The Musts for Leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

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The Musts for Leadership

The qualities of Christ-like leadership

What is an elder? It’s those Mormon guys who come to the door interrupting football or stranger things. It’s the men at church who hold all the political power. It’s the guys who need to see you smiling so they think everything is okay. It’s the board of directors of the church corporation. It is one of the men who are set apart to be spiritual fathers of a local church family.

Today, there is so much confusion on eldership and so many unique approaches to church leadership, you might be tempted to think that church leadership is obscure in the New Testament–but it isn’t. Imagine for a moment you know nothing about the Bible–you just got saved and you’re reading the New Testament for the first time and you read these passages in your outline. What would you conclude?

Acts 14:23, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Acts 20:28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Titus 1:5, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.”

First Peter 5:1,2,5, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, … 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders.” After reading that, you’d come to an obvious conclusion–the church is led, overseen, shepherded by a team of elders. If you dug a little deeper, you’d find some elders are paid and some elders are volunteer.

All elders clearly explain God’s Word, but some of them are set apart to preach it. You’d even discover that elders function as a team, in a plurality, seeking the one will of Christ for their local church. Simply stated–the church that pleases Christ is built upon God’s leadership plan. It’s built upon a plurality of qualified, functioning elders who shepherd God’s flock and lead God’s family.

You all know what it’s like to leave your kids under the care of a trusted relative and you may know the trauma of leaving your kids with a sitter who wasn’t trustworthy. Christ planned for His church to be left under the care of trusted, qualified leaders–men who are competent examples, committed to only follow His specific instructions.

The church Christ would choose to attend is the one where the leadership are those who are qualified and functioning the way He designed. How is that? By way of introduction, turn to 1 Peter 5–here Peter shows us some of God’s plan for leadership in the church. What is Christ’s leadership plan? Read verse 1, “Therefore, I exhort the elders [circle that word] among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.”

First  Biblical leadership is a TEAM

Whenever the word elder is used for the church, it is always used in the plural referring to a team. Acts 14:23, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church.” Acts 20:17, “He…called to him the elders of the church.” Biblical leadership is a team of spiritually mature men. The church is never to be led by one man, but a team of qualified men. This passage show us the three words used for New Testament leadership—1) shepherd/pastor, 2) overseer/bishop, and 3) elder/older all used to refer to the same man.

Look carefully at 1 Peter 5:1 and 2, “I exhort the elders among you… 2 shepherd (pastor) the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (bishop).” Just like our God is three but one, elders are a team seeking oneness. Maybe you came from a church where one man was in charge. That is not God’s plan. It is Christ who is the Head, and under Him a team of men who lead, shepherd and care for the flock together in unanimity.

This is one mind over every doctrinal and directional decision, seeking to discover the one will of Christ for His church. Philippians 2:2,  “Be…of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” But what do elders do?

Second  Biblical leadership SHEPHERDS the flock

Verse 2, “Shepherd the flock of God among you.” Acts 20:28 adds, “Shepherd the flock of God which He [Jesus] has purchased with His own blood.” Elders lead, guide, feed, guard and shear the sheep. Elders are not a group of successful businessmen who function like a board of directors, but they are shepherds who care for God’s sheep–the people Christ gave His life to save. Elders will be busy, but they are not distant from the flock.

They give themselves to the Word and prayer so they might care for God’s people. Elders often train men like ministry leaders and community group leaders to carry the shepherding burden of a church family, so as you interconnect yourself to ministry and community, then you can be shepherded and cared for. But is that all they do? No.

Third  Biblical leadership LEADS the church

Verse 2 continues, “exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” Because biblical elders are to be the most spiritually mature in the flock, they lead the church like a father leads his family. They don’t lead the church politically, trying to appease the clientele, any more than a father submits to his two-year-old’s wishes.

Elders lead like a father of a family made up of young and old, mature and maturing–but never a democracy. Elders don’t do what the family wants, they together seek to determine what the head of the church wants and then do His will.

