Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: leadership

The pressure of being young and in charge

New leaders often feel the pressure to “prove” they belong in their position.  New young leaders feel this pressure even more.  If left unchecked, this pressure will kindle a leader’s internal worries of public failure.  Their fear of failure normally manifests itself in a variety of bad ways – becoming bossy, refusing counsel, trusting only themselves, stubbornness, condescending actions, or even expectations of special treatment because “I’m the boss”.

A boss who behaves this way will undermine the aim and purpose of the organization they are supposed to lead.  Don’t think these fears and actions are isolated to just business leadership.  You’ll find them in any organization – volunteer groups, military, even your local church. 

When Paul left Timothy in charge of the church in Ephesus, he knew that he was leaving the congregation in capable hands.  However, Paul also understood some of the challenges that Timothy would likely face. 

Throughout his letter, Paul warns about the kinds of disputes Timothy will face as he leads the church in Ephesus.  When disagreements came up, it was certainly possible that someone would try to use Timothy’s age as a reason to discredit his leadership.  At this time, Timothy is likely in his late 20s, or possibly his early 30s.

So Paul gives this instruction to his protégé:

1 Timothy 4:11-12
Command and teach these things.  No one should despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Whenever I get the chance to encourage other fathers, especially fathers of young boys, I use phrases like “more is caught than taught” and “you must be the man you want them to be”.  In the long run, parenting is easier if we model the lessons we insist our children learn.  The same goes for leaders in the church.

Additionally, as Timothy did his best to emulate Jesus, there was a specific scene in Jesus’ life that he could have found reassuring.  Recall that at age 12 – still considered a child by Jewish society standards – Jesus was conversing with the teachers of the law in the temple, astounding them with his understanding and answers (see Luke 2:41-50).

Timothy couldn’t stop someone from questioning his position due to his youthfulness.  However, he could proactively prevent many concerns by how he conducted himself in his position.  The limitations other perceive in us are always overcome by our actions.  As Timothy modeled Christ-like behavior, his example would give him the credibility that his youthful age would not.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The ultimate blended family

What am I going to do?

The feeling of being helpless is more familiar than any of us care to admit.

We’re in a situation, or given some information…and we just don’t know how to process it, let alone what our best next step will be.  It’s in those moments that we want to look to someone with more experience, someone to show us how to deal with what life has brought our way.

Paul knew that the believers in Ephesus would be looking to Timothy with those kinds of questions.  The city was a huge cultural and spiritual mish-mash, and Timothy’s mission was to provide guidance and support to those in the church family.  Knowing the challenges Timothy would face, Paul sent him a letter.  About halfway through, Paul explains his motivation for writing:

1 Timothy 3:14-15
I write these things to you, hoping to come to you soon.  But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

Paul doesn’t know the future.  He has a strong desire to minister side-by-side with his protégé again…but just in case he is delayed, Paul made sure Timothy knew how to support the people in the church.

I love the way Paul described those people, too…I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household.  We’re all part of God’s household.  Not God’s business.  Not God’s club.  Not God’s military, or any other socially-structured group.  We’re all part of God’s family. 

Being a family is hard.  And we’re not necessarily good at being a family with those with whom we share blood ties and genetics…so how are we supposed to be a household when we weren’t even raised in similar contexts?

Those are the legitimate questions the Ephesian believers are going to be asking Timothy.  If you were in his place, how would you answer them?

Stop and think of an answer before moving on…the church is the ultimate example of a ‘blended family’…so how do we make this household actually function as a family?

Paul actually gives us the answer.  God’s householdis the church of the living God.  We don’t define us as a family – belonging to the living Creator of the Universe is what ties us together as a family.  God is our pillar and foundation of the truth

This is no small thing.  In fact, Paul goes on to say:

1 Timothy 3:16
And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great:

The concept of being in God’s household is, in the Greek, a megas-mysterion.  It is so large, that it has to be explained to us before we can really understand it.  But why is it that way, why can’t it be easy to live as part of God’s household?

