Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 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?) (1 Timothy 3:1-5)
Paul’s description of an elder here is very similar to the one he provides in Titus, chapter one. You should be able to access our devotions from Titus on the www.storiesofvalue.com web site. There are, however, two additions to the Titus list in today’s passage:
In Titus, Paul says the elder should be “a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” (Titus 1:6) In 1 Timothy Paul builds on this thought and provides logic for his instruction. The reason it is important for a leader’s children to demonstrate faith and faithfulness is because one’s ability to bring up children who know the Lord says something about his ability to shepherd God’s flock.
Of course, many of us know children who have apparently had very good parenting, and have chosen to walk away from the Lord. Such a choice brings immeasurable grief to a family, and fills parents with guilt as they try to figure out what they did wrong. The fact is, parents can do everything right, and children can still make bad choices.
On the other hand, there are personal and interpersonal dynamics present in one’s home that can transfer to one’s leadership in the church. For example, a highly permissive household where children are not guided in their faith or confronted early on in their bad behavior could demonstrate an inability to lead on the part of a parent. At the other end of the spectrum, a household where children are overly protected, overly corrected, and smothered with expectations could indicate a leadership style that is hypersensitive and self-indulged or oppressive, rigid and overly confrontational.
In our crazy world where so many people are searching for a meaningful faith, there is a need for strong instruction, balanced with the freedom to make mistakes and discover things for one’s self. Finding this balance while holding firmly to the truth of God’s Word is tricky, but it is a matter of great importance when it comes to leadership at home or in the church.
Incidentally, I have also met some great parents who have raised wonderful children who love the Lord and are faithful in everything, but are not the best candidates to lead the church. I know this sounds strange, but leadership is both a spiritual gift and a natural leaning.
The other fresh phrase in this passage is that an elder needs to be “able to teach.” In other words, he should be able to pass along His faith, and defend the church against false teaching. He may not always be in a formal teaching setting, but must know what he believes and why. This is really covered to a great degree in Titus one, although being “able to teach” is not specifically mentioned there.
In both of these areas, leadership involves the ability to instill faith in others. This is no small task, but a serious need in any church body. After all, if we aren’t leading people to faith, what are we leading them to?
Dear God, help me figure out the best place for me to do your work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.