Conditions of entry

Australia has a soft spot for the underdog, we are an egalitarian culture, in the same suburb, we have rich and poor. We aim for equal access to Education and Health, we speak of the Premier as Gladys and our Prime Minister as Scomo. We have a real sense that we are all equal, there is a familiarity that is attractive but in the hands of some it's an excuse for disrespect, we boo our leaders at sporting events. I liked what one African said to Australian missionaries, ‘You Australians are aggressively casual’

Paul already spoke about honouring widows and Paul now speaks about honouring church leaders. I realised that I would tell my Filo brothers and sisters to call me Ray “Yes, Pastor Ray” “No, you can call me Ray” “Yes, Pastor Ray” You see what I was doing? I was undermining their desire to honour my role, I don’t do it anymore.

Paul has 4 ways pastors and elders are to be honoured

1. Honour them by giving them a proper Honorarium.

In other words, pay them for the work they do.

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. ~1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV)

In chapter 3, leaders of the church were called overseers, here they are elders. Elders have a long-standing place in the Bible, they ruled at the town gates in the Old Testament in the church. In the New Testament, they are to direct the affairs of the church. Literally to ‘rule’ or lead, honour them, especially those who teach Gods word well. All elders must be apt to teach, but not every elder will be given over to full time preaching and Respect leads to Remuneration. You can see by what follows

For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” ~1Timothy 5:18 (NIV)

Your income should be used to bless, bless yourself, bless your family, bless the poor, bless the pastors, bless ministry partners who are overseas. 

As we think of pledging for next years church budget, you’re covering 2 out of 5 pastors and missionaries, pray now and plan how you will feed those who feed you the word of God. Paul grounds this in two places

“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” ~Deuteronomy 25:4 (NIV)

If God wants animals to be nourished from their labour then how much more should pastor elders be nourished from their ministry. When an ox is treading grain God want it unmuzzled and allowed to eat from grain it is crushing. The Aussie version is the person cooking the BBQ can eat some of the sausages while he is cooking

The second quote is from Jesus instruction to the 72

The worker deserves his wage. ~Luke 10:7 (NIV)

We know it's true on the factory floor or the office, just as true in the church and on the mission field. Feed those who feed your faith, when we do, we are partnered with them in the work.

Talking to one of our OMP (Overseas Missionary Partners) in Malta, our giving means we are partnered together in their work, I thank God for how for 30 years at MBM He has inspired so many generous hearts to give to the work of MBM and beyond.

We leaders are to lead from the front, last year the Staff and Deacons covered 13% of the budget

2. Protect them from false accusation

Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. ~1 Timothy 5:19 (NIV)

The Old Testament principle is clear, one testimony is not sufficient to convict a person in court. This principle protects elders from those who slander leaders, they wanted to attack the message by attacking the messenger.

I remember asking one woman to join us on staff and she said

“Thanks, Ray but I don’t want a target on my back.” She knew that when you are in public office you are open to criticism. I remember in the early days of MBM someone going around saying false statements. I realised early on I just had to trust the congregation. It's why this Proverb is on the wall of our office:

In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines. ~Proverbs 18:17 (NIV)

In other words, we don’t take things at face value, the exception is in a situation of abuse where a process is triggered that protects all parties, beginning with the victims

Honour elders

To protect the office of elders from ungodly elders

But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. ~1Timothy 5:20 (NIV)

Elders who sin and don’t repent need to be dealt with publicly. Elders who sin grievously need to step down, their sin is to be named before everyone. This functions as both a warning to other elders and it guards the office of elders, it guards the church and it guards the gospel, otherwise, we have nothing to say to the world.

Imagine turning up one Sunday to be told, from a written statement, that one of the pastors, or youth or kids worker, has committed adultery, and is being stepped down, what is worse is when they are not stepped down. Please pray we will not have to. So, Paul ratchets up the command

I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism. ~1Timothy 5:21 (NIV)

That is one serious warning! Don’t let your friendship or their wealth, power or influence blind you to the sin of an elder for we are to give an account before God himself and Lord Jesus.

Honour the elders by not making a quick decision

Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. ~1 Timothy 5:22 (NIV)

Resist the urge to appoint an elder quickly. We were told something similar in chapter 3, don’t appoint young Christians as elders or they fall into the trap of the devil which is pride. Don’t be impressed by gifts and ignore character, when that happens all the elders share in their sin. Note the wisdom of not being hasty

The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. ~1 Timothy 5:24 (NIV)

Give yourself enough time to watch and wait, let them be tried and tested, faithful in small things before we give them bigger things. As the song goes ‘From little things, big things grow’ 

Time has a way of bringing issues to the surface, the sins of some are already waiting to be used against them on the day of the Lord. But if you wait, the sins of others will follow a person and in time will catch up with them. Discover they are living a double life, abuse in the home, addiction issues or just can’t take feedback and if you wait it may become clear that they are not fit for an elder.