Interestingly enough, Paul then quotes a hymn reminding Timothy of the greatness of our Savior:

He was manifested in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
preached among the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

Since Christ is so unique among all other proposed gods that the world looks to…it makes sense that being part of God’s household would mean that, at times, we’ll need help figuring out what to do next.  But that’s why we have mentors, and why it’s so important for us to mentor others.

Being part of God’s household means that we are connected to each other in the deepest, most unique way possible…it’s not always easy to be family…but it is who He created us to be.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

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.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Providing oversight

Even though Paul writes Timothy a letter chock-full of advice and direction, there are three specific truth-sayings Paul wants his young protégé to remember.  We’ve now come to the second of the three trustworthy statements Paul highlights to Timothy.

1 Timothy 3:1
This saying is trustworthy:

“If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.”

Knowing what an overseer does will help us understand the qualifications God has for the office and why Paul refers to the position as a noble work.

The Greek word for overseer carries the connotation both of inspecting and guarding, along with the general shepherding of the church’s activities.  Additionally, it’s important to note that Paul says being an overseer is, in fact, work.  A noble work, for sure; however, there is an expectation that the person in this office will be putting in effort.  Becoming an overseer isn’t a pinnacle one climbs to and then expects others to serve him; instead, when he achieves the title of overseer, he needs to understand that it’s time to roll up his sleeves and do the noble work.

As such, it is of the utmost importance that the right person be selected for the job.  We see it all time in the businesses world – someone gets promoted to a level of responsibility they were not prepared for, and their lack of leadership skills then wreaks havoc on the company.  The wrong person in leadership, even for a short time, can inflict significant, lasting damage to an organization.  To guard against a leadership disaster in the Ephesian church, Paul provides Timothy with a first-level checklist in order to considered someone for the overseer job:

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…

It’s easy to gloss over a list like this, thinking “Yeah, we should only have good Christians fill this role” and then move along to other parts of Paul’s letter.  However, I don’t believe Paul haphazardly listed these qualities.  A simple description of each characteristic helps us understand why we need to see these qualities in our church leaders:

above reproach – Could he be accused of wrong doing or misconduct against others?
husband of one wife – Paul had previously explained to the Ephesians that the marriage relationship is the highest earthly example of the relationship between Christ and the church.  As such, an overseer must not be polygamous, and if he has been widowed or divorced, those circumstances must be considered.
self-controlled – Is he sober-minded and temperate in his action?
sensible – Does he have a safe/sound mind, can he balance the range of emotions and passions?
respectable – When dealing with himself or others, is he well arranged, orderly, modest?
hospitable – Is he generous and welcoming toward guests?
able teacher – Does he understand God well enough that he can skillfully instruct others, through both verbal teaching and his own personal example?

A deficit in any one of these areas will hinder the overseer’s ability to approach people from God’s perspective.  As such, selecting the right individual is of paramount importance.  God doesn’t take this position lightly, and neither should we.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

The heart condition of our teachers

Have you ever listened to someone giving a presentation or a training and realize that they don’t know what they’re talking about?  How frustrating is it to recognize that they haven’t completely thought through the plan they are advocating…and, in fact, what they plan to implement will be detrimental or even harmful?

Unfortunately, this kind of thing can even happen in the church.  Paul warned Timothy about fellow believers acted in this manner:

1 Timothy 1:5-7
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.  Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion.

They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

Why do they want to be teachers of the law?  Given Paul’s comments, they were likely after the things that come with leading and teaching, namely status, popularity, and authority – all of which are easily self-focused and not God-focused.  The goal of their instruction would be the promotion of themselves, which is the exact opposite of agape love.  Instead of leading for the benefit of others, these wannabe leaders are focused on themselves. 

If you replace the word ‘love with ‘self-focus’ you quickly realize that Paul’s statement becomes almost ridiculous:

Now the goal of our instruction is self-focus from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

Their self-focus betrays the true condition of their heart.  Jesus similarly cautioned His disciples about inter-family relationships:

Luke 6:43-45
“A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit.  For each tree is known by its own fruit.  Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. 

