A Noble Task
- David Fairchild
- Aug 15, 2010
This is a day of great celebration as we appoint Jake Chambers to the role of an elder at Kaleo College Area.
As many of you know, we’ve been looking at Jake’s life and leadership for the last year as Scripture calls us to lay hands on no man quickly (1 Timothy 5:22). And for the last 30 days we’ve asked that our family at Kaleo inform us if there is anything that would prohibit Jake from becoming an elder. Needless to say, we’ve been blessed as we’ve examined him and we’ve received only positive feedback from those of you who have been led by Jake as he’s been under elder consideration and candidacy.
The elders thought it would be wise to explain from Scripture what the biblical qualifications for elder of the church and the role that the body of Christ plays in how they treat an elder. After all, an elder is an elder over people, an under-shepherd has a flock to care for, so the responsibility to one another is mutual.
Leadership is God’s Plan
Before we begin, it’s good for us to remember that God is the Chief Leader. This is His world and we were created to love, worship, trust and obey the God who made us, loves us and cares for us.
The way God rules is by His word. In the beginning Adam and Eve were created out of a Trinitarian conversation as God said, “Let’s make man in our image…” (Gen. 1:26)
God makes man and woman to bear His image and to rule under His authority. They are to represent God in the world. Leadership and authority are given prior to the Fall. It was God’s good plan to appoint leaders over His creation.
After man believes the lie of the serpent and attempts to rule himself and become equal to God’s authority, God doesn’t give up on leadership. Through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon to Nehemiah, God continues His pattern of choosing leaders to lead His people and mission in this world. God is committed to showing off His glory by making everything the way it ought to be.
However, all of Israel’s leaders fail. These leaders are not the heroes of the biblical story. They point to, prepare for and inform the people about One true Leader.
Jesus is the fulfillment of what all of the Old Testament leaders were supposed to be. He is the One they were all supposed to image in this world. He is the perfect model of the true man and a true Israelite. He is filled with the Spirit without limit; He loving obeys the law, reveals God, rescues His people and sets captives free.
Jesus is the final Adam, the true Abraham. He is a better David and is the true King. He is the true Prophet, true Priest and true King. Everything the Old Testament says about leadership finds its fulfillment in Jesus. In Him, God’s image and authority are perfectly exercised.
And He still rules today. In Revelation 2-3 Jesus is depicted as a King who walks among His people and exercises an immediate rule over them. He is not a distant landlord and He has not been voted out of office. The knowledge of His churches is intimate.
Jesus is ruling and reigning in full authority by His word and Spirit. As we come to the New Testament we see in 1 Cor. 12 and Romans 12 that God has gifted all His people and has gifted and appointed specific men to teach His word and lead His body the Church.
It is from His throne, by His Spirit, through His word as He leads us through the leaders He’s chosen. And His Spirit and Word are our true and final authority.
These leaders are called to speak the truth and live the truth. Jesus doesn’t delegate His authority to leaders as if He’s handing off a baton. He exercises His authority through the leaders. The elders of God’s church are His servants that are only allowed to lead as long as they are faithful to His word and will.
And so, we turn to His word to consider what the life of an elder is to look like. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7. There are other passages of Scripture that give instruction to the elders of the church but 1 Timothy 3 is the most comprehensive and is almost identical to Titus 1:5-16.
Context of 1 Timothy
Paul writes to his dear friend and trusted co-laborer to give him clear instruction on how the church is to function, who is allowed to lead it, what their qualifications are, how we’re to choose them. We see this in 1 Tim. 3:14-15 as Paul writes.
“ I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that,  if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
Conflict has broken out in the Church of Ephesus and Paul is concerned that the false doctrine taught by Hymaneus and Alexander would poison the church and ruin its witness of Jesus. Paul has to excommunicate them and labor to rebuild what’s been torn down. So Paul writes a very forceful and formal letter to Timothy so that he would know how to lovingly lead the church back into gospel health.
Because the church is the family of God, how she conducts herself as a family will either be a positive witness of their Father or a negative one to the watching world. In this context, Paul explains what an overseer or elders is supposed to look like.
Notice that this is almost all about character. Of course the person has to be competent, but their character is the overwhelming concern for those God calls to lead His family.
Verse 1-The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
Paul begins by telling us this instruction is trustworthy. As an Apostle, he is given the divine authority to speak on behalf of God and the readers of this letter are to trust his instruction.
The Noble Task
Paul teaches us that if anyone desires to lead as an elder of the church, he desires a noble task. It is a good thing to desire this role. We want to encourage men to aspire to the office of an elder. Without aspiring, we won’t appoint because we don’t want someone to be talked into this role. It isn’t humble to not respond to the call God has given you to take on the role of an elder.
However, aspiring and desiring, though good, are not enough. They need to be qualified. What follows in this passage is the qualification for such a role.
Qualifications of an Elder
Verses 2-7-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.
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach…
In this passage are several ways one may not qualify by poor character. This is the junk drawer for everything else not mentioned in the next several verses. Being above reproach means to be free from an offensive or disgraceful character defect that would bring reproach when considering your life.
