Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How then shall we live? It all begins with the Pastor - 1 Timothy 3:1-7

1 Timothy 3:1 "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do."

Today's post is about understanding how the local church ought to live in this world. I'll never forget years ago watching a video series by Christian scholar Francis Shaeffer entitled: "How Then Shall We Live?" In the series, Dr. Shaeffer traced the history of civilization in it's moral and spiritual decline. The challenge of the series was to urge Christians to live Godly intellectual and passionate lives for Jesus Christ. As Paul writes 1 Timothy to young pastor Timothy, he is instructing this young pastor of the strongest church in the ancient world with regards to how he and the church ought to conduct themselves. 1 Timothy 3:15 is the key verse to the entire letter: "but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." The word translated "conduct" speaks of how one behaves, carries themselves and lives in a certain way. In one ancient source with this word, the meaning pictures a chariot race with horses running down the home stretch to the finish line. 

Undoubtedly, the local church in the 21st century ought to be in the mode of giving all she has for Jesus. Paul's concern in 1 Timothy 3 is addressed to three main groups in the church: the pastor, deacons and church body. The conduct of the local church centers around the question posed earlier: "how then shall we live?" The answer to this question necessarily begins with the pastor. In regards to pastor's conducting themselves in a Godly way, Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 1:12 captures the main point of what we will see in the remainder of today's post: "For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you."

So when we ask the question: "how ought the church live in this 21st century world?"; why begin with the pastor? The pastor is the spiritual leader of the local church, called, sent, went and put. His role in the leadership of the local church is defined by Paul not only for the sake of Timothy and pastors everywhere, but also for the person in the pew. Why do people in the pew need to pay heed to what Paul is writing? Because in explaining how Pastors ought to live, the clear implication is that the pattern and example set forth by the pastor encourages others in determining how they then shall live for the glory of God. 

All sorts of expectations are placed upon pastors by churches. In all honesty, the expectations are a mixture of biblical principles and not-so biblical assumptions gleaned from the culture. Though God's principles for leadership can be learned to a limited extent from the business world and the culture, these assumptions must never define the Pastor's role. Rather they must be sifted through the Biblical sieves of passages such as 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Below we want to consider four key areas that can constitute a pastor's job description and thus in beginning to answer the question: "how then shall we live?"

1. Godly character. 1 Timothy 3:1-3
Much of what Paul writes in these verses about pastor's centers on Godly character. Before we can define "how we ought to live", we need to begin with "how we ought to be". Pastors lead by example and it all begins with godly character. The key term is the idea of being "above reproach", which simply put means that the Pastor (and thus by extension the congregation) ought to be the kind of people that could never be legitimately accused of ungodliness or infidelity to the Gospel. This is at the heart of character. In addition to exercising such character in his marriage, the pastor needs to be a man that practices: 

a. Temperance or self control
b. Prudent or sound in judgment, a good decision maker
c. Respectable or being the kind of man others would want to follow
d. Able to teach or good at expounding the scriptures
e. Not addicted to wine or quite literally, not being near any intoxicating beverage
f. Not pugnacious or not being a bully pastor
g. Gentle and peaceable or being the kind of leader that is not given to sudden mood swings or as someone who intimidates others into submission
h. Free from the love of money or not being greedy. 

Notice the premium that Paul places on Godly character. Is this to say that the pastor ought not to be a good preacher or administrator? No. Certainly those traits are spoken of in either other places in scripture or mentioned further in this chapter. I do find it interesting how much godly character is mentioned as the leading mark of what constitutes a good pastor in the eyes of God. But how else shall a pastor live and be in the church that is aiming to answer the question: "How then shall we live?"

2. Godly Homelife. 1 Timothy 3:2, 4-6
1 Timothy 3:2 states that the pastor or "overseer" needs to be the husband of one wife. Much ink has been spilled over the meaning of this phrase. This blogger believes the New Living Translation (NLT) to be the best rendering of the intent of this phrase: "faithful to His wife". Paul goes on in describing the priority of the pastor's homelife in 1 Timothy 3:4-6 - 

a. Manages his own household or rules it in a sound manner
b. keeping his children under control with all dignity or having children that respect him as a dad and who as a general pattern heed his parenting.

Now why is a Godly home life so important to the congregation? Notice what Paul writes next in 1 Timothy 3:5 - "For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?" This point reminds us that when evaluating a pastor, the first place we need to look at is the homelife. See how his children act and respond to their parents as a general overall pattern. Some pastors may excel in preaching more than administrating, or be better administrators than preachers. Other pastors may be so hands-on as to barely be in the office whereas others prefer mountains of books. Pastoring in the local church requires constant growth and balancing out in all those areas. But if the congregation wants to really know where a pastor is intending to lead the church spiritually, morally and fellowship wise, they need only to look at the condition of the most important flock in his life - the wife and children. Moreover, churches ought to do all they can to encourage the wife and the children, for in doing-so they will do a world of good for the pastor. 

So how ought a local church intend to live? The pastor needs to be a man of Godly character and home life is he is to lead by example in addressing such a question. But now lets notice one final area for Pastors to consider:

3. Godly Testimony. 1 Timothy 3:7
A pastor's life is lived not only among his flock and at home and by himself, but also in the community. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:7 "Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap." Although the vast majority of a pastor's focus in this passage is concerned with the state of the people assigned to him by God, this certainly does not exclude his testimony before unbelievers. As a pastor myself, how well do I represent Jesus and our church before those not associated with it. My prayer is always to never bring shame to Jesus nor the church. Even if people in the community were ever to accuse the church of wrong-doing (which is inevitable in a world hostile to the Gospel), I believe if a church and it's pastor is living above reproach, such accusations won't stick. 

Furthermore, the pastor's reputation and dealings with unbelievers ought to not only be evident, but evidently Christ-like. Would it be that all pastors everywhere be the type of men that cause others to feel like they have gotten a glimpse of Jesus Himself. Such an impression can cause discomfort in some for sure, however if a pastor aims to have a good testimony, most will find his presence in the community to be a blessing - not a liability. Even if many of the people with whom I connect with never believe on Jesus Christ, my hope is always that I may never be a contributor as to why they never believed. 

All of these words in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 show us that the pastor is to spiritually lead his flock in living out the faith "once and for all delivered to the saints". (Jude 1:3) He is after all described in 1 Timothy 3:1 as occupying the office of "overseer". The pastor's example serves the church in modeling before them how they ought to live. Though no pastor is perfect, Christ in the pastor and in the church enables the descriptions here in first Timothy to be true realities of Godly living in a world desperately needing to see a church living for God as she ought to live.