Able to Teach

Content adapted from Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile

Paul’s criterion “able to teach” in 1 Timothy 3:2 refers to the ability to communicate and apply the truth of Scripture with clarity, coherence, and fruitfulness. This ability is not limited to public teaching from the pulpit. Some men are not exceptional public speakers, but they are teaching and counseling the people around them from the Scriptures all the time. Such men should not be disqualified from the office of elder.

Teaching ability is the unique gift associated with the office of elder, and aspiring men must possess it. We must not overlook this qualification when assessing a candidate for pastoral leadership: Can he teach?


1. Pastors must look for ways to provide men in the church opportunities to teach in order to assess giftedness and ability.

Men who have an interest in teaching and who meet biblical qualifications for the office of elder should be given opportunities to teach in appropriate settings, such as Sunday evening services, Sunday school, mid-week Bible studies, or training and workshop experiences. Whatever the local situation, pastors and churches should create opportunity to observe and affirm the teaching gifts of men in the congregation.

2. Assuming a man has had a number of opportunities to teach, how capable is he?

Pastors should probably grant a man several opportunities to grow and learn as a teacher. His ability need not be judged on a maiden voyage. But over time, it needs to be asked whether the man demonstrates skill in interpreting a text, outlining a sermon, communicating biblical ideas clearly, applying the Scripture appropriately, and anticipating objections and pastoral needs in the body. Cultivating and assessing this gift requires clear, honest, and patient appraisal.

3. Does the man show pastoral sensibility in his teaching?

Congregations should look for men who know the body and are able to apply God’s Word to God’s people. Does the prospective elder show discernment in this regard? Is he able to speak to hurts, pains, joys, needs, history, and hopes in the congregation? Does he tend to beat the sheep or feed the sheep? If he knows the people, it should show up in how he nurtures them in the teaching (1 Thess. 2:11–12).

4. Is the prospective elder committed to exposition (or the church’s preaching philosophy)?

Does he agree with the current elder(s) on what preaching is and should be? Widely divergent views about this essential task may cause serious strain on the eldership and on the main preaching pastor as he endeavors to discharge his duty faithfully. Divergent opinions may also affect the sheep as teachers employ fundamentally different strategies in the pulpit. The elders set the character and the tone of the teaching ministry, so unity in teaching philosophy is necessary.

5. Are others edified by his teaching?

Will the congregation, if asked, affirm that this man has teaching ability and that they spiritually benefit from his teaching? Ask around to see how others receive and use a prospective elder’s teaching.

6. Does the man disciple others?

Since not all (or even most) teaching is public, we should look to those smaller, less public areas as well. Does the prospective elder help others grow in Christ in more private settings such as small groups or one-on-one discipleship? Is he faithful to help others work through difficulties or questions? Do others come to him for advice and counsel? And is his counsel consistently and thoroughly biblical? A man may do a great deal of pastoral work in the hallways or in the parking lot after church or over a cup of coffee during the week. Who are those men who teach in this way?

7. Is the man theologically mature and supportive of the church’s theological distinctives?

A man may have a gift, but the gift must be informed by appropriate content. Many are skilled at emotionally rousing the crowd but cannot explain the basic doctrines of the faith. So leaders and churches must assess a man’s theological maturity and knowledge. For the unity of the church, a man with teaching authority should be able to fully champion the church’s distinctives.

8. Can the prospective elder defend the faith?

The ability to defend the truth is another aspect of sound teaching ability (Titus 1:9). Pastors and churches should consider whether the potential elder demonstrates an ability to correct error and preserve the truth, without being argumentative and unkind, but patiently and gently.

9. Is the man himself teachable?

Will the elder candidate be a model to the congregation as someone who humbly and joyfully receives the Word with profit? Being teachable is itself teaching; it models humility before others. If a pastor is not given to learning and submitting to the teaching of his fellow elders, he creates tension inside the eldership and may model hardness of heart before the sheep. Or worse, he may be less the teacher and more the dictator in interacting with the sheep.


As pastors and churches, we must find reliable men and entrust to them the things we have learned from faithful men. In order for the transmission of the truth to happen well, the men we appoint to leadership must be able to teach in various settings and ways. Calling a man who cannot teach, to serve as an elder, is like channeling the pure, wholesome milk of the gospel through rusty, corroded pipes. The Word continues to be milk, but for how long? And who wants to drink milk from a rusty pipe?

