This morning we begin chapter three of 1 Timothy. We are about midway through our Call of Duty series – our look at Paul’s letter to Timothy to find our responsibilities as Christians. I don’t know how you feel about this sermon series so far, but for me – it has been very challenging. It has been challenging to study and try to learn just what it is that God wants us to know through this book. It’s been challenging to then accurately pass that lesson on to you – to make sure that what I’m preaching is what the Bible says – not my own ideas or the ideas of the culture around us. And then it’s been challenging to apply all this to my own life and to the life of our church. So as I said, It’s been a very challenging series for me – and I hope you’ve been challenged as well.

Now today, I think we are going to continue to be challenged. Today we are going to be looking a little more in depth at God’s design for the leadership of the church. Now of course, Christ is the head of the church. He is our ultimate authority in all things. We can read about that in Ephesians 5 or 1 Corinthians 11. But I think we all understand and accept that, so I won’t spend spend a lot of time on that point. But where I want to look this morning is at the human leadership of the church. How has God designed the church leadership to function? What are the roles that God has set out for us? And are we following God’s design in our church? And what difference does it make in your life anyway? These are the questions we want to look at this morning. So let’s being with a word of prayer.

1 This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” 2 So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. 3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. 4 He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?
6 An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. 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.
8 In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. 9 They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. 10 Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons.
11 In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.
12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. 13 Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Now probably the most important thing we need to do in studying this passage is to make sure that our definition of ‘elders’ and ‘deacons’ are the same as Paul’s definition of ‘elders’ and ‘deacons’. Because these are not terms that we hear outside of the church today. If we were talking about police officers – we all have pretty much agree on what a police officer is and what police officers do. That’s common knowledge. We all know that. Same thing for a carpenter – we would all agree on what a carpenter is and carpenters do. But when it comes to elders or deacons – I’m not sure we’d all come up with the same answer.

And it doesn’t help that different churches have different titles for the same job. There are evangelical churches in Red Deer that I know of that don’t have a “pastor” – but instead they have two or three ‘elders’ that do the same things that a ‘pastor’ does. So are pastors and elders the same thing? And some churches have board of elders and other churches have a board of deacons. So are elders and deacons the same thing?

And to add to the confusion, different translations of the Bible use different words for the same people. For example, in the first verse we read, the New Living Translation uses the word ‘elder’, but the NIV uses the word ‘overseer’ and the King James version uses the word ‘Bishop’.

So we had better get our definitions straight, otherwise, we’re going to come to some wrong conclusions.

So let’s start with the elders.

Let’s look for a minute at Acts chapter 20. In this passage, Paul calls for the elders of the church in Ephesus and gives them some instructions. Verse 17.

“From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.” Acts 20:17

The New Living Translation, the NIV, and the King James all use the word elders in this instance, so that gives us a good reference point. Then go down to verse 28 where Paul says to these elders…

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28

So according to this passage, elders are the overseers and the shepherds of the church. God has given them the authority and the responsibility to lead the church. So that’s the role of the elders.

Now, what exactly do they do? One of their key responsibilities, according to the Scriptures, is teaching & preaching. Here is what Paul says about elders in his letter to Titus…

“He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.” Titus 1:9

So in other words, you have to know what you believe and be able to pass that on to others. And then back in his letter to Timothy he says…

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17

Hmmmm. Now wait a minute. Teaching & preaching? That sounds like the role of the pastor… Well, what does the Bible say about pastors?

Not very much. In fact, the word ‘pastor’ is only mentioned once in the New Testament.  It’s in Ephesians 4:11.

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.” Ephesians 4:11

That’s the only time you’ll find the word ‘pastor’ in the New Testament. And do you know what that word means? It means ‘shepherd’ – literally. In fact, it is the exact same word that is used in Luke 2:8…

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Luke 2:8

It’s the exact same word. So a pastor, by definition, is a shepherd. Now remember what we read in Acts 20:28?

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28

So according to the Bible – an elder is an overseer is a shepherd is a pastor. They are one in the same. Those are just four different titles for the same job. So the job description for an elder is the exact same job description for a pastor – because the are the same position.