The world is not only watching the church, it is watching its leaders more so. Non-believers may forgive a new follower of Jesus for not living consistently, but the life of a leader in the church is to be morally and spiritually mature.
Jake, your leadership will be mostly by example. God calls you to live a life transformed by grace and empowered by His Spirit so that you can confidently say “follow me as I follow Christ.”
Jesus confidently asked “Which one among you can convict me of sin?” (John 8:46) Though we are not sinless as our Savior, by God’s grace we are becoming more like His Son and less like our old selves. Because of this, those who lead His flock should be above reproach.
A One-Woman Man
The husband of one wife…
Faithfulness to one wife is significant because our God is a faithful God and only gives Himself to one wife, the Church. In the greatest act of spousal fidelity, Jesus, nailed to a cross, refuses to leave, but instead faithfully stays so that His bride would be forgiven of her adultery.
God wants the elders of the church to have faithful hearts like His. Elders are to be a one-woman man. The groom of the church doesn’t give Himself to anyone but His bride. The bride He died to wash and beautify.
Wandering eyes and hearts are not to mark the character of an elder of the church. His love is an exclusive love, just like his Saviors. There is to be no deviation from grateful and faithful monogamy to the wife God has given him.
The honor of Jesus’ name and witness of what our True Husband is like should motivate us to spousal fidelity when tempted. Sexually, Satan loves to attack God’s men and tempt them towards sexual sin.
Jake, I call you to stay in the arms of your bride and not leave her side for affection. And when the tempter comes to tempt, speak to your wife and quickly confess your sins to her and those you’re close to.
Lindsey, I call you to pray for your husband’s holiness and do all you can to encourage his faithfulness. In times when you’re tempted, I pray you confess to your husband and those you’re closest to so that the enemy won’t have a foothold in your marriage and ministry.
To be sober-minded means to be mentally stable and self-controlled. An elder shouldn’t be given to rash behavior. In other words, this is calling for someone who is clear-headed.
Elders who lack a sound mental and emotional perspective will be an easy target when the pressures, problems and decisions of leading the church increase. Satan loves confusion and attempts to create it at every level.
Jesus doesn’t give us a spirit of fear or confusion. Instead, He gives a sound mind. He is our sanity. He restores clarity and gives us discernment so that we can have minds renewed by His Spirit and truth.
Jake, your thoughts are to be regularly brought to the word as you take them captive. Your mind is to be regularly washed and your thinking transformed by the Word of Christ. Keep yourself close to God’s word and God’s people so that the mind of Christ is your mind and His sanity is your refuge in confusion.
Along with a clear mind is self-control. We’re called to be prudent in our decisions and actions. Elders are required to exercise a great deal of practical wisdom in handling the people of God. Self-control tempers pride, over-authority and self justification.
We consider Christ being led like a sheep to His shearers and like a lamb to the slaughter and yet He didn’t open His mouth. In the midst of the greatest temptation to justify Himself, Jesus was self-controlled and rested in His Father’s will. He was able to say to Pilate, “You have no authority over me other than that which was given you from my Father.”
The temptation to control as an elder will be ever-present. It is an idol that drives many leaders and crushes their people and harms themselves. When we control we’re saying that we don’t trust the sovereignty of our God. We falsely assume we know better than Jesus what is best for the church.
Jake, there will be many times that you will be attacked, questioned, critiqued and ridiculed. The temptation towards anger might feel overwhelming at times. I want you to remember that your Savior willingly endured the scorn of His creation and the abandonment of His closest friends so that you wouldn’t need to justify yourself.
A person that is sound-minded and self-controlled will be respectable. He will be an example to those who are watching and emulating his life. A respectable person will live a holy life yet will be free from smiles and frowns of men and women.
We’re to be respectable but not need respect to make us satisfied. When respect becomes an idol, all our actions are tainted by the need for others to tell us they approve of us. We want to be made much of and we want to be well thought of. This can drive us to care more about what others think than what our Father thinks of us and can tempt us to wrap our identity into our reputation.
Jake, Jesus is your reputation. His love for you was proven on Calvary. There is nothing you need to do so that the Father will love you more. I want to call you to remember that what will make you respectable will be your rest in who you already are in Christ. You are already approved, accepted and cherished by the One who really matters.
Since Christ’s arms were nailed open so that He could welcome us in, so our arms and homes are to be open towards others.
The home is one of the greatest ministry tools we have. It is a place that gives an aroma of the presence of Christ. A hospitable home is a refuge to the weary; safety to the marginalized and a haven for the broken.
Elders are to be hospitable with all they have and all they do. They aren’t to hold onto their possessions as if they were their own.
The temptation towards comfort is a strong one. Our culture teaches us that what we have, we worked for and deserve and is ours alone. But Scripture teaches us that all we have is a gift from Him and we don’t own anything. He gives us our jobs, homes, cars, lives and livelihood so that they are used for His plans and purposes.
Jake, there will be times when you’ll want to pull up the draw bridge and keep people out of your life and home. I call you to remember the cost of your Savior to bring you in so that you don’t become weary in well-doing.