A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart.  An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”

Since these wannabe teachers in Ephesus have deviated from their pursuit of God via a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, what comes out of their mouths isn’t agape love – it’s just fruitless discussion.

Later on, Paul tells Timothy that it is a good thing to desire a leadership position and that those in charge reap extra rewards from God.  However, Paul will also caution against appointing someone before they are ready.

That’s the situation here – this group that want to be teachers has an incomplete knowledge base, an incorrect understanding, and as a result, they are focused on themselves.  Because of all this, the logical conclusions of what they are insisting on is either harmful to others or contradicts what God actually meant.

After we believe in Jesus for eternal life, the early steps of Christian living are more focused on us “being” rather than us “doing”.  God cares more about our character as a reflection of Him than He is about us doing “big things” for Him.  After we have the foundation of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, the agape love pouring from that character will give us opportunities to lead – at church, at work, or in the home – and then we will produce good fruit

However, without that character foundation, we are prone to self-centeredness, fruitless discussion, and teachings that misrepresent God.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How to give correction, lovingly

No one likes a phony, especially when we are on the receiving end of correction. 

When presented with correction, our human nature will begin to build a defense any way that it can.  We justify our understanding, we make excuses for any gaps, and – if possible – we challenge the credibility of the messenger.

Because – we rationalize – if the person correcting us can be shown to be deficient, then we feel justified in not heeding their correction.

So does this mean we must have our lives perfectly put together before we can rebuke anyone?  Of course not.  However, those of us who lead know how difficult it can be for correction to be received and implemented…and how even more difficult it is to prompt a change in behavior when our own actions need some work.

Throughout his letter, Paul is mentors and advises Timothy on how those in charge in the church are supposed to lead and live.  Paul knows that it is not enough for a leader to just “go through the motions”.  So in addition to discussing what a leader is supposed to do, Paul also points out how they are to do these things, as well as their motivation of character behind doing them.

So when it comes to correcting error, take a look at where Paul tells Timothy he should be coming from:

1 Timothy 1:3-5
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies.  These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.

Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

This love is the agape love, which is a ‘give-all’ kind of love that one has for the benefit of others.  This is the kind of love that God shows us; and in the context of giving correction, it is the kind of love Timothy is to have for his fellow believers who are messing around with bad teachings.

The goal of Timothy’s instruction is to show love to those he is correcting and that they will accept the correction, change their focus back to God’s plan, and also participate in the same agape love.

But this is where character matters.

Timothy could say “I’m correcting you because I love you” and still be a total jerk about it.
Timothy could say “I’m telling you this because I love you” and be a hypocrite.
Timothy could say “I’m commanding you to stop because you’re wrong and I’m in charge”.

In each of these situations, Timothy would be right – they need to be corrected – but he would have a difficult time convincing his fellow believer that change is necessary.

When we own ‘our stuff’, it is much easier to lovingly comment on ‘other people’s stuff’.  This applies to everyone, but especially those of us in leadership positions – at church, at work, or in the home.  Let’s take steps to keep our hearts pure, our conscience clear, and our faith sincere…and then love others accordingly, especially when they need correction.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Doing too much?

Ever have that overwhelming feeling that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?  If yes, you can relate to this story.

After the Israelites left Egypt, but before they received the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro met with them.  The night he arrived was filled with celebration for everything God had done to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians.  However, the next day Jethro noticed a problem – and took the opportunity to advise and mentor Moses:

Exodus 18:13-16
The next day Moses sat down to judge the people, and they stood around Moses from morning until evening.  When Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them he asked, “What is this thing you’re doing for the people?  Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”

Moses replied to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.  Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I make a decision between one man and another.  I teach them God’s statutes and laws.”

Moses mistakenly believed that since God spoke to him and he was the one who knew God’s law the best, then he had to be the one to settle all the disputes among the people.  From the outside looking in, doesn’t it seem a little absurd that an 80-year-old Moses would try to justify being the only judge/advisor/teacher for 2 million people?

