I am preaching a series on the church. Our aim in this series is to find our way back to how God has designed the church to be. I find it so easy to drift from His plans for the church. But as I shared a few weeks ago, Jesus is the Head of the church. It is His show. He is the ultimate leader. Therefore, it is wisest for us to get in line with what He wants to do in the church. Part of that has to do with how to structure leadership.
Jesus' design for leadership in the church is a group of qualified men. They are called elders. In 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the Apostle Paul gives us 22 character qualities that qualify a man to be an elder of Christ's church. I will share at length in the coming weeks some of my understandings of these character qualities. But today, I want to share some preliminary thoughts on these characteristics.
First, These Are God's Standards
These are not suggestions of what might make a good leader. Jesus is not recommending that it might be wise if the leader of the church isn't the guy throwing punches at the local bars on Friday nights. He is raising the bar to say that it can't happen. These are His standards. Because of that, we should listen and follow them with uncompromising fervor. We know that anytime God's standards are broken, it leads to consequences.
Second, These Standards Deal Primarily with the Character of the Men
The world begins the evaluation of leadership from the bottom line. Have you been successful? Does the business grow? What are the results? But Jesus comes to the subject of leadership very differently. He says, "I don't really care what you do for me, I care who you are before Me." God cares more about the character of the men than He does what they can accomplish for Him. That is seen in the fact that most of the 22 characteristics that are mentioned have to do with character.
Third, These Standards Are in the Present Tense
It is easy for the church to err in one of two directions. Some make the mistake in disregarding a man because of what happened 20 years ago. Of course, the man needs to be above reproach, but don't forget who is writing these words. Paul was a known murderer. I only wonder how the church would feel if the next elder candidate put forward was like Paul. But it is also easy for the church to swing that pendulum too far the other way. We might install an elder and then ignore character issues moving forward.
Being in the present tense also means that we are not talking about perfection, but a pattern of life. If it was perfection, we are all in trouble. Nobody would be qualified. Only Jesus fits that standard. But it does mean that the pattern of their life is character.
Fourth, These Standards Are for Men
God has designed a plan that men are to be leaders in the home and the church. As we make our way through these qualifications, it is expressly directed towards men. The pronouns are masculine. The adjectives are masculine. He is to be a husband of one wife, not a wife of one husband. It is expressly male.
Fifth, These Standards Are Called of All Believers
Simply put, the elders are to be an example of what all Christians are called to be. Almost every one of these character qualities are seen in the calling of other believers at some other points in the Scriptures. The elders are not perfect, but they are setting a standard of what it means to be a Christian.