In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever. ~1 Timothy 5:25 (NIV)

We are to do our good works for our Father to see but the reality is, most good works don’t stay hidden. Person x cares for person y, that doesn’t stay a secret for too long, at staff meetings we often celebrate stories and that is good gossip!

And those good works will also be waiting on the Day of the Lord, to be rewarded. In the meantime watch and wait. One person who has been tried and tested is Rahul Dougal, he has been appointed Deacon for the Parramatta campus, it’s a slow process but it’s worth it. 

In the middle of all this after Paul says “Keep yourself pure”

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. ~1 Timothy 5:23 (NIV)

My guess is that some of the elders were false teachers, claiming that wine was unclean. Paul is saying elders are not to get drunk but they can drink some wine, especially if it helps the stomach. 

Notice that Timothy was often sick. So much for the prosperity doctrine - Come to Jesus and he will give health and wealth. Paul is NOT saying “Tim your often sick because you have sin in your life you need to repent.” He doesn't say “Tim you’re often sick because you don’t have enough faith” “Tim, Jesus is the same yesterday today or tomorrow, He healed then and he can heal now” “You must not have the anointing of the Spirit”

No, he says ‘You’re often sick so take a Panadol’ in this case, drink some wine. He encourages him to use wine medicinally.

Agree or disagree about a particular vaccine. But when I saw that sign “Jesus is my vaccine” in an illegal protest, that is just bad theology. Claiming that faith in Jesus mean you won't have COVID is woeful and makes Jesus look bad. 

But for what it’s worth, if I were to give a REPORT CARD, as one of the elders, MBM you’re doing a great job because we Elders feel honoured by you. We all have a bad day, but I truly thank God for how you journey with us as leaders. It's not easy being a leader, it’s not easy being a member of a church. 

There are hard days before us, the fear of Vaccination Passports is real, the Archbishop has pushed hard with the government for No Vaccination passports, whatever happens, we are pastors for the whole church, both for and against vaccination. I want to stress that the church of God must hold together in the face of these challenges. It’s easy to have churches filled with one side of politics, one side of vaccination, one ethnic group. The world is filled with ‘like-minded’ groups, no miracle there, but what makes the church really different from the world is the blood-bought unity of Christ. Having very different people united by the Spirit of God.

When we look back after we are over the worst of COVID, we will rejoice that we managed to genuinely love each other with different views. For one reason, we share one Father who did not withhold his only Son. Through it all, we pastors count it an honour to lead MBM, and it’s a joy because of your encouragement and prayer and respect. Honour your Widows, Honour your Elders, Honour your Masters.

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves. ~1Timothy 6:1-2 (NIV)

Why didn't Paul dismantle slavery? In lockdown, we are all battling with our rights being infringed but remember, slaves had no rights, Paul calls on slaves to escape NO to obey masters. Worse, if they had masters who are Christians, then serve even better, not worse. Remember, slavery wasn’t tied to one race as in US with only African-Caribbean. In fact, nearly all cultures have enslaved people, the first century there were different kind of slaves, some were enslaved by kidnapping and war, others were enslaved because of owing a debt. Slaves could be teachers and doctors, slaves could be adopted into a family. 30% of Romans empire were slaves, the economy was built on it.

So why doesn’t Paul tell Christian masters to release their slaves? You can see that the seeds of dismantling slavery in the New Testament, 

And yet Paul calls on slaves to obey masters. Why? We rightly apply this to our bosses and we need to be seen as respectful in our workplace. Bagging out your boss is not what Christians do, but we get to leave - slaves don’t. So why wouldn’t Paul immediately dismantle this wicked institution? He is working to a higher principle.

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. ~1Timothy 6:1-2 (NIV)

Reform will come but in the meantime Paul was jealous for God's name and the gospel to save the lost. So, the call to slaves is clear, be a good slave and make Jesus look good, be a good worker and make Jesus look good, be a good manager/boss and make Jesus look good. 

So, I ask you is God's name and the good news of our Lord Jesus being slandered by how you carry yourself in this season of COVID? The real issue is not whether you took the jab or not it's whether you made Jesus look good. 

Over the years we have had people come to Church and they notice someone from their work and awkwardly says, “I would never have thought they were Christian.” Equally, we have visitors come to church because they were so impressed by someone at work who claimed to follow Christ and wanted to know more - they made Jesus look good.

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