December 15, 2020

The Great Privilege of Being a Church Leader Comes with Great Responsibility

"that with true contrition of heart we may confess our sins, resolve to forsake them, and implore the Divine forgiveness, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Savior. . . . And finally to overrule all the commotions in the world to the spreading the true religion of our Lord Jesus Christ in its purity and power among all the people of the earth"[1]
Daily Reading : 1 TIMOTHY 1 - 6
TEXT : 1Ti 3:1  This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 1Ti 3:2  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 1Ti 3:3  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
1Ti 3:4  One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 1Ti 3:5  (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?) 1Ti 3:6  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 1Ti 3:7  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 1Ti 3:8  Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 1Ti 3:9  Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 1Ti 3:10  And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 1Ti 3:11  Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 1Ti 3:12  Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 1Ti 3:13  For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy
Timothy, to whom this epistle is written, was eminent for his early piety and acquaintance with the sacred Scriptures; his mother was a Jewess, and his father a Greek, which was the reason why he was not circumcised in his infancy. Mention is made in the second epistle to him of his mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois, as believers, and of his knowledge of the Scriptures from a child: this excellent person the apostle meeting with at Lystra, and having a good report of him from the brethren there, he chose him to be his companion in his travels, and to assist him in the spread of the Gospel; and knowing that it would be very disagreeable to the Jews to hear the word of God from the lips of an uncircumcised person, he took him and circumcised him, becoming all things to all, that he might gain some. This being done, he went along with him into several parts, and he made great use of him, in preaching the word, planting Churches, and writing epistles; he sent him to various places with messages from him, to Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica; and now had left him at Ephesus, where he besought him to abide for a while; for that he was the bishop, pastor, or overseer of that Church is not likely, since his residence here was not constant, and was afterwards called away from hence by the apostle, who desired his stay there, under whom, and by whose directions, he acted while there; and seeing that this Church had elders, bishops, or overseers, whom the Holy Ghost had set over them, whom the apostle called to him at Miletus, and gave them some advice and instructions. The design of Timothy's continuance there was to check growing errors and heresies, and to take care of, and preserve the discipline of God's house; and to charge him with these things was the design of this epistle; in which he teaches him how to behave himself in the Church of God, by taking heed to his doctrine and conversation; and gives rules relating to the qualifications of bishops and deacons, and to the care of widows, and with regard to Church censures, and the becoming walk and conversation of all sorts of persons of every office, age, sex, rank, and order. This epistle is thought to be written about the year 55.  (John Gill)[2]
For many years now, the newspapers are often reporting some Church scandal.  Over the last three decades, salacious news regarding Church leaders has increased to the point that no one is surprised any longer.  The fact that Church leaders are embroiled in and accused of so many acts of immorality and the breeching of ministerial ethics that violate the holiness of God and his commands given in the Holy Scriptures, including - adultery, thefts, drug related crimes, homosexuality etc. and so forth, ad nauseam; that most people are no longer shocked at these revelations.  This in itself is sad.  For when we ought to be surprised and appalled by sinful [and criminal] misbehavior by those who lead the people of God, we no longer are.  It is evidence of the Great Falling Away [apostasy] spoken of by the Apostle Paul that would precede the coming of Jesus Christ.  No doubt, you are living in the last days.
In the Bible, there is a topic of theology known as ecclesiology.  Ecclesiology is the doctrine of the Church as set forth by Jesus Christ and his apostles.  Today, many professing Christians are unaware that the same Scriptures that speak of eternal life and salvation also speak of Church order.  This means, that God when writing the Bible through his appointed and anointed men, spoke of the Church with respect to authority, offices, gifts and talents, and order.  Once again, the subject of ecclesiology is not one that is taught much in the Church today.  Therefore, it is a small wonder we have the confusion, chaos, and lawlessness that we do.  Sadly, is also the reason immorality is rampant from the pulpit to the pew.
