Why should a church leader be an older Christian, according to 1 Timothy 3:6?
The qualifications for church elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. One of these requires a church leader to not be a “new convert” (v. 6).
. . . and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. (NASB) 1 Tim. 3:6
The Greek word for “new convert” in 1 Timothy is NEOPHUTOS. It means “newly planted.” One who is to be an elder, a church leader, is not to be a new Christian. The question we must ask is, “When is a person not a new Christian?” Some people think it means he can be an elder or overseer after six months. Others think this means after one year, 3 years, or more. These conclusions ignore the other qualifications, especially the qualification that he must be “able to teach.” The phrase “able to teach” comes from one Greek word which means “skillful in teaching.” This means that he knows scripture. That takes time. No crash course in the Bible will meet this qualification. It takes time. So a leader must be an older Christian, but he does not need to be an “old” Christian.
It is common for a younger man to be eager to be a leader. That is why the apostle Peter had the following to say to young men who wanted to be leaders in the church.
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time . . . (NASB) 1 Peter 5:5-6
Allowing young men (18-29 years) to be leaders in the church may be culturally acceptable, but Scripture suggests caution. The same holds true even for much older men who are “newly planted” in the faith.