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Initial Thoughts on Church Leadership–1 Timothy 3:1-13

January 12, 2011

 1It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And 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.8Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.11Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.13For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (NASB) 1 Timothy 3:1-13

No man is restricted from aspiring/desiring a leadership position in the church. It’s an office or work he seeks to do. Aspiring and desiring means to reach for something, perhaps to lust (in a neutral way) after it. Leading the church is a beautiful fine work to be done.

A man is not so much called, but seeks out the position. I say this because the motivation comes from an aspiration or desire. On the other hand, in Titus, Paul talks about “appointing” elders in every city. You can see a political scenario developing when Titus arrives. Pick me! Pick me! But here’s the catch: Paul goes on to say, OK, you want to be in charge, here’s God’s qualifications!

The denominations see the roles of elder and deacon differently, and in many cases a model for leadership is chosen for its practicality or politics, not propriety. To avoid delving into an issue I’d never resolve in a million years, I’ll focus instead on the essence of the positions (leading and serving) and the qualifications Paul puts forth. Personally, I’m most comfortable with a plurality of leadership in the church; elders, including a pastor/teacher/leader, assisted by deacons, all of whom meet Paul’s (God’s) qualifications.  

The role of elder or overseer or bishop in my view belongs to a man. While the initial word used in verse 1 is general, many other references in 1 Timothy allude to a “male” man. With deacons, female involvement may be possible given verse 11, yet “women” may mean wives, throwing off the idea of “deaconesses.” I’m going with wives because Paul resumes with his deacon qualifications in verse 12. This does not mean women do not perform key roles in the church. Paul was surrounded by them. Regardless, let’s not forget the moral and ethical burdens Paul places on “women” in leadership roles, or “wives” in support of their husbands as confidants.

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