I spoke to a former elder of a large church with a gifted lead pastor, the pastor was asked to be stepped down for multiple
charges of bullying. I said to this elder “How did you guys let it happen for so long” “Ray we fell for the classic mistake. We were so impressed by his gifts we ignored his significant character defects”
It’s a rookie mistake, 101 Christianity, when the gifts of the Spirit outrank the fruit of the Spirit, when that happens the church is in serious trouble and its not as if we were not told.
1 Timothy 3 tells us what God expects of church leaders, be they Elders or Deacons. Whether it's for those who serve in word or deed ministry. God doesn’t allow us to come up with our own list: Smart, good looks and a great sense of humour are not on his agenda. This list tells us a lot about our God and what matters to him. Remember the purpose of the letter.
if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. ~1Timothy 3:15 (NIV)
The church of the living God is NOT built and held up by bricks and concrete but by the truth of God. The church is to hold up and hold out the truth of God. God has placed his Word in the hands of the church to steward. Especially by those whose walk and talk line up
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. ~1 Timothy 3:1 (NIV)
In the New Testament, a church leader can be called Elder, Overseer, Leader, or Pastor but never a Priest. When the gospel is preached, people are saved, Churches are formed
and Elders are appointed. In a real sense, the appointment of an oversee or elder is the application of the principle in 1Timothy 2. Where teaching and authority over the whole church is reserved for male elders to teach and direct the affairs of the church. The first thing you notice is that its not wrong to want to be a church leader - it’s a good desire
I remember reading this as a young Christian and being surprised. God gives permission to ask him for the opportunity to preach and pastor his people. To be sure, God won't call you without letting others know as well. It's a good desire because it is a good work. What greater privilege is there than to present God's church to Jesus on the last day, holy and blameless.
Now if we are all called to submit to elders - then what kind of elders are we called to submit to. The great relief is that CHARACTER is God's main focus. Before you teach it you have to be it. Leaders are called to watch both their life and not just their doctrine. We are saved by grace but we are appointed based on faithfulness.
There are 11 qualities mentioned, notice: What is required of the leader is what is required of every true Christian
As Don Carson once said, “It's remarkable how unremarkable is this list.”
Don’t get drunk and don’t punch anyone in the face, it’s a checklist for every Christian, male or female. Leadership is about character, even the world starting to wake up to this truth.
Now the overseer is to be above reproach ~1 Timothy 3:2 (NIV)
Above reproach is blameless, not sinless, otherwise only Jesus could apply for the job. Above accusation, ours is a public role with public accountability, the more authority the higher the expectations. You have a right to look at my life.
There are 4 areas of being above reproach
In relation to family
Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, ~1 Timothy 3:2 (NIV)
Literally to be a one-woman man, it's not saying everyone else can have 2 wives, the point is that he must be faithful to his bride before he can be entrusted with the bride of Christ. This does not forbid single men from being elders, Timothy and Paul seemed to be single. It is a mystery how the Catholic church still requires priests to be single and celebrate. Presidents and Prime Ministers may keep their job if they have affairs but not Pastors and Evangelists, forgiven, yes but not re-instated.
We are not running a government, it is the church of the living God that Jesus builds - upholding the truth by our teaching and by our life
He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) ~1 Timothy 3:4-5 (NIV)
Fathers are to see to it that children obey them, a father who doesn’t discipline their children doesn’t love them. A Pastor who won't discipline the church of God doesn’t love them. It can be hard when kids get older, I remember when the same Don Carson spoke about bringing up teenagers, our rule was simple
“We never tolerated sass and disrespect but pretty much everything else was negotiable”
Interestingly, they are not to see to it that their wives submit, that is the choice of the wife, between her and God. And Fathers are to behave and be worthy of respect. Before I need to be gentle with the congregation, I need to be gentle with my kids. The principle is clear, if you can't care for your family how can you care for Gods church?
I said to my kids when they were very young “You have the most power at church. If I don’t treat you properly then I have to step down from being a pastor.” That was good for them to hear and me to know.
I remember preaching one Sunday on what God requires of fathers, a new person found out he was sitting next to my daughter, Maddy, his first question was ‘What is Dad like at home?’ Right question…I pay her $50 to give the right answer(Joking).
I was talking to my nephew who had become a suffi Muslim.
He was saying how his Sheik mentor had been divorced 3 times, I said ‘that's interesting, the qualification of an elder in a church is how you conduct your marriage and family. If you can't manage your own family, how can you manage the family of God.’ My other nephew who is not a Christian said 'That makes sense…' Above reproach in relation to family and in relation to oneself. Who is the hardest person to lead? - it's you
…temperate, self-controlled, respectable,… not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money… ~1Timothy 3:2-3 (NIV)
Self-control is the last of the fruit of the Spirit, Self-control so that in your anger you do not sin, in conflict you don’t bully and with your money you are generous. At MBM every Elder and Deacon agrees to at least tithe their income, you can't lead others if you can't lead yourself.
