We were studying 1 Timothy 3 last night. In it is an outline for selecting godly leaders for the church.
according to the passage there are only two types of leaders: Overseers and Deacons.
Overseers are literally that, people who look over things, see the big picture. Sort of the supervisors of the church. They have to be people of integrity, good repute (amongst christians and non-christians), spiritually mature and with good family management.
Deacons fill a different role. Surprisingly the word deacon has a meaning closer to ‘servant’. As an illustration, the speaker mentioned that if we were in Ephesus at the time and went into a restaurant, the person serving us at the table would be called a ‘deacon’. This doesn’t mean that they’re just waiters but their role is of that nature, to literally serve the church and wait on God’s family.
They too have to be people of integrity with good families and need to be tested before they take on their roles among other things.
Normally churches have so many different roles in the church and so many different levels of hierarchy. Each person has a different task, and each task is often quite specific. The church in Ephesus was quite different to our modern day churches and maybe we can learn a thing or two from that simple structure.
Furthermore we often end up with just anybody taking on roles of leadership before they are ready or even (horrors) when they’re not qualified for the role at all. Examples can be seen all over the world and the repercussions are huge. Young christians’ have their faith rocked as leaders take the fall and churches split due to disagreements within the leadership. It’s ugly.
Church leadership… it’s important.
What also surprised me at the end was when the speaker, after having gone through a list of the characteristics of overseers and deacons, asked us to point out their listed abilities.
For the overseers, there was only one: able to teach. For the deacons, there were no abilities listed at all.
Now this doesn’t mean that they aren’t to have any abilities at all. Everyone is blessed with abilities from God and should use them at every opportunity for the extension of God’s kingdom. What is happening here is a glimpse of the way God selects people as compared to the way we do.
whenever we pick anyone for a role of service our first instinct is to look at their track record, what can they do, what have they done. There’s very little emphasis on their character and how they did it (whether by good or bad means). In Paul’s letter it appears the opposite is true. We are to look first at the character of the person before we judge them ready for service to the church.
This reveals the shallowness of our own attitudes when choosing people. If i wanted someone to be a speaker i’d first see if they had confidence in speaking and good head knowledge of the bible. However this might ignore the fact that he/she was an arrogant and self-seeking individual. Giving them a speakers role might prove to be the ultimate downfall of my church.
So it’s important to know what the person is like inside. Because this inner integrity and good character would ultimately shape and temper the way that they use the abilities that God has given them. Abilities can always be taught but good character on the other hand requires far more work.
Better to start with good character then.
Thanks for the reminder Lord.