Able to teach…
The community of Christ is built upon the Word of God. We know God by His Word most clearly and we are to be a word-centered people that are informed and transformed by it.
Elders are to be able to teach God’s word in its fullness and in doing so, show how Jesus is the sum total of the word and the purpose of it.
This doesn’t mean an elder has to be a dynamic communicator. In fact, being able to teach is more about faithfulness to teach than stylistic gifts. To be able means that people understand what is being taught and are transformed by the word when they teach.
Titus expands on this by telling us that elders are to hold “fast to the faithful word” so that we can “both exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9)
As an elder, your authority is Gospel authority. Inasmuch as you bring God’s word to bear in truth, you will be able to lead with authority.
Not a drunk…
The concern for an elder is that they aren’t mastered by anything other than Christ. To be a drunk is to be mastered by alcohol. This doesn’t mean an elder can’t have a beer, it means that beer or wine shouldn’t control them.
We are to be filled and led by the Spirit and our thoughts clear and in step with the Spirits prompting. When we are influenced by beer or pills or anything else, our judgment is impaired and our ability to lead clearly is diminished.
Elders are often in tense situations where the temptation towards lashing out and losing your temper is very strong. Especially when someone is victimized and the victimizer is unrepentant.
But the wrath of man doesn’t bring about the righteousness of God and elders are to be men of peace. We’re not to contribute to the spirit of Cain that wishes to slay our brother. Instead, we’re to be filled with the Spirit of Christ who calls us to put away our sword and allow vengeance to be reserved for God.
This doesn’t mean to be passive, it means to be peaceful. Instead, we’re to be…
What a great word, “tender” or “gentle” is. It means to be kind, gracious, forbearing and soft-hearted in our actions.
The gentle man is in contrast to a violent man. A gentle man is willing to yield, and is patient with those who are weak or ignorant.
Since God is patient and longsuffering towards us, elders are to be gentle and longsuffering towards others.
The man of God should not only be peaceful with his fists, but also with his words. He shouldn’t be given to quarrel and fights. He should desire peace amongst the family and graciousness in speech.
Not a Lover of Money
An elder shouldn’t be in this for the money. If someone is driven by money, they will use people to purchase their real God. Often men who are lovers of money are willing to compromise God’s word so that they can draw a large crowd, which means more money.
Instead, God’s men are to be content and satisfied with what God has given them. Instead of being enslaved to things, they’re to be mastered by grace and faithful to Christ.
Able to Manage His Home
He must manage his own household well…
If a man is not can not provide for, nourish, protect, and care for his family; how will he be able to care for the family of God? His home is the first church he’s given to watch over.
A Good Dad
…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?
Not a New Christian
He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
If a new convert is placed in a position of authority in Christ’s church and isn’t tempered by grace and the experience of walking with Christ, they may become arrogant and discharge their duties with harshness and without humility.
A Good Reputation with Non-Christians
Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
An elder should be well thought by his neighbors, employers or employees, his family, friends, and acquaintances. His witness should demonstrate his faith in Christ and willingness to glorify God in every area of his life.
The Church’s Responsibility to the Elders
That being said, there are certain cultural expectations that shape how we view leaders in our western, democratic context and we often carry these into the church.
Because we are accustomed to voting in representatives and voting them out when they fall into disfavor or lose popularity, it’s easy to see an elder in the church as someone that is simply an extension of my personal wishes. Instead, the Bible views the role of an elder as a representative of the will of God. His role is to lead and speak with God’s word and wishes in mind.
Also, since we live in a postmodern culture, there is uneasiness about leaders who have the authority to tell us what to do. We see authority as a power play and because we pride ourselves on being rugged individuals, it is no wonder good elders are often viewed most skeptically.
The two prevailing errors of biblical eldership are passivity and authoritarianism. One is held captive by the fear of disappointing God’s people, the other holds God’s people captive under an over-lording strangle hold of authority and refuses to listen to His people. Both are sinful and both need to be turned from.
Like a marriage, you receive what you invest into. A wife that doesn’t encourage her husband towards godliness and demonstrates loving patience, prayer and affection will find her husband growing distant, perhaps even harsh towards her. Likewise, if the church only criticizes, complains, gossips, and is generally unloving towards the elders, they will find the men becoming weary, discouraged, and perhaps embittered towards those they are watching over.
Needless to say, a good elder will not lack critics and detractors. Elders are fighting for your souls, and all Hell is against them. Men that labor and serve well are to be lovingly encouraged by those they are giving their life for.
Respect, Esteem, and Love (1 Thess 5:11-13)
“ Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,  and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”
Obey and Submit (Hebrews 13:17)
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Double Honor (1 Tim. 5:17)
“ Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
Jake, you are the church’s servant, but it is not your master.
Jake, Scripture teaches us that you are not the Christ. Your role as an elder is to show Christ to your people and never forget that He is the one promised to build the church.
Kaleo, Jake is your servant and under-shepherd to help form you in the image of Jesus. But he is not your slave. His Master is King Jesus and Jesus is the one he is called to be faithful to, first and foremost.