Above reproach, in relation to family, in relation to oneself and in relation to outsiders
…hospitable… ~1 Timothy 3:3 (NIV)
An elder welcomes the stranger, each pastor must have the welcoming face of God to the outsider. More than that he…
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. ~1Timothy 3:7 (NIV)
I break up this list in 1 Timothy over a week and reflect on the different aspects for my time of confession. Next to this one I put the name of a real estate agent, a lovely muslim man, Azzam, who I had to apologise to for speaking with a demanding tone. I dishonoured my saviour before a watching world, which is exactly what the devil wanted.
Above reproach with family, with oneself and with outsiders, hence the warning to not give this role to those who have NOT been tried and tested.
He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. ~1Timothy 3:6 (NIV)
It's unfair on newish Christians to give them too much too quickly. Pride is not far from anyone but a new Christian has not had the chance to be tried and tested. The one gift requirement on this list - He apt to teach.
…hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, ~1Timothy 3:2b-3a (NIV)
What I love is that its tucked in there between being hospitable and not getting drunk, Paul's LAST WORDS to Timothy and Elders before he died.
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction ~2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)
Elders need to teach correctly in the face of false teaching.
You saw me do that last week, many of you thanked me for siding with God. Good shepherds love the sheep by feeding the sheep, the whole counsel of God and not just parts of it.
People ask who are our elders? Our M pastors serve as elders: Mark, Dan, Rob, Pre, Bruce and myself, together we direct the affairs of the church. We are a church that does team pastoring, its why I always introduce myself as one of the pastors of MBM, I too submit to the collective will of the elders.
If the elders focus on leading, teaching and prayer the deacons serve the church in good works which free up elders to do their work - see Acts 6
In our tradition Deacons watch over finances, building, OHS, as well as release funds to assist with those in need. The work of deaconate is carried on by many who care for the needs of Gods people. I am so glad for the leadership at MBM. Elders and Deacons both, are called to be above reproach, both called to hold to onto the word of God but only the elders are required to be gifted in teaching. Although all our Deacons at MBM run bible studies.
They (Deacons) must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. ~1 Timothy 3:9 (NIV)
We are in the process of interviewing a new deacon for Parramatta, he has been tried and tested and found faithful, he will be interviewed at the next Deacons meeting. If accepted, we will present his name to the church. It appears that deacons are not reserved for just men
In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. ~1Timothy 3:11 (NIV)
Phoebe in Romans 16 is called to be a deacon. We do want women to be part of the Deacon board, let me know if you want to be considered for the roles.
Paul says to Timothy
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~1 Timothy 4:16 (NIV)
Friends a lot is at stake, nothing less than the salvation of the world. The way the church of the living God upholds the truth is not just by teaching the truth but by living out the truth. The key to godliness is the good news of our Lord Jesus.
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. ~1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)
While the false teacher wasted everyone's time with myths. Paul is saying the mystery of godliness is no longer a MYSTERY and its never a MYTH. Its all about Jesus, who humbled himself and came in the human flesh, who was raised by the Spirit, proving he was the Son of God. Witnessed by messenger both apostles and angels. Not just preached among the nations, but believed on in the world. Gods word will not return empty.
We may be on lockdown but we had 35 people at Explaining Christianity on Tuesday. For this Jesus may have come in humility but was taken up in of glory. One day he will come to judge the living and the dead, He will come to judge MBM, He will judge its leaders and its people.
What you think of me is one thing, what Jesus thinks of me is another. What do you think is our churches great need?
Robert Murray McCheyne was right “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness”
Oh the damage that is done to the gospel when leaders fall.
That list of fallen leaders is long and getting longer. The list of people who have fallen away because of fallen leaders is longer still. So I plead with you…pray weekly for us pastors, and deacons. Pray for the staff, Growth Group leaders, youth leaders, children's leaders, our overseas ministry partners. Not one leader I know feels they are up to the task. Satans main target for every pastor is his family.
But also pray that God would raise up a new generation of Leaders. Brothers, pray that you would consider this noble task.
Brothers, this is not just a good prayer, it is an urgent need. We have, at the moment, 25 vacant churches in Sydney Anglican diocese alone. We are needing godly men to consider this office, start by taking the next step of serving. By application we constantly are looking for men and women to STEP UP to serve and lead in ministries
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. ~Acts 20:28 (NIV)
Please Raise up godly elders and deacons from among us who will love the church by loving the truth, proclaiming the truth and live by the truth.
Thank you for the many men and women who lead at all levels of ministry at MBM.
May we seek to encouraging them so that their work may be a joy for them. In Jesus Name Amen.