In our text of 1st Timothy, the Apostle Paul sets the standard for "bishops and deacons." From this text, we glean much information about the pastor and teacher.  For the sake of simplicity, I will use the term - "Church leader" as applicable to those men who occupy the sacred office of the spiritual leader of the local Church and the various denominations that comprise the Church of Jesus Christ.  The Bible mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders, bishops, deacons etc. and so forth.  For this reason, it is in the interest of clarity and simplicity that I employ one term only that is, "Church leader."
No matter what the institution may be - whether it is the military, a local business, a national enterprise, governments, and even the average family, there is a God ordained order that must be kept.  Further, there are responsibilities that belong to each member of every group that exists.  More so, irresponsibility becomes greater as the organization under consideration is more vital to life itself, that is, to people's lives.  In short, every group no matter how large or how small, has order associated with it.  This is especially true of the Church.
The Church leader must possess above all, doctrinal soundness, moral purity, and ethical integrity.  The Church leader does not have to be an accountant, a wizard at administration, the brightest mind, or the most eloquent speaker.  There are other characteristics of the Church leader I could mention that he does not have to possess in order to be a faithful leader of God's people.  However, he must be above all the true Christian leader.  This means, the rules, standards, commands, and principles of the Holy Scriptures he must apply first to himself, and then to the congregation he leads.
Notice that the qualifications mentioned by the Apostle Paul extend to the wives of the Church leader.  By this reference, we understand that God has ordained by his good will, holy intention, and intelligent design, for the male Christian (man) to be the head of the local Church.  If it were otherwise, we would expect the Bible to mention the fact that women can rule over a local Church.  However, we further notice in the Holy Scriptures that the Bible forbids a woman to rule over a man with respect to authority.  This is not because women are inferior in any way, but in line with the subject under consideration, it is due to the economy - or order of the Christian life.
Nevertheless, the wife of the Church leader must have certain qualities or she disqualifies her husband from the ministry.  You may say - "these standards are hard." One may agree with that position.  The standards are indeed high for the Church leader.  Yet, the reason is simple - the leader of Christ's Church has a heavy burden and responsibility before the LORD.  He, like all Christians, must give a report at the end of his life.  However, the Church leader must give an account not only of his life as a Christian, but also of his calling as a leader in Christ's Church.  This is why the Apostle James exhorts Christians -"not to be many teachers." The reason for that exhortation is based upon the fact that the one who teaches the Holy Scriptures has a greater responsibility than those who listen.
Only eternity will fully reveal the critical, lifesaving ministry of the local Church.  Still, how vital the Church is to the work of the LORD Jesus Christ depends entirely on the leader of the local Church.  He sets the pace.  He sets the tone.  He sets the example to follow.  He brings forth the doctrine.  He condemns or condones the behavior of the Christian.  The responsibility is enormous!  Therefore, it is logical that God wants only those whom he has called and qualified to be in the position of a Church leader.  The reasons again, are obvious. 
The call of the Gospel to - "repent and be saved," is a serious matter.  Hell is just as real now, as it was when Jesus spoke about it and died on the cross to prevent people from going there.  The Church leader must be exceptionally careful that he does nothing to prevent someone from receiving Christ.  Even more so, the Church leader must be especially vigilant in how he teaches other Christians to behave with respect to those who are lost in this world without Christ.  Remember, Jesus said of Judas after he betrayed the LORD, "it would have been better for that man that he had never been born." Such is the serious nature of being a leader in Christ's Church.
It is a great privilege to be called by Christ to be a leader in his Church.  Still, with that privilege comes great responsibility.  Being a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ is more than a "fulltime job." It is a life lived for the LORD, and before the LORD.  It is a call to sanctification and holiness.  It is a call to tremendous burdens placed on the spirit, soul, and body of the Church leader.  Promotion in the kingdom of God is based upon one simple precept - "how much pain are you willing to take for the LORD." The ministry of the Church leader not only takes in his wife and her character, but it encompasses his entire family, including his children.  It is certainly a high calling.  There is no doubt - the great privilege of being a Church leader comes with a great responsibility.

  • [1] John Hancock, Proclamation for Day of Public Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, March 4, 1793, from a broadside in our possession.
  • [2] Gill, Dr. John. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible. Public Domain, 1690 - 1771.
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