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Leadership #11 - 1 Timothy 3

Qualities of Leadership I
1 Timothy 3:1-7

Teaching Moments

1. The text has five main divisions. (a) Introduction (3:1); (b) character traits (3:2-3); (c) family (3:4-5); (d) church relationship (3:6); and (e) community relationship (3:7). In summary, we might say that whoever wants to be a bishop (overseer) must have a Christian character, good family life, mature spirituality, and good reputation.

2. Introduction. Paul commends the ambition to be an elder/bishop. It is not a character flaw to want to be an elder. It would be a character flaw to want to be an elder for monetary or power purposes--bad motives. But one who wants to be an elder is commended for his desire because of the nature of the work. It is a “noble” (praiseworthy, excellent) task (literally, work) and important for the spiritual health of the Christian community. The significance of this ambition is underscored by the highlighting of this sentence with the phrase “Here is a trustworthy saying”. This phrase occurs elsewhere in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus to emphasize a point (1 Timothy1:15; 4:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). In other words, it is important for the church to have elders/bishops. Mature leadership is necessary for a healthy church. Elders need to understand that the task they take up is an honorable and praiseworthy task which is worthy of the total sacrifice of their lives and deserves respect from the congregation.

3. Christian Character.

   a. above reproach -- unassailable, uncensured, good/spiritual reputation

   b. the husband of but one wife -- often debated. Literally, “one-woman man”, that is, faithful to one woman. It does not mean “married only once,” but married to one at a time. The same words are used to describe church-supported widows in 1 Timothy 5:9. Paul does not mean married only once because he encourages younger widows to marry (1 Timothy 5:14). Once these younger widows are older and become widows again, would they be excluded from church support? I don’t think so. Consequently, the statement is not being married only once, but about faithfulness in family relationships to one’s present wife. The character question is whether this man is faithful to his wife and above reproach in his other relationships with females.

   c. temperate -- literally, “wine-less” which means sobriety in life; freedom from excesses, clear-mindedness, a stable person.

   d. self-controlled -- prudent, sensible, balanced; has his emotions under control; no tantrums.

   e. respectable -- orderly, disciplined, honorable in terms of lifestyle

   f. hospitable -- displays generosity, a friend of strangers; willingness to share; providing for strangers.

   g. able to teach -- knowledge, readiness and communicator; teaching is a responsibility of the elder and giftedness is important here (though we should not think that every must have an equal measure of this gift, nor that this gift must be primarily concerned with the public teaching of the church, though that is an important aspect). More about this in Titus 1:9 a couple of weeks.

   h. not given to much wine -- brawler, overindulgent in wine, addicted or preoccupied with it. I don’t think this is a prohibition against drinking wine, but rather the abuse of wine (or any other chemical, I might add) which was a particular danger then (as now).

   i. not violent but gentle -- this contrast goes together. This person is not a “fighter” or “striker”; neither quicktempered nor easily inflamed so as to result in violence. Rather, he is forbearing, gracious and conciliatory. He is easy to get along with.

   j. not quarrelsome -- a peacable man; uncontentious; stays away from strife and quarreling.

   k. not a lover of money -- prohibition against materialism and the motive of money as a reason for being elder (as some elders were paid).

4. Family Relationships. However a person treats his family is how he will treat the church. Managing a church is more like managing a family than it is managing a business or government. The former is more indicative of the kind of leadership that is important rather the latter. His children say more about a man than his wealth or success. There is no requirement in this text that the children be Christians (we will discuss that possibility in Titus), but it is required that they be submissive and respectful in every way. Does he have obedient children within the family life? That is an important question.

5. Church Relationship. Maturity requires time and experience. Shepherding a church requires maturity. Consequently, the elder cannot be a new convert. For a young Christian the temptation of pride is tremendous, and this is the danger of a new convert becoming an elder. He could become conceited because he does not have the maturity to know his own heart and understand his own motives. Pride was the Devil’s problem, even as an angel. A wonderful new convert can be destroyed by the pride that arises within him if he is selected as an elder by the church.

6. Community Relationship. A church can be disgraced by its leaders. Does the man have a good reputation in the community? Does he pay his bills? Is he honest in business? Is he respected in the community? The real test of character is not on Sunday, but Monday through Saturday. If the community leader does not model Christian light in the world’s darkness, when the darkness will never see the light and the church will not have a model (example) of light in darkness from its leaders. Satan attacks leaders because he can bring down the whole community through the leaders. It is important for the leader to have a good reputation in the community in order to protect him against Satan’s attacks.

Questions for Discussion

1. What is the difference between an ethics of “doing” and an ethics of “being”? [“Doing” refers to acts and deeds and assesses character by a list of accomplishments; but “being” refers to one’s orientation in life, their direction, their goal and assesses character by a mode of existence, a mode of living, and general approach to life.] Which does Paul emphasize in Timothy? What characteristics refer to “being” and which to “doing”?

2. Assess the relative importance of this list as a whole. Given the current situation of the Cordova Community Church and the knowledge that Timothy is functioning as a located evangelist in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:5), what do you find especially significant for Cordova in this text? Why?

3. Can you describe a person in your experience that reflects these qualities? Who in your past history of Christian friends and acquaintances would fit this description? What about this person makes you think this way? [Looking for concrete examples of such a person as described by Paul here. Do they exist? Where have you seen one?]

4. Is there a danger that we press the qualifications legalistically? What does that mean? Does it mean that we should not seek perfection in each of these areas, but does it also mean we should expect some maturity in each of these areas?

5. What kind of behavior should disqualify a person from being an elder based on what Paul offers Timothy here? Give concrete examples.

6. What in these qualifications is distinctly Christian in contrast to the culture? What in these qualifications is required of elders but not of all Christians?

7. What are the dangers of a “new convert” becoming an elder?

8. What in this text indicates the function of elders in a local church? How do the qualifications point us to the function of elders?

9. Do you tend to think of people who “seek” the office of elder in a negative way? Do we fear those people? Why? How can we encourage people to “seek” the office? Don’t we want our children to grow up “seeking” the office?

10. Why is the “home life” of the potential so important? What does it reveal about the person?


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