Family Requirements for Eldership -- By: Kevin Smith
Conspectus 1:1 (March 2006) p. 26
Family Requirements for Eldership
The New Testament contains two lists of requirements for elders. While is it well-known that the lists focus on character issues, this article demonstrates that the candidate’s family life holds pride of place amongst the character requirements for eldership. Then it analyses interpretations of the family requirements in the two lists, drawing conclusions as to what it means to be a blameless husband and a blameless father.
What is the most important criterion for appointing an elder in a local church? The three areas that are usually considered are calling, charisma and character. Although in practice character is often relegated to third place,2 both the
Conspectus 1:1 (March 2006) p. 27
biblical lists of requirements for eldership give it pride of place (see 1 Tim 3:1–7 and Tit 1:5–9). In fact, they deal almost exclusively with character matters. Although it may not always be consistently applied, the fact that the lists prioritise godliness over giftedness is never questioned. The question that is seldom asked is whether some aspects of candidates’ character should be given priority when evaluating them for eldership.
The first part of this article will demonstrate that the two lists of requirements for eldership not only emphasise character, but also give pride of place to the character of a candidate’s family life. Within the construction of the two lists, the family requirements hold centre stage. The candidate’s family life is the most important area to be evaluated when assessing his eligibility for eldership.
If the family requirements are most emphasised, what exactly are those requirements? Scholars have proposed varied interpretations of the family requirements. The second part of the article will review those proposals, analyse the interpretive difficulties and conclude with some proposals as to what is a required of elders with respect to their character as husbands and fathers.3
2. The Family First
The literary structure of each list of eldership requirements indicates that the family requirements for elders hold pride of place. If this claim is true, then they should hold pride of place in the thinking of local churches when appointing elders. On what grounds, then, is the claim made? A careful
Conspectus 1:1 (March 2006) p. 28
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