First Timothy 3:1-7 reveals the qualifications required to serve as a leader in the church. Paul’s focus here is on the character qualities befitting those who aspire to church leadership. The New Testament identifies two primary leadership roles: elders and deacons. Elders are servant leaders; Deacons are leading servants. Today we will talk about elders. Paul sets forth fifteen character qualities required of those who seek to serve the church as elders. An elder must be…
- Above reproach. Literally, the word means “blameless” or “without accusation.” This doesn’t mean that elders are expected to be sinless. It that were the case, we would all be disqualified. What Paul is calling for is a person of exceptional maturity and reputation.
- The husband of one wife. The Greek text literally reads “a one-woman man,” and it describes someone who is married to one woman and continues to live in faithful fidelity with this same woman. In other words, this person has a reputation for devotion to his wife.
- Temperate. “Temperate” describes a sober or non-intoxicated state of mind. A temperate man remains in full control of his faculties. He allows nothing to cloud his thinking, keeping everything within balance and limits.
- Prudent. Prudence suggests someone who is reasonable, sensible, and has sound judgment. Paul uses this term in his letter to Titus. It was a quality he wanted to see in “older men” (Titus 2:2), in “young women” as taught by older women (Titus 2:5), in “young men” (Titus 2:6), and in the “church at large” (Titus 2:12).
- Respectable. The word translated here as “respectable” describes someone who lives an orderly life, guided by respectable ideals and virtues. They are well-mannered and have good behavior.
- Hospitable. The word “hospitable” literally means “loving strangers.” A hospitable person opens his home to others and makes them feel loved and welcomed. This trait was highly valued in the first century, where there were very few public accommodations. When visiting a foreign city, you depended on the hospitality of others.
- Able to Teach. Paul tells us that an elder must be “able to teach.” He doesn’t have to be a teacher by calling or gifting; but he must can explain the Scriptures and help others understand and apply them.
- Not addicted to wine. The phrase “not addicted to wine” literally means “not staying near wine.” It describes someone who habitually has alcohol nearby. Elders must avoid addictions of any kind.
- Not pugnacious. “Pugnacious” describes someone who does not allow his emotions to fuel his interactions with others, even during a disagreement. He is not contentious or quarrelsome.
- Gentle. “Gentle” is the very opposite of a “violent” man, who is apt to punch someone. “Gentle” means “moderate,” “reasonable.” Such a man’s response is always appropriate for the occasion, even when he feels harshly criticized or verbally attacked (Proverbs 15:1).
- Peaceable. An elder is to be “peaceable”—“not-fighters” (a literal rendering of the Greek word). He walks away from physical altercations. While he may have the strength and skill to fight, he is known as a peacemaker, a man willing to keep a loose grip on his personal rights.
- Not a lover of money. “Free from the love of money” describes a disposition that is not overly motivated to pursue material wealth. It is possible to be wealthy, and yet not be a “lover of money.” It is fine to possess wealth; the problem comes when wealth possesses you!
- Manage his own family well. Elders should possess the ability to manage their family well. This makes sense, because, after all, the church is a family. If you can’t manage your biological family well, what makes you think you can effectively lead your spiritual family—the church? In other words, a man who ineffectively leads his children is unlikely to lead adults with any greater success. Plus, if a leader’s home is in chaos, he won’t have the emotional margin needed to lead at church.
- Not a recent convert. Paul tells us that an overseer or elder must not be a recent convert. This is because Satan loves seeing a youthful pastor have success and get proud, so he can tear down what he has built.
- A good reputation outside the church. The last quality Paul mentions here is the importance of having a good reputation with those outside the church. Why do you think that is important? Because it reveals who you are. You take your character with you wherever you go.
Are you attracting people to Christ by how you live and interact with others, or are you creating barriers to faith? This qualification of having a good reputation with those outside the church is something we should each aspire to… not just leaders. In fact, every Christian should seek to embody the leadership qualities we have outlined today.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- This week take the “Christian Maturity Inventory” in this week’s Talking Points, Walking Points. Ask God to help you make—and follow through on—a plan to address your areas of weaknesses.
- If you would like to know God personally, contact us here. Scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the first or second checkbox. We look forward to helping!