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Making a Difference: What are the essentials to training? 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Can you believe what they are asking potential employees at job interviews? Here’s the top five questions…1) On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you? 2) If you were an animal, which animal would you be? 3) What do you want to be when you grow up? 4) What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse? 5) What was the last costume you wore? That’s just the interviewer.
If you’re hoping to land a job, this is what key leaders are telling you not to do—it’s good advice. Don’t bad mouth your last boss. Don’t wear a ton of perfume or aftershave. Don’t wear sunglasses or a Bluetooth earpiece. Don’t yawn, slouch, or bring your mother with you. Don’t chew gum, tobacco, your pen, or your hair.
Also, don’t laugh, giggle, whistle, hum, or smack your lips. Don’t say, “you know”, “like”, “I guess”, and “um.” Don’t shake hands too weakly, nor crush the interviewer’s hand. And especially, don’t check your cell phone during the interview–good advice. Yet regardless, job interviewers tell true horror stories about those looking for a job.
These are from the files of actual true interviews–this is what happened . . . picture it. 1) She stretched out on the floor in order to fill out the job application. 2) She brought her large dog to the interview. 3) She wore headphones and said she could listen to me and the music at the same time. 4) A balding candidate abruptly excused himself, then returned to the office a few minutes later wearing a hairpiece.
5) The applicant challenged the interviewer to an arm wrestle. 6) She announced she hadn’t had lunch and proceeded to eat a hamburger and fries in the interviewer’s office. 7) He interrupted the interview to phone his therapist for advice on answering specific interview questions. 8) When I asked him about his hobbies, he stood and started tap dancing all around my office. 9) He took off his right shoe and sock, removed medicated foot powder from his bag and dusted it on his foot and in his shoe. While he was putting the shoe and sock back on, he mentioned he had to use the powder four times a day, and this was the time.
10) She threw up on my desk and immediately started asking questions about the job, like nothing had happened. 11) Pointing to a black case he carried into my office, he said that if he was not hired, the bomb would go off. Disbelieving, I began to state why he would never be hired and that I was going to call the police. He then reached down to the case, flipped a switch and ran. No one was injured, but the interviewer did need to get a new desk.
Wow–as crazy as those are, we face similar circumstances in the Church. The gal who wants to run a women’s ministry, but won’t control her kids. The guy who wants to preach at Sunday services, but has only been attending for three weeks. The one who thinks he’s a leader, but no one follows. The one who thinks she’s full of compassion, but no one trusts her. It goes on and on.
But there is hope–the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of His Church and His will has been clearly laid out in the Bible in detail. And in His Word, He’s given us clear instructions on how to interview. How do you determine if someone is mature and can truly lead others or serve? How do you pick leaders in community groups or ministries? How do you determine who should invest into your life and who you should invest in?
Answer–you understand and embrace the principles of 1 Timothy 3:1 to 7. Turn there. God tells us about how to select elders then deacons–but in the process, he also informs us of what to look for in people so we know who can carry spiritual responsibilities. From set-up and tear-down to preaching God’s word, reaching out to women and discipling students. God’s interview questions are all found in this chapter—your elders expect you to use them.
The book of 1 Timothy is about leadership–written by Paul to his number one disciple, church planter and apostolic assistant. It’s called a pastoral epistle, but that’s a sad title. Neither Timothy nor Titus were pastors of local churches, but were church planters and apostolic assistants. They represented Paul who represented Christ as an apostle to establish new churches and to organize, direct and protect existing Churches.
Paul is freed from house arrest in Rome and back to his “live is Christ, die is gain–so let’s run to win” ministry focus. As Paul is preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word of God to new regions, he left Timothy in Ephesus to take care of problems. What problems? Ephesus was a storm center of false teaching and bad doctrine, so Paul charges Timothy to lead the church to spiritual health. And one of the main priorities is to select the right leaders–bringing us to 1 Timothy 3.
Paul describes the selection criteria for elders then deacons–the two offices in the Church. But in doing so, he explains the desire, maturity, gifts, family commitment, and integrity each of you are to look for in others–and to pursue for yourself. This passage is God’s genuine selection process.
A requirement for elders–these qualities must be theirs generally. A criteria for leaders to aspire to, a filter for recognizing who you might invest in, a guide for students to pursue in developing in their lives, a target for every Christian to shoot at to be more like Christ, a blueprint to guide you with your children.
So who should you have serve as a leader in your community group? . . . take on the responsibility of overseeing a ministry? . . . come alongside our parents and disciple their students? How do you decide who to select? Over the course of 42 years of ministry, I can tell you, I have not consistently used the right criteria–and neither have you.
