Sometimes you might be tempted to think that the things we talk about on a Sunday night from God’s word are not that relevant in 2006. Here is the front section of yesterday’s Herald. Amidst politics and medicine and sport, the dominant picture relates to a dispute between a Sydney Anglican minister and one of his congregation. The cause of the dispute – in essence, women preaching in church. Exactly what we were talking about last week. The outcome of the dispute, the lady in question, a doctor, was removed from her ministry by the Rector. And in part that’s what we are talking about tonight – what do we expect in leaders within the church?
God’s word is always relevant to our life. Let’s PRAY!
- What if …..?
It is sad that the church is made to look bad when disputes like this happen. But some even sadder news tonight - tonight is Marty’s last night at St Mark’s. Marty’s had a better offer, decided it’s time for a change after 5 years here, and he’s off to a new Parish.
No, he’s not really. That was just to get you thinking – because if he was leaving, who would you get to replace him? I would guess that as soon as you heard that news you thought – where’s he going, who’s going to replace him? And if I asked you – what are the important things you think I should look for in a replacement – what would you say?
(Talk to person next to you – what would you think matters in a replacement for Marty?)
Is it a matter of looks – someone young and cool? Or older and mature?
Is it a matter of experience – someone who’s done youth work for a few years at least, can run groups, knows some great games, can surf and ride a skateboard, and can teach Scripture?
Or are there other criteria you would use? Does it even matter what they are like? Would you pick someone like Peter? (*PPT) Why or why not?
- What sort of ….?
As we come to 1 Timothy 3, Paul gives Timothy some wisdom when it comes to the question of leaders.
And it is a critical issue. We know from chapter 1 that the church in Ephesus was having problems with false teachers. So who should be appointed as leaders and teachers to tackle these men? We saw last week in ch 2 that Paul says it shouldn’t be women – they are not to take on the leadership role in the church. So who can? Obviously only men – but can be it any male? Is maleness the only criteria? What about the criteria we’ve mentioned? Does God set any criteria?
So you might like to turn to 1 Timothy 3. And let me say, these verses are not just important for those rare occasions when you have to find a new minister or youth minister or children’s minister, but I think they are relevant to us all. More on that soon.
In this chapter Paul talks about 2 levels of church leadership. In vv1-7 he talks about overseers, whilst in vv8-12 he talks about deacons.
In vv1-7 the word in Greek is episkopos. Here it is translated overseer, in other versions like the King James and the New RSV it is translated as bishop. This is one of those passages which has helped shape the church structure of bishops, priests (5:17, Titus 1:5) and deacons for us Anglicans. In other denominations they use a different title for this office. And at the end of the day we don’t know for sure who the overseers were, or what they did. They seem to be the people who made the leadership decisions in the church, the more public figures, the teachers. But what office or title we give them doesn’t matter – what matters is what they are like. I think God is less interested in church structures than principles. And the principles spelt out here are the kinds of things we need to be looking for in leaders at every level of leadership in our church family, whether they are bishops, priests, deacons, elders, teachers, or whatever we call them.
The deacons on the other hand seem to be those involved in ministry in other capacities. The Greek word is diakonos, which simply means servant.
Well, let’s look quickly at what Paul says they should be like.
a) Church leader (overseer) (3:1-7)?
Let’s look first at the qualifications for overseers. And right up front, in v1, Paul says – if anyone sets his heart on being an overseer he desires a noble task.
And you might think – who in their right mind would want to lead a church anyway? If you ask a group of high school students what they want to be when they get older, I would almost guarantee that no more than maybe 1 or 2 would say a church minister. Try it with your friends.
But Paul says – men, this is a great thing to think about! It is a noble task. Later in the letter, in 5:17, he says the elders (and it is a different Greek word again – presbuteros) who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those who preach and teach. And in v13 here he says – READ.
And it is precisely because the work of an overseer is so important that Paul lays down the qualities Timothy should look for. It needs a certain type of person.
