“the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.” Titus 1:6.
In Paul’s list of requirements for a man to be an Elder, Paul says that he is presently (must be, present infinitive) the husband of one wife. Paul also says that the man presently has, not had, but has in the present, children who believe. Why this requirement? Because his performance as a father is part of the consideration for deciding if he can manage God’s household.
“but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” 1 Tim. 3:5.
Here is what Paul is saying. The elderly married man had children and he raised them to believe in Jesus so that even now, as you examine and consider him now for this office, he presently has
children who still follow Jesus. This is an objective measure the church can actually see.
Either the church is deciding his qualification based solely on the past or the church is basing it on things of the present. If the measure is based solely on the past, and not how his children are now, then proving anything about his worth as a manager of God’s house based on what kind of father he was is an impossible task.
He is elderly, suggesting maturity and experience a younger man hasn’t attained, which is implied in the name of the office. Therefore we are also looking at a man whose children are older, not younger as is allowed with Deacons, 1 Tim. 3:12. With that established, the church is either to choose the man’s fathering skill based on how his children are now or the church is being saddled with the impossible task of establishing he had such skill back then when his children were at home, regardless of how his children are now.
Because he is elderly, to decide if he is qualified, we have to either lay out the evidence for what kind of father he was back then or we have to look at how his children are now. To ignore how the man’s children are doing presently, an unfair measure according to some, and only base his qualification on how he fathered when the children were still at home, would almost certainly be a messy, hurtful, skewed, and subjective picture as seen through the lens of time. Old friends familiar with the man back then might say,
“I recall they did make their children go to church. And you know, they were just normal kids, nothing out of the ordinary. None are perfect, but I would say the parents were really trying, as I recall. As long as their children lived at home they went to church. It’s so unfortunate that the children left home and chose to drift away from God. I’m sure that had nothing to do with the parenting. Everyone has free will, you know.”
Such testimonies are common and they acknowledge no blame or responsibility to the parents. Such recollections through the fog of time are not helpful because you could qualify the majority through such a standard.
We believe that children are heavily influenced by their parents, for good or for bad. If we follow the instruction of Paul, and look for men who presently have believing children, then we are looking for men whose influence was lasting. How he did as a father back then is seen today in how his children are now.
If the church does not know the man’s children, the church cannot know if he is qualified. The elderly man being considered for the Eldership either had a positive and lasting spiritual impression on his children or he did not. How the grown kids are doing now is an objective measure the church must contend with.
Final note. What about an elderly Christian who has grown children who are believing while also having children living at home in subjection to him? The point is that his children and the Father are being scrutinized according to how they are doing now, in the present. The man is elderly and the children are the present evidence of his fathering abilities.