Although good churches should be built on the grace of God, the moment you step into church leadership there are expectations of character. Otherwise the church will implode. For the next few weeks, we will examine the qualifications for eldership as outlined by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3.
Now remember – only Jesus Christ appoints pastors, but pastors (like Timothy) appoint elders. We can see this from 1 Timothy 3.1: The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (ESV). You see you can aspire to the office of overseer and elder. You can desire it and want to do it, and if so you desire something good!
Being an elder means being an overseer – you have to look after people. In Tree of Life, our elders run house groups – once a week they gather people in their houses and love them, study the Word with them, care about them and show grace to them and pray with them. That is looking after people! We call these groups Living Churches as they are part of the church and these meetings are church as much as our celebration services over the weekend. It’s not glamorous, but it is a noble task! It makes disciples, it helps people, it changes lives.
But to do this task of making disciples you need not just gifting but character. Here Paul explains to Timothy what to look for:
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (1 Tim. 3.2)
Overseer (bishop in the KJV) and elder are synonyms. They mean the same thing: you cannot be an elder if you are not overseeing people.
An elder must be above reproach. This is Paul’s starting point. What does it mean?
In the Greek it literally means “cannot be grabbed hold of” – it means to be a Teflon man – nothing sticks. Whoever you are, you will upset someone at some point and the minute you are in a position of leadership it’s even more likely to happen! Someone will always complain and moan about a leader – it happened to Moses, it happened to Jesus, it happened to Paul and it will happen to every leader in the church.
That’s why a leader has to be a Teflon man – firstly people don’t spread the complaint because they know there’s no foundation to it. If someone lies about you, no-one believes it because they can see your heart.
And secondly, you are someone who doesn’t let accusations stick to them: you don’t hold a grudge, get bitter or offended. You know that if they persecuted the Master, they will persecute you and you just love them and bless them.
Any other result and you are not going to be a good elder or leader.
Next week, we will keep doing down this line and look at the rest of these qualification.
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