Nathan proposes an interesting look at this quality in light of the view that sees it as something unique to those called to “ministry” or a traditional view of elders. Nathan writes (speaking of the qualities of an elder in 1 Timothy 3: 1-7):
Have you ever noticed these qualifications include, for the most part, a group of expectations that ought to characterize any growing Christian man? Should any brother lack self-control and be known as a skirt-chaser? Should any believer, male or female, be a drunkard? Should any Christ-follower be known as a conceited, violent-tempered money-lover? It seems to me the bulk of these expectations simply indicate a pastor should be a man whose is an exemplary Christian role model with a good reputation, both within the church and in the wider community.I like that. We seem to view this list as something only for elders/pastors but really there is nothing on this list that we should not expect of every man who is a follower of Christ. I don’t mean that to imply that every person is as “good” at teaching as every other believer or that we are all at the same place in terms of these qualities. I am saying that every believer should reflect these qualities. Nathan does however see “able to teach” as having a particular and traditional understanding in the gathered church:
The one qualification for eldership that stands out from the rest is the ability to teach. And herein lies the debate—what does it mean for an elder to be “able to teach”? Well, it depends upon whom you ask.
I want to offer a proposal I believe strikes a balance between the two aforementioned polarities. I would argue being able to teach means being able to publicly explain and apply the Scriptures to the entire congregation. This doesn’t necessarily mean all elders must possess the ability to preach a sermon. But neither is teaching defined so broadly that any transmission of biblical truth qualifies. All elders should be able to stand before the congregation and expound the Bible, even if some elders are uncomfortable preaching in a corporate worship gathering.Here is the problem with that. I don’t think that “able to teach” necessarily means “standing up in front of the whole congregation and expositing a passage of Scripture”. It might mean that and certainly I can see times when that might happen but I don’t see that “able to teach” precludes a small group setting or one older man teaching a younger man or a parent teaching their children. We have such a hard time letting go of our church culture and the hold that it has on us distorts our interpretation and application of Scripture, especially when it comes to ecclesiology. Here was my comment on the post:
Very interesting post. I would argue that since the Scriptures do not model a monologue sermon anywhere in the gathered New Covenant church, "able to teach" is not speaking of sermons. Likewise the ability to teach or disciple others is something that all believers should be doing or if they are not, they should be equipped to do so. Assuming that the Great Commission is targeted at all believers, teaching is something that all Christians are likewise called to do as part of making disciples (Matt 28:20). The men recognized as elders in the church should be recognized as such because they are already doing the things described in 1 Timothy 3. These qualities, as you rightly point out, are not unique to elders, they are qualities that should be exhibited by all believers and elders are recognized as such because of the example they provide for others to follow.I think the Great Commission is important here because if we are all called under the Great Commission then we are all called to make disciples which includes “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”.
Elders in the church. An important topic. We need to study this idea and more importantly live it out in the church without going to one extreme (single pastor models where the pastor is the only leader and teacher) or to the other extreme (where we eschew elders entirely). I have more to write on this because the topic is such a fascinating one and one prone to all sorts of stumbling blocks.