The destitution of a Pastor is a discussion of the requirements of a pastor and his destitution if he doesn’t fulfill these requirements. This is an excellent exposition of the requirements of the pastor as well as the Destitution of a Pastor.
By Pastor-Missionary David Cox
Destitution of a Pastor
The Examining the Destitution of a Pastor
Let me start off by saying that it is dangerous to undertake the destitution of a pastor. If you are wrong (and we all can be wrong), then you are trying to remove a man God has placed in that ministry. It is equally as dangerous to allow a man that is essentially a wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over a ministry.
Over the years, I have seen churches “fall.” By that I mean, a good church, with good doctrines and good people, and a false prophet come in and run off the majority, take the 20-30 years of what they had done economically to have a building, and use it for his personal bank account. Essentially, the false prophet changes the church’s doctrine and practice to what he wants it to be. Sad. Some of those churches were supporting me as a missionary (as well as a dozen or so more missionaries) and after the new pastor, we missionaries were all dropped. On the field or off, no difference.
Why write about the Destitution of a Pastor?
Probably the last thing a pastor would want his people to know about is this topic. But I feel (being a pastor and missionary) that it is an essential topi for all Christians to understand and know about.
Satan uses false ministers (or “turns” a good minister) in order to do his work within and against the work of God. To make this very simple, the spiritual pressure this puts against all in the ministry is healthy, and it is not dangerous to a true man of God. He must insist on it in himself, in others working in the church, and as a church standard.
Note: I believe the Bible clearly teaches the office of a pastor. Whether there is only one pastor, or co-pastors, or pastors and assistant pastors, or elders with one designated as principal teacher and administrator, it is all the same. Somebody has the leadership, or nobody does. This article deals with all those who have that leadership and ministry of spiritual caretaker of the flock of God.
What is a valid reason for removing the Pastor (Destitution of a Pastor)?
There are two problems at extremes of the spectrum that we need to deal with. First of all, is a bad pastor who is damaging the work of God and the image of God. Secondly, there are bad sheep, controllers, who run the church and want to dominate and control the pastor, and who for any pretext will want to remove their pastor. Both are serious problems.
It is not in the scope of this article to deal with pastor selection, but that is where most churches go wrong. This article deals with correcting that problem.
The Divinely given Requirements for a Minister demand the Destitution of a Pastor which is Disqualified
While in Corinthians, Paul paints a picture of many different Christians in that church happily working their spiritual gifts as they are moved of God, we note that Paul puts no requirements on these ministers. Basically these are spiritually gifted people serving God and God’s people. When we come to the offices of Pastor and Deacon, we find this is different. Both are official positions in which they have their specific spiritual gifts (which are not mentioned except for the Pastor has to be apt to teach), but God gives us some spiritual requirements (1) BEFORE THEY CAN ENTER THEIR OFFICE OF SERVICE, and (2) THAT THEY MUST MAINTAIN WHILE MINISTERING OR THEY DISQUALIFY THEMSELVES.
1 Timothy and Titus requirements for Pastor
The Destitution of a Pastor of unqualified Pastors
1Tim 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
1Tim 3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being [found] blameless.
Titus Passages on Requirements and Destitution of a Pastor
Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.
It is important to remember that these passages establish a biblical norm for ministry. Even though we can say that other ministers can work without having to comply with these standards, this is the standard of a man of God who ministers, and in general, these requirements are what every Christian should strive to be.
Requirements for the Pastor
First notice that Paul’s requirements for deacons demands an examination 1Tim 3:10 and he remarks “also”, which means that there are an examination and a time period of validation of these spiritual requirements. I would think that when a church is without a pastor, and it asks a man of God to come and be their pastor, that they would first of all examine him for his spiritual qualifications (note that there is no requirement as far as religious education, so to impose one is to add to the Word of God, condemned by God). But there is a requirement that he is not a novice or someone with little experience in the ministry. He should have a practical history of working in the ministry with people and teaching.
These requirements are important, and there go to the heart of his ministry as Pastor. If he does not meet the requirements he must not enter. If it is a pastor already in a pastorate, then we must think about the Destitution of a Pastor. He must have the wisdom of somebody that has been working in the ministry for a number of years and is not unfamiliar with the way the things of the Lord work, the way things in a church are done, with the difficulties of working with people, etc.
