1st Timothy 3: How to Be a Leader

1st Timothy 3
I feel it’s time for me to return to this series of posts, and try to offer some thoughts on what a Bible passages is saying to us today.

Previously in this series, we have reflected on the need for the Truth of God’s Word, and by that we mean the whole Bible. Then, we considered what it looks like to live as an ordinary Christian, and how this differs from the world around us.

Paul continues along this theme, but shifts his focus to those who are pursuing a call to Church leadership.

1. Qualities for Church Leadership (v. 1-13)

Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. (v.1)

This passage of the Bible speaks to me on a very personal level, as I approach the end of my training for full time ministry. It is helpful for me to reflect on the qualities I should expect of myself in order to be an effective and authentic Christian leader.

Paul speaks to two forms of Church leadership here:

  • episkopos: This is usually translated as “overseer” or “elder”. The role of this Church leader is to have oversight of the affairs of the local Christian community. Although this word is applied to episcopal Church government, I find it difficult to justify any form of Church polity from these verses alone.
  • diakonos: This carries connotations of a servant leadership. In the modern Church, deacons tend to follow this idea of a servant ministry: looking for ways to service others.

I would, however, argue that any form of ministry should contain elements from both: oversight and service. Certainly, this was the kind of leadership Jesus demonstrated: He led the disciples, He had oversight over them; but He was also keen to serve His disciples. A good example of this was when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples in John 13.

The qualities Paul highlights are fairly self-explanatory; there’s not much I can add by way of reflection! I would note that the expectations and qualities for overseers and deacons are very similar. From this section, and by way of summary, I think Paul suggests that the following qualities should be sought in a Church leader. He or she should:

  • Be above reproach, self-controlled, respectable and hospitable;
  • Faithful to his or her spouse (I know the text reads for male leaders, but I think this can be applied the other way to include women. See my previous post to explore a little about women in leadership);
  • Be of a temperate nature;
  • Able to teach;
  • Not prone to drunkenness, violence, being quarrelsome, or loving money;
  • Can manage his or her own family;
  • Should not be a recent convert;
  • Must have a good reputation with outsiders.
  • Be sincere;
  • Keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience;
  • Must first be tested before being admitted to office.

This is quite an incredible and detailed list. It could almost put you off becoming a Church leader! What is clear, however, is that Paul believed there should be a fairly strict set of criteria which should be applied to Church leaders. The question is; why?

I believe the reason for such strict criteria is because of the recognition that Church leaders set examples to the rest of the Christian community. The sort of behaviour deemed acceptable or unacceptable for a follower of Jesus is often derived from what the Church leader does or does not do.

That is not to say that our faith or salvation is based on how we live. It is, however, the case that, once we begin following Jesus Christ, we are called to live in a way which reflects His ways, and we do this in response to the love God has shown us through Jesus.

If that is the case for the ordinary follower of Jesus, how much more for those in Church leadership? Just as Paul encouraged his fellow Christians to follow his example as they, in turn, try and follow Jesus’ example (1 Cor. 11:1), so people will look to us as Church leaders, trying to follow our example as they in turn try and follow Jesus.

It’s also worth noting the following from James :

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1 NIVUK)

Church leaders will be judged more strictly, and not just be those to whom they are accountable on earth. When we stand before God, He will ask us how we responded to his call to minister to His people! How we live will not affect our salvation (Christ has covered that completely!), but we should be prepared to give an account for how we live, as others will follow our example.

Why is Paul Writing? (v. 14-15)

As is often the case in Paul’s letters, he covers a range of issues. At this point in the letter, we are reaching a point where he is about to change gears and consider other matters. As he does this, he explains why he has written this letter to his friend:

I am writing to you with these instructions so that…you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar of truth. (v. 14-15)

Who is Jesus? (v. 16)
Paul completes this section with a wonderful, short statement of who Jesus is. I think this speaks for itself:

He appeared in the flesh,
Was vindicated by the Spirit,
Was seen by angels,
Was preached among nations,
Was believed on in the world,
Was taken up in glory. (v.16)

Conclusion
This chapter should cause us to pause and consider how God is calling us to live, especially as Church leaders. This is of great importance, as others will follow our example. Yet, it is encouraging that this chapter ends with an allusion to the Gospel, as Paul reminds us exactly who Jesus is.

Christianity 101: What’s It All About?

This mini-series of posts will run alongside the two main series I’m currently writing. I wanted to do something short and snappy, and which gets to the heart of what Christianity is all about. I believe the Christian faith offers something unique, and I want to show how it can impact our lives and our world.

