Jenks Bible Church: Values Series Part 1
We value Servant Leadership: we are dedicated to properly appoint qualified elders and deacons over clearly defined church membership as the established order of Christ’s church. Within this order we are committed to foster servant leaders and faithful followers.
1 Timothy 3:1-10; Mark 10:42-45; Hebrews 13:17.
The topic of this blog is ‘servant leadership’ within the church and in particular why we value qualified elders. In order to support my supposition that God’s will for local churches is the appointment of qualified elders to lead and govern His local churches, we are going to primarily look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7, which is a passage of scripture laying out the qualifications for the office of Elder. But prior to doing that, I will show how the church, from infancy, in the book of Acts and others, was even then committed to a form of a plurality of elders for church governance.
Now...The first thing to be considered, when approaching a passage like 1 Timothy 3, is a recognition of the reality of the presence of elders (plural) in the New Testament church.
We see very plainly, that the Scriptures are full of references concerning the function and leadership role of elders. And a plurality of elders most specifically and significantly is set forth as the pattern and standard to be implemented in each local church.
Since I've been a student of scripture, I've always found it amazing that so many church denominations have chosen not to have a plurality of elders as the pattern of leadership within their church, simply because it’s so blatantly obvious that's what the word of God puts forward as God’s desire for proper local church leadership.
We see right from the beginning, the leadership of the church was in the hands of a body of selected elders. Let’s take a look now as several passages of scripture that make this point very plain.
#1. In Acts 11:29-30, when the church at Antioch sent its offering for famine relief to the church at Jerusalem, it sent it to the elders of their church.
Ac 11:29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
The Jerusalem church already had in place a functioning plurality of elders shepherding the flock of God. And as such, the money sent to the church for needed “relief” was put into their hands for the task of distribution to those within their local church. The clear assumption here is that these elders would know the conditions of the flock of God to such a degree as to know who and how to best distribute the relief funds to on the basis of greatest need. Clearly shepherding elders personally know and live among the flock of God over whom they provided care.
#2. Again in Acts 15:6 & 22, when the church met at Jerusalem to settle the issue over circumcision, it was the apostles and the elders who acted and authorized the decision on how this matter would be communicated to all of the other churches.
Ac 15:6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.
Ac 15:22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers,
Again, another citation demonstrating how the earliest of churches had in place a functioning plurality of elders who, as in this case, were prayerfully seeking the Lord's guidance for His church along with the leading apostles. We also see from verse 22 a clear distinction between the ruling elders of the church and the rest of the body. This distinction could only imply that the body of governing elders were selected out from among the local congregation for the task of leadership within their local church.
#3. In Acts 20:17, when Paul was on his way to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey he met with and addressed the body of elders of the church at Ephesus. And it was these same men that Paul had labored with in the gospel for over 3 years when he Pastored the church in Ephesus. Paul’s instruction here makes it very obvious that the elders within local churches had a mandate from God to provide godly leadership and oversight within the church.
Acts 20:17–21; 28-31
Ac 20:17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
We observe in these verses...
1) a plurality of elders in the church at Ephesus
2) the Holy Spirit raised them up to be OVERSEERS to care for the church of God
3) they are to pay careful attention to their own spiritual health so that they can properly care for the church
4) the elders are to remain alert within the church, be actively involved in gospel ministry within the church, and able to ADMONISH those within the church
5) their lives are to be lived AMONG the very people they are serving as OVERSEERS
So clearly...the church in Ephesus already had in place a functioning plurality of elders serving Christ's church.
#4. In Acts 21:18, after arriving at Jerusalem, Paul met with James and all the elders of the Jerusalem church to give an update on his ministry to the Gentile world.
Ac 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
As observed in Acts 11 & 15...so again here in Acts 21...the Jerusalem church has an active functioning plurality of elders serving the local church.
#5. In 1 Timothy 5:17, it is elders who are identified as those who have the rule of the church.
1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
This word for "rule" here has the idea of RULING...of management and leadership. In particular, we also see here that some among the ruling elders will be especially suited for the task of preaching and teaching. And while all of the elders were to be considered worthy of double honor, which means worthy of renumeration, elders who labored in preaching and teaching were especially to be considered for renumeration for their services to the body.
#6. In 1 Timothy 4:14, Timothy himself was publicly commissioned for ministry by the authorization of a council of elders.
1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
#7. Furthermore, we see in Acts 14:23, Paul authorized the appointment of elders in the churches as one of his first apostolic acts.
Acts 14:23 "And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
In this passage we see...
- the appointment of elders is plural...more than one
- We see this was Paul's practice every where he went...as it says..."In EVERY church".
#8. In Paul's instructions to Titus, in Titus 1:5, he indicated that a church is not yet fully in order until a team of godly qualified elders are overseeing its care.
Titus 1:5 "This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—"
The Greek word for "put into order" means to bring to a natural and normal condition, and the word for "remained" refers to something lacking. The normal, natural condition of a local church includes the presence of a team of godly elders in leadership. Until that is the case it is still incomplete; lacking what it ought to be. The presence of elders in the New Testament church as its divinely authorized governing body seems abundantly clear from the Scriptures.
#9. This is why it says in Hebrews 13:17...
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
These leaders that those within the body need to submit to, are the same leaders that those individuals previously identified as men who were worthy to provide necessary leadership within their church and also over their lives. This passage says that church leaders keep watch over the souls of those whom they serve and will have to give an account of their soul care to God. Clearly, this passage shows the significance of relational proximity between local church leaders (elders) to those over whom they are serving on behalf of Christ.
#10. And this is why 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is in the Bible. In these verses Paul instructs Timothy on the qualifications of those men who are to serve in a local church in the office of Elder.
