Saturday, March 12, 2011

Choosing a Good Leader

While awaiting execution by beheading, Paul wrote two epistles to his protégé Timothy and one to his protégée Titus, to give them instructions on church government. The only leadership positions in the church appointed in the Scriptures is that of bishop and deacon. Congregations today should follow the Scriptural guidance given by God through Paul in choosing a Spirit-filled leader. Political and financial connections and/or considerations are not qualifying factors. This lesson will summarize I Timothy 3:1-13.

Paul began by acknowledging that from time to time, men actually desire the office of bishop. Bishop in Greek is episcopos which translates into English as “overseer” or “pastor”. Also the word “elder” is translated from the word “bishop” and is sometimes used to describe an older man, not necessarily the leader, who has pastoral duties in the local church. A bishop is appointed by the Holy Spirit by placing it upon his heart that this is his mission in life (Acts 20:28). The man does not campaign for the position and it is not possible for the people to vote on what God has already declared. The man must declare he is willing to do the good work for God. It is not just a position; it is a good work. ‘For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ, Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive…’ (Ephesians 4:12-14).

Paul believed it necessary to teach the qualifications of a bishop so as not to bring unwarranted humiliation upon the church due to faulty leadership. The bishop must be blameless. There must be no scandals or serious wrongs that can be charged against him. It does not mean that he is without fault, but that he is able to make it right with God and man. He is the husband of one wife. There are many interpretations, but I choose the one that simply states he is not a bigamist and his moral life must be above question. A bishop is vigilant, watchful, and alert over himself and the Lord’s flock against the adversary, Satan. He is the undershepard over the church flock for the Lord is the Shepard. A bishop must be of a sober mind. He is not giddy or frivolous, but moderate and serious in all his actions. He must be of good behavior, composed, and not vain. A bishop is given to be hospitable and apt to teach. He must be willing to entertain strangers, saved and unsaved, and ready to communicate the Word of God at all times. A bishop is not a drunkard nor is he violent. He must not be greedy for money (filthy lucre). The love of money will bear evil fruit. A bishop is patient, gentle, not a brawler nor quarrelsome. He is even-tempered and able to govern his tongue. A bishop does not covet. He must be concerned with the spiritual life of the people of God and refuse to be distracted by a strong desire for material things. God will supply his needs and desires. The bishop rules his own house well, keeping his family in order as an example to other families. If he is unable to rule his house, which is smaller, how can he take care of the church of God? The bishop must not be a novice. A novice would easily fall within the temptations of Satan and could easily be lifted up in pride. He must have been in the Christian religion for sometime to know how to thwart the darts of the enemy. Further, he must have a good reputation in the community among the saved and unsaved neighbors to avoid the traps of Satan. (cf I Titus 1:6-9)

Paul also believed it necessary to teach the requirements for the office of deacon. Many times we think of the word deacon as a title instead of its true intent – that of being a function. Deacons take care of the temporal concerns of the church, for example, the maintenance of the ministers and provision of the poor. Deacons serve tables while the bishops give themselves only to the spiritual ministry and prayer. Deacons are humble servants. Many of the qualifications required of bishops are required of deacons, also. They must be dignified and deserving of respect. They must not be double-tongued, giving conflicting reports according to their conflicting interests. Deacons must not be drunkards nor should they be greedy for money. Deacons handle the purse of the local church and a lust for money is a temptation that will cause them to easily fall within the snares of Satan. The deacons are to know the mystery of the Christian faith which was a secret in the Old Testament period. They must be sound in their knowledge of pure biblical doctrine. They must not only know it, they must live and breathe it. The deacons must be proven. They must be tested before they serve in the office of deacons. Deacons must be of good character and are not to be ordained too quickly. In other words, there must be a probationary period. The deacons’ wives must be of reputable character also. Finally, Paul gave an assurance that those deacons who met their criteria and acted upon them would grow in their faith in Christ.

Written by Deborah Davis

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