Monday, July 13, 2015

P1 God's desire to improve pastors, deacons and churches together

Church to Stop Giving to the Poor: Cites ObamaCare.
1 Timothy 3:15 "but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself inthe household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth."

While growing up at my childhood home in Pennsylvania, I can remember my dad working around the house and making improvements. Unlike me, my dad succeeded in all his improvement projects. As a carpenter by trade, my dad knew his way around construction projects. He (much moreso than myself) and I had built on a new roof, improved our living room window and put in new ceilings. Although my dad had planned the projects, knew the tools and purchased the materials, he desired for me to work with him. The goal was not so much about getting the project done as it was in enjoying the time together in working towards the completion of the project. What had started out as just a 36 foot mobile home trailer big enough for he and my mom had been built up, built on and improved to easily accommodate a growing family. My dad enjoyed working and attempted to pass on his skills to me. My father's desire to continually improve our home growing up illustrated to me what the Heavenly Father is aiming to do with the house He has planned for His Son - namely the church.

God desires for a pastor and the local church to improve towards Christ-likeness
When we come to 1 Timothy 3, we are told in the key verse of 1 Timothy 3:15 that the whole point of the letter is to "know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God." The underlined word translated "conduct" speaks primarily of how one behaves, acts and carries themself. Obviously Paul is not talking about buildings of brick and mortar, but rather the flesh and blood holy of holies that is being constructed by the Holy Spirit's efforts in the people of God. The plan has already been drafted by the Father and paid for by the Son. The church of the living God, having been purchased by Christ, is owned by Him. God desires for everyone in the church to improve from where they're at to where Christ is desiring them to be. 

The word "conduct" was not only used in Paul's day to refer to moral behavior, but it also was used in contexts that referred to soldiers rallying in war, horses running down the final stretch of a race and people aspiring to be better than they are are right now. 1 Timothy is truly the blueprint for a good church striving to be better and a better church aiming to be the best it can be for God. Thankfully we are not alone in this improvement project. God is working in us and through us His perfect and pleasing will. (Philippians 2:12-13) Undoubtedly the Lord has prescribed two main offices that lead (i.e pastors in 1 Timothy 3:1-7) and serve (i.e Deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13) to enable God's people to move forward in God's process of improvement towards Christ-likeness. 

Pastors, Deacons and church members need to improve from where they're at to where Christ is wanting them to be. 
Now we know God is desiring to improve the pastor and the church by the statements we find in 1 Timothy. As a pastor, Timothy is to work all the more in teaching sound doctrine and fighting error (1 Timothy 1:1-7;4:1-6); grow moral, spiritually, relationally (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:14-16); fight the good fight and not be afraid (1 Timothy 1:18-20; 4:11-13; 6:11-13) and grow in his leadership skills (5:19-22). 

The Deacons are called to aspire in their conduct toward the qualifications that we will look at shortly in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Then of course the church membership are urged to improve in areas such as being more godly men and women (1 Timothy 2:1-10); have more effective marriages (1 Timothy 2:11-15); more respectful of older members of the congregation (1 Timothy 5); not gossip and attack each other (1 Timothy 5); respect the pastoral leadership (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Then everyone, from the pastors to the deacons to the membership are to work together in being better than they are by the Lord's strength. (1 Timothy 6) To aim to be better is moralism, which is not what I'm advocating nor this chapter in 1 Timothy. To aim to be more like Jesus is supernatural. Cooperation with God. He in me and me in Him. (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:12-13) God desires for pastors and churches to improve from where they're at to where Christ is wanting them to be. 

Improvement may not always sound desirable, yet it is necessary for growth in the Christian life and life of the church
No one at first may like hearing the need to improve, especially churches and pastors who mistakenly think they got it all together. However, humility and honesty are necessary if a church is going to achieve great things for God. I'm reminded of three great texts on this score, namely: Philippians 2:1-4; James 4:6-8 and 1 Peter 5:6-7.

God sets the bar for pastors and the church to work towards while ever relying on His grace - namely Jesus Christ
So when we consider God's plan for improving His pastor and the church, where does He start? He begins with the leadership. Why? Everything rises or falls with leadership. Pastors are the spiritual leaders of the church, leading by example in the areas of their character (1 Timothy 3:1-3); home-life (1 Timothy 3:4-6) and outside testimonies (1 Timothy 3:7). What Paul does in distinguishing the Pastor from the Deacon in these verses is by noting how the Pastor or Elder ought to be able to teach in 1 Timothy 3:4. Preaching is vital and spoken of elsewhere as a main priority of the pastor in scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 1:17-21 and 1 Timothy 4:13-16. The leadership of the Pastor is measured by moral, spiritual and relational categories. 

How I wish I could say that I as a pastor have mastered all of the qualifications listed by Paul. On some weeks I wonder if I have even consistently fulfilled even one. The list of qualifications seems ideal and unrealistically high - at least for pastors who try to do the ministry in their own strength. Jesus Christ in the pastor is more than competent to fulfill the qualifications. The pastor must humble himself under God's mighty hand and grow in grace and Christ affects the results through Him. As Paul writes later on to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:15 "Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all." God is in the process of improving the pastor and the church. 

Could I as a pastor do better at clarifying the vision of the church where I serve - definitely! Could I do a better job of preaching sermons that balance the heart and the head - without question! Could I improve in being a better dad, husband and man of God? Well of course! I am a follower of Jesus Christ in process of becoming in experience what God has declared me to be in position (Philippians 1:6). Certainly there are areas of pastoral methodology, theology and practical everyday life that should never be altered, since they are underlying convictions regarding what to believe, how to live and how to relate in accords with God's Word. Yet in the areas where there is room to grow, I want to improve. If anyone can say they have no place to grow nor improve, then they might be dead!

So I hope by now you can see the main point of this post: God is desiring to improve pastors and his local churches to go from where they're at to where Christ wants them to be. He is the goal. We are told to walk in His steps (1 John 2:6) and grow up in the knowledge and understanding of Him (2 Peter 3:18). We are told in the scripture to proceed on the basis of His power at work in us (Colossians 1:27) and that in this world we are representing Him here (1 John 4:19) 

More tomorrow.....

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