Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Great Leadership, God's Way: Lessons from 1 Timothy


A few weeks ago, I was able to teach through 1 Timothy 3 and 4 in Bible study at my church. In this passage that I thought would help me develop a checklist for the leaders of my church, the Lord - as usual - refocused my attention to my own ability and calling (as there's plenty of LOG still left in my eye to attend to, ha!) Check out this interesting word the Lord shared with me and our class, I hope through it you will find new insight, encouragement and empowerment as the leader of the flock to which the Lord has entrusted YOU!

Who, ME?

As we have discussed in prior posts, Paul's letter to Timothy had the target of addressing and rectifying some issues with leadership in the Ephesian congregation of believers. Some people were taking on authority who had not been called, some were attempting to distract the flock with false doctrines, and then there were the leaders who being usurped and undermined, grappling to put back together what was starting to tear at the seams.

1 Timothy 3:1
It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.

Paul's guidance can serve as a kind of check list, a way to indicate the health of ourselves as leaders. Yes, that's right, I said a way to evaluate ourselves. 'Wait, Amanda,' you are thinking. 'I'm no pastor. I'm not even in leadership at a church! Ah, but Peter would say otherwise:

1 Peter 5:2 "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God."

and so would the writer of Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:15: "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled..."

Notice in the above scriptures I have underlined a few words. These are, in Greek, the same word as overseer in our Timothy text:
So from the very beginning Paul makes an excellent point, and one worth thinking about. We are all called to be overseers of someone. Friends, children, spouses, coworkers, mentees, Facebook followers, you name it. God has given you a very specific sphere of influence. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you are shaping and affirming ideas in the minds of others by the way you live and the things you say. The question is, are you aspiring to do it God's way? Because intentional, God-focused leadership, friends, is the call of every believer- and fine work indeed!

Ministry Begins at Home 

From the outset, I need to mention that the most important ministry we have is within our homes and families. Yep, that's right. They should be getting the very best of you, not what you have left after ministering to everyone else around you.Why is this? Because God designed the family unit to be a reflection of Himself, an earthly institution through which we can identify with the traits of our Heavenly Father. Inside the family, there are equal, yet distinct, roles, all translating to a characteristic of the Lord. Husbands are the proclaimers of the Word within the home, the protectors, the providers. Wives are the support, they show us sacrificial love and servant-leadership, as Jesus did. Parents show us the role of pastors, training and preparing their children, their arrows in the quiver (Psalm 127) to shoot off to hit the target of a godly life. Children demonstrate Christ-like submission and obedience. Whichever of these you are, to the rest of your family you are a crucial element in their understanding of who God is. Without your obedience, their view is incomplete. What a HUGE responsibility! It's a great and wonderful ministry, and God selected you for your family and your family for you because all of you together living inside His will for your lives make the perfect picture. Pretty neat, huh?

This was the same in Paul's day. Homes were the central location for ministerial activity. And after Christ's death, when the Christian church began to develop, homes are where congregations met together. They attended synagogue services, because this was the place where the Bible was publicly read, and then afterward families came together to talk and pray and fellowship together. Since these home churches were a new development, the now messianic Jews (Paul, the disciples, etc) who began these churches in gentile populations borrowed from their known church structure (that of synagogues) to impart leadership roles to individuals. The roles Paul mentions in chapter three - overseer and deacon, were just a few of many, many roles that already existed in the Jewish synagogues.

Here are a few:

Apostles: missionaries, like Paul, who brought the Gospel to new areas
Prophets: people who spoke the will of God into situations and individuals' lives
Evangelists: spread the Gospel message to the surrounding area, built up the body of believers
Pastor/Teacher: Shepherded the flock by teaching and caring for people
Nasi: the 'CEO' of the congregation, a political representative who organized events and speakers (Paul's teacher Gamaliel was a Nasi)
Tzedakim/Deacon: These individuals took care of the service end of the ministry, taking alms to the poor, etc.
Chasan: Overseers of the word, eventually became modern day worship leaders, they made sure the Word was correctly handled and read
Rabbi: A skilled teacher of the scriptures, an orator, who travelled and had students

These roles were - and are - about service, building up unity in the body. They were not about status, power, or resumes. Based on chapters 1 and 2 of 1 Timothy, it sounds like either the church at Ephesus was in need of some of these particular leaders or, most likely, there were people in the congregation aspiring to lead and maybe even going about getting the authority the wrong way. So Paul needed to clear up how we are to handle leadership.

Seeing all of these varied leadership tasks, what sparks your interest? Are you gifted in and passionate about one of these areas, and ready to share that with your family or flock? Before you answer, it's not all about just having the right skill set for the job. The next part of the passage indicates our spiritual readiness for leadership.

The Right Stuff

The next several verses, 2-13, detail qualities of a good, godly leader. When you read these definitions to follow, think about how you manage yourself in the presence of the flock around you.

Above reproach: This is a toughie. For those of you out there who love being an independent, free-thinking, 'I-don't-care-what-anyone-else-thinks' kind of person, newsflash! What other people think - how others perceive you- does matter. If anyone could raise an eyebrow, you'd better think twice. This quote sums it up much better than I could:

"Live in such a way that if anyone says anything negative about you, no one would believe it."