However, it probably started out small – with a few people bringing their issues to Moses.  He’s the God-appointed leader, so it would make sense to get his opinion and his decision.  However, by the time Jethro came to visit, the situation was well out of hand.  What’s important to note is that Moses’ mentor didn’t just point out what was wrong with the situation, but Jethro also offered a good solution:

Exodus 18:17-23
“What you’re doing is not good,” Moses’ father-in-law said to him.  “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you.  You can’t do it alone. 

Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you.  You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him.  Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do.

But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes.  Place them over the people as officials of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  They should judge the people at all time.  Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves. 

In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you.  If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.”

After spending just one day observing Moses’ work schedule, it was quite apparent to Jethro that how Moses managed his responsibilities was not sustainable – Moses was getting worn out and it was impossible to decide on every person’s case every single day.

Isn’t that what happens to us?  How many times have we justified our unwillingness to delegate by saying:

If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself

When we insist on lifting more weight than we can physically carry, we pull a muscle and have to be side-lined until the injury heals.  When we take on more responsibility than we are capable of handling, we will quickly become burnt-out, which also leads to being side-lined.  Jethro saw that Moses was heading straight for a burn out, and if that happened, Moses would no longer be an effective leader for the nation of Israel, nor would he be able to represent the nation to God.

As a mentor, Jethro stepped in at the right moment with the right advice.  Also notice that Jethro still left it up to Moses to decide how to handle the situation – he could continue on as he had, or he could humbly accept his mentor’s advice.

Afterward, Moses did exactly what Jethro suggested, and everyone benefited.  Moses’ example proves that we’re never “too old”, “too accomplished”, or even “too spiritual” to need wise counsel from a mentor.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A leader's rebuke

When we study the Bible, one way that we know the importance of a subject is how many verses the author uses to talk about it.  If he talks about it more, then the subject matter is being emphasized in relation to the other topics within the book.

Paul’s letter to Titus is no different.  While spending the entire first chapter describing the expectations for those who lead in a church, Paul spends about 5 verses discussing how a leader should treat his family, conduct himself, and interact with others…and then spends the next eight verses discussing one topic: How a leader handles God’s message and the reasons why it is such an important topic.

We saw that Paul warned for Titus and the church leaders to be on the lookout for those who would come and distort the good news that Jesus came and paid the penalty for our sins, thus restoring our relationship with God.  However, Paul wasn’t only concerned with direct opposition to the leaders, he also showed concern for the Cretan believers. 

Titus 1:12-13 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”  This testimony is true. 

This quote is attributed to Epimenides, from about the 6th century BC.  And Paul agrees with the philosopher’s assessment!  In the ancient world, to “Cretonize” someone meant to both “double-deal” and “to lie”, all rolled into one.  Paul recognizes that the Cretan reputation had not improved for hundreds of years, and that Titus would have to watch out for this kind of behavior as he appointed leaders for the churches.  If Cretans acted like that on their own, imagine what would happen to the church if its leaders adopted the teachings of those who were

Titus 1:11 …ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

This kind of situation would damage both the local believers’ relationship with God, but also God’s reputation to those outside of the church.  Paul’s solution to the Cretans’ default behavior was clear and direct:

Titus 1:13 Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.

In this “sharp rebuke”, Paul was not giving Titus the license to simply blast another believer and then walk away.  The word used for rebuke also carries the idea of exposing, showing fault, and convincing.  Paul is directing Titus to deal with false teaching directly and swiftly, however, he is not giving permission to “hit-and-run” someone who is incorrectly presenting the gospel.  Exposing, showing fault, rebuking, and convincing someone will likely take some time and patience.  It will be hard, but the health of the church depends on it.

The Cretan church leaders must be rooted in their relationship with God through the Scriptures.  Only then would they be able to handle these upcoming situations with those who reject the truth or with those who were more interested in Jewish myths than teaching the gospel.  Clearly this is why Paul spends so much time on this subject; the emphasis he gives it is absolutely necessary.

