a man for eldership, the seventh asks where God is sending him for eldership. Together, the man and the local church must wisely consider God’s providential circumstances in determining where God would have the man pastor. It may be at the current local church, however, God may send a plurality of elders to plant a church in another location, whether near or far (Acts 13:20). God may give a man a burden to preach Christ and shepherd people in a place other than his present local church. He may have a God-given longing to see people he grew up with come to Christ and see a church planted there or, like the apostle Paul, have an “ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” (Romans 15:20). In September, Lord willing, our church will plant a church in Norman, OK, with three newly installed elders and around 45 people who have been driving over an hour to worship with us the past two years.
Questions: The candidate and local church must prayerfully ask and consider whether God is sending the man elsewhere or not. They should consider any pastoral burdens, cultural proclivities, leadership capacities, personality traits, and exceptional skills, training, or abilities, perhaps in language or business.
In short, all these biblical categories—constitution, commitment, character, competency, confession, circumstances, and context—are working together to establish the one primary and preeminent category—CAUSE. If the cause of the man’s calling is not the Holy Spirit, the questions, honestly answered, in these categories should clearly bear witness to that reality.
The local church must do its part as God’s provided means for discerning God’s calling on a man for eldership and extending the “outward call.” God loves to gift His local churches with faithful elders who will lead, feed, know, and protect the flock of God (Acts 20:28; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28). May He send more workers into the harvest. May the elder candidate, his family, and the local church address these categories prayerfully, from Scripture, with full transparency, and personal reflection in order to discern God’s will.
 A few of these categories are not original to me. At the church I helped plant in Fort Worth, TX, we used some of the same metrics in our “Elder Candidate Questionnaire.” I do not know the original source of that material, though updates were made by Bret Rogers and I have added categories and updated significantly. If you would like to see our “Elder Candidate Questionnaire,” please reach out to me.