Now we are not to live in bondage to what others think, but you must consider how things look. As a rule, Michael and I don't ride in cars alone with a person of the opposite sex. It has nothing to do with trusting one another, it's just that we never want to give each other a reason to have any worry that we've put ourselves in a vulnerable or unwise situation. It removes any potential for a problem. Get it?

Husband of One Wife: Based on what I told you about family's function for the Lord, you can understand why loyalty and ability to honor commitments is important. Since we are God's bride, husbands must live in such a way that shows how Christ is committed to us. He wouldn't ever change his mind  about us. He will love us forever. In the same way, a husband's permanence of commitment models this.

Temperate: This means exercising self control with what is consumed (that goes for food too!)

Prudent: You don't have to be serious all the time, but this word implies taking your role seriously and having control and wisdom in being appropriate. There is a time to play, and there is a time to work!

Respectable: Gain this by being orderly, having decorum, living a well-ordered life, being dignified.

Hospitable: I think it's important to note here that this means not only opening your home to others, but also your heart and eyes. When you walk into a room, are you approachable? Do you try to make others feel welcomed, noticed, cared for? (especially people who are alone, new, etc.)

Ability to Teach: Not only the ability, but the willingness to do so. Are you bold enough to have teachable moments, to gently instruct and keep people on the right path?

Not addicted to wine: There is a saying that goes, "What parents do in moderation, children do in excess." Just keep that in mind how you model.  

Not Pugnacious: Quarrelsome, violent tempers are a no-no. We are not called to pick fights, we are called to plant seeds.

Gentle: This means equitable, fair.

Peaceable: Being agreeable is definitely being emphasized!

Free from the Love of Money: We are not to be greedy, but to share the assets God has blessed us with.

Manages His Own Household Well: Again, when you lead, your life is a model. God expects you to live out His standard in the presence of others.

Not a New Convert: This was a problem in the Ephesian church. We must be sound in our doctrine, our understanding, and have weathered a few storms so that we are self aware and wise, before we can lead others into battle. It doesn't mean if you're a new believer you can't serve, but there is a time to be taught before there is a time to teach.

Must Have a Good Reputation with Those Outside the Church: You can't just be above reproach in your believing congregation. Your faith must translate out there in the world. To your waitstaff, your grocery check-out person, to the salesperson calling your at dinner, to your neighbors who never mow their lawn, to your children's teammate's obnoxious parents, to everyone. Again, no raised eyebrows is our goal.

In all, there are 15 directives, and while 3 are 'don't dos' most are 'dos.' In case you are like me and need a pocket-sized goal to work toward, you can sum up great leadership, and the above characteristics, with three main attributes:

Godly leaders are:
-Self Sacrificing
-Self Controlled 
-Sans (without) Drama

Please note that while I called these 'goals to work toward,' you and I cannot acquire these things in our own strength. Only in spending time with our Shepherd and allowing Him to pastor, mold, change, shape and grow us, can we become this kind of leader. We lead out of an outpouring of what the Father is doing in our own lives and hearts. We must start there.

A Word of Caution to Aspiring Leaders

There is a serious word of caution here for those of us who seek to lead. What God wants us to know is that if we want to lead others, and do it well, we must first start on our knees before the Lord, letting Him instruct us. We must first be teachable, we must seek His agenda above our own. And when we have allowed Him to fill us up, to develop these above qualities within us, then it is most important that we wait for the Lord to exalt us at the proper time, to bring the flock He has for us to us.

If you find yourself unhappy under someone's leadership, if you struggle because you are angry that you have gifts to give and a perceptive eye and you think you could do a better job - HOLD IT! Do not usurp the authority God has in place; do not give in to the temptation to undermine, to slander, to sabotage. That is exactly why Paul wrote this letter. There were individuals in the Ephesian church causing serious damage to the body because they were behaving this way. Are you really about God's agenda regarding your gifts? Then use them to help the leadership in place. We are all one body. Proverbs 3:27 instructs, "Do not withhold good when it is in your power to do so." Dear friend, do not let the enemy win, playing on your jealousy or your need for validation and your lack of faith. Pray for your leaders, and pray for His timing and opportunities to use your gifts, and pray for contentment. God is in control, and His plan for you is great! Trust that.

One last thing. I said before that godly leadership is not about authority, rank, position or importance. It is about service to others. If you seek leadership with no regard for the flock's growth or well-being, this is a red flag. A great example of this wrong thinking is found in Mark 10. Notice that these men didn't understand what they were asking. They wanted the glory, not the burden. Christ gave His life as a ransom - he was available always, giving always, about others before himself always. Are you ready to do the same? To drink of that cup?


Who is the flock God has put in your path? Are you willing to step up and become the leader God has meant for you to be today? Are you living up to these high standards? What areas need work? Does it have to be on your terms? Pray for a spirit of self-sacrifice and humility. Do you often lose track of yourself, or are you off balance in areas? Pray for a spirit of self-control and healing. Is your desire to lead about His plans or your ambitions? Pray for a pure and humble heart. I will be praying for us too!

Blessings, friends! Next stop...1 Timothy 4!


  1. Love this Amanda! Great checklist for me!! Thank you!!!

  2. Referenced the checklist again tonight....characteristics of a Godly leader....needed a reminder....thanks!

  3. I'm so glad it's been helpful to you, my friend! Hugs and blessings!

  4. This is EXCELLENT! Love how God speaks through you!


Tweets by @AmandaTadlock