Elder Qualifications: Part 2

1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

We will finish up discussing the qualifications of elders this morning. If you were here two weeks ago, you will recall that we looked at verses 2-3, the first eleven qualifications.

2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (1 Timothy 3:2-3)

Today our list is much shorter, which is verses 4-7, speaking of how an elder should be in his home with his children and the time frame in which he has been a believer in Christ, and lastly how outsiders or those outside the church think of him. Before we get there, I do want to repeat an important point from the last time we discussed these qualifications.

As we look at these qualifications of an elder in the church, it is important for each of us to remember that these qualifications are characteristics that should mark every Christian man. With the exception of able to teach (looked at last time) and not being a recent convert (will look at this time), all other characteristics mentioned are, again, character qualities that all Christian men should possess in Christ. There are not super Christians and all other Christians, that is not the point, we are all to aspire to a life lived for God’s glory as we understand from the Bible, so this is for all of us.

So as we go through this list, let’s all think about where we are and honestly evaluate our walk and consider ways that we can further love our Lord and walk with Him and with each other by living obediently to our calling as Christians together. With that in mind, let’s look at verses 4-7 together…

4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:4-7)

Men, husbands and leaders, are to manage their households well. Manage means to preside over or to have authority over. We all most likely understand the idea of managing. We all manage things, we manage our lives, and some of us are called to manage other people. This is the same word that is used in 1 Timothy 5:17 where we read, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” These two verses, 1 Timothy 3:4 and 1 Timothy 5:17, show us that managing in the home is like an elder managing or ruling in the church. Whether in the home or in the church, men are to lead and lead well. God has called men to lead.

I have definitely had my own struggles in this area. That is of leading in the home. And as I counsel with many men, I have found this to be a common struggle among husbands and fathers. And even church leaders, though called to lead, they may struggle to lead well. God does not always call us to do things that we are naturally good at. In fact, I think many times God calls us to do things that we feel absolutely not cut out to do. I say this because if you are like me and you struggle with being a godly leader, then I want you to find some hope this morning. Here is the hope that we can gain from the apostle Paul’s life…

I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10)

If we feel weak regarding what God has called us to do, then we can take heart because, in our weaknesses, God can be seen as strong, the power of Christ can be seen to rest upon us as we do what we have been called to do. And in many cases, and maybe in your life as a husband and father, it may be in leading your home where we feel the most inadequate. Isn’t it good, utlimately, that God be seen in us rather than that we just seem strong in and of ourselves? We are here to glorify God, and glorifying God is Him showing Himself in and around us.

Men, we must lead, and lead in the strength of Christ, calling out to Him for help, never relying on our own strength.

Jesus is ultimately our example of a leader. How did Jesus lead? What does leadership look like, or what should it look like in the Christian man? Well, again, thinking of Jesus as our example, He associated with those whom He led. When Jesus called His disciples, His invitation was to follow Him. He did not lead from a distance, He was in the lives of those He led, particularly His disciples. He chose to be in their lives as their leader.

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18)

This must be true for the leader in the home and for the leader in the church. As husbands and fathers, we must lead up close. And a church leader must do the same. Biblical leadership requires association, close association.

I heard of a pastor one time who just wanted to preach. He liked the study that it required to put together a message, he liked standing up before the church people and delivering the message. But once this was done, he just wanted to retreat to his study and begin readying himself for his next message. He did not want what he viewed as the messiness of dealing with people, people with problems, people with struggles in life. I don’t think his view is what our Lord has in mind for leaders. Jesus walked with and among those He led.

Leading in the home is a prerequisite to leading in the church. This is to be done “with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” The passage doesn’t just say he must keep his children submissive, but says “with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” There is great difference in the two. Keeping children submissive could include strong-arm forcefulness, attempting to make children obey. Just making children submissive could include a lot of yelling, cursing, intimidating. All kinds of tactics can be used when it comes to fathers trying to keep their children under control. Anger is often used. Ephesians 6:4 gives instruction to fathers: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Heavy handidness, anger, intimidation can easily and often does provoke children to anger. This kind of parenting is not what Paul has in mind when he says elders must keep their children submissive. He says it must be done with dignity. This word dignity means “behavior which is befitting, implying a measure of dignity leading to respect ‘to act in the right way’ or ‘to act as one ought.’” He is saying, “Keep your children in submission while acting as one ought to act.” How would one act? Fathers should act according to God’s Word. We could look at the fruit of the Spirit, a father should parent while living out the fruit of the Spirit…

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

We can add other passages, like from Ephesians 4…

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

In addition we can add more of the Bible. It is living out rightly the Word of God, living to please the Lord, not just in our aim to have submissive children but in all of our actions in that pursuit. It is not just the end result that is important, but every step of the way, every attitude along the way that is important as well. This then is managing “his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.”

