There is a good reason why Paul said, “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1 Timothy 5:22). Selecting a pastor-elder is serious business and putting someone into a leadership position too quickly is risky. The Biblical qualifications for church leaders – in regards to godliness and giftedness - must be proven over time. A man may instinctively know how to make a good first impression. He may superficially appear to be knowledgeable and skilled at teaching. But he could actually have serious character flaws that would disqualify him from leadership, and these flaws sometimes become plainly evident only through long-term observation. It is vital therefore that candidates for leadership “FIRST be proved; THEN let them use the office” (I Timothy 3:10).
If I have learned anything “the hard way” over the years, it is that the best way to identify potential pastor-elders (or any other leaders for that matter) is in the normal flow of church life. They are evident by their response to what is being taught; by their willingness to serve; by the abundance of spiritual fruit in their lives; and by the many ways their giftedness is manifested in the church BEFORE they are ever singled out for leadership.
In other words, a man is proven in the context of church life – not a classroom - because when they are in the crucible they will demonstrate what they are made of.