Church Leadership

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11th Nov, 2020 Day 316

1 Tim 3

ESV audio

There is very little in the Bible explaining how to organise a church or fellowship of believers.  It would be nice to have a detailed handbook describing how to set up and organise groups of people in different areas.  Should there be a pyramid structure with a head man at the top?  Or should the different groups of people in different places each be autonomous?  Over the centuries there have been many discussions about these matters, and we have a great disparity of opinions and many denominations resulting from this.

In this chapter Paul is writing instructions to Timothy, who is apparently in a position of authority within the church in Ephesus.  Paul is giving instructions about the organisation of the ministry in the church.

In this chapter Paul describes the character which would be expected from people having responsibilities in ministry within the church.  There are two offices within the church which Paul is concerned about:

  1. Overseer (Greek: episkopos) translated ‘bishop’ in some translations.
  2. Deacon (Greek: diakonos) which means ‘servant’ or ‘minister’.

The office of Overseer is taken by an Elder (i.e. the word Elder (Greek ‘presbuteros’) describes the man, whereas the word Overseer describes the function of the office). 

Paul starts this paragraph with the phrase “If a man desires the position of an overseer, he desires a good thing” – a faithful, trustworthy saying!  If God calls you to be an overseer, that is a good thing, both for you and the church.  The church needs good leadership.

The list of attributes required for an elder are quite extensive and demanding:

  • Above reproach
  • Not polygamous
  • Sober minded
  • Self controlled
  • Respectable
  • Hospitable
  • Able to teach
  • Not an alcoholic
  • Not greedy for money
  • Gentle
  • Not quarrelsome
  • Not covetous
  • Ruling his house well
  • Not a recent convert
  • Well thought of by outsiders

Anybody left standing?  Timothy must have had difficulty in filling these posts!

The interesting thing is that there does seem to be Biblical evidence of there being several elders in each church (Gr. Presbuterion  –  ‘eldership’ or ‘council of elders’). 

What about deacons?  When we read Acts chapter 6 we notice that there were complaints that certain sections of the church were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.  The apostles said to the church “It is not desirable that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables.”  The word ‘serve’ is ‘diakonos’ in Greek, which is the word ‘deacon’ used in scripture.  So they were asked to select people to become ‘servers’, or deacons.  Again, the qualifications required for deacons are quite stringent.

They must be:

  • Reverent
  • Not devious in speech
  • Not alcoholic
  • Not greedy for money
  • Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience
  • Their wives (or female deacons) must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 
  • Not polygamous
  • Ruling their houses well

Those who ‘serve at tables’, or are involved in practical and organisational matters,  need not be limited by these things, for “those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (v 13).  This is borne out by Stephen and Philip, two of the first deacons in Acts 6, who both went on to preaching and teaching ministries, including doing wonders and signs among the people.

Paul was hoping to visit Timothy, but just in case he was not able, he wrote these things,  “that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Andrew Holland