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The Kind of Behavior by Children That Disqualifies Their Father for Pastoral Ministry

A pastor’s children are to be kept “submissive” according to 1 Timothy 3:4. They should obey their father and follow his instruction in the home. Titus 1:6 requires the same of the children, and depending on whether one translates pistos as a noun or an adjective, they must be “believers” or “faithful.” Either way, they must follow the teaching of their father.

Titus 1:6 goes further, however, to describe what must not be characteristic of the behavior of these children. They must not be “open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination” (ESV). This is the kind of behavior by a father’s children that disqualifies him for formal pastoral ministry. What follows below is an attempt to explain exactly what kind of behavior this is.

First, for whatever “debauchery or insubordination” may be, the children are to not be “open to the charge” that they do such things. Literally put, they are “not with accusation” by another in these matters. This behavior is uncharacteristic of their lives, which seems to imply that their friends and close associations are free of the same, leaving them altogether in the clear.

Second, the term debauchery comes from asōtia, a combination of a- (“without”) and sōzō (“to save”). The etymology itself gives the idea that this behavior is reflective of a child without salvation. Debauchery is equated with being “drunk with wine” (Ephesians 5:18), and Peter’s “flood of debauchery” describing unbelievers includes “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3–4). A related word describes the prodigal son in Luke 15: “He squandered his property in reckless (asōtōs) living,” which included having ravenously “devoured” his father’s “property with prostitutes” (Luke 15:13, 30). Of both asōtia and asōtōs, “The original meaning is… ‘incurable’” and thus “denotes… ‘one who by his manner of life… destroys himself’.”1

Third, a pastor’s child cannot be guilty of insubordination. The etymology of this word likewise indicates something lacking in the child, combining a- (“without”) with hupotassō (“to be subject, subordinate”). Whereas 1 Timothy 3:4 requires the child to be “submissive,” Titus 1:6 requires the child not to be the opposite, a child guilty of “insubordination.” The idea is a willful and rebellious refusal by the child to be subject to the rule of the father in the home. This word describes false teachers in Titus 1:10 and is translated “disobedient” in 1 Timothy 1:9, one item in a list of descriptions that are contrasted with someone who is “just” or “righteous” (dikaios). The insubordinate, disobedient child is unjust, unrighteous, and a defiant unbeliever.

If debauchery and insubordination are characteristic of a man’s children, he cannot be a pastor. If he cannot manage his house so that his children are free from this behavior, then neither is he able to care for the household of God (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4–5).

May we as pastors and Christian leaders lead our homes well in order to better care for the church today. And may God be gracious to our children to truly believe the gospel and grow in Christ.

If any one has any comments or questions, I’ll be away from my computer until August 31. I’ll answer you then! Thank you.

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.

  1. Werner Foerster, TDNT, 1:506. []

3 Responses to The Kind of Behavior by Children That Disqualifies Their Father for Pastoral Ministry

  1. Hi David! Very helpful article on a topic I was just discussing with my pastor yesterday. Follow-up question for you – do you see this passage as restricted to children only while they are in the home? Or does it apply to one who leaves the home and the Lord as an older teen or young adult (thinking particularly of a kid who doesn’t necessarily act out while in the home, but at the first chance of freedom hits the “eject” button)? Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Hello Jonathan – I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

    For your first question (is this restricted to children in the home?), the qualification is for whether or not a father is managing his household well. A child who has moved out and become independent is not in the household anymore and is no longer a child. So, for me at least, a pastor is not disqualified from ministry because he sadly sees his adult son or daughter apostatize against their Christian upbringing.

    For your second question (the young adult hitting the “eject” button), that’s a bit trickier to answer, and I’m not sure I can give a broad answer to what should probably be examined on a case-by-case basis. Leaning on my first answer, the sinful behavior of an adult (younger or older) son or daughter that is no longer in the pastor’s household should not necessarily disqualify a pastor from his ministry. At the same time, if a young adult immediately rushes to sin once independence has been gained, I suppose it does not speak well for a pastor. Folks will naturally ask, did the father miss the warning signs? Was he too harsh as a father to provoke such a reaction? And even though the pastor has learned some lessons from this all, should we ask him to move on and apply them somewhere else because he’s lost some of his credibility with us?

    That’s not a crisp answer for the second question, but I’m not sure I can give one. :) If it were me personally for that kind of situation (may it never be), I think I’d take a hard, prayerful look at what I’ve been doing in my home and ministry to see if continuing as a pastor was really what the Lord has for me, ask others the same thing, other pastors and deacons in my church included, and go from there.

  3. Thank you for interacting! Your answer is helpful and I appreciate you taking the time.

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