After examination, it would seem that there is a period in which the pastor is kind of in “limbo”, where he ministers for some long period of time, and his conduct and doctrine are being examined by the church. This may be a year or two, but he is not “home free” as far as his position, because even after that examination period is over, he still must constantly comply with these spiritual requirements or he is in danger of disqualifying himself.
I think that if churches were to really press these spiritual requirements like God has laid it out for us, many false prophets would find it hard to get a foothold in our churches. But so often, God’s people are lazy, and that is how we lose good churches to wolves.
Requirement: Must be a Man
Secondly notice that Paul’s requirements begin in the end of Chapter 2, not the beginning of chapter 3. The bishop must be a man. This is the first requirement above all others. This is not a discrimination of women, simply it is God’s calling each to what God wants them to do. No discussion, no exceptions. Women can teach children and other women, but not hold any position of authority (like leading the congregation in any sense, and not teaching/preaching) with men present.
1Pet 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
1Pet 5:3 Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
Thirdly notice that in 1Peter 5:2-3 that the pastor’s leadership style is very specific. He has to be an example to the flock of what Christ is, and he is not to take a leadership oversight style of “domination” or “being a lord over them.” The pastor (and all that teach, preach, lead, direct, etc) the flock of God must show the way by the proof of their own lives living the spiritual principles that they teach. We must immediately reject any such church leader that preaches one thing and practices another. He must preach the Word of God, and at the same time, he must live what he preaches. We also hold suspect those who withhold parts of the Word of God because it makes them nervous.
Heb 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation.
God orders us to remember (honor and respect) those who have the spiritual rule over us (see Heb 13:17), and to easily reflect on their spiritual life. These are people who have “spoken the word of God” to us. These are our pastors, preachers, and teachers. We are to imitate their faith, and follow that teaching/spiritual lifestyle that they have presented to us, and to consider what is the final fruit of it all.
It is very important to understand how impressionable we are to spiritual examples (good and bad). We become what these religious teachers and leaders are in their own person. The impact of a pastor on a member is because of WHAT HE IS SPIRITUALLY as much (perhaps more) than what he actually teaches. While knowledge Greek and Hebrew is nice and important in your pastor, it is an absolute necessity that he must be a man of God. He isn’t made a man of God because he uses a tie and coat, but because of WHAT HE IS INSIDE, SPIRITUALLY. That must be discerned and constantly observed and followed.
The Destitution of a Pastor
I don’t find a whole lot in the Bible about removing a pastor, but any Christian leader or a church who has requirements to enter and stay in that office and minister must have a procedure for being removed from it also. Having said that, I do find teaching in Jeremiah (19 mentions) and Ezequiel (9 times almost all in Ezequiel 34), of God destituting the pastors of Israel from their spiritual ministry and office. In Jer. 3:15, God promises that he will give them pastors after his own heart, as a contrast to wicked pastors that did their own will. The will of God is what is important here, and if the pastor does not study, understand, and teach the will of God (as known only through the Word of God) then he is a wicked pastor no matter how his people view him.
This also demands some kind of periodic revision, which I don’t think is a set time but is an always watching the pastor to imitate him, and when he is not to be imitated any more because he has “blame” (not blameless), then the church needs to remove him or the people need to remove themselves from that church to another one with an exemplary pastor and leaders.
As I understand this, the principal requirement for destituting a pastor is because he has changed his doctrine to something unbiblical, or that his conduct is not in agreement with the spiritual requirements set forth in the Bible. It is incorrect for a church to remove a pastor because they don’t like something that he does, that he did, or his way of doing things. Having said that, the requirements seem to dwell just on that methodology or attitude of the pastor, so while specific actions are not so focused, a general attitude is required, and if the pastor is not a gentle pastor with the sheep, then he is to be removed.
Not having specific instructions set forth, it would seem obvious that the spiritual men in the congregation would be the ones to undertake the removal a pastor. This is a process, and it should be first pray about the problems, then confront the pastor in the group, then pray and work with the pastor to help him change what is wrong, and finally if there is no repentance nor return to the biblical norms of these requirements, then the church should destitute the pastor.
