“If it’s not God calling you, don’t do it. You’ll mess it up for the rest of us.”
This advice came from my own father when I was expressing a call to ministry during my teenage years. I’m thrilled he gave it to me. It confirmed my desire to lead in God’s church could not come from my own desire for advancement or from others wishing me to be a church leader.
It had to come from the Lord.
Last week, we look at 1 Timothy 3:1 and Paul’s statement regarding the blessings to the church for people to have the desire to lead. Today, we continue that journey into the handbook of congregational leadership as we read 1 Timothy 3:2-7.
2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
1 Timothy 3:2-7
New International Version
It’s always good to zoom out and remember why Paul is writing this to young Timothy. The Holy Spirit is using Paul’s considerable leadership expertise to instruct young Timothy in his leadership of the church in Ephesus.
Perhaps it’s safe to assume Timothy was either not aware of this information or did not have it in a succinct “check list” he could follow.
At first, we survey this list and probably wouldn’t find much to disagree with. But when Timothy had to put this into practice, it was probably as difficult as it is for us.
Here’s what I mean. Based on what Paul just wrote in verse 1, is he now limiting this office to men only with all the masculine words in spite of what he just wrote? In light of what we saw in 1 Timothy 2:12, is he drawing a distinction between this type of oversight and other types of oversight? Or is he merely providing a convenient example Timothy would easily understand?
It seems Paul is at least speaking exclusively to men here but we must be careful not to imply these requirements are for men only. This passage equally applies to women even if it does not directly address their situation.
With a single exception, this passage addresses the character of an overseer (elder or bishop). That exception is found at the end of verse 2: “able to teach”. Every other characteristic is a demonstration of character. It is who they are and are becoming in Christ.
This is not to say they are perfect—that’s impossible. But there the general timbre of their lives resonates with the fruit of the spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23). Anything else is dangerous.
As we follow the church leaders the Lord has placed over us, we look to them as examples of how the Lord works His grace into all of our lives. An effective leader will inspire others to be more like Jesus by their contagious life.
Yes, we should expect high character from our leaders in the congregation. The Lord certainly does. The mission is too important and too great to settle for anything less. The eternal destinies of men and women, boys and girls hang on a leader’s ability to keep a congregation focused on reaching those needing Jesus.
Pray for your congregational leaders—especially if they lack in one or more of these areas.
Pray the Lord would raise up more leaders who not only meet the qualifications but also truly desire to lead the Lord’s church on the great adventure of populating Heaven by plundering Hell.
Interested in more like this? Consider Joel’s book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs. Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, Joel walks readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life. The goal? Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.