A Higher Standard: A Sermon Based on 1 Timothy Chapter 3

Robert Cook wrote “There is no substitute for character. You can buy brains, but you can’t buy character.”

When it comes to selecting leaders in the church, nothing is more important than godly character.

As we’ve been talking about for the last new months, in June, this church will select a new Clerk of the Elders. The name kinda sounds like this person would just be put in charge of typing and filing, but that is not what the name clerk means in this case.

Rather, many of you would be more familiar with the terms Chief Elder, or president of the church board, or Head Deacon. Also, amongst Friends, in particular, you might also hear the term “Weighty Quaker”. It’s an important job.

But it’s important keep in mind, that the bible tells us every follower of Jesus is called to ministry by Christ’s Great Commission.

So this sermon is not about somebody else. Don’t just listen as we go through, and think, I’m glad this is not about you, because it is.

And as we do this it brings us to a most relevant section of scripture today in 1 Timothy.

How do we choose the leaders of the church? What should be considered? What is important?

Paul tells us…anyone can desire to be an pastor or elder, and that is a good thing.

But not everyone can be an elder or pastor. Just wanting to be an elder or pastor is not enough.

Since the oversight of God’s church is such a significant responsibility, there are certain qualifications a person must meet. And they may not be the ones you may think.

For example, no where does God require an advanced education. Many of the first church leaders were all but illiterate and poorly educated. Only a handful of Jesus’ own disciples, it appears, could even read or write, at least initially.

And God does not require that you be an eloquent speaker. God chose many leaders who were not bold speakers. Paul attests to this fact himself in his letters.

God does not require you to have a really cool haircut. I’ve been really happy about that one…and so have a number of famous TV evangelists…..

But God does require some things. And we will take a few minutes to consider them today.

But before I do, another things I am grateful for is that God does not require perfection. Those who represent Christ on earth, are not expected to BE Christ.

But there are a list of things things that God feels are very important to consider when we chose leaders.

A veteran 75-year-old minister (who’s name you would surely recognize) ‘”assessed his own life in light of this list.

His evaluation: “I’m above reproach, I’m the husband of one wife, I’m free from the love of the money, I don’t linger over wine — .”

Then he paused for a long moment and said, “But I could use some work in the rest of the areas.”

So we must remember that we are but human beings, saved by God’s grace, so we will have failings, but God does have high standards, and with his help we should strive for them.

1 Timothy Chapter 3 [from the NLT- New Living Translation]

1 This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” 2 So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. 3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. 4 He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?

6 An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. 7 Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.

8 In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. 9 They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. 10 Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. 13 Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

14 I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, 15 so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.

16 Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit.
He was seen by angels and announced to the nations.
He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory.

So what does a godly leader of the church look like?

The bible tells us they look like the people described in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

And as we start to look at this list, like I said, we should remember that they also apply to all Christians everywhere in that these qualities ultimately describe what a godly or mature Christian should look like.

The qualifications on this list are unique to those called to leadership. So, yes, elders and pastors must be above reproach, free from the love of money, not quarrelsome, gentle, lovers of the good, and so on, but those are qualities that all Christians should display.

This list describes the kind of people all of us should want to be, but there is an expectation that elders and pastors should embrace them at a higher level.

But again, this is an aspirational list. No one lives like this 100% of the time. Not me, not you, not Paul, or Peter. No one, except Jesus. And this list comes from 1 Timothy 3 that we read today, as well as Titus, and other places.

So, first, church leaders must want the job.

Not from a place of arrogance or pride, but rather through humble obedience to God’s calling.

So if we have to talk a person into serving, it’s probably the wrong person! The calling should be clear and evident. Now, some reluctance and hesitation are not always a bad sign. Perhaps the person feels unworthy or perhaps they don’t understand what the job entails.

One of the greatest leaders of the bible, Moses, for example, hesitated and had reluctance, but his calling by God was also clear.

Church leaders should be temperate.

The Greek word for temperate originally meant “without wine” In that sense it certainly touches the limited or non-use of alcohol, but it goes beyond that to means something like “even-tempered,” “clear-headed,” or “balanced.”

