Are You Qualified to Serve?
“Our being adequately qualified issues from God.”—2 CORINTHIANS 3:5.
1. The Christian congregation has no room for people of what kind?
JEHOVAH GOD and Jesus Christ are workers. Said Jesus: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” (John 5:17) God does not approve of people who refuse to work; neither does his approval rest upon those seeking responsibility so as to gain power over others. The Christian congregation has no room for slackers or for the selfishly ambitious.—Matthew 20:25-27; 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
2. Why is there now a great need for men to shoulder responsibility in the Christian congregation?
2 Jehovah’s Witnesses have ‘plenty to do in the Lord’s work,’ especially now that so many people are streaming to “the mountain” of true worship. (1 Corinthians 15:58; Isaiah 2:2-4) There is a great need for spiritually qualified men to shoulder responsibility in the congregation. Not driven by selfish ambition, such men exalt Jehovah, not themselves. (Proverbs 8:13) They know that God helps them to qualify for congregation duties, even as he ‘adequately qualifies ministers of the new covenant.’—2 Corinthians 3:4-6.
3. Basically, what are the responsibilities of elders and ministerial servants?
3 Today, as among early Christians, men are appointed by holy spirit and through Jehovah’s organizational arrangement to serve as elders and ministerial servants. (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5) Elders shepherd God’s flock spiritually, providing protective supervision. They are assisted by ministerial servants, whose duties do not directly involve spiritual oversight. (1 Peter 5:2; compare Acts 6:1-6.) Like God’s Son, who came to minister, such appointees desire to serve fellow believers. (Mark 10:45) If you are a Christian man, do you have that spirit?
Qualifications Held in Common
4. Where particularly do we find lists of qualifications for those entrusted with congregation responsibility?
4 Particularly are the requirements for those entrusted with congregation responsibility set out by the apostle Paul at 1 Timothy 3:1-10, 12, 13 and Titus 1:5-9. As we consider these qualifications, some of which apply to both elders and ministerial servants, we should not view them according to worldly standards. Rather, we should see them in their first-century setting and as applicable among Jehovah’s people. Meeting these requirements does not demand perfection, for then no human would qualify. (1 John 1:8) But if you are a Christian man, whether you now have congregation duties or not, why not analyze your personal qualifications?
5. What does it mean to be irreprehensible?
5 Irreprehensible; having fine testimony from people outside; free from accusation. (1 Timothy 3:2, 7, 8, 10; Titus 1:6, 7) When appointed and while serving, ministerial servants and elders must be irreprehensible, that is, free of blame and of any need to be reproved for a just accusation of wrong conduct or teaching. Untrue charges made by “false brothers” or others do not make a man reprehensible. To disqualify a man from serving in the congregation, a charge must not be frivolous, and it must be proved in harmony with Scriptural standards. (2 Corinthians 11:26; 1 Timothy 5:19) One appointed in the congregation “should also have a fine testimony from people on the outside, in order that he might not fall into reproach and a snare of the Devil.” If a man committed some serious sin in the past, he could be appointed only if he had lived down any reproach and made a good name for himself.
6. Being the husband of one wife means what?
6 Husband of one wife. (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6) This does not mean that only married men can be ministerial servants and elders. If married, though, a man must have only one living wife and be faithful to her. (Hebrews 13:4) Unlike many non-Christian men in the first century, he cannot be a polygamist.*
7. (a) Is it physical age that qualifies a man to be an elder? (b) What is involved in presiding over a household in a fine manner?
7 Presiding over his household in a fine manner, with children in subjection. (1 Timothy 3:4, 5, 12; Titus 1:6) Some may feel that elders must be at least 30 years old, but the Bible does not set a minimum age. Yet, the person must act as an older man in a spiritual sense. Ministerial servants and elders should be old enough to have children. If married, a man does not qualify if he acts in a godly way elsewhere but is a tyrant at home. He must have earned respect for presiding over his household according to Bible principles, and his objective should be to have spiritual success with every family member. As a general rule, an elder who is a father should have well-behaved minor children who are “believing.” Either they are progressing toward dedication to God or they are already baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses. A man unable to build faith in his children is unlikely to do so in others.
8. Before a family man can become an elder, what must he learn to do?
8 Before a family man can be an elder capable of providing spiritual oversight in a congregation, he must learn how to direct his own household. ‘If any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he take care of God’s congregation?’ (1 Timothy 3:5) True, a man may be opposed by an unbelieving wife. (Matthew 10:36; Luke 12:52) Or one of his children may become guilty of serious sin, though the others are doing well spiritually. Still, if the man has done all that can be expected, and especially if he has had spiritual success with others in his household, rejection of his fine direction by one family member would not necessarily disqualify him from being a ministerial servant or an elder.
