Jesus Ruled Church
We are in a series on the church and are looking at passages that will define us. Today we are looking at a passage on church leadership. It will help us understand how the church is to function. I also want to show how this should affect us on a daily basis and also how we galvanize as a church.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, 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? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)
How does the church work? I want to talk about that today. In our new constitution we added the line that we are Jesus ruled, elder led, and congregationally accountable church. I want to take some time to unpack that so you understand it, and I want to say why it is important for everyone, not just elders.
As an aside I have met with Presbyterian and baptist pastors over the last couple weeks and issues of leadership came up. It was surprising to all of us was we had some differences but we also functioned in very similar ways. There were differences of emphasis, but we had a lot in common. We were all Jesus ruled, elder led, and congregationally accountable. I think a biblical understanding of a Christian church has those three basic elements prominent. It’s like a pound cake (1 lb butter, 1 lb sugar, 1 lb flour, but not all cakes taste exactly the same). Problems usually occur when you don’t have one of those elements.
- Jesus Ruled.
Jesus is at the top of our org chart. If I could name one of the biggest reasons people do not like the Christian church, or one of the biggest reasons people don’t want to be a part of organized religion it is because of wrong things they have seen done in the church. In fact it might surprise you but I have found more often than not, when I talk to someone who says they do not want anything to do with organized religion, and I ask them why, I typically hear them say things that lead me to agree with their assessment. That’s right you have a pastor agreeing not to be a part of organized religion. I agree with them, and say, “if that is what organized religion is really about I would want anything to do with it either.”
I hear things like a pastor was stealing money or the pastor just did whatever he wanted and if you disagreed with him you were silenced and shunned. Amanda and I recently watched a documentary on Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. It was horrific. In the 1980’s they were scamming money, sometimes millions a week, Jim was indicted on 24 counts of fraud. They were not following Scripture’s guides for church. I m so glad to know I have never worked with anyone like that. Most of the guys I know in ministry could be doing something other than ministry and making more money, and instead they are making sacrifices to serve the Lord. I wish more stories like theirs got out.
But the point is, some leaders do things that are wrong. You have to see that in the church, leaders are to be submissive to the word of God. They are under the word. It’s not their way or the highway. Its God’s way or the highway. That is how you submit to Jesus rulership. If you lose the word then you have no accountability. Jesus is at the top of the org chart.
This passage in 1 Tim 3, in addition to Titus 1:6-9 are the most extensive teaching on the governance of the church. These passages are focused on the kind of person that is in leadership rather than what kind of government.
One of the ways we show Jesus is leading us is we put his standards for leaders above ours. It’s not about how good of friends you are with somebody, or how much you like them, or even how many twitter followers they have or anything like that. We need to have God’s standard for all we do in the church. Leaders are to be submitted to that. By recognizing these qualifications for leaders the church is saying something profound, we are saying someone is more important than my pastor, someone else has authority over us, and we are absolutely going to say that at Bridgeway.
Additional accountability. Every time the word elders is used in the NT it is plural (Lk. 7:3, Lk. 22:52, Acts 4:5, Acts 6:12, Acts 11:30, Acts 14:23, Acts 15:2, Acts 20:17, Tit. 1:5, Jas. 5:14, 1 Pet. 5:1, Rev. 4:4), churches were led by a plurality of leaders. It also seems that within that plurality there were leaders who led the group. You don’t have lone ranger leader above everyone else. You have equality of leaders and you have someone who leads. You also see in from Titus is that on church plants it took time to develop leaders.
We have a good group of elders (Jon, Steve, JK, myself).
- Elder Led
Jesus is at the top but there has to be leadership. Without leadership nothing happens. But leadership is under his authority. It serves Jesus purposes.
Leadership in the church is pastors, elders, overseers (bishops). It is different words for the same role. We use those terms synonymously. Some churches make formal distinctions of those who are more involved with people (pastors) and those who are more involved in the business side (elders). Those distinctions are understandable. We have not made clear distinctions in them here. The qualifications however are the same.
an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent;
So here at Bridgeway we are seeking to have leadership that is leading the church. Any organization needs leaders that are pushing it forward. We are also seeking to involve the congregation in decision, in prayer, in ministry. We are seeking to be accountable.