Fourth  Biblical leadership includes elders who are FINANCIALLY supported and have unique gifts

Verse 2 adds, “and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness.” Some elders are supported financially, but had to be careful not to serve for sordid gain. God designed some elders to be freed up from financial concern by the church so they can minister freely. First Timothy 5:17 adds, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”

Some elders are financially supported so they can give most of their time to study, teaching and preaching God’s Word in order to equip the saints.

Fifth  Biblical leadership leads by EXAMPLE

Verse 3, “nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” This is how the congregation can trust, follow and obey the shepherds of FBC. Every pastor/elder leads by example in that they are qualified according to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1–they all function as shepherds over this flock and they demonstrate authentic spirituality.

They are not perfect, but openly admit their sin and passionately pursue being like Jesus. Hebrews 13:7 and 17, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Sixth  Biblical leadership is motivated by CHRIST

Verse 4, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Godly leaders only want to please Christ. They’re not into power trips, glory, fame, money or pleasure. It doesn’t matter when they suffer or are persecuted, they only want to please Christ. But what are these men to be like? They are to be men of character. Men whom Christ shines through. Men who fulfill the musts of spiritual leadership.

The church today, and the church in Ephesus, is and was being eaten up by error. Ephesus was like Berkeley–it was loaded with intellectuals, some who’d come to faith in Christ but were not sound. And many others were openly hostile and opposed to the truth. In the mix of all this were some who lived one way at church and another way at home. Some leaders in Ephesus seemed to be seeking a position or desiring more money.

A few had children who were out of control and wives who were unsubmissive. Others were men who drank too much, were too new as Christians. Some had horrible reputations with their neighbors. Some of the leaders were bullies, fighters and not gracious. So Paul writes Timothy in 1 Timothy chapter three to correct all the false views of leadership and does so by giving Timothy the musts of leadership.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the captain on your high school team, president of your junior high, director at your work, or despot of your home—Paul is giving you three musts of true spiritual leadership. These must be true of elders and should be true of all believers seeking to display Christ. And as we continue our study of the House Rules, here is the character criteria for genuine elders in the church and any kind of spiritual leadership as a believer.

They are found in 1 Timothy chapter 3:1 to 8. As I read this passage, I want you to Safari some words–do some observation. The word must is used three times in English–two in Greek, and assumed one time correctly. The word manage is used twice, directed at the man’s home. Then there are two purpose statements, “so that”, tied into falling into the devil’s ways. So as I read this passage, note these words in verses 1 to 7 of 1 Timothy 3.

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, MUST be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He MUST be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he MUST have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

The musts form the outline to this particular passage, giving us the musts for Christ-like leadership. Here are the non-optionals as a Christian, in whatever leadership God places you in and required of elders who shepherd God’s flock. Paul tells Timothy how to select elders and then deacons–but in the process he also informs us of what to develop in order to carry spiritual responsibilities.

Yet before the must, there is the want to–spiritual leadership should be a desire. Paul makes this clear to Timothy in verse 1, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” Do you know what “a trustworthy statement” is? Used five times and unique to the pastoral epistles, a “faithful saying” describes a familiar truth of great importance. We all know this. The office of elder-ing is a fine work, meaning an excellent profession–it is a great thing to be an elder, but the elder must meet the criteria. This helps the rest of us know it is only God who chose him to be an elder. It is God alone who chooses elders, Acts 20:28, “among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.”

God makes elders, yet those whom God chooses must also desire to serve as elders. The word desire is the same word translated lust in the New Testament–they must desire eldership with an intense desire. They need this God-given desire, because the work of a shepherd is hard work. It’s a fine work, but it’s hard labor.

First Thessalonians 5:12 explains, “We request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction.” See diligent, notice labor–before the must there is the want to. One of the keys that sets Christians apart is we serve our God because we want to. But if we lead others, there are some musts.

#1  He MUST be responsible for developing a stable CHARACTER  Verses 2 to 3

Verse 2, “An overseer, then, MUST be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” If you are going to lead others, you MUST be becoming like Christ. “Above reproach” encompasses all the other elder qualities–summarizes the entire list. And to live above reproach means an elder is to be a Christian man whose life is irreproachable, meaning his life is not open to attack or criticism. He is free from scandalous sin. His life is unassailable.

What’s shocking is, God expects every believer to live above reproach. Philippians 2:15, “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” This is Christ’s desire for each one of you—live “above reproach.”