The reason given that a church leader must with dignity keep his children submissive, that he must manage his household well is this: “for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” A pastor/elder is to care for the church, for the local church where God has put him. And this care should be much like the way he cares for his family. What we see here is a consistent pattern of behavior in the church leader, that is characteristics that flow throughout his life. He is not one person at home and another person in front of others. He is not a tyrant at home and a kind, loving person at church. He is not an actor, he is real. This is one reason why here at GBFC we talk with the wives of elder candidates to get an understanding of what the man is like at home when out of the public eye. By the way, same for deacon candidates as they too are called to manage their households well.

Next Paul says this, in verse 6: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” One of the great temptations of man, and maybe more so as a church leader, is pride. Jesus spoke of pride as He was bluntly rebuking the Pharisees in Matthew 23…

11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

Paul is urging caution about ordaining a new convert. This could be a path to pride and conceit.

It is interesting that there is no mention of how old a church leader should be, in chronological physical age. But we do have this, that he must not be a young Christian, he must not be young in the faith. The idea is to have a more mature, seasoned Christian who will be leading other Christians.

The term “recent convert” literally means newly planted. And to be conceited means to be blinded. He might, in his pride over his position as a young man, become blinded to his own spiritual needs and the spiritual needs of others to whom he is to minister. And if this happens he may fall into the condemnation of the devil. This means that he may fall under the same condemnation as the devil did as he, in his pride, challenged God Himself. It was pride that brought Satan down, and the proud church leader can fall into that same pride if he is not yet prepared to lead spiritually out of a desire to please God rather than to lift himself up in the eyes of those he leads. This is an important caution for churches.

By the way, this being a recent convert, this does not restrict a person from serving in the church. In fact there are few things that church leaders, elders do that many others in the congregation can’t do. We can all pray for others, right? We can all visit those in spiritual and physical need, we can all open up God’s Word and share it with others, we can all study God’s Word and apply it to our lives, we can all worship and encourage, evangelize and disciple. No one should be discouraged that he cannot serve in a significant way simply because he or she is a new believer. There are very few restrictions on him. Serving in a variety of ways is open to all.

Well, finally, the last qualification for elders is found in verse 7: Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. The church leader should be respected by even the outside world, by those outside the church. If the behavior of the leader does not present a credible witness then there can be great harm to the name of Christ, and the witness of the church can be substantially diminished. To be well thought of is to have a good reputation, it is to be a good witness. It is to have a good name in the wider community, not just the church.

When the leader’s name is mentioned there shouldn’t be this automatic brushing aside of anything he says because everyone knows he is not to be trusted. This does not mean that everyone outside the church will agree with him, that will never happen, only that they see him as an honest man, a man of integrity with what he says and how he acts. He may be hated even, but not because he is a swindler or a liar or cheater. If he is hated it will be because he stands confidently and consistently on God’s Word, it will be the Word of God that is offensive, not the poor conduct, unloving conduct of the man himself.

As we wrap up this long list of qualifications of elders I want to once again remind you of what I said a couple weeks ago. I want to encourage you to pray for the elders here in our church. Pray that God will grow each of us in the many areas where we need to grow to be more pleasing to God. Pray that each of us will be wise not only with the task of leading the church but also even as we interact with those outside the church. Pray for our families and our leadership in our homes, as we discussed today. I know that each of our elders here would appreciate your prayers.

And pray also that the Lord will send more elders to our church, that He would raise up additional men here who can lead in this important way in our church. Along with the qualifications we have talked about there is the tremendous amount of time it takes to lead the church body, and not everyone can invest as much time as is necessary. But we know that God is gracious and He can provide just the right men here to lead this body.

So there you go, there’s your homework – prayer!

1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)