9. What care must an elder or a ministerial servant exercise regarding alcoholic beverages?
9 Not a drunken brawler or given to a lot of wine. (1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7) A ministerial servant or an elder must not overindulge in alcoholic beverages. Addiction to them can result in losing control of thoughts and emotions, leading to drunken brawls or fights. He should not be ‘given to a lot of wine’ or have the reputation of being a habitual or heavy drinker. (Proverbs 23:20, 21, 29-35) How tragic if a shepherding visit were to be marred by intemperance! If a brother drinks at all, he should not do so when sharing in meetings, the ministry, or other sacred service.—Leviticus 10:8-11; Ezekiel 44:21.
10. Why are money lovers and those greedy of dishonest gain not qualified to be elders or ministerial servants?
10 Not a lover of money or greedy of dishonest gain. (1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7) Money lovers are in spiritual peril, and “greedy persons” will not inherit God’s Kingdom. Hence, such men do not qualify to be elders or ministerial servants. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10) The root word in Greek rendered “dishonest” basically means “disgraceful,” and that translated “gain” refers to any kind of profit or advantage. (Philippians 1:21; 3:4-8) Of course, a man whose disposition indicates that he would treat God’s “sheep” dishonestly is not qualified for congregation responsibility. (Ezekiel 34:7-10; Acts 20:33-35; Jude 16) The need for caution in making recommendations is heightened when we realize that a man, once appointed, might be entrusted with funds and be tempted to steal some of the money.—John 12:4-6.
11. Why should “a newly converted man” not be recommended for congregation responsibility?
11 Not newly converted; tested as to fitness. (1 Timothy 3:6, 10) A newly baptized person has not had time to prove that he will faithfully care for assigned duties. He may lack sympathy for the afflicted or needed wisdom to help fellow worshipers and may even look down on others. Before being recommended as a ministerial servant and especially as an elder, therefore, a man should be “tested as to fitness” and should give evidence of good judgment and reliability. No set time is given for this testing, and individuals vary in rate of spiritual growth. But elders should not quickly recommend a new man “for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed upon the Devil.” Let the man first manifest Christlike humility.—Philippians 2:5-8.
Spotlight on Ministerial Servants
12. Are requirements listed for ministerial servants to be met only by them?
12 Some requirements are listed for ministerial servants. Yet, if such requirements were not also met by elders, they would not be qualified to serve. As a Christian man, do you qualify in these respects?
13. What does it mean to be serious?
13 Serious. (1 Timothy 3:8) A man qualifying to serve as a ministerial servant should not take responsibility lightly. He ought to deport himself in a dignified manner that wins respect. Though occasional humor is acceptable, he would not qualify if he was constantly acting in a frivolous way.
14. (a) Not being double-tongued has what meaning? (b) Having a clean conscience calls for what?
14 Not double-tongued; having a clean conscience. (1 Timothy 3:8, 9) Ministerial servants (and elders) must be truthful, not gossipy or devious. Since they are not to be double-tongued, they must not hypocritically say one thing to one person and the very opposite to another. (Proverbs 3:32; James 3:17) These men must also be staunch supporters of revealed truth, “holding the sacred secret of the faith with a clean conscience.” Before God, such a man’s conscience should bear witness that he is upright and does not practice anything underhanded or defiling. (Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 4:2; 7:1) Nobody qualifies to serve God’s flock unless he clings to the truth and to godly principles.
Focus on Elders’ Qualifications
15. Whose qualifications are now examined, and what especially do these involve?
15 Certain qualifications apply particularly to elders and deal largely with their work as shepherds and teachers. As a Christian man, do you meet these requirements?
16. (a) What is required to be moderate in habits? (b) How can an elder maintain self-control?
16 Moderate in habits; self-controlled. (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) An elder should be temperate, not enslaved to bad habits. When he faces trials, God will help him to maintain balance if he prays as did the psalmist: “Distresses of my heart have multiplied; from the stresses upon me O bring me out.” (Psalm 25:17) An overseer should also pray for God’s spirit and display its fruitage, including self-control. (Luke 11:13; Galatians 5:22, 23) Keeping thoughts, speech, and actions in check enables an elder to avoid extremes as he provides spiritual guidance for the congregation.
17. What is involved in being sound in mind?
17 Sound in mind. (1 Timothy 3:2) An elder must be sensible, discreet, and prudent. He should be purposeful and rational in speech and actions. His humble, balanced thinking is based on godly wisdom and on the healthful teachings of Jehovah’s Word, of which he ought to be a diligent student.—Romans 12:3; Titus 2:1.
18. Being orderly requires what of an elder?
18 Orderly. (1 Timothy 3:2) The Greek word used here is translated “well-arranged” at 1 Timothy 2:9. So an elder should have a decent, well-arranged pattern of life. For instance, he should be punctual. First-century Christians apparently did not make a major point of record-keeping, and an overseer today need not be an expert accountant or clerk. Ministerial servants might care for things required in these respects. But the Greek term for “orderly” can denote good behavior, and a man surely would not qualify to be an elder if he was unruly or disorderly.—1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12; Titus 1:10.