I’ve called this series “Christianity 101” because I want to explain what the Christian faith stands for, and show the difference it can make to people’s lives.

So; What’s It All About?
The answer to this question can be summed up as follows:

bridge-card

When God first made humans, we were meant to relate to Him as our creator. Unfortunately, humanity put its own selfish desires before our love of God, and we therefore rejected Him. This is called sin. Sin separates us from God. There is nothing we can do to bridge that gap.

This separation from God has caused all kinds of problems. The most serious is death, which was something we were never supposed to experience.

God did not want to leave things this way; so He came into our world as Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ life, we learn about the way we are supposed to live. Through Jesus’ death, the gap between us and God is closed, as Jesus took the punishment for our sin. Because Jesus took our punishment, God is able to justly forgive us. Through Jesus’ resurrection, we are promised new life beyond death, where we will live as God intended. This is the heart of the Christian faith: through Jesus, we are reconciled to God.

The way this impacts our world is varied, and I hope to explore some of these throughout this series. If there are things you want to know more about, or topics you think I should tackle in this short series, please get in touch: I’m always happy to receive ideas!

Whatever topics are explored in this series, they have their foundation in the fact that Christians believe that through Jesus human being are brought back to God, and are enabled to live in the way He intended all along. The following picture suggests some Bible passages, which could help you explore this further:

A Spiritual Diet…?

I really miss this stuff…

Anyway, Lent is an interesting time of year in the church’s calendar. Principally, the purpose of this forty day period is to allow Christians to participate, in some way, in the suffering’s of Christ as He spent forty days and nights in the dessert, being tested and tempted by the devil. This period of time then culminates in the celebration of the most important week of the Christian year: Easter week, where we remember and reflect upon the journey of Jesus to the Cross, which provided a means of salvation for all who believe in him, and His glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

You might imagine, then, that this period of time (that is, Lent) is associated with spirituality, reflection, struggles, temptations…and so on. So what is the most common thing people do for Lent? Give up chocolate. This holy time, which remembers Jesus’ struggle against the darkest power in this world is often reduced to some sort of divine dieting time. What a shocking reality…or is it?

Well, let me start by saying that I have given up most things sugary for Lent (I still take sugar in my coffee…what can I say, I’m just not ready for black coffee with nothing in it!).

Now, the fact I have given up anything is controversial enough: there is some debate as to whether Protestants should observe what is a time traditionally associated with Roman Catholicism. Unfortunately, this isn’t the place to further discuss or debate this issue, but needless to say, the fact I have given something up suggests I don’t see any reason why this time shouldn’t be observed.

But, what of this giving up sugary things? Surely by doing this, I am perpetuating and joining the very group I find the most frustrating at this time of year; the divine dieters?

In response, I would say this; dieting in and of itself is not the purpose behind Lent. But, if it takes real strength, and reliance on God, to deny yourself something, then why can’t this be a valid thing to do? It all depends on our motivation: are we motivated by the desire to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle? Or are we giving something up because of our love of God and our acknowledgment of Jesus’ sufferings on our behalf?

Our motivation behind what we are doing for Lent will most likely have an effect on how successful we are. If you know anything about me, you’ll know how much I adore Irn Bru. And it is among one of the things I have chosen to give up for Lent (hence the mournful picture at the beginning). Now, if I had given this up out of some selfish attempt to lose weight, I can guarantee that I would have failed by now because, lets be honest, if I’m being selfish, I’ll have Irn Bru because I want Irn Bru!

If I do this from a desire to do something for God, however, I find I am more likely to succeed! When I’m at Asda doing a late night shopping run, and I’m standing in front of the cooler wanting a nice cool can of Bru, I will stop myself, because I realise if I have some I won’t just be letting myself down, but I’ll be breaking a promise I made to do something (or give something up) for God.

The reality is that I have stumbled in the last two weeks or so, but that is why God is gracious, loving and understanding. And, thankfully, my relationship with him is not based on whether or not I can keep off sugary stuff.

As I write this, I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

Lent has helped me grow closer to God, as I find myself relying on him to get me through. By denying myself this one small thing, I have found my spiritual flab dropping off, and my strength growing.

Maybe I will get to Easter, and have lost weight through a diet, and that would be great. But, it is far better, in my opinion, to arrive at Easter spiritually fit, thanks to a Spiritual Diet and Exercise regime, where I deny myself, and instead fix my eyes on following Jesus.