Look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
Paul says an elder must be a man who aspires to the office (I Timothy 3:1). The Holy Spirit will put a holy ambition within the heart of a man to oversee the flock. This ambition is out of a concern for God's name and the spiritual well being for the flock, not self-exaltation. This God given aspiration is a ‘noble task’ and is to be understood as God’s affirmation in the life of the man desiring to shepherd the flock of God.
2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach,
The word is a compound that means to be apprehended; that which cannot be laid hold of; or not open to censure. It does not mean to be perfect or without sin. To be above reproach is to have no aspect of character where he can characteristically be faulted.
-the husband of one wife,
Literally it says, a one-woman man. The stress is on the quality of the man's relationship with his wife. He is loyal to her. He is not flirtatious. He is happily married and satisfied (content) with his wife. It’s noteworthy here that Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote down for all time that local church “overseers” are to be men. A husband is a man. A wife is a woman. A qualified overseer is to be the husband of but one wife. This says more to the gender of the office of Elder than to the marital status of the individual holding the office.
The word basically means sober, not intoxicated. In the spiritual and ethical realm it is spiritual alertness and watchfulness (I Peter 5:8, I Thessalonians 5:6-8). It is a sensitivity to staying on the track spiritually, not allowing anything that would distract spiritual progress.
Self-control is having power over, or mastering, curbing, restraining ones' self. It is a strength of character given by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that enables a person to master his impulses and drives and channel them to the right use. Its foremost evidence is in the control of the tongue (James 3:2).
To be respectable is to be orderly and well arranged in every facet of life. It is a word used of a woman's dress, a well-ordered house, decorated tombstones and well trimmed lamps (I Timothy 2:10; Matthew 12: 44; 23:29; 25:7). Home, dress, business, etc. are in order and give good appearance and representation to others.
The Greek word for hospitable means love of strangers. A hospitable person is someone who uses his home to reach out to people in need of love and encouragement. It is an attitude that ministers, sometimes in inconvenience, without complaint as it extends warmth to people through home and resources (Luke 14: 12-14).
-able to teach,
Able to teach is the capacity to communicate the Word of God. It involves not only the mechanics of communicating orderly and clearly, but also the manner in which it is communicated. Truth is not to be conveyed in a proud, know-it-all spirit. Paul associates it with not being quarrelsome, but being patient and gentle, even with those who oppose the truth (II Timothy 2:24-26).
3 not a drunkard,
To "not [be] a drunkard“ refers to a quality of character which is not dependent on or dominated by any external influence. There is no bondage or dependence on anything but Christ. This issue would extend to drugs, tobacco, food, etc.
A violent person is one who is always ready for the fight. He is someone who suddenly, sometimes at the slightest provocation, flies off the handle and strikes out at someone. It is an easily irritated and upset person with a short fuse.
The gentle person is one who is seemly, equitable, suitable, fair. It is probably best described as reasonableness. It is a quality of a person who knows when to be flexible and yield even when he is in the right. It is a willingness to listen and yield out of a sense of fairness when personal rights could still be demanded. (James 3:17; Acts 24:4; I Peter 2:18).
This word means to fight, used of armed combatants, or those who engaged in hand to hand struggle. He is a contentious person who has an argumentative, quarrelsome attitude. He insists on getting the last word in to prove his own supposed superiority (Titus 3:9; 2 Timothy 2:24).
-not a lover of money.
The person free from the love of money is basically content with what he has. He has a Biblically balanced perspective of money and material things. He does not allow the making of money to distract him from his ministry nor his walk with God. He knows that true values are eternal , not the temporal things of this life (II Corinthians 4:18).
4 He must manage his own household well,
To manage involves the idea of preside, govern or superintend. It is watchfulness over the condition of the home in all areas; spiritual, financial, social, etc. A good manager does not domineer (John 13:14-17). He delegates responsibilities and involves the whole family, especially the wife, in the decision-making process. If he has children, he disciplines and instructs them with dignity, not humiliating them or causing then to be embittered.
-with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
Children who are under control are children who have a respect for authority and demonstrate it through an obedient attitude. If they are older, they are not accused of rebellion and dissipation (Titus 1:6). That is, they are not unrestrained and insubordinate.
6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
A new convert is someone newly planted. He is a person who has not accumulated enough Christian experience, both in victory and defeat, to remain sound minded. A novice is marked by the fact that he thinks too highly of himself (the word conceited means to wrap in midst). He often loses perspective and is either filled with pride or a critical judgmental spirit in relation to others.
7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Paul’s thought here seems to be that church leaders, as representatives of Christ and His church, are constantly susceptible to the snares of the devil (cf. 2 Tim. 2:26). Satan likes nothing better than to disgrace God’s work and God’s people by trapping church leaders in sin before a watching world. It is important therefore that overseers achieve and maintain a good reputation before unbelievers.
Again, I'm always amazed when churches say the scriptures are silent on this issue of how local churches are to be governed, or that God's word allows for a multitude of differing government styles based on the pastor’s preference. And I’m equally amazed and confounded by the idea of satellite congregations, some subsiding in far away cities from which their satellite feed comes, as local congregations clearly are to know and live among those men who provide shepherding spiritual care over their souls.
Without question, as the scriptures so clearly display, God’s will for leadership in His church is for a plurality of men, elders, to serve as under-shepherds within local congregations.
This is why we are dedicated to properly appoint qualified elders and deacons over clearly defined church membership as the established order of Christ’s church. Within this order we are committed to foster servant leaders and faithful followers.
1 Timothy 3:1-10; Mark 10:42-45; Hebrews 13:17.