ILLN – I remember when I was thinking about going to Moore College to train for full-time ordained ministry, I went through this list. If you’re thinking about this sort of ministry it’s a great list to think and pray through. And not just once, I should be reading through it regularly.
So what does Paul say? Look with me again at vv2-7
Summarise in 3 types of characteristics (*PPT) –
i) above reproach
The overseer must be above reproach. Unimpeachable. This doesn’t mean sinless – none of us can do that. But it does mean that he lives in such a way that he cannot be unfairly attacked or criticized. As one commentator wrote ‘no obvious defect of character or conduct which can be exploited to his discredit’. You see why when you read articles like this one in the Herald.
If you look at the apostles they were never attacked for their character, only for their teaching. So important otherwise the church of God will be damaged.
ii) godly personal qualities
And he must be a godly person. That’s what those characteristics mean in vv2,3 and 6. Husband of but one wife doesn’t mean he has to be married, but that if he is, he is faithful to the one wife he has married. That he is sexually pure.
Too, he must be temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money (remember Jesus says we cannot serve both God and money), and in v6 he must not be a new Christian or he might become conceited. Basically this is a mature godly person.
Oh .. and the other thing in v2 – he must be able to teach. False teachers were such a great problem for the Christians in Ephesus – so there was a great need for someone who can refute them, and lead God’s people into the truth of his word. Still the same today! And if leaders and teachers are not leading people into a richer knowledge of his truth then we are not leading people where God wants. And that applies to all teachers whether here in big church, in our small groups or one-to-one - we need to be looking at the Bible with people.
iii) godly inter-personal qualities
So overseers must be above reproach, personally godly, and thirdly he must be able to relate well to others. We see it in vv4, 5 and 7. Does he relate well to his own family, especially his children? How does he obtain the respect and obedience of his children? Does he relate well to people inside and outside the church, to both Christians and non-Christians? If he is in disgrace, the church will look bad as well won’t it? People often judge the church on what the leaders are like. Again we see it in articles like the Herald one. The overseer must be able to relate in a godly way with all sorts of people.
So if we need to find a replacement for Marty, would you go for a man like Peter? (*PPT) It’s not a matter of good looks, hair or not, youth group experiences, personality plus, not even a matter of having the right skills; but rather – are they godly? Do they show personal and relational godliness! That is who God wants to lead his church.
And it is important because people, inside and outside the church will be influenced by what he says or does. As an aside, it’s why the devil is so keen to see Christian leaders fall. Please pray for our leaders that they will stand, and be godly models to us – and honour them for it, and encourage them in it.
But you might say to me – Ian, I don’t need to know all this because I’m not responsible for choosing a new minister. That’s true – unless you are over 18. If that’s you then you are responsible for choosing the people who will choose the next minister. That’s part of what we do each year at our AVM – did you come along and choose nominators who were looking for this sort of person? Do you know what qualifications the nominators will look for? Do you care who they pick? Do you just trust them anyway?
Paul gives us this list of qualities so we can assess people in the way God wants, not the way we want. It’s not enough for someone to say God has called them to be a minister. They have to show it. If we see these qualities in a person, we can say God’s Spirit is at work in them, and we can expect ourselves, and the church, to grow under their leadership. And that’s what we should be wanting isn’t it?
b) Ministry leader (deacon) (3:8-13)?
When it comes to the deacons – again we’re not sure who they were, or what their exact role was. It wasn’t everyone, since only some people could be admitted, since v10 tells us they had to be tested first. It seems they are not involved in a teaching ministry, since the need to be able to teach is not mentioned.
And interesting to note – their wives are also given instructions. They too are to be worthy of respect, and not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
They are not really dissimilar from overseers are they – men who are godly in their personal lives and in their relationships with others.
I think these qualities apply also to those who are ministry leaders in our church. They have a position of responsibility within the church. They will model Christ to others. So they too need to be aiming for these qualities.
