15 February 20121 Timothy 3:1-16
"The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task." (v. 1)
Depending upon your chosen translation, Paul is talking about
those called to be a bishop, overseer, elder or church leader.
Probably the one that has more resonance in the New Testament is
'elder', as Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in all the churches
they founded (Acts 14:23), but the job descriptions are
broadly similar. These are people beyond reproach, worthy of
respect and with a mature faith.
There are sound reasons for Paul emphasising the care that must be taken in choosing leaders, and these relate to the function of the Church.
In verse 15 Paul uses four words to describe the Church:
- It is God's household (or family), and within it there must be an overriding sense of love and respect.
- Paul goes on to call it the church of the living God(ekklesia). The word used literally means people who have been called out. So the Church, says Paul, comprises those whom God has called and who have responded.
- The Church is also the pillar ... of the truth. In Ephesus the people would know all about the beauty and impact of pillars. The Temple to Diana, one of the seven wonders of the world, contained 127 marble pillars overlaid with gold and precious stones, which must have sparkled in the sunlight. So the truth must be proudly upheld and clearly seen by all people.
- Lastly, the Church is the foundation or bulwark of the truth. The world may not like to acknowledge or face up to it, but the responsibility of the Church is to remind people of the importance of the truth it proclaims. That is why a leader must be someone who can be looked up to not only from within the Church, but also from outside, as a person of trust and faith from whose life the light of Christ shines through.
Should we take more care when we choose leaders? When you are voting in a parliamentary election do you simply give your vote to the party you've always supported, or look at candidates individually and vote according to their personal qualities?
The Church invests a lot of time and care in prayerfully considering those who feel a call to ordained ministry. Within your own church do you feel that positions of responsibility such as secretary or treasurer are given enough consideration? And what about callings beyond the Church?
Paul had no doubt as to the importance and responsibilities of Church leadership. Does your congregation uphold its leaders in prayer often enough? And how do you and your church encourage them in their work both through kind words and an offering of time and resources?