You’ve elevated someone because you were looking at the wrong criteria. What’s the wrong criteria? Picking someone because they’re a warm body, willing, eager, they’re liked, funny, good looking, talented, seemingly submissive, teachable or complimentary. But they end up denying Christ, leaving their wife, showing they’re a harsh parent, a drunkard, an adulterer, given to uncontrolled anger, shirking their responsibility, indifferent—making them a terrible selection.
I will explain the text and highlight seven selection principles. Looking for help in children’s, student or any ministry or community group? Do you want to grow as a believer? Here is your target. Do you want to be mentored by a mature believer? This is what you look for. Think through the determiners found in this text.
Paul says to Timothy, Ephesus has had enough of false teachers and improper leaders, so here is the selection criteria I want you to use to determine who the leaders are. Read verses 1 to 7, “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.”
How can this help you in ministry, parenting or discipleship? When you’re seeking to develop character or determining who might serve with you–first look for a heart . . .
First DESIRING to serve
With your kids, do they have a desire to serve Christ? First Timothy 3:1 begins with, “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? This is used five times and unique to the pastoral epistles.
“A faithful saying” describes a basic truth of great importance, which is familiar among believers, as if it were a common proverb for Christians. Here, “trustworthy saying” refers to whether a man is set apart by the Holy Spirit to serve as one of the elders. But, you ask—“Paul uses the title overseer.”
Now the New Testament uses the terms overseer, elder and pastor interchangeably. Notice all three terms used in 1 Peter 5:1, “I exhort the elders among you…2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.” Each unique term describes a different unique function of the same office.
Overseer is the Greek word “episkpos”, which is the term which gives the Episcopal church its name. Sometimes translated bishop, this title for elder focuses on the responsibility of the elder watchman over God’s people, leading God’s people under Christ.
Elder, which is the term “presbyteros”, which is the term which gives the Presbyterian church its name. Elder, or older, focuses on the maturity and character of a man of God.
Pastor, which is the term “poimen”, meaning shepherd, reminding elders they’re to shepherd the Church. Elders function in a plurality. who oversee, shepherd and act as fathers, leading and modeling for the flock like a family.
Paul says, “If any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” A fine work is describing a good occupation, or an excellent profession. This well-known trustworthy statement lets us know the Ephesians already grasp that the labor of an overseer is a noble task—a fine work.
And because of the difficulties of false teachers, the Ephesians already know the job of an elder involves lifelong exhausting work. It’s a fine work, but it’s also exhausting 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.”
Paul says the work can be so hard, there needs to be a God-given desire to accomplish it. Notice two key words in verse 1, “If any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” The word aspire has the idea of reaching out after and stretching out to grasp.
The word for desire is the same word translated lust in the New Testament–used positively here in the middle voice, it means strong, internally-motived longing. It comes from a word made up of two words–anger and upon, describing intensity. A true elder has to serve as an elder intensely. John Kitchen says in his commentary, “No man should lead God’s people, who does not desire to do so.”
Don’t use someone in ministry who doesn’t want to serve. Don’t invest in an adult who doesn’t want your example. Don’t look at your students as saved, if they have no desire to follow Christ on their own. Romans 6:17, “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.”
The truly born again want to obey Christ from the heart, even when they don’t. The true believer desires to please Christ by following His Word. As you look at filling holes in your ministry, make certain they have a strong internal desire to obey God’s Word. But accompanying this desire, there must be internal character. First Timothy 3:2, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach.” The verb “must” is pointing to a continual necessity of . . .
Second Pursuing Christ-like CHARACTER
First Timothy 3:2, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” Just as the process of sanctification involves fleeing from sin and pursuing Christ-like character, an elder is a man who has been, and currently is, pursuing and manifesting the character of 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 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–to 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, nor biblical divorce or remarriage when there is adultery or desertion, nor being a widow or single. No, the husband of one wife literally means a “one woman man”, describing a man’s moral integrity and sexual fidelity in his role as a husband.
As a husband, this man is not only loyal to his marriage vow, but adores only one woman. He is to be an example of purity in marriage and free from any flirtatious behavior, because he cherishes the one women he’s married to. Telling us this . . . it is always a good idea to talk to the spouse before you involve someone in ministry. It is essential to learn a little about their marriage before putting them on the team. True character is demonstrated by their commitment and loyalty to their spouse.
