One common reason men give for not serving as elders in a congregation is their inability to teach.
In 1 Timothy 3:2, in a list pertaining to elders, Paul tells Timothy than an elder "is to be...able to teach." This verse has commonly been used to disqualify men from serving as elders who are deemed to be not capable of teaching. It has also been used to disqualify men who are newer to the faith--they are not yet ready to be teachers because they don't yet know enough. Sadly, some men disqualify themselves from serving as an elder by viewing themselves as unnable to teach.
But what does this passage mean? Does it require elders to teach?
To answer the second question, we need only look later in 1 Timothy. In a set of instructions about the congregation's obligations to elders, Paul says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching" (5:17, TNIV). This passage describes two possible functions for elders, one primary, the other secondary. The primary task of elders is to direct the affairs of the church well. The secondary task is preaching and teaching.
Paul makes this clear by the word "especially." This clearly implies that not all elders preached and taught. There is a clear distinction in scripture. Ephesians 4:11-12 discuss the evangelists, the pastors, and the teachers; all different functions. Timothy and Titus were evangelists. In the church it's mainly (though not always) the evangelist who preaches and teaches corporately. This task does not fall to all elders. We go beyond scripture when we make it a requirement for all elders to preach and teach.
Paul's letter to Titus sheds further light on this perspective. In the list of "qualifications" for elders, Paul does not say directly that elders must be able to teach. Indirectly, one can infer from Titus 1:9 ("He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine...."; TNIV) that teaching is required, but that is an inference only. The clearer sense of that verse is that elders need to know the core aspects of the faith in order to communicate it to and encourage others.
So what "teaching" is Paul referring to in 1 Tim. 3:2? Obviously, on one hand, he is referring to the corporate preaching and teaching. This is made clear by 1 Tim. 5:17, though it is not a requirement for all elders. On the other hand, elders, in directing the affairs of the church, will be engaged in pastoral care. They will need a knowledge of the faith, through their personal walk with Jesus, and they will need to be able to share that perspective with others, most often in a one-on-one or small group setting.
Two points come to mind:
First, Why are we so quick to want to disqualify men from serving as elders?
Second, if being able to teach publicly and corporately is not a requirement for being an elder (as 1 Tim. 5:17 makes clear), then perhaps we can lighten up a little with our view of elders' "qualifications." Perhaps Paul's list is a general outline of a godly man and not a specific checklist?
What do you think? What questions do you have? Do you agree or disagree with my interpretation?