Spiritual Requirements of Pastor Examined
Why are females prohibited from being pastor, teaching all, or administration? This has to do with God’s calling of men to be leaders. When women are permitted into leadership, men basically withdraw as a general rule. It is a man’s responsibility to lead, and God gave that to Adam. Adam’s sin (if you read carefully) was to listen to his wife and follow her as an obedient servant instead of leading her. The curse on Adam was because he refused the spiritual leadership of his home.
A one-woman man
Marital fidelity (being married, and being faithfully engaged in a relationship with that woman) is a requirement for being a pastor, leader. This blocks adultery, homosexuals, pedophiles, perverts, and divorced men from the ministry. A man cannot be blameless and fall into any of these categories (including being divorced). I argue with some people who say that the pastor was the “innocent party”.
But I cannot find innocence in these marital problems. First of all the pastor chose his wife, so their marriage turning out a bust is a failure of the pastor to spiritually discern who is a faithful and Christian woman or not. I do not say they cannot be a part of the church, they just cannot tell other people how to live their life biblically when they themselves don’t have a personal example in their own lives.
This is a wrestling term, meaning, nobody can legitimately grab hold of you. Within what is legitimate (a reasonable and valid matter), nobody can accuse the pastor of some error, some improper thing in his life. For example, a divorced pastor cannot counsel other couples with marital problems, because (1) he will recommend them to get divorced, which is not God’s will in general, or (2) when he exhorts them to overcome their problems and stick together, they will blame him saying, “You took the easy path out, so why can’t we do the same as your example?”
The Moral Character of Pastor
The entire concept of “pastor” or “shepherd” is to lead the sheep, making executive decisions for the group. In other words, a pastor is a principal decision-maker. You never see pastors asking their sheep about where they will go to pasture, but with the sheep’s owner (God the Father). The moral character of the pastor is what we see God focuses on in many of these requirements. These are things all Christians should have well installed in their personal lives, but the pastor should be exemplary in his own life.
This means that the pastor must be very active and investigate things to protect the sheep from spiritual dangers. Basically anything that ill affects the spiritual health of the sheep, the pastor is to deal with, intervene, stop, prevent, restore, etc. The job of a pastor is one to fix anything that is wrong. Far from taking advantage of the sheep, the pastor must not himself take advantage of the sheep, and he must be bold and ever wary to keep anybody else from taking advantage of his charge. Vigilant speaks as much to interaction when danger is realized, as well as prevention and preparatory teaching-explaining to keep the sheep safe.
The idea here is that the pastor is sound in his mental processes, or that he thinks correctly. While the principle idea here is how the pastor thinks, it is seen in his speech. Being “sober” means not being flippant, not being dizzy, scandalous, frivolous, etc. He controls his interactions with others to edify them, and not to have pleasure “playing” with other people at their expense. In other words, he treats others in such a way as to direct them to Christ, and not to emotionally cause them grief, pain, discomfort, or embarrassment.
In the context of discerning a false prophet from a true man of God, the false prophet would manifest a lack of this quality in the excesses of his life, a disrespect of other’s feelings and emotions while he himself does whatever he wants.
Of good behavior
Simply put, a person has good behavior when his actions and words are generally accepted as being healthy and beneficial, and when in a spiritual context someone is of good behavior, then others are benefitted by his words and actions. The false prophet seeks what he wants, not what God wants for his sheep. He will abuse the sheep to get what he wants, not benefitting the sheep really.
Given to hospitality
Here we begin to see some real discernment points between a man of God and a false prophet. Hospitality means to entertain, provide for, care for, help needy people with their problems. A false prophet will sometimes help certain ones in the church, but in general, they either ignore the poor altogether, or they work the poor to get what the pastor wants from them. Many pastors have built an organization of many people by giving away things to the poor. The poor flood into their churches. We find the NT directing us to help the poor, but this help should not be the basis of coming to the church or participating. This is carnality at its worse, “come to church and we will give you ______.”
Apt to teach
This is one of the few real “talent” oriented requirements in the list. Its place has a great doubt placed on it, not in that it is not a biblical requirement, but in that maybe we do not understand the concept well. We would think this means that he has an “aptitude to teach”, whereas if we compare it with the rest of the requirements, perhaps it addresses the pastor’s moral character, in that he instructs people well, helping them change and remedy the spiritual evils of their life. This would not be so much a talent or educational skill, as much as a spiritual disposition to pay the cost to effect spiritual change in others’ lives.