Look again at verse 2. Paul describes their character as being temperate, meaning balanced, sober thinking–living free from excesses or acting with rashness. Then prudent, referring to sensible decision-making, with balanced judgment. Then respectable, pointing to living well-mannered, polite, and being approachable. Hospitable, meaning a love of strangers, describing an elder as welcoming and friendly to all. Elders are to be those who love God’s people and get along with God’s people.
Now all this points to a major flaw in common Christianity. Believers today view themselves as godly, spiritual, holy, righteous, acceptable or okay if they don’t sin. But true growth means turning from sin—yes, but also pursuing Christ. True growth means becoming a man or woman of Christ-like character.
Friends, it is not merely what you don’t do, but what you do. And it’s not merely what you avoid, but who you are in heart before Christ. Pursuing Christ is one of the main keys to overcoming sin. Notice Paul adds something to the end of verse 2–see it? “Able to teach.”
Third Demonstrating some GIFTEDNESS
“Able to teach” means an elder can teach God’s Word. Titus 1:9 expands this elder requirement, “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” First Timothy 5:17 adds that elders uniquely gifted to preach or teach can be financially supported in order to free them up to teach more.
All elders are apt to teach, but not all are preaching equippers, like Ephesians 4:11 and 12, “And He gave some … as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” But all elders are “apt to teach,” and able to instruct in sound doctrine and refute falsehood.
Every believer is gifted to minister in the context of the church body. First Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Elders are designed to be apt to teach. God’s purpose for you is to use your giftedness in the body of Christ. It’s the Holy Spirit’s way to show off Christ to believers through you! And it’s one of your best paths to joy and satisfaction in Christ.
But your giftedness is not most important. In this passage there are far more references to character than the one small mention of gifts. The false teachers were electric, motivating, moving, as well as lost and damning. One commentator says, “When it comes to spiritual leaders, go with character over giftedness every time.”
Don’t pursue a new member of your team because they’re gifted. Don’t involve someone because they have musical skills or can bake well. Embrace a man or woman of character, which is also shown by . . .
Fourth Fleeing unrighteous CHARACTER
First Timothy 3:3, “Not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” Here Paul focuses on the ungodly character that must not be present in the life of the elder. What a man is not, what a person turns from, should also be a factor in considering who you involve in ministry and invest in. Look at what Paul says.
“Not addicted to wine” has less to do with drunkenness than it does with warning against selecting someone for leadership or eldership who is given to frequent partying, where wild and imprudent words are spoken and uncontrolled behavior is manifested.
“Pugnacious” means not a striker and has to do with not being quick-tempered, nor quick with the fists. Bullies are not eligible to be elders. Overseers are not browbeaters. Men who are verbally or physically abusive must not be trusted to shepherd God’s flock.
In contrast to volatility, elders are to be “gentle”, meaning kindly, forbearing, peaceable and gracious. This man is considerate and easy to get along with. The 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. Elders 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.
All these qualities revolve around exercising self-control. Controlling one’s self is required in order to command the respect of others. Friends of FBC, this means avoiding addictions to food, wine, beer, coffee, sugar, games, hobbies, pastry, sleeping pills and more. And let me add to this, men of God usually battle with one of three sins–Gold, Girls or Glory. Or one of three P’s–Possessions, Purity or Pride.
True growth in Christ is to understand your weaknesses, memorize Scripture, get brothers or sister to pray with you and hold you accountable, involve yourself in ministry and discipline yourself to godliness. First Timothy 3:1 to 7 also reminds you if you train the way Jesus did, then every area of life should be open to scrutiny–including your family.
Fifth Shepherding the FAMILY
First Timothy 3:4 to 5, “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” 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.
Paul tells Timothy, a man must manage his home, meaning supervise and be concerned with 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 “well”–meaning appropriately, splendidly—literally beautifully. The idea points to an exceptional example.
Paul then 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 the 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?)”.
Negatively, verse 5 tells the Ephesian readers that poorly trained, consistently and defiantly disobedient children reflect badly on any elder–not simply because they are hurtful examples to the other children in the church family. But they demonstrate that the father is incompetent for the office of elder.
Positively, verse 5 tells the church at Ephesus the kind of care elders are required to show. In verse 5, the Greek word “take care of” is used only one other time in the New Testament by Jesus himself–when? As Jesus describes how a man on his way to Jericho was mugged and left for dead in Luke 10:33 to 34, “A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.”