Converted people always pray

by J.C. Ryle

I have looked careful over the lives of God’s saints in the Bible. I cannot find one whose history much is told, from Genesis to Revelation — who was not a person of prayer. I find it mentioned as a characteristic of the godly, that “they call on the Father,” that “they call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I find it recorded as a characteristic of the wicked, that “they do not call upon the Lord” (1 Peter 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Psalm 14:4).

I have read the lives of many eminent Christians who have been on earth since the Bible days. Some of them, I see, were rich, and some poor. Some were learned, and some were unlearned. Some of them were Episcopalians, and some were Christians of other names. Some were Calvinists, and some were Arminians. Some have loved to use liturgy, and some to use none. But one thing, I see that they all had in common — they have all been people of prayer.

I have studied reports of missionary societies in our own times. I see with joy that lost men and women are receiving the gospel in various parts of the globe. There are conversions in Africa, in New Zealand, in India, in China. The people converted are naturally unlike one another in every respect. But one striking thing I observe at all the missionary stations — the converted people always pray.

I do not deny that a person may pray without heart and without sincerity. I do not for a moment pretend to say that the mere fact of a people praying, proves everything about their soul. As in every other part of religion, so also in this — there may be deception and hypocrisy.

But this I do say — that not praying is a clear proof that a person is not yet a true Christian. They cannot really feel their sins. They cannot love God. They cannot feel themselves a debtor to Christ. They cannot long after holiness. They cannot desire Heaven. They have yet to be born again. They have yet to be made a new creature. They may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk — if they do not pray.

A Call to Prayer

20 questions that atheists need to be able to answer

from the Wintery Knight  blog

Here are some puzzling phenomena that every person should try to struggle with, and find the answers. (H/T Justin Brierley)

Here’s the full list:

1.What caused the universe to exist?

2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

3.Why is the universe rational?

4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

5.Where did the genetic code come from?

6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

I’m leaving out numbers 7 and 8 because they lack specificity.

9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

10.How do we account for self-awareness?

11.How is free will possible in a material universe?

12.How do we account for conscience?

13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?

14.Why does suffering matter?

15.Why do human beings matter?

16.Why care about justice?

17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

20.What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

So here’s the deal. It seems to me that there we can either search for and find answers to these questions, and then adjust our behavior to fit even if we will be less happy and fulfilled, or we can make our happiness and personal autonomy in this life the most important thing, and invent answers to these questions that are speculative. Either we live consistently with the evidence we have now, or we live how we want and hope for future evidence that will overturn the evidence we have now.

I think that this is the choice that we are facing as humans. Either we make truth the top priority, and let our lives change in order to respond to the evidence we have right now or we make our happiness the top priority and speculate that the universe is other than the way it is so that we can pursue happiness unencumbered by the obligation to know the Creator and Designer of the universe.

Everyone always talks about “the meaning of life”. I’ll tell you what the meaning of life is. It’s to puzzle about the questions above and get into an intimate, loving, self-sacrificial relationship with the Creator and Designer of the universe – a relationship bounded by facts, not feelings. What is so objectionable with the idea that there might be a Person out there who has a claim on us? So long as his intentions are good, why are we so unwilling to be his friend and to take his character into account when we decide what we will do with our lives?

Twelve Guidelines for Social Networking

Because Christians  are so involved in social networking – often every bit as much as non-Christians – they are wise to remember to be careful. Even online they are representatives of Jesus by the words, the attitudes, and comments they make. Christians should be upfront at all times, never deceptive; uplifting, never degrading; encouraging, not discouraging. That is why I pass on these words of wisdom by Tim Chester:


1. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say were the people concerned in the room.

2. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t share publicly with your Christian community.

3. Ensure your online world is visible to your offline Christian community.

4.      Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self reflects a self-created identity rather than identity in Christ.

5. Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self doesn’t match their offline self.

6. Use social networking to enhance real world relationship not to replace them.

7. Don’t let children have unsupervised internet access or accept as online friends people you don’t know offline.

8. Set limits to the time you spend online and ask someone to hold you accountable to these.

9. Set aside a day a week as a technology “Sabbath” or “fast”.

10. Avoid alerts (emails, tweets, texts and so on) that interrupt other activities especially reading, praying, worshipping and relating.