So think about Matt (*PPT) – he’s 20, wants to help lead the youth group or Oasis – what qualities does he need to have?
- Why the church (3:14-16)?
Why does all this leadership stuff matter? It’s because of what the church is. The church is not a building, it’s people. But it’s more than just a group of people. This chapter sees God’s people as God’s household. We see it there clearly in vv14-15 – READ.
The roles mentioned have to do with the care and growth of that household. Overseers and deacons must be able to manage their own households, else how on earth can they manage the household of God. But managing God’s household is an act of serving, not being served. Church leadership, church ministry, in any capacity, is about serving others, not being served. Yet the wonderful paradox of Christian ministry is that as we serve, so we ourselves grow. Want to grow as a Christian? Then get involved in a ministry.
But, not only is the church God’s household, it is the pillar and foundation of the truth. It is the place where the truth of God ought to be known and found. The truth it proclaims is none other than the truth of the gospel. The gospel which is true for every church in every age in every place. Paul calls this truth ‘the mystery of godliness’ in v16 – elsewhere when Paul uses the word mystery he is meaning God’s plans and purposes, which have now been revealed in Christ. Plans and purposes summed up by this short hymn of v16.
This is a summary of the gospel isn’t it – perhaps not quite the way you or I might put it, but this is the gospel. READ – v16. The truth is that God did appear in a body – in human flesh in Jesus; this was proven by his works done through the power of the Holy Spirit, and by his resurrection and ascension, so that we could come into relationship with God through him. He was seen by angels, he was preached among the nations, he was believed on in the world, he was taken up in glory.
And this glorious, risen, ascended Christ was with the church in Ephesus as it met. Jesus gives to the church, to his people, it’s glory and wonder. We can so easily be tempted to think of the church as daggy, ordinary, petty, unexciting and tedious. But it is the household of God, with Jesus present in its midst as it meets. The risen Jesus is with us as we meet tonight. That’s rather awesome isn’t it?
Jesus reveals God and godliness to us, so that all people might know and live in accordance with the truth. And the church, as the pillar and foundation of that truth, is to uphold and display that truth. But the church is always just one generation away from extinction. The church must guard and pass on this truth. For this truth is constantly under attack – more on that next week.
And so church leadership, at every level, matters. What leaders say, and how they live, is tremendously important. Probably moreso than you think. You need to be asking – are our leaders, proclaiming and living the truth of the gospel?
- All of us?
When you think about the qualities we’ve talked about tonight, they’re all qualities which every Christian should be aiming for aren’t they, with the possible exception of teaching the congregation?
Think about Samantha (*PPT) – she’s a new Christian, and wonders – what are Christians supposed to be like? What would you say to her?
The qualities we’ve looked at tonight are the marks of every mature Christian. Leaders aren’t uniquely godly – but they are to model to us what we should all be doing, and what we should all be growing into.
You shouldn’t say – I could never be like Marty; but rather, I do want to be like Marty – in his godliness; in his character; in his relationships; as he seeks to be more like Jesus.
You shouldn’t look through this list and say ‘Phew, I’m glad I’m not a leader, so that I don’t have to worry about all these’.
No; these verses give us an identikit picture of what a mature Christian looks like. I don’t see here any qualities which any Christian should not be aiming for. Look back at the list of qualities – (*PPT) – you can find other verses in the Bible which show that every Christian is to be like these. Except for teaching.
That is public teaching, leadership and authority. I think we are all called on to be teaching one another and encouraging one another informally. So Heb 10 says when we meet together we should spur one another on towards love and good deeds, and encourage one another in Christian living and hope. That’s a way of teaching. All Christians are to live and teach the truth. God wants leaders who want this, so that all his people will do it.
We see God in his people. Others see God in his people. What do they see? We should all be asking ourselves – how am I going as a model of godliness? Am I growing in my knowledge of the truth? Am I living it out? Let me ask you – is this the sort of person you are working at being, is this the sort of person you are praying that God will make you – after all this is the image of Christ!