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Can and Should Single Men Be Pastors? – Biblical Insights and Practical Implications
In 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus 1, we find the biblical qualifications for men who will be elders/overseers/pastors in the church. The first qualification in 1 Timothy 3 is that the man must be above reproach. While this is stated a bit differently in Titus 1, the force of this qualification remains the same. The very next statement/qualification given in both books and chapters is that the man is to be the husband of one wife. Both books also list qualifications in regard to children, families, and households. While Paul doesn't say in these passages that a man must be married for this office, both seemingly imply that a man should be. Since these qualifications seem clear, can a single man be a pastor? Should a single man ever be a pastor? Is there a mandate that men must be married to be an elder/overseer/pastor? Does the New Testament have anything else to say about this? Today on the Straight Truth Podcast, Dr. Josh Philpot asks Dr. Caldwell, given his experience in ministry, insight, and understanding, if he would help us think through what the Scriptures have to say about this and how we should think about it.
Dr. Caldwell says there's nothing in the New Testament that would exclude a man from ministry just because he's single. Paul writing as an Apostle, serves the churches as a single man. He doesn’t say in these passages or elsewhere that a man must be married. The fact that these qualifications include references to a wife, children, families, and home life indicates marriage is the norm. And if the man is married, these qualifications are given, as ways, to assess his character, values, loyalties, leadership abilities, etc. But being single doesn’t disqualify or exclude a man from serving as an elder/overseer/pastor. It may offer advantages such as time, energy, focus, etc., based on things the Apostle Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 7. But, says Dr. Caldwell, there also are disadvantages to being single. There will be challenges and difficulties that need to be addressed and attended to in the church, some of which a single man has no experience or first-hand knowledge of.
Dr. Caldwell explains that there is a reason why the Bible says that if a man doesn’t know how to manage his own household, how can he care for the church of God. There are things that you learn in marriage, in having and raising children, that have a transference to the role of a shepherd in the life of the church. Things that seem clear and simple to a single person aren’t always as clear and as simple to those who have walked through things together being married and raising children. So a single man can find himself a little underdeveloped in some of the things he’ll need to be shepherding people about by virtue of his lack of experience. Having said this, Dr. Caldwell also says that experiences are not the standard for the life of the church. The Scriptures are the standard. Yet experience in the Christian life does matter, and walking through some of the things we experience in marriage does help us in applying the Scriptures to the lives of people. This doesn’t mean that single men cannot learn from experiences that are not their own. It only represents some difficulties an unmarried man may have as a pastor and for the church he seeks to serve.
A single man who is truly qualified for ministry will be a man who’s godly and wise to the extent that he’s not serving himself; he's, serving the Lord and the Lord’s church. This is to say he’ll be wise in how he approaches his ministry work. Which would include bringing people alongside him to help him in areas where experience might make a difference. He will bring into his work all the gifts and experience that God has made available to and in the church that can assist him as he seeks to serve the church in his singleness.
There is nothing wrong with singleness at all. It’s just that it’s not the norm, and we must acknowledge that. Churches will recognize that in their process of evaluating men and determining who will serve them, they will need to consider this, taking all these things into account. Dr. Caldwell reminds us that we can’t live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit, and we can’t live a Christian life without good judgment. These things come down to matters of good judgment. We see Jesus, Paul, and maybe even Timothy and Titus serving as unmarried, single men. Yet the Lord used them in wonderful and powerful ways. So we would be wrong to conclude that a single man can’t serve the Lord’s Church.
About The Straight Truth Podcast
The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net
The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo. The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.
The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
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