This is the same care elders are to give the church family. The Samaritan’s actions are an example to elders as to how they’re to care for the sheep Jesus purchased with His own blood. Taking care of people always demands sacrifice, requires pity, even physical embrace. The Samaritan was certainly busy with his own schedule. But true elders are those who are willing to be inconvenienced to care for people in the church family.
When looking for another leader in community group, look first to his family. Avoid those who make family an idol and avoid those who shirk their responsibilities as a parent. The life people live in private determines the ministry they will have in public.
Sixth Moving toward MATURITY
Paul tells Timothy, an elder must be proven. First Timothy 3:6, “and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.” John MacArthur writes this, “In light of this high standard, it is understandable that an elder should not be a recent convert… Many years are usually needed for a man to reach the level of personal and spiritual maturity required of an elder. Moreover, there must be adequate time for others to observe his life and affirm his qualifications. As Paul warned Timothy, those elevated to the position of elder prematurely are highly susceptible to the sin of pride.”
People you involve in ministry, students you seek to disciple, children you parent can be novices if they’re teachable. Elders cannot be novices or new converts because they will become blinded with the smoke of pride. Conceited means “smoke which blinds,” reminding you that pride is one of the most difficult sins to identify in yourself–it blinds you.
Verse 6, “the condemnation incurred by the devil” doesn’t mean a judgment from the devil. No, it refers to the same condemnation which the devil himself incurred because of his own blinding pride, described when he fell in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. An elder must be mature and still growing and he must develop a proven reputation. The next selection criteria uniquely comes from outside the church.
Seventh Establishing a reputation of INTEGRITY
Paul wraps up this paragraph with 1 Timothy 3:7, “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 his church, the true elder must also have an unimpeachable reputation with the lost. This reputation is to be 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.” As an elder functions as an authority in his local church, without a good reputation, it not only smears his own testimony, but invites the reproach of the world onto the bride of Christ.
The phrase “snare of the devil” reminds us the enemy is always looking to slander. If you compartmentalize your life in Christ–you know, godly at church and wicked at work, then you have fallen into the slander trap of the devil.
To involve someone on your team, disciple a saint, impact your children–then nothing is to be hidden at home, nothing hidden at work, and there is to be no compartmentalization of your faith. What you are in public must be what you are in private. How you behave with Christians must be how you behave with non-Christians.
The most effective way to lose your children, the strongest way to convince them not to turn to Christ is to live in the Spirit at church and in the flesh at home. The same for all you seek to influence for Christ–your reputation matters inside and outside the church.
TAKE THIS HOME
A Do you SELECT disciples or do they select you?
Yes–God gives you your children. Often you are assigned students to disciple. Sometimes in community group, it is a decision. At FBC, we ask certain men to train and others ask us to train them. Either way is fine, as long as the selection criteria is being genuinely pursued.
They may have identified their desire to pursue ministry, or they may be waiting to be asked. They may want to be disciple or they may need you to ask to disciple them. The most important issue is to be genuinely pursuing Christ, as evidenced by pursuing the criteria of selection.
B Use the CRITERIA at the time of selection, or pay the price later
Paul warns Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:22, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” Do not randomly place people in ministry. Ignore the selection criteria and pay the price later, as they either drift away or do damage to people, malign Christ’s church and harm your ministry.
C The greater the ministry responsibility, the greater the PROVEN-NESS
It is one thing to hand out bulletins, it is another to disciple another believer. It is one thing to disciple a believer, it is another to shepherd an entire group. It is one thing to teach a Bible study, it is another to function as an elder. The greater the spiritual responsibility, the greater the selection criteria must be followed.
D Select a life of INTEGRITY over a life of talent, personality, appearance or gifts
Where do you see the worst violations of this? Worship leaders, musicians, and singers–they’ve got talent, so we elevate them immediately, instead of making certain they’re proven and actually walk with Christ, uphold sound doctrine and follow God’s Word. Choose character over gifts.
E Ask others who know them BEST
Their spouse, children, employer and neighbors–to judge someone is to guess their motives. But to ask a family member or employer what they think of a person is not judging—it’s wisdom. What kind of reputation do you have at home, school or work?
F Look for genuine sanctification and genuine SALVATION
Do they know Christ? Are they willing to do anything for Christ? Do they want to obey Christ when no one is watching? Do they worship with their entire life, affections, finances, family, and possessions–are they truly Christ’s?
A born again Christian is someone who has exchanged all that they are for all that Christ is. They follow Christ, love Christ more than their family, want to serve Christ, give to Christ, and honor Christ above all. Are they Christ’s? And most importantly this AM, are you Christ’s? Let’s pray.