Good Church Leadership   
1 Timothy 3:1-13
By Paul Robison

There are at least four modern types of leadership.  Some leaders are dictatorial; they see themselves calling all the shots all alone.  Some leaders are numerical; they see their followers calling most of the shots through voting.  Some leaders are situational; they let the circumstances determine which course of action he and his followers will take.  The fourth type is called transitional; this leader transforms his followers by: communicating a vision, establishing clear goals, setting a good example, expecting the best from all, encouraging and supporting all, recognizing good work, helping all to see the group’s best interest, and inspiring all through his integrity.  So remember these modern types: dictatorial, numerical, situational, transitional.
 
You will recall from previous sermons how we’ve seen that the church in Ephesus, in 1 Timothy, is in chaos.  Paul’s earlier prediction that there would be elders who would lead others away from the Gospel to follow false teaching and to gain a following has come true.  Church leaders like Hymenaeus and Alexander had shipwrecked their faith, and they were twisting Old Testament texts to lead others astray.  Yes, Timothy had a difficult situation.  We've seen how Paul skips his usual prayer and gets right down to business ordering Timothy to tell members not to teach another gospel and not to get caught up in the heretics' falsehoods and idle talk (1:3-11).  Then we saw how Paul uses himself as Exhibit A to say that if Jesus could save him, He could save everybody who repents.  The heretic's are claiming that they really have the 'inside story' and it involves a special knowledge that only a few can possess (6:20-21).  Then Timothy was encouraged to wage the good warfare as he lived up to his appointed task to be the evangelist and to avoid the heretics.  In chapter 2, Paul instructs the members to combat the heretics with a peaceful, evangelistic, and spiritual lifestyle.  Paul then explains how Christian women can contribute both negatively and positively to the church.  This brings us now to chapter 3.  Another safeguard for the church in Ephesus against the false teachers will be having good church leadership.  So Paul spells out in detail the qualifications of both elders and deacons.  A Gospel preacher about 70 years ago made this observation: "Any group of men who are vested with the authority to oversee a congregation of saints must be qualified in heart and life to perform such responsible work. Too little attention has been paid to the qualifications of elders.  The elders themselves have neglected these qualifications, and the congregations have oftentimes ignored them. ... The qualifications as given in the New Testament must not be ignored" (Miller quoting Boles). Another elder made this comment about 25 years ago: "Leadership does not depend upon dominance, but suggests direction.  The real determining factor of one's leadership ... is 'to find out whether anyone is following him.’...  The masses will respond positively and eagerly to humble leadership, but they will act negatively to arrogant lordship. ... Men who do not lead and inspire the church, and men appointed to office without proper qualifications, are detrimental to the cause of Christ.  The Lord only knows how many churches among us have been severely hampered by elders [and deacons] who are incompetent, or who have no faith or vision" (Miller).  Another preacher gave this admonition about 10 years ago: "Qualified men who remain qualified do not harm the church! Unqualified men who never qualify hinder, yes, even destroy the Church! ... These qualifications must be taught, understood, and practiced.  The key to good [leadership] is selecting only qualified men.  So simple, yet so violated" (Hodge)!  All these brethren in the past have urged us to look carefully at the qualifications for church leaders.  If we were to have a quiz, and the question was: "Give five of the qualifications found for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3," could you have given five?  Let's look at these qualifications and notice several aspects concerning them.
 
Now let's read the first verses of chapter 3: "This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride, he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise, deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also be first tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanders, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” First of all, notice how both roles of elder and deacon produce something noble. Paul states in verse 1 that those men who aspire to be an elder desire a good or noble work.  Indeed, it is a work which involves oversight, guidance, direction, instruction, modeling, support, discipline, teamwork, and communication.  Now look at verse 13 where Paul says this about the work of a deacon: “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  We see here that those who work as deacons obtain a good or noble standing along with great boldness.  The deacon’s role is one of service, and God loves to see men who imitate Jesus and take up the towel of service to wash others’ feet or do whatever is necessary to advance God’s kingdom.  So, the roles of elder and deacon produce something noble.
 
Next, notice how four broad areas are mentioned for both groups.  For the elders, we see this development: verse 2-3 talk basically about the elder’s character, verses 4-5 refers to his home, verse 6 talks about his experience, and verse 7 refers to his reputation.  For the deacons, we see a similar development: verses 8-9 talk about his character and experience, verse 10 refers to his reputation, and verses 11-12 talk about his home.  Many of the qualifications deal with these leaders’ character. A preacher made this observation: ‘Leadership begins with who we are, not what we do.  A lack of integrity among leaders quenches the flow of the Holy Spirit and removes God’s hand of blessing from the church” (Anselmi quoting Russell).  The home life of both elders and deacons is very important.  One commentator made this good remark: "Any man, unable to govern his children graciously and gravely by maintaining good discipline, is no man for government in the Church.  The principle is universal, for potential skill in a larger sphere can only be indicated by similar skill in a lesser sphere.  The parallel between Church and home brings impressive dignity to Christian home-life, a dignity as imperative in the 21st century as in Paul's day.  The apostle is here dealing with Church [leaders] in whom such a worthy home-life is indispensable" (Gutherie). Some of the qualifications could be called good habits, and these must be developed over much time.  Notice, that elder’s must have a good reputation from outsiders while deacons gain their reputation from testing.  Verse 10 states: “But let these also first be tested … being found blameless.”  There are two possible interpretations here.  One may be: “Let the deacons be given a certain job and then see if they can do it blamelessly.”  He is proven through on the job experience.  Another may be: “Let the deacons be me who have endured persecution without denying Jesus.”  He is proven through his successful suffering for Christ. Whichever interpretation you prefer, such testing will take time.
 
Here’s a third aspect.  Notice how many qualifications overlap.  To illustrate this idea, notice either the screen or the back of your bulletin to see the similarities:
 
Their character
   Elder                                                     Deacon
   Blameless                                             Found blameless
   Temperate                                             Reverent
   Sober-minded, gentle,
   Good behavior, hospitable
 Their home
   Elder                                                      Deacon
   One wife, rules well                             One wife (traits), rules well
   Submissive children                              Rules children   
 Their experience
   Elder                                                       Deacon
   Able to teach                                          Holds mystery of the faith
   Not some things                                     Not some things
 Their reputation
   Elder                                                       Deacon
   Good testimony without                        Proven by testing
 
Both the elder’s and deacon’s character is to be blameless (verses 2 and 10).  The words in the original language are different, but they both mean the same thing.  Under home life, there are many similarities.  Both leaders are to have only one wife, are to rule their homes well, and are to have children.  With regards to experience, we see that both leaders know the Scriptures well, are not addicted to wine, and are not greedy for money.  With regards to reputation, the elder is spoken of well by outsiders, and the deacons have proven themselves while being tested.  It is pretty amazing to see this much overlap for both the elder and the deacon!  One preacher noted: "It has been appropriately stated that every organization is but the lengthened shadow of its leaders.  So it is among the people of God, for they have always been profoundly affected by the caliber of their leaders.  It is a simple fact that prosperous and successful churches are ones with richly qualified leaders. Churches without competent leaders remain static, if they do not become decadent" (Miller).  Another preacher put it this way:: “Whatever the leaders are, the people become.  As Hosea said, ‘Like people, like priests’ (Hosea 4:9).  Jesus said, ‘Everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher’ (Luke 6:40).  Biblical history demonstrates that people will seldom rise above the spiritual level of their leadership” (Luke quoting MacAuthur).  Think about it: if the leaders have a contentious spirit, the congregation will become contentious; … if the elders do not faithfully hold to the authority of the Word of God in their own lives and in the operation of the congregation, the congregation will not hold to it [as well]” (Luke).  Paul gives specifics in 1 Timothy 3 to show us that God wants high caliber spiritual elders and deacons to protect, feed, lead, love, and serve His flock!
 