11. Ban mobiles from the meal table and the bedroom.

12. Look for opportunities to replace disembodied (online or phone) communication with embodied (face-to-face) communication.

A Prayer about God Owning Our Battles

by Scotty Smith

The LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s. 1 Sam. 17:47
This is what the LORD says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chron. 20:15
     Dear heavenly Father, I love it when you’re selfish with things I don’t really want anyway—especially when you claim ownership of any battle into which you place us. Though, as your children, you call us into warfare and give us armor to wear (Eph. 6:10-18), it’s you we must trust as the Divine Warrior. You’re not a spectator to our conflicts, but a very present help and our great and living hope. Teach us how to do warfare this side of the finished work of Jesus.
     Hallelujah! The gospel frees us from being both fretful activists and disengaged pacifists. Instead, we are to be fully engaged worshipers, beholding the salvation of the Lord. We’re never more than little David facing huge Goliaths with a handful of pebbles. But they are gospel pebbles, and with you, we will not be afraid. Whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, the battle belongs to you. Fear and discouragement are not the order of the day; faith and peace are.
     When we’re afraid of events in world history; when it seems like evil and terror will triumph, let us hear the laughter of heaven. Just give us a clearer vision of your already installed King, the Lord Jesus. Just give us an unobstructed view of the occupied throne of heaven, and it will shut up our fears (Ps. 2; Rev 4).
     When we’re under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let us see Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He is our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30-31). We boast in Jesus, not in anything in ourselves.
     When we get pulled into petty fights with brothers and sisters in Christ, slay us with the gospel and bring us back to faith expressing itself in love (Gal 5). When we’re in the presence of evil and very broken people, keep us sane and centered by the gospel. When our divided hearts wages war inside of us, come to us in the storm, Jesus, and make peace. You are the consummate Peacemaker, reigning King and returning Bridegroom. In you we will trust. We relinquish our battles to you and follow you into this day. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

A Godly Response to Criticism

Proverbs 15:31-33 If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself, but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.

No one likes criticism, but encountering some is inevitable, so we need to learn how to respond in a godly way. Although you might be tempted to become defensive or angry, remain calm and listen. The words may hurt, but great benefits come to those who carefully consider what is said. We are reminded that we are to submit to one another, even to admonish one another.. We need to listen the wisdom that others offer to us.

If we refuse to accept reproof, we’ll limit our potential for Christ like character development and spiritual growth. Some of life’s best lessons come through difficult experiences. If God allowed the situation, you can be sure that He wants to use it in transforming you into His Son’s image. Whether the criticism is valid or not, whether it’s delivered with kindness or harshness, your goal should always be to respond in a way that glorifies the Lord. Remember that you are responsible only for how you handle yourself, not for how the other person is acting.

When a criticism comes your way, be quiet and listen until the other person has finished. Make direct eye contact to show attentiveness and respect. When your critic finishes, thank him for bringing his concerns to your attention, and tell him that you will consider what he’s said. Ask the Lord if the accusation is valid. Let Him search your heart and either affirm your innocence or convict you.

Every rebuke is an opportunity from God. It’s a chance to let your Christian character shine by showing love to your critic. If he is angrily attacking you, your respect and kindness become a powerful testimony. Criticism is also an occasion to humble yourself and accept the Lord’s correction.

God will not forgive our sins if we do not confess them

by John MacArthur

And forgive us our debts. (Matthew 6:12)

God will not forgive our sins if we do not confess them. John makes that condition clear when he declares, “If we confess our sins, H eis faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Confession simply means we agree with God that our sins are evil and defiling and we do not want them to taint our walk with Christ. Our sinful pride makes it difficult to confess sin, but it is the only way to the free and joyful Christian life (cf. Proverbs 28:13).

It’s been said, “One of the wrest antidotes to the process of moral hardening is the disciplined practice of uncovering our sins of thought and outlook as well as word and deed and the repentant forsaking of the same.”

We must never take God’s promise of forgiveness as a license for sin or as an excuse to presume on His grace. Instead we must view forgiveness as an aid to our sanctification and be constantly thankful to the Lord for His forgiveness.

Your prayer ought to coincide with the Puritan one: “Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, and the exceeding wonder of grace.

I am guilty but pardoned. I am lost but saved. I am wandering but found. I am sinning but cleansed. Give me perpetual broken-heartedness. Keep me always clinging to Thy cross.