Church leaders should be sensible.

The sensible person is balanced, reasonable and discerning'”not given to extremes. He is experienced enough to keep his balance when life throws him a curve. The word also implies a sober and serious attitude.

Church leaders should be not violent.

The term warns again those who use physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse or emotional abuse in order to get their way. Paul’s command is simple: Don’t choose a person like that as a leader!

Church leaders should be not quarrelsome.

Some people just love to pick fights. They love to argue, to trade insults and put other people down. Some people are the masters of cutting remarks, the kings of the cute comeback. But by contrast, the godly leader is uncontentious, willing to listen, not argumentative, not given to a fighting spirit. He is a peace-maker, not a peace-breaker. Church leaders should be not quick-tempered. There are times when leaders need to be angry. No one wants a leader who always smiles and never frowns. But leaders should who know how to get angry at the right time for the right reasons in the right way. Paul is warning us against putting a “hot-headed” people in positions of church leadership. Church leaders should be not overbearing.

This describes a person who is free from arrogant self-will, who does not always have to have his own way. Church leaders should be gentle.

This speaks of patience, forbearance, consideration and personal kindness. It describes a person who considers the whole picture before acting. A gentle leader protects and does not humiliate. Church leaders should be above reproach and blameless.

The Living Bible uses the phrase “a good man whose life cannot be spoken against.” or “one with whom no fault can be found.”

That doesn’t mean they are perfect. It means that thier conduct is that which does not reflect poorly upon the body of Christ. Even the greatest of church leaders sin, but these sins are not particularly grievous, unresolved, persistent, deliberate, and/or public.

The church leader should be a human being, but be a generally good example. They should not harm the church by their behavior. Church leaders should be respectable.

This describes a person whose life is well-ordered and well-arranged. Another word might be “dignified.” This quality is seen in a leader’s outward behavior'”his dress, his manners, his speech, the way he relates to the opposite sex.

To use an old phrase they have the quality of a “Christian gentleman.” Church leaders should be hospitable.

The word literally means a “lover of strangers.” A godly leader must be open, approachable, vulnerable, transparent, one who genuinely cares for others, and is welcoming…willing to offer kindness and well as food and rest and shelter to those in need.

Church leaders should be upright.

And it’s upright, not uptight. And by upright we’re not talking about sitting up on on the couch rather than lying down. The word means “fair, honest, just.” This touches a persons business dealings, his financial affairs, how he handles his employees and coworkers, what kind of deals he makes, whether he pays his bills on time, whether he keeps his promises, how he speaks about others. It is a combination of “goodness” and “honesty.” Church leaders should have a good reputation with outsiders.

The phrase for “good reputation” is literally “good witness.” What kind of “witness” do they have with the people outside the church?

You might ask…why is this important? Because the the saved and unsaved alike watch us all the time. Our lives may be the only “Bible” some people ever read. They watch us, examine us, listen to our jokes, study the way we do our work, take note of how we treat others — and make judgments from there. Church leaders should be not a new convert.

The danger here is that new believers simply haven’t been properly trained or tested yet. They lack the maturity, wisdom and experience that only comes from knowing the Lord for many years. Martin Luther said that three things were necessary for the making of a minister: Prayer, Meditation and Temptation.

Only when someone has been “around the block” a few times is he ready for leadership. Church leaders should be Holy.

A holy person is someone who brings you easily into the presence of God with them. It doesn’t refer to fake piety or to a holier-than-thou mentality. In fact, that’s the opposite of what this word means. A holy person makes it easy to believe in Jesus. Church leaders should hold fast to sound doctrine.

The Christian message has never been universally popular; some have always opposed it. We need leaders who are so well grounded in the truth of the Bible that they can accurately teach it to others and courageously defend the truth when it is attacked. Church leaders should be able to teach.

1. A teachable spirit'”eager to learn. 2. A good working knowledge of the Bible. 3. Willingness to share spiritual truth with others. 4. Willingness to confront false teaching when necessary.

Leaders must love the Word, must cling to the Word, must know the Word. No wavering, no doubting, no compromising.