Not given to wine
Although wine was part of the ancient dining table, it was used in a watered-down state (1 part to 4 of water, or 1 part to 20 of water) so that it was more a disinfectant than a flavor. People who were “drunks” would mix their drink at the table with a stronger portion, which would get them intoxicated, and this was addictive.
In general, a pastor is a person not given to addictive things, because he has chosen to addict himself to God.
Strong’s Lexicon defines this word as “Quarrelsome”. This word simply means a person very ready to fight, discuss, debate, or interchange with other people. In some contexts, it means quick to use their fists. The pastor has to be a person which is calm, gentle, and not quick to pick a fight, continue a fight, let a discussion escalate into a fight, etc. The disposition of the pastor is one of peace, calm, and quietness. The mark of a false prophet is his propensity to dominate the minds, thoughts, and understanding of other people, always quick to attack and parley with anybody over anything. His “domination” of others is part of his mindset.
Not greedy of filthy lucre
The motive of many false prophets is greed. They do what they do to dominate and control the lives of others because they have an insatiable greed lust to fulfill. They have to have the best life has to offer, and they will not be satisfied with normal things. People and groups control others in order to get some benefit from them. This has always been a great motive showing forth in these cultic false prophets.
A pastor has to be a patient person. He deals with people with problems (spiritual and otherwise) all the time. Most of these people have additional problems in that they are impatient, bold, impetuous, etc., i.e. they have character qualities that detain and ruin any serious chance at correcting their problems. Dealing with these types of people is discouraging because their own personalities are the problem. A pastor has to be able to wade through a lot of things to get to a good thing. He must be able to listen and not talk so much, to help slowly waiting and guiding another to a point of spiritual understanding when he sees what is wrong very quickly.
Not a brawler
The concept here is that the person is peaceable, seeking peace, calmness, tranquility instead of constantly stirring, conflictive, and antagonizing. Some people are just conflictive, and something so simple as to ask for a glass of water, they have to drag that conflictive nature into it. A person who is in leadership who is like this should be removed or he should not be placed into a position of leadership.
The motive of a false prophet comes through here. While the other things about a false prophet are very “vocal,” “strong,” and “obvious”, this one is very often muted. This requirement is basically a goal-specific life. God’s man is always going to be somebody who has his eyes and heart in that heavenly city, and not on enriching himself in this world. The whole vision and goal of his life is not “the good life”, riches, wealth, pleasure, etc. here in this life, but rather a patient waiting and watching for the return of his Lord’s return, in profound hope.
A sure mark of a false prophet is when he personally must control the funds of the church, he must know the income, he must spend it on what he thinks is important, and that usually revolves around his person. He wants a lot of money, and he places that burden on the sheep to provide him with what he wants. Often you can see what is in a man’s heart best by studying his wife, and her reflection of having lived with him for years.
God’s word provides a just salary for the man of God, but the true man of God serves faithfully waiting for his heavenly reward, and as far as a salary goes, he just wants to live a normal life among his sheep until he faces his Lord face to face.
Rule his own house
One of the marks of a man of God is that he has his own house in order. I don’t know why people are so scared of looking into the personal life of their spiritual leaders, and indeed, most denominational structures, as well as local churches, seem to make this an unspoken prohibition, but God specifically addresses it.
The reason why Satan doesn’t want people looking into how a leader handles and imposes spiritual authority in his own home is because so very often, a false prophet is so very brave at imposing spiritual authority when it comes to the church, but with his own children, it becomes very obvious that he has failed. His failure to impose rules and regulations at home “blows up in his face” because there, his own children see his two-facedness and hypocrisy, and they throw it back in his face. The result is that his children have no respect for him and that they are rebellious.
Have a good report of them which are without
A man of God must have a good testimony. Most people in a cult or abusive church situation simply could use this element and identify correctly the majority of false prophets out there. Within the group, these abusive leaders don’t have a good testimony and they induce a fear environment of the leadership, of the group, and from God if they say anything bad about the pastor or group. But these things are usually very easy to discern once inside.
