Pastors and Elders XI: The Requirements for an Elder (part VIII)

The first requirement for elders given in 1 Timothy 3.3 is that they are not given to wine.  Now those of you who follow this series will know that we have already found out in 1 Timothy 3.2 that elders should not be drunk and should be sober, so is Paul repeating himself?

Well, it could be that as sobriety is a very important character trait for elders and leaders.  However, if we look at the Greek word that is translated “given to wine” here it is “paroions” which comes from two words “para” and “oinos”.  Para means given to, and “oinos” is the Greek word for wine.

So you can see why the translators would translate this word “given to wine”, it is what it literally means.  However, the origin of a word cannot always be used to tell you what it means, and the components of a word cannot always tell you what it means (for example a butterfly is not butter or a fly!).

So, by digging into the Greek culture that Paul was immersed in and writing to, we find out that this one word “paroinos” was used firstly to describe people who got drunk a great deal.  Then its usage came to mean the kind of drunk who was a fighter.  You know some people get drunk and sad, others get drunk and glad, others get drunk and mad.  Well, paroinos became the word people used for those who get drunk and mad – those who would fight at the drop of a hat, those who would fight battles over nothing, over imagined slights; those who would get involved in battles that were none of their business.  Eventually over time the word was used for people who were always angry and always ready to fight, whether or not wine was the cause of this aggression and rage.  It would describe the men who would physically abuse their wives, it would describe the men who were always fighting and brawling; in inappropriate places for inappropriate reasons.  It was particularly used for men who didn’t have a high opinion of women as well.

And this is vital: don’t appoint a brawler to your leadership team.  You may think that you can work around it – you can’t!  These guidelines are given to Timothy for a reason – if you appoint people who are brawlers it won’t work.

And it doesn’t have to be physically fighting.  You know the kind of people who are always at the centre of every drama, are always quick to give their opinion on anything, who want to challenge everything and anything.  The problem with criticizing everything is that when you do have a valid criticism no one listens.  You do not want a leadership team where people are afraid to speak because they know the same person is going to fight them on their opinion.  You do not want a leadership team where there is drama.  You cannot keep drama out of a church – a healthy church should be adding new people, inspiring people and challenging people – so it inherently creates drama.  But you can keep drama out of your leadership team by refusing to appoint brawlers.

And don’t appoint sexists to your leadership team – of the male or female kind.  If someone is critical of people just because of their gender (or race or nationality) then that kind of bias will not lead to healthy leadership teams or healthy leadership.

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Be Bold!

When Paul asked people to pray for him he asked them to pray that he would have boldness to preach the gospel (Ephesians 6.19-20).

That word “boldness” doesn’t mean yelling and screaming and sliding around – though there’s nothing wrong with a preacher doing that as long as you don’t mistake *that* for the anointing and the power of God.  The word “boldness” means to be honest and confident in what you are saying.

That’s what our generation needs – preachers who are honest and open about what they are saying.  People who are not just imparting doctrine, but teaching life that not just gives people truth but shows and reveals how those truths are worked out in life.  Not just teaching, but making disciples.

We need apostles who are planting churches openly – not stealing bricks from another man’s building to do so, not sneaking into other churches like wolves among sheep to rip people to pieces to get them in their church.  We need people who are going where they are sent and trusting God for the increase.

We need prophets who are upbuilding local churches, not cursing them.  Anyone can look at a valley of dead bones and go “thus saith the Lord, you are a bunch of dead, dry bones with no life and no spirit”.  But we need the prophets who stand up and say “Live!  Be filled with the Spirit!  Let bone connect with bone, let flesh appear, let life be!”

We need evangelists who are working with local churches not outside them.  We need people who are honest about their gospel, not relying on sales techniques, but the power and life of the Holy Spirit.

We need teachers who are teaching the Word not just to provoke and divide but to bring life and stability to people. Confident enough in their truths that they do not have to speak against other teachers and teachings to get their revelations to people.

And finally we need pastors who are bold.  Honest with their people about their walk.  More concerned about the dreams of others coming true, than using others as slaves to build their pyramids of prestige and power.

Let’s pray for every minister we know – pray for boldness.  Pray for them to be open and honest and real about the power that is in them.  So we may be equipped and furnished and mature.