- The Explore the Bible lesson for June 16 focuses on 1 Timothy 3:1-13.
Start with the end in mind. If I want a project completed with specific accomplishments, I must proceed according to an established standard of quality. There are specific tasks and activities I must pursue.
Similarly, if I want to hear my Lord say, “well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21), I must proceed living a godly life. The Bible is God’s standard of quality to guide our lives. God’s word shares what we must do now to hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
If we want to be an example for others to follow and leaders of good character, we have his instructions—the Bible—to guide us. How should we prepare for church leadership? The Apostle Paul, in this first letter to Timothy, provides instructions about administration of the church. In this third chapter, he provides qualifications for overseers and deacons—church leadership.
Lead by example (1 Timothy 3:1-4)
I love how the Lord lets us know, at the beginning of this passage, it is noble—a good thing—to desire church leadership. Godly leaders are needed to lead healthy churches; however, there are some prerequisites. There are some social, moral and ethical standards of living we must pursue and attain prior to leadership. Along with being a good person having a pastor’s heart, a leader must be faithful, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, responsible to study God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15) and able “to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2).
Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. Paul notes the above godly mental and moral characteristics leaders must possess, as well as some characteristics not becoming of a church leader—“drunkenness, violent, quarrelsome and a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:3). An aspiring church leader also must manage his own family, according to Paul, and manage it well. If I can manage one family—my family—I’m in a better position to oversee and lead many families. Church members are likely to support and uphold a pastor who sets the example of leading and managing his own family well.
What does it look like to lead and manage one’s own family well? What role could God be calling each of us to?
Don’t despise small things (1 Timothy 3:5-13)
Growing up I heard my grandmother use many “sayings” to get her thoughts across; for instance, “don’t accept wooden nickels.” In other words, if it sounds to good to be real, it probably is not real. These sayings encourage us to think in a way we had not previously considered. Likewise, Scripture has a godly way of helping us to see a situation, person or event through biblical truths.
Many individuals are incredibly talented and gifted, especially those in the household of faith. Yet, the next set of Scriptures seemingly make our talents and gifts second to seeing good in the small, valuing our reputation, considering our character, holding tight to the truth, being faithful and committed, being friendly and showing ourselves worthy. If we are to be deacons in the church, we must maintain a moral standard of living.
“Who dare despise the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10)? Yes, managing one’s own family may seem small, in context and quantity, yet Paul asks, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” So, do not despise what seems like small beginnings. In God’s perspective and biblical truth, it is huge.
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“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). It is not that an aspiring leader is not ready and desiring a noble task; it is that God knows the best timing, he sees the bigger picture and he knows what good and bad awaits an aspiring church leader around the corner. Paul warns against recent converts becoming church leaders. There is the chance he or she “become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).
A good reputation is worth its weigh in gold (Proverbs 22:1). Knowledge will give a leader power, but character will gain him/her respect. Truth is like the sun; it is bright, clear and available to and for all. In all their ways Paul encourage church leaders to value their reputation—character—because it garners respect and the truth.
Further, he highlights it is not leaders’ passion, talents and energy but their faithful and steadfast commitment to Christ that propels them to church leadership. It is their ability and their spouses’ ability to show themselves friendly that is important—“worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy” (1 Timothy 3:11). When we live in this way—respectful, temperate and trustworthy, we bring honor to God.
How can each of us bring honor to God with our everyday living?
In conclusion, if we are to hear “well done, my good and faithful servant” or to gain “excellent standing” (1 Timothy 3:13), God’s word says for a second time in this passage, a church leader must be “faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well” (1 Timothy 3:12). The Lord has spoken. Let us all heed his instructions.
Prayer: Lord, help us to live by your instructions and set the example. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve and will not take it lightly. Amen
Lisa M. Rainey, PhD., is a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas.