Timothy continues reading the letter from his mentor:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
(1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)
Sound instruction: thinks Timothy, feeling as though he himself needs to do some self-examination. The standard of his mentor being high, the type of men that were not, at that moment leading the church at Ephesus…it was time for a change.
THE NEED FOR HIGH STANDARDS FOR LEADERSHIP:
Some might think Paul is being very harsh here, and to a culture that preaches “Anyone can do the job” this would seem like a hard passage to deal with. In the American Church today the standard of leadership is often low. In the denomination I serve in there is no educational requirement for ordination. Some of the pastors I work with do not have Bachelors and if they do they are not in ministry, bible or any type of theological degree. They are pastors, called, but largely uneducated. That does not mean they cannot do the job, their exegesis is excellent in most cases, but our standard is low. Liberal or conservative, it does not matter, come on in…you can lead here.
The problem with the lower standard is that it lowers the theological expectations of the congregation. If a man does not know what it means to be a good steward of all God has gien him, then he will not being able to fully teach his congregation. If we lower the standard we can justify preaching almost anything, putting anyone in the pulpit or using any curriculum. This is largely what the PCUSA has done, allowing the “Progressive Presby’s” to take over the policy making of the church in an attempt to make the church “Relevant” or “Appealing” to the next generation. A strategy which has largely failed and is responsible for the downfall of what was once one of the largest mainline churches in America. They lowered the standard, threw out the gospel and the effects have been detrimental both to the church as well as to the Christian Body as a whole.
Jesus tells us “If anyone relaxes one of these commandments and teaches other to do the same, he will be considered least in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mat 5:18). A Leader who is held to a high standard, or a requirement of meeting those standards will most likely not relax one of the commandments because he understands the weight of his responsibility.
As leaders we can sum all the requirements up into this phrase “Above Reproach.” If we are to be believers who bring glory and honor to God, then we must live out a lifestyle that does just that, glorifies and honors God. Leaders bear this burden specifically, if you are a leader in the church you are in the public eye and under public scrutiny, not only from your congregation, but also from the community around you. If your lifestyle as a leader does not match your Christian values you are doing more harm than good and should most likely step down.
“HOLIER THAN THOU”
This does not mean we must be holier than thou, there is something to be said for a leader who stands firm for the truth of the gospel but is relatable to the people. Someone who “Sits at the gates” if you will and “shares wisdom with all,” balanced leaders teach others to lead. They stand for the truth of the gospel but also can relate to all that they encounter. If a leader is un-relatable and seems unreachable he is going to be ineffective.
We know the leaders in Ephesus did not meet this standard, at least most of them did not. So it seems only right for Paul to include this section in 1 Timothy 3: Paul is showing the need for leaders who are above reproach so that the church, not just the leaders, but the church might be above reproach and not be an “Abomination to the Gospel.” Sadly, and this is even more true today, a church is often defined by its leaders. Are they bible believers? Are they following Christ? Or are they serving their own interests? Are they upholding the truth of the Gospel? Or are they turning people away from it?
We must be vigilant in evaluating our leaders and their leadership styles. We must hold them accountable to the standard set by the gospel. If we are to be leaders we must ask others to hold us accountable and remember that we are accountable to the Word of God and whatever we do, we must remember to do it out of love.
WE ARE THE LEADERS-LET US TAKE THE LEAD!