Study 8: Disqualification from Church Leadership

Find the text of Study 8: Disqualification below. If you have questions or would like to discuss this study, you can email us at or send us a message (anonymously, if you’d like) through the website here.


If you were in charge of choosing a leader in the church, what would your “minimum qualifications” be for who you chose? What would disqualify someone from consideration?

Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (NIV below):

1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

This section of 1 Timothy, including the section of chapter 2 immediately prior to it (2:8-15), puts many people on edge. It has been used to restrict women’s roles, in church and elsewhere, and many people disagree with this.

There are Christian denominations and churches that have strict rules about how women are allowed to serve, and there are Christian denominations and churches that have no differences at all between how men and women are allowed to serve. Most of the former group likely read these 1 Timothy passages as universal rules, meant to apply to all churches everywhere forever. Most of the latter group likely read these 1 Timothy passages more as a specific instruction to a specific church at a specific time; they might note that Paul’s very first matter of concern in this letter is the current teaching and behavior from leadership in the church at Ephesus (1:3-7).

Which of the qualifications for leadership in this passage would you consider to transcend the centuries and still be applicable to today’s culture?

Think back to your own list of “qualifications” for a church leader. Were you thinking of a specific situation, or were you thinking more generally? How many of your qualifications were “universal,” which you would expect to be required for any leader in any church at any time? Were any of them specific to your society, or your time, or your community, or even your own preferences?

Apart from this list that has been interpreted to require overseers to be men, it also includes “faithful to his wife,” “manage his own family well” and “see that his children obey him,” so it seems that having a wife and having children are also on the list (along with being heterosexual). (Also, the phrase “faithful to his wife” has often been translated as “the husband of one wife” and interpreted to mean that divorced men would be excluded, as well.)

So we see that if a strict reading of this list is applied to leaders in the church (which certainly has been done), there would be many groups who find themselves excluded and perhaps hurt, including but not limited to women, single people, childless people, gay people and divorced people. These are groups who, apart from any discussion about leadership roles, have often had their own struggles just to fit into society and the church as equals.

Have you or anyone you love ever been disqualified from leadership? How did you feel?  If you were in charge, what would you have done differently?

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