Desire. It all begins with desire. You have to have a desire for the task. You have to have the desire to lead, anywhere you are. As you think about helping others step up into leadership in your work or wherever, desire is fundamental. Desire/ aspire (v1) reach out for something, stretch oneself toward.
In sports sometimes a passionate drive will compensate for a lack of other components. A lack of desire can ruin even the best gifted people. What good is all the skill in the world if there is no inner drive.
Spiritual Hunger. We should hunger for the things of God. Hunger for his kingdom and his church to grow in influence and size.
I hope. I pray that as we build a church here, there will be people saying I want to invest my life in what God is doing here. I hope they see the imperfections and difficulties of a church (so they have an honest assessment) and say I see that but I also see how God is using the church and I want it to be a prominent place in my life. I want to give my life and career to that.
Leadership reflects the church body. In Scripture there is always a connection between leaders and the people. Sometimes the leaders affect those under them. Sometimes the leaders reflect what the people want. It’s a sobering connection. I want us to be a church that is passionate/committed to the mission! Let’s all push into the mission of the church. I don’t want to have someone in eldership just because he is the only one that has just a little bit of a desire for ministry. Let’s all want to see God’s mission expand. Let’s all aspire to see God honored and lifted up. Let’s all aspire to serve Christ and Christ as lone.
But desire is not the only requirement. There is an emphasis on character. The importance of character can’t be overstated. Character is what you are when no one else is around. No qualification for elders here that should not be present in all believers.
above reproach, he should have a moral behavior that is above criticsm. He should set an example to others. all Christians are called to this (phil 1:10). Elders must have this.
Now obviously people will differ with you and may say things about you. It doesn’t mean everyone agrees with you or you never get slandered. I wish that were true. But it means you are not doing things that dishonor Christ, and it means you can give a satisfying defense against contrary accusations.
1 Timothy 5:19 gives a procedure for handling accusations against an elder. There is a process and that process is for the good of the church and also the elder. You need two witnesses, not one but two. And then the elders are to vet those charges, and do it in an impartial way. The process should also be above reproach.
“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” (1 Timothy 5:19-20 ESV)
Some churches have glossed over significant sins and have not disciplined leaders. If a guy committed such things you have to remove him. Churches have simply reassigned clergy that has abused children. That is wrong. Those churches have failed to follow the Lord and now people don’t respect them. There is a reason for that. We have to take our integrity and walk with the Lord seriously. Some churches have let issues go unaddressed because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. That is elevating people above God and is wrong. We have to protect the integrity of Jesus and the mission.
The husband of one wife. In the Greek it is literally “a one woman man.” The fact that this is listed so soon highlights God’s priority for marriage to be one man and one woman. The elder should demonstrate marital fidelity. There is faithfulness, not flirtatious or promiscuous. Eph 5:25. Leadership in the home and church are to be sacrificial, laying down your life for the good of others. There should be a leading and loving of those closest to him. There should be faithfulness in it all. This is a reminder to all of the purity, devotion, sacrifice God calls you to. Set an example in this.
sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable. He is controlled. He doesn’t give in to passions or whims, wild ideas. He is in control of himself. There is a stability and a consistency. He is respectable, conducting himself with decency and propriety.
3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, Not a striker, not a bully or pugnacious. We don’t force people into things. We don’t pressure. We teach, we set an example, we exhort, we warn with words. But coercion, force and belligerence are not used.
In leadership there are hard things you have to do, but you don’t have to be a jerk about it. I really think that is something people today need to hear. You do not have to be demeaning to get things done. Love does not insist on its own way. You have to do hard things in leadership, and you can do those with grace and gentleness. “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (Jam 1:20 ESV). It is so easy in life to let emotions get the best of you. You can too quickly tear people down and destroy the work of God that you are trying to do in your child, or employee or friend. Plurality.
