By: Raymond Harris
Contributor: Joe Pitman
Regarding Scripture: First Timothy 3.1-7
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of First Timothy in conjunction with this article.
The Church and Leadership
Generally, as we begin a new month we begin examining a new Bible book. However, this month we are delayed by one week so we will begin, LORD willing, our study of Second Timothy next week. So I ask the reader to please join in that reading and study in one week. This week, we will continue with a final look at First Timothy.
Again, each of our shepherds have been asked to provide some ideas as to what they find interesting and noteworthy for examination in our articles. As we continue our examination of First Timothy, this week’s suggestion comes from our Elder, Joe Pitman. Brother Pitman suggested that we spend a few moments looking at the first seven verses of chapter three. Being that no other items were suggested from chapter three, we will spend a brief period looking at this passage about bishops/overseers.
Leadership in General
Leadership style, leadership ability, and leadership quality seem to be topics of recurring discussion. The requirements of managing and the overseeing various aspects and details, coupled – it seems with everything else essential to management – affects the whole of leadership. Nationalistically, leadership organizations can be identified from democratic republics to dictatorships. Some seem convinced and therefore contend that anarchy would resolve leadership issues, but ironically and perhaps tragically, anarchy is anything but leadership-less. With so much at stake, it is no small wonder that leadership and the skills that go with it are always under scrutiny.
There are many people throughout history who have taken on the mantle of leadership. Some seem incapable; most seem perhaps adequate to the task, but it is the rare few who truly are exceptional. It matters not the social, educational, national or spiritual circles, experience tells us that leadership matters. But the leadership we are specifically focused on concerns the church, the assembly built by Jesus.1
Leadership in the Church
The church, just like any other organization, requires leadership. And like anything else, leadership can leave the people wanting. But if the church is different in any way, it seems to be the seriousness taken by living spiritually true before God. Because of this seriousness, Paul is serious when discussing leadership qualities. While volumes have been filled regarding the meaning of the seven short verses and their associated information found in Paul’s epistle to Titus,2 we will only a take a brief overlook at them.
Consider these thoughts about Church leadership from Paul to Timothy:
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.3
As we consider Paul’s thoughts, if we were to consider a single word – used by Paul himself – that describes the church leadership, perhaps it is the word blameless. While it is possible modern disciples could spend much time discussing and disagreeing, it seems a truism remains: God wants blameless leaders. Reality being what it is, in some areas church leaders can be ineffective, adequate to the task, or truly exceptional. It also seems fair to state that every church wants to be exceptional and therefore wants an exceptional leadership.
There is much that church leadership is required to do. The leadership is obligated to cover areas from teaching scriptural truth to guiding individuals through valleys of despair. If Paul’s description could be summed in one statement, Paul seems to describe leaders who are selfless spiritually mature servants – what an exceptional description of exceptional leaders, regardless of their overall achievements.
Leadership in Review
Interestingly enough, it is possible that the leadership can meet the verses description, but for some reason the church can feel that there could be more. And a church has a proper expectation that there can be more. Greater love. Further truth. Additional growth. Simply stated: more, More, More!
As we close, let us consider some thoughts from Elder Pitman:
Often we get bogged down in the particulars of the qualification forest and become tree trimmers.
We consider the fine points. Is one wife, one wife at a time? Or is it one wife forever? Does one child equal children? Does desire equal want to? Or does sees the need become sufficient desire?
It seems possible that some of the officials appointed in “every church” were less than perfect. With that it seems possible that those leaders were the only ones available, or the best the church could do at the time. If there is one thing we should not be lacking, it is constantly assessing “is this the best we can do” right now? Perhaps “the best we can do” requires fresh blood and talent from decade to decade or even era to era.
Additionally, we should keep in mind that the forest of qualifications speaks to a leader’s well roundedness, his fatherliness or perhaps his being a benevolent community organizer.
The leadership of the church is rightly an issue for all involved in the church. The leadership provides more than just guidance it also provides examples. While we live in a country that is unfettered with free speech and personal opinion, may we as the church recall and remember that all authority – including church authority – is appointed by God.4 While it is possible that disciples can be more excited about and more excited for the exceptional leaders, disciples should be just as appreciative of the non-exceptional leadership (this is not to be read as a reflection or commentary on our leadership). The leadership and the church are called by God to do the best they can with what they have, it is our Father who makes all things possible,5 not the church and not the leadership. May the LORD bless us as we want and seek to become more.
1. “The church, the assembly built by Jesus.” Matthew 16.18, NASB.
2. “Leadership Text in Titus.” Titus 1.5-16, NASB.
3. “Paul’s Teaching on Church Leadership.” First Timothy 3.1-7, KJV.
4. “All Authority is by God.” Romans 13.1, NASB.
5. “God makes all things possible.” Matthew 19.26, NASB.