Church leaders should be husband of one wife. In the Greek the phrase literally reads “a one-woman man.” This has been interpreted a number of different ways.

1. Only one wife at a time (non-polygamous)

2. Never divorced or remarried

3. Must be single, married only to the church

4. Must be married.

5. Must be faithful in marriage.

6. If married, must be married to someone of the opposite sex.

It’s tricky to know about this for sure, because there are so many factors involved. For example, Paul elsewhere says he thinks no one should get married, and he himself isn’t, but he was a great preacher, elder, and church leader.

Paul also discusses in other places the remarriage of an elder. And there is clear discussion that people, in general, and not just elders and pastors, should be married to people of the opposite sex. And divorce is not forbidden by Jesus, nor the apostles, but rather strict guidelines are given for it’s biblical usage.

So….people disagree, but most will conclude that #1 and #5 are the most likely plain reading. No multiple spouses for ministers and elders, and those who are married must be honest and faithful.

” Husband of one wife” is a moral qualification, not simply a marital qualification. Church leaders should manages their own household well. Paul says that when we need leaders we should begin by looking for those who handle their families in an orderly fashion.

The family is like a church in miniature where the father is the pastor of his own family. And at the core of any family should be love. Church leaders should have children who obey them. 1 Timothy 3:4 says the elder must “see that his children obey him with proper respect.” Titus 1:6 is more specific: “a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”

There is not perfection here, once again. A child can only be lead into the ways of the Lord, but they have free will like every one else. Mistakes will be made, and not everything will turn out as planned. But God instructs us all to make our best effort at this important responsibility. Church leaders should be not given to drunkenness.

Literally this phrase means “not lingering over wine.” It is variously translated as “not a lover of wine,” “not addicted to strong drink,” “not a drunkard,” “not a hard drinker,” “not excessive in his use of wine.”

While this does not demand total abstinence, it also makes clear that a lover of wine cannot be a leader of God’s people. Godly leaders must be above reproach in the use of alcohol. Church leaders should not be a lover of money.

The godly leader must not make money the goal of his life. He must not be absorbed with the goal of increasing his wealth of money and things. Being a “lover of money” doesn’t imply anything dishonest or wrong. It simply means knowing the God you worship, and that god is not the almighty dollar. Church leaders should be not pursuing dishonest gain.

The godly leader must not be an embezzler, a thief, or a crook.

His financial dealings must be above reproach. There cannot be the slightest question about the way he handles his money.

Note the difference between the last two: The “lover of money” is honest but wrong. But “Pursuing dishonest gain” is both dishonest and wrong. Biblically, both are inappropriate for a leader of God’s people. Finally, Church leaders should love what is good.

” Loving what is good” means to support good people, good causes and good ideas. One commentator calls this quality “the unwearying activity of love.” SO….There is it. What the bible tells us about church leaders. It is not meant to depress us, or disqualify us but rather to inspire us to be better men and women.

I assure you, I certainly don’t measure up in several of these areas. As I’m sure all of you found areas, in your own lives, that need some work. And that’s OK.

‘¢ It’s okay to say, “I can’t meet those qualifications now.”

‘¢ But It’s better to say, “By the grace of God, that’s the kind of person I want to be.”

God does not chose the fit, he fits who he chooses. I love that. I believe that Jesus is transforming me every day into more of what he desires from me. When I first became pastor of this church, I felt totally out of my element. I could not understand why God had brought me to this moment or what he expected of me.

I still do not have complete answers to these questions, but I am certain that God has not finished growing me and teaching me and changing me to his glory.

None of us can “become” the things on this list without Jesus. He alone can brings about these qualities in us when we rely on Him and trust Him.

Likewise, we cannot discern these qualities in others without his help. We cannot appreciate them and honor them in our church leaders without his guidance.

So let’s celebrate those called to Christian leadership this morning. It is a calling to a higher accountability, and not without it’s trials and temptations.

And let us take some time to pray earnestly for those who serve now, and for our new Board Clerk candidate.

May we walk in His light.


©2011 Timothy Henry