In many western churches the qualification of a leader is something that we prefer not talk about. This is because the subject is difficult, can be pointed and often involves conflict. Timothy was told to ‘have a little wine for his stomach’ in the context of appointing qualified leaders. We can expect the task to be arduous and emotional enough to make us sick. Appointing leaders is a difficult task.
On the flip side of this, a leader of a church must be certain that he is both capable and called to lead or the church will suffer the whims of instability that exist within a leaders mind and life. He must be certain that he and his family are a godly example (not perfect) sufficient for others in the church to follow.
This session deals with the need of strong leadership in the churches, assesses how they were appointed in the first century and then asks leaders to grapple with their own appointment.
1 Tim 3:1-16, 5:17-25
Titus 1:5-16, 2:1, 2:15
Acts 20:17-38 (19:8-10)
1 Pet 5:1-5
Questions to guide your study
What types of leaders are addressed here? Broadly, what characteristics do they all have?
What rationale is given for these characteristics?
Consider the teaching component in each of the passages? Who is teaching whom? How are they taught?
How did this assistance help them to complete their work as a leader?
Since Paul’s work is given to us as a pattern (Eph 3:8-9) we can superimpose the pattern of mission that Paul worked within (Evangelise strategic cities, Establish local churches and Entrust to faithful men), over the letter to Titus to get a feel for the nature of the work that he was to be involved in. Luke in his account of the church expanding to the gentiles highlights Acts 13-14 as the primary teaching passage for us to understand the essential elements of mission (Note 13:3, 14:26).
The Titus Scenario:
Titus has been working with Paul for about 15 years. It seems as though he and Paul had been on the Island of Crete, moving from city to city, evangelising within the cities – first in the synagogues and then if/once they rejected it he would move to a nearby house or the marketplace. This no doubt was in a similar context to the Galatian mission where Paul endured ridicule, stoning and being hounded out of town. Cretans were not known for their kindness. Along with Cretan culture, there was also the constant threat of the Jews that had been stirred up by the gospel that Paul proclaimed which took away their favouritism with God and make their circumcision of no value. Their response was often violent.
But even amongst all this difficulty, Paul consistently experienced the joy of new believers in the faith. In Crete, he would have gathered these believers together in each city or population centre and then planned to return to them after 6-8months to strengthen what remains, appoint elders, warn them about difficulties and commend them to the grace of God – just as he had done in Acts 14:21-23.
But for whatever reason, on Crete, Paul did not return back through those cities. Maybe he had work elsewhere that was pressing; maybe this was a task that he had intended to give Titus all along. Regardless, he left Titus to return back through those cities to fulfil the mission and sent him the letter of Titus to assist him to complete this work. If we follow the outline of Acts 13-14 this task was to strengthen the souls of the disciples, encourage them to continue in the faith, warn them about inevitable difficulties that they will face, appoint elders, and commend them to the grace of God – and that, amongst the persecution of the Cretans and Jews.
Here in the book of Titus we get a closer look at these ideas because Paul has written them down as instructions for Titus to follow. His specific instruction to Titus in 1:5 was to set in order what remains (detailed in Tit 1-2) and appoint elders in every city (detailed in Tit 1). Titus must identify leaders in each of the cities who will be strong enough to keep the disciples strengthened in the faith amidst adverse conditions, protected from the threat of Jewish myths. Titus, along with these leaders will need to silence those who are teaching different doctrines, rebuking those who are teaching things contrary to the sound doctrine that he has delivered to them and maintain household order within the community. This role of overseeing the welfare of the believers must be filled with competent man/men.
Paul has a set of leadership characteristics of the type of man who would be qualified to fulfil this role. He is a man who has proved his own soundness within his family - his relationship with his wife, and his relationship with his children. These respect him because of faithfulness in marriage, his lack of arrogance, his calm temper and essentially self control for the purpose of doing what is right in all areas of his life. Essentially Titus is looking for someone who has the wherewithal to teach the teaching in the context of opposition (as he has done in his own family) and respond appropriately – with appropriate strength mixed with self-control to those difficulties which present. Titus was to find and appoint this kind of leader in every city that he and Paul had evangelised in. Titus was to use all authority as he did this task (2:15). The leaders he appoints would also carry this authority as they both taught and strengthened the church/churches they were to oversee.
The Timothy Scenario:
Timothy was in a very different setting to Titus. He had been working with Paul for about 20 years now and had been instructed by Paul to remain in one of the central resource centres to the global network of churches in order to keep the doctrine that was spreading from this hub straight. Ephesus was the hub for all of Asia (Acts 19:8-10, Rev 2-3) and therefore had leaders coming to and from everywhere. If the teaching here was faulty, then the entire network would be at risk. Paul was concerned that certain men within the hub were straying from sound teaching and Timothy’s role was to command / charge / order these men not to teach a different doctrine to that which he had taught them (1:3). Paul also wants to make sure that Timothy both has an authoritative account of this sound doctrine and perhaps even straighten out Timothy’s understanding of what that doctrine is, and so he outlines some very central ideas throughout the letter.
A central practicality to this doctrine is the appointment of properly equipped Elders. Timothy would have this significant responsibility on his shoulders. These Elders would be charged with keeping the teaching sound and straight within their home cities and regions. Timothy needed to example, teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness and in so doing ensure that other faithful men were both capable and equipped to do the same. Those Elders who did this well were to be especially noted.
The rationale that Paul uses is very simple. The issue is leadership / management / care of God’s Household. Timothy must find the man who can lead / teach his wife, and lead / teach his children. This is the kind of leadership that the churches need - the skill of maintaining the loving, firm, nurture and exhortation, and the consistent sound teaching, that goes on in a well ordered home day in, and day out for all the weeks, months, years of our lives. This is the kind of leadership that is needed to keep the sound doctrine clear and straight within each church. This man’s leadership of his wife will be “on display” as an example for the rest of the church. His leadership of his children is to be a model for those within the church. The order within his home is to spill over into the church, assisting all believers to find their correct family relationships within the household of God.
Lastly, because of the considerable weight of responsibility on their shoulders, and the difficulty of their task, these leaders needed to be certain that they were called and capable for the task that lay before them. Wavering under the pressure of this roll could have dire eternal consequences. But the fulfilment of this task would lay a foundation for the furtherance of the gospel both geographically and intergenerationally, and result in the expanding Christ’s kingdom, the glorifying of Christ, the salvation of the leader, and the salvation of those being led (1 Tim 4:16).
Questions for Discussion
Having read about the weighty responsibilities of an Elder - Do you have the wherewithal required of an elder? Do you want the role of an Elder? (Titus 1:10-16, 1 Tim 3:1)
Do you think that your husband and wife relationship could be on display as an example of sound doctrine? Do you think that your Parent and Children could be on display as an example of sound doctrine?
How has your role as Husband / Father prepared you for the task of leadership?
Discuss how a variety of leaders are needed alongside the Elders for the forward movement of the work.
Can you commit to the type of training / learning that is needed for Eldership?
Write a brief paragraph justifying your role as a leader within the church. What is that role? What qualifies you for that role? Be frank.