“In five years, a congregation takes the personality of its lead pastor.”
As a lead pastor, those are scary words. It was spoken to me as a warning to ensure my heart stays right before God. Although I’m not sure this is based on research, I think we’ve all seen this play out in real life.
A legalistic congregation has a legalistic pastor feeding it.
A grace-filled congregation has a grace-filled pastor feeding it.
A charismatic congregation has a charismatic pastor feeding it.
A cold congregation has a cold pastor feeding it.
A friendly congregation has a friendly pastor feeding it.
A fighting congregation has a fighting pastor feeding it.
A peace-making congregation has a peace-making pastor feeding it.
As I write those words, I see specific congregations and pastors represented in that list. Leadership is a “buzzword” right now in our culture, but the Bible has been talking about our influence on others. As we continue working through the leadership journal of 1 Timothy, we find ourselves in 1 Timothy 2b-5:
2bThese are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
1 Timothy 6:2b-5
New International Version
One of the key problems Timothy was dealing with in Ephesus was false teachers. They were professing Christians but were teaching things foreign to Scripture and leading people astray. We might wonder how this happens because we tend to think of congregations being as large as the average in the United States (~85).
But congregations in the time of Paul writing to Timothy were house churches: with around 20-25 people meeting in homes. It would have been much easier for false teachers to take hold in an environment that small.
Regardless of the forensics of spreading false teaching, the issue is still there: the false teachers were hurting the churches in Ephesus and Timothy was charged with stopping it.
While Timothy knew the full extent of the teaching Paul was referring to, we do not. We’re listening to half of a telephone conversation. We can reasonably surmise: the false teachers were (among other things!) thriving off controversy.
The more static they can raise, the more they can thrive. How can this be? Human nature. We are pain avoidance creatures and in an atmosphere of controversy, most of us simply want it to go away. With this natural inclination to “keep the peace”, people would have been easy prey for false teachers.
The result of the controversy the false teachers were stirring up was “envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction…” (verses 4-5a). This is the polar opposite of the peace our Lord Jesus gives.
In 1 Timothy 1:7, the Apostle Paul wrote of their lack of spiritual understanding as the reason for their heresy. He underscores that belief here (verse 4a) and augments it by pointing out their ultimate goal was self-satisfaction (verse 5).
As Christian leaders and those under Christian leadership, we must pause sometimes and put our motivations to the test. Why do we do what we do for Jesus? Really.
Is there a drive for recognition? Wealth? Power?
We must not only guard the bride against the maliciousness of false teaching, but we must also protect it from our motivations subtly influencing those affected by our influence towards selfishness. Whether we like it or not, all of us will shape those around us. The more of a platform the Lord gives us, the greater that shaping on others will be.
May we all steward our influence to instill the grace, love, and hope found only in the truth of Jesus.
Let’s connect! I’ve set up a Facebook account where I’m now sharing my blogs, podcasts, messages, and things I hope help you on the journey.