What a leader should NOT be
When it comes to choosing the person who will manage the overall activities of the church family, Paul listed qualities an overseer should have – as well as some qualities an overseer should definitely not have.
1 Timothy 3:2-5
An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy…
One way to understand the importance of each of these not characteristics is to consider what it would be like if our leaders actually had these qualities:
not addicted to wine – Notice Paul doesn’t say “thou shalt not drink”. Instead, Paul wants Timothy to ensure that the prospective overseer does not allow himself to be controlled by alcohol. The line between appropriately handling and not appropriately handling varies from person to person. Does he “need a drink” every time stress starts to build? If he is regularly turning to alcohol for comfort, escape, or pleasure…then this is a huge warning flag. Think of the damage a man with this addiction in an overseer position would do. Personal and private issues would eventually become public incidents – divorce, DUI, financial disaster. There is room in God’s family for anyone dealing alcohol and with the problems it can cause. However, while they are being dealt with, that person should not be leading a congregation.
not a bully – We’ve seen this in other areas of life. Someone is really successful at “getting the job done”, but when you look beneath surface, you find that they stepped all over people to actually get the job done. Several times in His ministry, Christ said that the greatest in His kingdom was the one who was the servant of all (see Matthew 23:11, Luke 22:26). As such, there is no place in leadership of God’s family for someone who physically intimidates others, is always ready for a fight, or who treats others belligerently. An overseer is there to guide and direct others toward Jesus. Since Jesus never led way, a church leader has no excuse to do so, either.
not quarrelsome – In addition to telling Timothy to avoid appointing leadership to someone who relies on being physically intimidating, Paul also tells Timothy to watch out for those who are verbally intimidating. Does he love arguments because he relishes to chance to prove someone else is wrong? Is he always on the defensive? It’s impossible to lead others toward the God who loves them if the one leading them does not speak out of love toward them.
not greedy – Greed cuts into the attitude of both the poor and the rich. It is a consuming desire for what you don’t have. This is probably the most common visible vice for those in church leadership. The low hanging fruit is to make sure that they are not lovers of money and not materialistic. However, Paul doesn’t limit their greed to money here…greed could manifest itself in other ways, in their desire for authoritative power, or increased church attendance, or in the approval from people.
When we begin to breakdown Paul’s list, we find that these qualifications are rather exhaustive and to find all of these characteristics in one man might even be difficult. However, I believe that is Paul’s point. Look at how he finishes the qualification list:
1 Timothy 3:2-5
An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy – one who manages his own household competently having his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?)
A man’s family is his proving ground. Since the church family is made up of our individual families, the same kind of leadership is needed at the church-level. If I cannot handle my family of four…then I should not expect to be able to oversee 40 other families. Paul knew that any one of these not characteristics had the potential to inflict severe damage to an individual family, and the damage would only be magnified when they crop up in church leadership. Timothy had to be careful in who he selected for the job.