Are our leaders rooted in Scripture?  How do they handle false teachings and cultural pressures?  These are important topics to consider, as they affect both our individual relationships with God, but also God’s reputation to those outside of the church.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Church leadership and God's reputation

What characteristics do you expect in your church leaders?

Google “characteristics of a church leader” and it seems that everyone has an opinion about what are the top 5, 8, 10, or 12 specific character traits that a church leader must inherently possess or attempt to develop.  Rather than dream up the requirements for a perfect leader, we’re probably better off asking ourselves this question:

What are God’s expectations of leaders in his church?

Titus 1:7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless…

Remember that to be blameless is to be free from any accusation of wrong-doing.  Other translations render the word as above reproach or without fault.  Paul’s point is that from the outside looking in, there should not even be a hint of the following five characteristics or activities:

Titus 1:7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

Any one of these traits would destroy a church family.  As such, they have no business being part of a church leader’s life.  On the flip-side, these are the characteristics to expect:

Titus 1:8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 

But let’s not make this a check list and completely de-humanize the person.  This isn’t just a list of do’s and don’ts.  The key to understanding what God looks for and why he requires these specific traits is found at the beginning of verse seven…

Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work

He is acting as God’s manager, as God’s administrator, and as God’s trustee.  As the representative of God to both those inside and outside of the church, it is crucial that the man chosen to lead represents the same actions and motives that God does towards humanity. 

Do our church leaders exhibit all of the qualities that God desires?

Do we see a reflection of how God treats us in the way our leaders conduct themselves and interact with others?

If the answer is “No” for either of these questions, then they should not be an overseer entrusted with God’s work.  After all, God’s reputation is on the line.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

The first test of a leader

One of Titus’ biggest jobs in Crete was to identify church leaders from within the local believers. 

 Titus 1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

Given the corruptness and general self-centeredness of the Cretan culture, Titus needed to be very careful about who would both publicly represent the church to outsiders and be able to minister to those within the church family.  The selection was so important that Paul spent the first half of Chapter 1 describing a church leader, listing both characteristics that he should not possess and characteristics that he should possess.

Titus 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

To be blameless is to be free from any accusation of wrong-doing.  Paul considers this characteristic to be so important that he fleshes it out in great detail in the next few verses.  As such, we’ll wait until next time to look at it.

However, some interpretations of the next two elder requirements – to be the husband of but one wife and a man whose children believe have produced a lot of stress within the church.  Several questions could be raised:

Can an elder be single?  Divorced?  Widowed?  Remarried?

What if he has no children?  Or children to young to understand the gospel?  Or children that have rejected God?

While the predominate culture of the time did not include polygamy, both divorce and having concubines were commonplace.  Also, nowhere in his letter to Titus does Paul specify a previous sin or situation that prevents a person from becoming an elder now…as such, to imply that a divorce or becoming a widow automatically disqualifies someone from becoming a church leader would be inconsistent with the rest of the text.  Most likely, the statement the husband of but one wife was to ensure that elders are completely faithful to their present wife, and their present wife only – in order to be a representation of how Christ is faithful to the church.

Likewise, we have to be careful to not read too much into the phrase a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  We have a tendency to immediately equate the word “believe” with “faith in Christ for salvation from the penalty of sin”.  The Greek word for believe is also translated as “faithful”, “reliable”, or “trustworthy”.  However, the author’s intended meaning of a given word is derived from its immediate context.  In this passage, we have “believing” children contrasted with children that are open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  Who are the children to trusting in, relying on, or being faithful to?  Their own father!  And it is their overall behavior that reflects their relationship to him!  In fact, some other translations render the phrase as a man whose children are faithful or a man whose children are trustworthy.

Now that we’ve cleared out the clutter of what we might (even unintentionally) read into the text, it is clear that the potential elder needs to be evaluated on his ability to faithfully lead his family and guide the passions of those directly in his care.  This is to be our first evaluation point of someone who wants to lead in the local church.

Paul said something similar in a letter to his other protégé, a young man named Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:4-5 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)

That’s a great question.  We should expect this of both our current leaders and from those who desire to lead.

Keep Pressing,
Ken