The rule is by fear, not love, and service. But ask people who know the group and leaders but are outside the group, and you will have a different story. Talking with these people, you will see their testimony with those who are “outside”. The report is so often very accurate and true. Most false prophets simply repeat over and over again that the world is against them. They couch whatever testimony anybody on the outside gives towards them as being Satan speaking against the poor man of God. Look at what the complaint is. Remember that if you decide to go into the group anyway. These will be the markers that God will give you showing that the leader or group is abusive.
The concept here is self-pleasing, or arrogant (from Strongs). One of the key thoughts that every Christian believer must insist upon is that his church and that church leadership must follow Christ. Christ came to serve, not to be served. So many marginally abusive churches have fallen into this error of making those who come in their doors their personal slaves.
Let’s define “service.”
Service for God is not polishing the pastor’s shoes, getting his coffee, etc. Service in God’s name is to spiritually minister to the spiritual needs of another person. When that other person has physical needs that overwhelm him, then we should enter in and help him.
Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
The idea of these verses is that every man will carry his own backpack like a good soldier of Jesus Christ (verse 5). But when someone else has a great unbearable (alone) burden (verse 2), then we all enter in to help bear that burden. The difference would be between a man carrying his own backpack, and a group of people lifting a car off of a person. It is possible when many hands are there, but impossible by himself under the burden. The next verses in Galatians talk about the responsibility of each believer to communicate (economically) with those that teach the word of God.
A Good Servant doesn’t Abuse His Position
When a spiritual leader imposes on you, asking you to pay his bills or to give to cover his luxury items, then you see this error which disqualifies him from spiritual leadership in God’s work. An arrogant and self-willed man is one who considers he can “impose” and obligate others in the church to bear his burdens. This is arrogance. Very simply put, you should help with the financial burdens of your church and your church leaders. But at the same time, this should come naturally from your love of God, and in no way should the ministers go any further than just teaching the principle.
To physically check how much you give, or worse to impose or ask people to give set amounts or that kind of thing goes beyond what is biblical and shows the true heart of those in charge, they are false prophets. I have personally seen things such as the treasury going around wanting to calculate and obligate each member by viewing their pay stubs or wanting to see their personal financial situation.
Poor Actions reveal a False Prophet or a Defective Pastor
This is highly improper and shows the true character of the false prophet. Likewise manipulative tricks like instead of passing an offering plate, they put a box in the front of the church, and each row rises and goes upfront to put in their offering with the pastor watching are tricks of a false prophet to pressure people. In one case a church took 5 offerings in the same service until they reached the goal they were looking for (to pay a private thing the pastor wanted).
Attitude is what shows us the heart of the servant. When you see an aggressive attitude towards taking money from God’s people, that is a false prophet. Or, when the need and the burden are properly presented from a confident person, God’s people will respond with what God places in their hearts. Then there is when doubt exists as to the proposed need, or the administration of the money, that in itself is just cause to not give and get out of the group.
Not soon angry
Jas 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. The Christian is obligated to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. Swift to hear is to be ready, always hearing. Slow to speak is that you are not so expressive with your impressions when things happen. Slow to wrath means you don’t allow wrath to be your normal and common response to situations. Wrath is not good in general. In most cases, wrath is the incorrect response. Jesus only got mad once, and that was when he entered God’s house. They had corrupted it making it like a commercial business. They were thieves stealing from God’s people by overcharging on religious related things.
That is about the only justified expression of anger, that and in Revelation when Jesus returns to put down all rebellion and sin. Don’t get the idea that God is a pacificist and that he won’t ever get angry, he does, but only over sin.
False Prophets easily are Angered
It is very important to see that the false prophet, the disobedient and hireling pastor, has a propensity to use his anger to get what he wants.
Ezek 34:2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe [be] to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: [but] ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up [that which was] broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered, because [there is] no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek [after them].
It’s their style of leadership that is wrong.
In this rebuke by God of the bad shepherds of Israel, God identifies (v. 4) the style of leadership that they used with the sheep. God found them very worthy of condemning and destituting these ministers. Their fault was “with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them”. When the leader of God’s flock uses rough and hard tactics to get what he wants out of the sheep, he is not a man of God, and the judgment of God awaits that person.
See my tract CH51 Is your Pastor a Cowboy or Shepherd?
For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision. 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.