Not a lover of money. If you are serving the church to make money you are not serving the church. … Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. It was so sad and disturbing to see how they were getting millions of dollars from people and that is really all their ministry was about. Lots of people were hurt through that and the the ministry of the church was tainted. So much harm can come from the love of fame and money. I want us to be more about the work of God than money. Yes, money can push a ministry forward, but we are going to be more about convincing people of the need to follow Jesus than of just getting money.
Hospitable. Ministry happens in the context of relationships. If you want to grow in effectiveness in ministry and the mission just have people over. You get to know people, pray for people, care for people. Hospitality is central to the mission of the church today.
able to teach. If someone is not able to teach they are not to be an elder. After this section is an explanation of the role of deacons. The one character qualification for elders that is not present for deacons is the ability to teach. As elders are the shepherd-teachers we saw last week in Eph 4 they have to be able to teach. Doesn’t mean they wow you with their intellect or delivery, but it does mean that when they teach you understand things. There is more clarity than confusion, there is a deeper sense of who God is. Everyone is gifted by God for service in the church, but many times because a person is a servant people may think he should be in leadership. You have to see those distinctions.
One of the big things you see in the new testament is instruction on protecting against errant/false teaching. Paul tells timothy numerous times to defend sound doctrine. “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Tit 1:1 ESV). You have to be able to teach right doctrine and correct against false doctrine. Elders need to know the difference in these and be competent with the truths of Scripture.
4 He must manage his own household well, 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? Every pastor I know talks about how important their family is in them growing as a leader. Every leader I know says the same thing. HOw you lead your family, how you lead your roomates, how you lead your girlfriend are an overflow of your walk with God. Are you actively leading others or do you sit back and disconnect. And again here it’s not that the kids and household are perfect, but it should show integrity in his faith and gifts. Its being the same person in private that you are in public.
The family is the first to see hypocrisy. I could stand up here and tell you how great I am at something and you might believe it, but the kids know the real you.
Here there is a general pattern of being faithful with little before you are faithful with much. People want to lead the masses but they first need to be faithful with their family.
To sum up the need of these qualifications for elders, it is humility before the word. Aspire to honor God to influence others but have the humility to do it in the way God calls you to do it. Hunger. Humility.
Set an example. “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 ESV).
Philosophy of ministry.
- Congregationally Accountable.
This instruction on elders is for the church as a whole church. As we bring elders on we are going to vote on them. It is a way for the church to say I can vouch for that person. I have seen him teach, and lead his family. I know his reputation in the community. I m not aware of anything that precludes him from serving.
Congregational element. In new testament the health of church is up to everybody. Church discipline ends with telling it to the church (Matt 18:17).
In Acts 15 you see the unity of the church as the apostles and elders are working together with the whole church.
“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.” (Act 15:22 ESV)
As elders we want to provide ways for involvement, feedback, and accountability in church life. Priesthood of all believers. We want you using your gifts and participating. Some things we will vote on to show that. Some things we will have committees and others serve on. We want the body involved in the work of ministry.
Broader Application. But how you do leadership becomes a pattern for other things in the church. How we elect our nation’s president affects how every city does local elections. I want this pattern to affect all that we do.
If I could sum this up in two says it would be that our leadership would be hungry and humble servant leaders. I want people that are hungry to honor God and make a difference in the community, make a difference in leading the greeting team, or sports outreach. That they would be humble, mainly towards God: following his word, but also with people. We are there to serve. We want to help others, we want not just our ideas but the best ideas and the best leaders to rise to the top in how we do things. There to listen and consider. Implement good ideas, improve the mediocre ideas, and say no to the bad ideas. And yes there are bad ideas. But even the bad ideas can be helpful to hear as they remind you why you do things the way you do. But even those bad ideas are dealt with respectfully and graciously. To have leadership like this we need a congregation like that. Hungry and humble.
I’m grateful for what we have. I want to catalyze and grow that. I hope we ignite a movement of people living this, doing this, running after this.
Do you have a hunger for God? Do you have a humility before God? You may have pushed him aside, resisted change, refused to submit to him. We are only going to be effective in our work as we submit to the chief shepherd.