…a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. (Tit 1:6c)
Once again, we come to a character profile point that has been the subject of much discussion. As with the “husband of one wife” discussion, how one interprets this morning’s verse has a lot to do with whether it is seen as a man’s family status, his faithfulness with what he has, or both.
In other words, does this verse mean a man must have children to be considered for the role of elder, and if so, do those children need to be old enough to believe, and as well, how mature in their faith should they be?
Let me jump ahead to the second part of this verse for a moment to put the answers to these questions into context. I will pose another question. What is the purpose of selecting an elder with believing children who are not “open to the charge of being wild and disobedient?” For the answer to this question, we have a direct reference in the Bible. In 1Timothy 3:5 the Apostle Paul wrote, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”
Therefore, the purpose of this qualification is not just so an elder’s family can be an example to others, but also because it says something about the elder’s ability to lead the bigger family of God.
I encourage you not to just think of spiritual family management as one of strict discipline. There are many factors that go into one’s ability to lead a child in his faith. An overly critical parenting style, while well-intended, may actually turn children away from the Lord. Why would a child want to live for the Lord if it means his mistakes will always be paraded before others? The same is true of an overly permissive parenting style. How does a child learn to honor God when he doesn’t honor his parents?
Parenting is a delicate blend of love, discipline, hope, guidance, and care. And as we consider these qualities, they sound distinctly similar to that of a shepherd…which is exactly Paul’s point.
Now back to one of the first questions I posed. It is possible for a man to demonstrate these qualities even though he doesn’t have children of his own. I think so, especially if he serves in an area of church life where his ability to mentor young people has been proven. Every church family must decide how narrowly this morning’s verse should be interpreted. This is especially challenging in a new congregation in a community of young adults where few are married, and are not likely to have children of believing age.
One thing is for sure: how one leads his family and the dynamic that exists between a man and his wife and children will certainly impact how he cares for the church. This is a dynamic that requires much wisdom and prayer when selecting an elder.
Dear God, help me mentor others with a shepherd’s heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.