We’re heading into a season when voting will take center stage. Not only will we be selecting leaders who will represent us in the government, but we will also be selecting leaders who will serve us in the church.
Choosing good leaders is essential, and the precedent for this selection process is seen in Acts 6:1-7. The church in Jerusalem was exploding in numbers. Thousands of believers were now joined in faith, and the message of the gospel was expanding in ever increasing circles from Jerusalem. Jews and devout Greeks were worshipping together, breaking bread together, praying together, and sharing resources with one another. But the growing numbers of converts made “Watchcare” ministry a nightmare. How could the apostles keep up with it all? How could they focus their attention on the “ministry of the Word and prayer,” but also address the real-life burdens of the people? The answer was to enlist the help of a servant team (called deacons) who would oversee these administrative details and faithfully care for the people. However, not any servant would do. These men needed to be “of good repute” and “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” With that criteria, the people would choose among themselves those who were fit to serve.
As the church continued to grow and the great missions movement of Paul reached the known world, qualified leadership continued to be a concern. Paul expanded on the qualifications of deacons in his letter to Timothy.
1 Timothy 3:8–13 (ESV)
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Character is everything
In many ways, the qualifications that we find in 1 Timothy 3 are just an expansion of the ones we find in Acts 6, Paul just adds some more detail, so the standard is clearer. As we evaluate this list, it’s important for us to make some observations. First, all the qualifications are either adjectives or they use a verb that describes present continuous action. Paul is concerned about patterns of behavior. He understands that everyone makes mistakes, but he expects that the overall quality of their life will represent the standard listed in these verses. Second, he provides criteria for every dimension of life (personal character, family relationships, and community reputation). This man needs to demonstrate the consistency of character that marks a person who is transformed at the core level - a man who honors God in public and in private. Third, he is a man who remains steadfast in the face of opposition. “Let them also be tested” (3:10). I don’t think that Paul is talking about a period of time for testing, but that when these men are confronted by opposition, adversity, or the opportunity for compromise, they remain faithful to the Lord. Remember, that many of the leaders Paul put in place at various churches had only been converts for several months or a couple of years, but they had demonstrated spiritual strength in the face of hardship.
So, as you consider the men who will serve as leaders at Maranatha, choose men who demonstrate the tested character of spiritual maturity. Then we will continue to enjoy God’s favor on this ministry.