One of the indicators of “above reproach” is a man who is the husband of one wife. This is a very controversial phrase. But it has nothing to do with polygamy, no biblical divorce or remarriage when there is adultery or desertion, or not being a widow or a single. No–the husband of one wife literally means a one-woman-man, describing a man who adores only one woman. Elders love their wives. They’re never ”the old ball and chain”–leaders adore their spouses. They treasure their spouse, they talk about their spouse. they respect and trust their spouse.

But their character is also, verse 2, “temperate,” meaning balanced–sober thinking, living free from excesses or acting with rashness. Then “prudent,” referring to sensible decision-making, with balanced judgment. “Respectable”, pointing to living well-mannered, polite, and being approachable. “Hospitable” means love of strangers, describing an elder as welcoming and friendly to all. True leaders are friendly to strangers–they can care for strangers. They can even house strangers. Elders/leaders are those who love God’s people and strangers.

Able to teach” means an elder can teach God’s Word to the point, Titus 1:9 says an elder can “exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.” Leaders must be growing deeper in doctrine and wise with God’s Word.

In verse 3, Paul focuses on the ungodly character that must not be present in the life of the elder or a leader—“not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” Here, “not addicted to wine” is just what it sounds like–not addicted. Of course it also describes not given to partying or imprudent craziness, which makes Christ, His Church and Christians look bad.

I fear for some of you for a different reason–what if this phrase actually said this. “Not addicted to coffee”? You say with jittery hands, “I am free, Chris—I’m under grace. I’m not addicted.” Moving on.

Pugnacious” means not a striker and has to do with not being quick-tempered, nor quick with the fists. Spiritual leaders can never be bullies or browbeaters–either verbally or physically. In contrast to volatility, elders and leaders must be gentle, meaning kind and gracious. Spiritual leaders are easy to get along with.

An elder is also to be “peaceable”, referring to reluctance to argue. A spiritual leader doesn’t like to quarrel or disagree or verbally fight. A godly man loves unity and hates disharmony. Leaders should be pleasant to be around. And overseers are also to be “free from the love of money.” Unlike the false teachers who were motivated by money, a true spiritual leader is one who serves Christ, not money–not stingy, nor greedy. Finances do not rule his life.

True godliness does not merely mean not sinning. Genuine holiness is also the pursuit of Christ-like character. True spiritual leaders must be responsible for developing a stable character.

#2  He MUST be responsible for developing a SHEPHERDED home  Verses 4 to 6

Verse 4, “He MUST be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.”

A man does not miraculously transform into an elder overnight. The ministry of an elder requires prior experience. And the most important experience that sheds the brightest light on his readiness to function as an elder is his family. Spiritual leaders must manage their homes, meaning supervise–it means continual concern for his family.

The way a father leads his home and cares for his family is the same way an elder leads the local household and cares for the church family. As the children of an elder follow his example and regularly submit to his instruction, Paul says, he is viewed as a man who does family. Verse 4, “well” meaning appropriately, splendidly–literally beautifully. The idea points to being an exceptional example.

Paul adds, “with all dignity,” describing someone respected by his children and worthy of respect as a leader in his house. Only then can this man be considered a true man of character and a truly qualified elder. Paul asks an obvious question in verse 5, “(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?).”

A believer’s home is the proving ground for spiritual leadership. Students, wives and husbands–what does your home say about your leadership? Your home, children or spouse is never meant to be an idol. And your home responsibilities are never to be shirked. The life you live in private determines the ministry you will have in public, which points to a crucial truth.

The most effective way to lose your children–the strongest way to convince them to not turn to Christ is to live in the Spirit at church and in the flesh at home. Dads, if you are gracious here and Godzilla at home, you will lose your kids. Students, if you are sweet to your friends but severe to your parents, they will not trust you. Wives, if you are nice to other women, but nasty to your husband, you dishonor Christ.

Elders are proven at home. Spiritual leadership starts at home. If you see things in your kids you don’t like, the first place to look is in the mirror. An elder must also be proven, 1 Timothy 3:6, “and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.”

