Thursday, April 24, 2014

Character to lead - 1st Timothy 3:2-7

"An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 3:2-7)
Character is one of the chief identifiers of a person's qualification to lead. Today, we tend to under valuate character in a person's life. Many church leaders are the product of seminaries whose main focus is the education of christian leaders. However, education can never replace the need for character. A person may know the things of the Kingdom but not exhibit the things of the Kingdom in and through their lives. The adoption of character in an attempt to be like Christ is a process that takes time; time knowing and walking with God. Jeremiah, speaking of the kings, said, "'Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?' Declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 22:15-16) In other words, to know God is to be like God. The more we come to know God the more we become like Him. This is a process that often takes longer than four years of seminary. Ignatius writes of Onesimus, Bishop of Ephesus, "Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love." (Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 1) Oh, that this might be said about us and those we choose to lead the church today.

Some translations speak of one who "rules" his household well. The Greek word used here also means to superintend or preside over. In fact, in some early church, the leader of the church was simply called the President of the assembly, as one who presided over their meetings. This word is of a different sense from the classical idea of rule where a sovereign king rules over his dominion and dispenses his personal will and justice as he sees fit. This term applies more to the function of an overseer or manager who watches what goes on under him and provides guidance, help, correction, and leadership as required. He is the one who orchestrates activities so that each member is free to function at peak performance and according to their unique function and purpose. Some men, accepting that they are the head of their household, seek to make all the decisions and hold all the authority in the home. However, this is not what God intended for the family nor for His church.

Finally, an elder aught to be "apt to teach." I knew an elder who once said he was "apt to do just about anything!" It is interesting that the only ministry qualification that Paul describes is teaching. There are many gifted men and even many men of power, but Paul is looking for elders who can convey the things of the Kingdom to people in a way they can understand and apply them to their lives. This is more than just teaching on a Sunday morning; it is also meeting one-on-one with people to instruct them and lead then in the way they should live. It is counseling people as to the truth of the Kingdom and how that truth can set them free and deliver them from the problems they are facing. It is an ability to not only explain the Kingdom of God but also make it real in a way that people can incorporate it into their lives. James write that we might "humility receive the word implanted." (James 1:21) This is the ministry of a teacher, to implant the Word of God into willing human hearts.

David Robison

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