Now here’s another aspect.  Notice how the qualifications present high standards.  Let’s look at each qualification quickly. First for the elders:
Blameless—irreproachable, unimpeachable, not a galaxy of uncomplimentary rumors about him, spotless integrity.
Husband of one wife—not a polygamist, not a bachelor, not a dictator because a dictatorial husband cannot make a good shepherd.
Temperate (also applicable to deacon’s wives)—self-controlled, self-denying, ever alert and watchful over the care of the flock.
Sober-minded-- sensible, serious-minded, not shooting from the hip but fair thinking.
Hospitable—opens home to others, all are welcome, their homes become refuge places for spiritual safety.
Able to teach—shares the Word and shows how to apply it, does not champion tradition but the truth, he explains rather than coerces.
Not given to wine—They show good habits, not bad ones, and they will bend over backwards to keep another member standing straight.
Not violent—a spiritual soldier but not a physical one, not contentious, no Diotrephes (see 3 John).
Not greedy for money—no money-grabber, one who loves Christ, others, and spiritual blessings more than riches, tries to turn money matters over to others (especially the deacons).
Gentle—goes against our culture's idea of powerful leadership, not harsh or stern but considerate, puts service over self.
Not quarrelsome— not contentious, not desiring strife, not easily angered by trivial matters.
Not covetous—generous, the Lord's sheep comes before the Lord's money, more interested in saving souls than saving money.
Not a novice—not a recent convert, not an inexperienced member, one who has growth and maturity.
Good testimony of unbelievers—out in the community, respected by those who know him, admired by fellow workers.
Here are the qualifications for deacons.
Reverent—serious, respected, honorable.
Not double-tongued—sincere, not shifty, not deceitful.
Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience—stands for the truth, not double-minded, convicted.
The wives of deacons are serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, self-controlled.
Someone has rightly noted: “These qualities are qualities EVERY Christian should posses and be striving for.  The leader is one with whom these qualities are evident in his life.  Being a real leader is more than having a title; it is being able to inspire others to follow you. ... Character, reputation in the community, and the home life all can have an impact on our ability to lead” (Anselmi).  To this listing could also be added those given in Titus chapter one.  "God wants spiritual, dedicated, reputable, capable men leading His people. ... The demands made require a personality of the highest quality" (Miller).
 
Another aspect is this: Notice how often we can misuse these qualifications.  Some members ignore these qualifications when it comes time to select new leadership.  They view church leaders as politicians. They think a certain brother will represent them and the agenda they wish to be pushed.  So, they put practical politics above Paul's qualifications.  Some Christians think that only some of the qualifications need to be met.  They think: “Here's a good ole boy who is the best available that we've got, so we need to give him a chance.”  Isn't this elevating popularity over spirituality?  And then there are members to who almost take these qualifications to extremes and see them as “rules” rather than as character traits and practical safeguards.  They will often argue like this: “Well, Bro. Green doesn't have a serious bone in his body. So, he surely isn't worthy of becoming an elder.  After all, each of the qualifications must be met 100% in order for a brother to serve us!”  Could jealous, envy, or character defamation be behind such statements? Doesn't this sound much like church legalism?  One preacher made this good observation: "All qualities listed must exist in each elder to an appreciable degree [not to perfection].  The strength of elders is in number [not in each individual].  What one lacks; another supplies" (Hodge)!  So let's be careful and not misuse these qualifications.  Let's practice Jesus' Golden Rule and remember the beam in our own eye when we are evaluating candidates to serve as elders and deacons.
 
Here's another aspect to consider.  Notice how this leadership type differs from modern types.  The qualifications for elders and deacons in Timothy sure don't sound much like those found in the four modern types do they? This shows us that elders are not dictatorial, numerical, situational, or even transitional.  These qualifications are uniquely suited for one who desires to be a spiritual shepherd and who proves himself worthy to be a convicted servant.  These are men who have their minds on this above rather than on the things of this earth.  These leaders are men who have a passion to help us all be more godly, more Christ-like, and more prepared so that we can all inherit heaven together!  The writer of Hebrews admonishes us in 13:17: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
 
Bro. Coffman made this good remark: "Probably the greatest class of men on earth today are the elders and deacons of churches of our Lord throughout the world.  Their work is that of constant service and study, not in some ivory tower, but in the boiling crucible of daily life, where the word of God and its application to pressing human problems are their constant daily concern. ... Surely such men are the servants of the Most High" (Coffman).  The church in Ephesus needed good leaders to help them get back on their feet.  The Holy Spirit has set the standards high. Elders have a noble work and deacons obtain a noble standing.  To our beloved elders and deacons here, we appreciate all that you do!
 
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