This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for March 13) is written by Cheryl Frey, a freelance proofreader and editor from Rochester, New York.
Leadership Qualities (1 Timothy 3)
By Cheryl Frey
Because I make my living as a proofreader, I find it very hard to ever read a book for pleasure. But not wanting to miss out on all the wisdom to be found in good literature, I now check out books on tape or CD from the library. I especially love to listen to authors Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Stephen Covey, and John Maxwell, who specialize in teaching others how to be successful leaders.
What’s really strange about this, however, is that I have no natural ability as a leader. No matter how many books I read, I’ll never be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company—or even assistant manager at the local Taco Bell. Still, I get a vicarious thrill from reading about how others became leaders.
That’s why I find today’s text from 1 Timothy 3 especially fascinating. Instead of reading about man’s ideas about how to be a leader, we are given perfect advice on the subject from God himself as revealed through the apostle Paul. In this chapter, Paul advises his protégé Timothy on how to help the Ephesian church he serves to select excellent elders (overseers) and deacons (servants) to lead the congregation.
Surprisingly, the first quality for elder that Paul mentions is the person must really want the job. Evidently, overseeing the church is such a heavy responsibility only those who have a heart to serve in this way are to be considered. No arm-twisting required.
Next Paul states what appears to be a checklist of qualifications for the job of elder that includes positive qualities they should display—respected citizen, faithful husband, kind father, gracious host, wise teacher, etc.—and negative characteristics they should avoid—drunkenness, violence, greediness, and pride. But more than a checklist, Paul is conveying the qualities that will be obvious in the life of a godly person. Those with real Christian maturity will lead more by the example of their lives than by any words they speak or power they wield.
Stephen Covey explains why this type of leadership works so well: “In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do. . . . There are people we trust absolutely because we know their character. Whether they’re eloquent or not, whether they have the human relations techniques or not, we trust them, and we work successfully with them.”
The best ones to help lead a congregation are those whose character makes it obvious they can be trusted to do what is best for those they shepherd.
A similar set of character traits for those who serve as deacons makes it obvious that they too are required to live up to high standards of conduct. Such qualities as being respectable, sincere, temperate, and honest will make them suitable to lead in specific areas of the church, such as church maintenance, hospital visitation, benevolence, or parking.
Sometimes people have the wrong idea of the job of deacon and will say things like, “Well, let’s make him a deacon to see what he can do.” But Paul warns against such thinking as he exhorts Timothy that deacons “must first be tested” to be sure “there is nothing against them” (v. 10) before they are given such an important job.
Much debate surrounds the identity of the “wives” (New International Version) or “women” (New American Standard Bible) referred to in verse 11. If these are wives of the deacons, it seems strange that instructions are given to the wives of the deacons but not to those of the elders. Other possibilities are that these instructions are directed to women helpers or deaconesses. Paul identifies one such person in Phoebe (Romans 16:1), whom he describes as “a servant of the church in Cenchrea.” In any case, all women—and especially those who serve in leadership roles—can benefit from the advice to be “worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”
Followers of Jesus
What high standards Paul has set for those who lead the church of Jesus Christ! Why is it so important for elders and deacons, men and women, to live such exemplary lives? He answers that question in verse 15, as he reminds them that they are all part of “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” and they are to conduct their lives accordingly. In this way the church will bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ.
If you are a person to whom God has given the gift of leadership, then use this passage to set high and holy goals for yourself as you seek to become worthy of the honor of leading and serving Christ’s church. But even if you are like me, one with no natural leadership abilities, you can pray for those chosen to lead, support them in all they do, and follow their example of learning to be like Jesus.
*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|March 7: 1 Peter 5:1-5|
|March 8: Isaiah 9:13-17|
|March 9: Titus 1:5-9|
|March 10: Hebrews 13:1-7|
|March 11: Hebrews 13:17-25|
|March 12: 1 Timothy 3:14-16|
|March 13: 1 Timothy 3:1-13|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Cheryl Frey is owner of Premier Editorial Services, a proofreader, and editor living in Rochester, New York.