1 Tim 3:1-13 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 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.
Paul says "If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task" (1 Tim 3:1). The office of "overseer" is the ministry of spiritual oversight of the church--or we may today describe this as leadership. Paul says that if we have this aspiration to provide spiritual leadership to the faith community, it is a "noble task". He uses the word "aspires" (Greek: oregomai- literally to "stretch oneself") to describe the self-preparation needed for leadership. In other words, leadership is not only a grace but also a goal. It does not just happen--it requires self-efforts (e.g. time spent in building relationships and developing leadership habits) and discipline (study of God's word & prayer). Leadership implies a process more than just a position. So, Paul's qualifications for the office of overseers may be understood in leadership developmental process goals, instead of just static personal qualifications.
So what are these process goals for aspiring leaders?
- Personal Character (v.2-3): While it's important to have the necessary gifts and graces for leadership (courage, vision, strategic thinking, faith, etc), we are not ready for the task until we have worked on building a godly character defined by the following habits: integrity ("must be above reproach"), fidelity ("the husband of one wife"), discipline ("sober-minded, self-controlled"), reputation ("respectable"), hospitality ("hospitable"), knowledge ("able to teach"), sobriety ("not a drunkard"), meekness ("not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome"), contentment ("not a lover of money").
- Home Life (v.4-5): Another arena for leadership preparation and practice is the home life. Spiritual oversight of the church is just an extended version of spiritual oversight in the home. Paul is saying that the best place to learn leadership is the home: the proof and practice of our leadership skills is in the home. If our spouse and children can respect and obey us, then we are not just good parents but good leaders.
- Spiritual Maturity (v.6): While anyone (believers and non-believers alike) can acquire leadership skills, spiritual maturity is a process that begins with conversion and ends with a strong foundation of knowing God and walking by the Spirit. This takes time--we cannot fast-track anyone to spiritual maturity. There are certain life experiences that God wants to put us through to mature us in the faith--and it takes time. E.g. failures, disappointments, trials etc are God's maturing processes. We sometime resist painful life-experiences as from the devil. But until we can see God in adversities, we remain spiritually immature and unready for leadership. And painful life lessons take time to learn.
It took Joseph 13 years to reach from dream to reality. It took Moses 40 years of wilderness experience to be ready for leadership. It took David about 15 years from the day he was anointed to the day he ascended to the throne. Maturity cannot be hurried--that's why, a recent convert, even those with wide business/government leadership skills, should never be appointed in a hurry as spiritual overseers in a church.
So, if God puts a desire within us to exercise spiritual leadership in a church, we must start preparing ourselves by working on our personal, home and spiritual life. It will take efforts to become a spiritual leader over God's flock.
Father, thank You that You have put us through difficult and painful experiences to develop in us the character and maturity to qualify us to lead. Amen.