Spiritual leadership takes time and effort, hopefully resulting in spiritual maturity. The danger of elevating someone too high too soon is that person will grow proud. Conceited means “smoke which blinds”–reminding you that pride is one of the most difficult sins to identify in yourself. It blinds you, like smoke blinds your sight.

Verse 6 then warns, if they grow proud, the result will be “the condemnation incurred by the devil.” That doesn’t mean a judgment coming from the devil, but refers to the same condemnation which the devil himself will get because of his own blinding pride. So the three musts of leadership–he MUST be responsible for developing a stable CHARACTER, he MUST be responsible for developing a SHEPHERDED home . . .

#3  He MUST be responsible for developing a sincere REPUTATION with outsiders  Verse 7

Verse 7, “And he MUST have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” In addition to his own family and church, the true elder must have an unimpeachable reputation with the lost. This reputation is with those outside the church–in business, in the neighborhood, and in social relationships with unbelievers.

If an elder does not have a reputation of integrity with the lost, then it will result in the maligning of both the church family and of the elder himself. Paul says they will “fall into reproach.” Elders function as an authority in the church, so without a good reputation, it not only smears his own testimony, but invites the reproach of the world on the Church, the bride of Christ.

The phrase “snare of the devil” reminds us the enemy is always looking to slander. If elders overtly compromise, the devil will slander the man and the church he shepherds. If you compartmentalize your life–live godly at church but live wicked elsewhere, then you have fallen into a trap of the devil and you will suffer the consequences.

Leadership has some real dangers–the danger of pride, thinking you’re better than others, ingrown eyeballs, hypocrisy, impatience, frustration, growing unloving and more. Beware of falling into the devil’s traps–he’ll catch you, then slander you in public. So how will you respond to this passage? What is your reaction to all this? What’s going on in your heart? Maybe you will say . . .


This was for someone else. I’m a student, I have my friends to be concerned about. I’m married, I have my spouse to be devoted to. I have kids and they’re a handful. All true, but if in your heart you are indifferent to Christ, that is not a bad thing. That is a deadly serious, eternal thing. You see, no one is truly indifferent to Christ. No Christian is bored with Christ.

Those who say they’re indifferent, in reality, the Bible says you’re rebellious. Indifference is merely pride covering defiance. What do you say to an employee who is indifferent to doing their job? “Fired!” What do you say to a student who is indifferent to doing their homework? “Flunk!” What do you say to a Christian who is indifferent about their relationship to Christ? “Fake!”

Friends, indifference is lukewarm, and lukewarm is unsaved. You’re in danger, because indifference is merely internal rebellion covered with external Christianity. Repent of your rebellious indifference and pursue Christ-like character. Maybe you are not indifferent, but you respond with . . .

B  I am doing OKAY

Following Christ is not about voting republican. Growing into a Godly man or woman is not about living nice and serving others. Pursuing Christlike character is not about feeling good or about being a better mom or kinder dad. It’s first about crying out to a righteous, perfect God to rescue you from your sins. It’s about you hating your sin so much, you surrender your life to the only one who can provide forgiveness for any and all sin.

It’s about being justified, where your sin falls on Christ and His righteousness covers you. It’s about God transforming your heart to want to please Him in everything you do. It’s about you continuing to hate sin and asking Him to empower you to overcome sin. It’s about you loving Christ so much, you would do anything to become like Him.

It’s about you depending upon Him to empower you to stop sinning and become like Christ. It is not about you doing okay, but about you pursuing Christ. Are you? Maybe you’re not indifferent, not merely okay, A or B, but you respond with . . .

C  I am humbly seeking to GROW

No elder and no Christian live these qualities perfectly. You and I have dependent work to do. We must rely on the Spirit and exercise our wills to seek to walk in obedience. It is easy to understand, but difficult to do. Which quality did the Spirit point out? It may be you need to work on living respectable, or not being pugnacious or more gentle, or managing your children, or adoring your wife, or being hospitable.

Whatever it is, write it down, memorize the verse, and each day this week depend on the Spirit and seek to live out the truth. Stop fooling yourself about hearing the Word and not doing the Word. The only way you worship today, please Christ and do what God desires, is to leave here with an internal commitment to obey God’s Word. Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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