19. Because he is hospitable, what does an elder do?
19 Hospitable. (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) An elder ‘follows the course of hospitality.’ (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2) The Greek word for “hospitable” literally means “fond of strangers.” Thus, the hospitable elder welcomes new ones to Christian meetings, showing the same interest in the poor as he does in the materially prosperous. He is hospitable to those traveling in the interests of Christianity and sends them on their way “in a manner worthy of God.” (3 John 5-8) Indeed, an elder shows hospitality especially to fellow believers according to their needs and as his circumstances permit.—James 2:14-17.
20. In what ways must an elder be qualified to teach?
20 Qualified to teach. (1 Timothy 3:2) An elder’s ability as a spiritual teacher does not result from mental aptitude or worldly wisdom. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, 13) It comes about because he is “holding firmly to the faithful word as respects his art [or, manner] of teaching, that he may be able both to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9; compare Acts 20:18-21, 26, 27.) He must be able to ‘instruct with mildness those not favorably disposed.’ (2 Timothy 2:23-26) Even if an elder is not the best public speaker in the congregation, he should be such a fine student of God’s Word that he is skillful enough to instruct and counsel believers, who also study the Bible. (2 Corinthians 11:6) He must qualify to impart “healthful teaching” that helps families and individuals to pursue godly lives.—Titus 2:1-10.
21. (a) Why can it be said that an elder is not a smiter? (b) What does it mean to be reasonable? (c) Not being belligerent means what?
21 Not a smiter, but reasonable, not belligerent. (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7) Being peaceable, an elder does not strike people physically or browbeat them by making abusive or cutting remarks. (Compare 2 Corinthians 11:20.) (The preceding comment that he is “not a drunken brawler” shows that he avoids alcohol abuse that so often leads to strife.) Being “reasonable” (or, “yielding”), not authoritarian and hard to please, he does not make issues of minor matters. (1 Corinthians 9:12; Philippians 4:5; 1 Peter 2:18) Since an elder is not belligerent, or contentious, he avoids quarrels and is “not prone to wrath.”—Titus 3:2; James 1:19, 20.
22. What is indicated by the fact that an elder must not be self-willed?
22 Not self-willed. (Titus 1:7) Literally, this means “not self-pleasing.” (Compare 2 Peter 2:10.) An elder must not be dogmatic but should take a humble view of his abilities. Not thinking he handles things better than anyone else, he humbly shares responsibility with others and values a multitude of counselors.—Numbers 11:26-29; Proverbs 11:14; Romans 12:3, 16.
23. (a) How would you define “a lover of goodness”? (b) Being righteous means what?
23 A lover of goodness; righteous. (Titus 1:8) To qualify as an elder, a man must love goodness and be righteous. A lover of goodness loves what is good in Jehovah’s sight, performs kind and helpful deeds, and shows appreciation for the goodness of others. (Luke 6:35; compare Acts 9:36, 39; 1 Timothy 5:9, 10.) Being righteous means conforming to God’s laws and standards. Among other things, such a man is impartial and keeps righteous, chaste, and virtuous things in mind. (Luke 1:6; Philippians 4:8, 9; James 2:1-9) Since goodness differs from righteousness in that it goes beyond what justice requires, a lover of goodness does more for others than what is required of him.—Matthew 20:4, 13-15; Romans 5:7.
24. Being loyal calls for what?
24 Loyal. (Titus 1:8) A man qualified to be an elder maintains unbreakable devotion to God and adheres to divine law, no matter how his integrity is tested. He does what Jehovah expects of him, and this includes serving as a faithful Kingdom proclaimer.—Matthew 24:14; Luke 1:74, 75; Acts 5:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:10.
Meeting the Qualifications
25. The qualifications just discussed are required of whom, and how can such qualifications be attained?
25 Most of the qualifications just discussed involve things required of every Witness of Jehovah and are attainable through God’s blessing on each one’s study, effort, good association, and prayer. Individuals may be stronger in some qualifications than in others. But to a reasonable degree, ministerial servants and elders must meet all requirements for their particular privilege.
26. Why do Christian men make themselves available for congregation responsibility?
26 All of Jehovah’s Witnesses should want to do everything possible in God’s service. This spirit moves Christian men to make themselves available for congregation responsibility. Are you a dedicated, baptized man? If so, reach out and make every effort to qualify to serve!
See also The Watchtower, March 15, 1983, page 29, under the subheading “Scriptural Divorce.”
How Would You Reply?
□ Why is there now a great need for baptized men to accept congregation responsibility?
□ What are some qualifications that must be met by ministerial servants?
□ What are some of the requirements that elders must meet?
□ Why must an elder know how to preside well over his household?
□ What motivates Christian men to make themselves available for congregation duties?
[Picture on page 24, 25]
Elders and ministerial servants should preside over their households according to Bible principles