So when we read in 1 Timothy chapter 3 of all the qualifications of an elder, this is the list we look at when choosing a pastor, an elder, or whatever else you want to call the leaders of the church. So let’s take a few moments to go through that list, and I’ll make a few observations as we go…

1 This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.”

Pause for a minute: “If someone aspires to be an elder….” If you think about all the people that sit on church boards all over North America, what percentage of them are on that board of Elders because they aspire to be an elder? They feel like God really wants them to step up and take a position of leadership in the church? And what percentage of them are just there because no one else was willing to take the position, so they reluctantly let their name stand?

I know in a small church sometimes it’s hard to find enough people to fill all the positions. But I believe that if there is any job in the church (be it an elder or be it a Sunday School teacher or whatever) if there is no one who really wants to do the job, let it stay empty. If you coerce or push someone into a job that they don’t feel called to do or that God hasn’t equipped them to do, the job will be a burden to them – instead of a joy, which it should be. So instead of pushing people into jobs, let each person do what God has equipped them to do.

2 So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach.

Now you’ll notice the requirement that they be able to teach. Does that mean every elder must be able to stand in front of a crowd on a Sunday morning and teach Sunday School or preach a sermon? Not necessarily. I think there should be some elders in every church that can do that kind of public teaching, but I don’t think that’s what is required of every elder. But here’s what’s required…

“He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.” Titus 1:9

Elders must have a firm understanding of the truth of Scripture and must be able to teach those truths to others. That can happen publicly in an auditorium, or privately in a coffee shop. The important part is that they know the truth and can teach that truth to others.

3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. 4 He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?

Here again we get the idea that elders are to be the church managers. Remember, Christ is the head, but He has entrusted faithful men to manage and to care for His church. And then finally…

6 An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. 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.

So that should give us a pretty good handle on what an elder is and what God requires of elders. But now what about deacons? How do they fit into this mix?

Well, let’s look at what the word ‘deacon’ means. Does anyone know?  The word ‘deacon’ means ‘servant’ – one who serves. Literally, one who prepares food and brings it to the table.

Now that’s kind of odd, isn’t it? To have ‘servant’ as an official church position? After all, aren’t all Christians supposed to be servants? Well, let’s take a look at Acts chapter six to see why the position of deacon was created in the first place.

1 But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”  Acts 6:1-4

The Apostles (who were in effect the first elders) realized that they simply didn’t have enough time to meet all the needs of all the people and still carry out their primary responsibility – that is prayer and teaching the Word of God. And so they selected some men to be ‘deacons’, servants who would be in charge of taking care of the widows.

So while all Christians are to be servants in the way they live their individual lives, deacons are specifically chosen to help meet the many needs of people in the church – freeing up the elders to be the spiritual leaders. So Paul gives us a job description for deacons too.

8 In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. 9 They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. 10 Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons.
11 In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.
12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. 13 Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

You’ll notice that deacons have many of the same requirements as elders – especially as far as how they live their lives. But absent from the deacon’s list of qualification is the ability to teach. And again, that’s because that’s not their job. Their job is to help meet the needs of the people – it is the elder’s job to teach and lead the people.

Now I realize that this has been a lot of… stuff this morning. Perhaps this hasn’t been the most exciting sermon you’ve ever sat through. But it’s important that you know this stuff. YOU are the church. You need to know how God has designed his Church to function. So let me give you just two points to ponder and then we’ll be done for today.

I’ll start off with a question: Is our church functioning Biblically? Are we following the Biblical pattern of elders and deacons? Or are we simply following our cultural church traditions? One thing that I get concerned about are churches that follow the business model of running a church – rather than the Biblical model of running the church. Because the church isn’t a business. The church isn’t just a charitable organization. The church is something totally unique. There is nothing like it on earth.  So we would be foolish to discard God’s way of running his church for the world’s way of running the church. It just won’t work. We need to make sure that we are following God’s instructions for how He wants the church to function.

The second point to ponder: Perhaps some of you would aspire to be an elder or a deacon. If God has put that in your heart and He has equipped you to fill one of those roles, then I certainly encourage you to pursue that. Come talk to me or  one of the other elders – we would be happy to help you reach that goal. The church is always in need of strong spiritual leaders and it would be our privilege to help you develop into a leader either here in our church or later somewhere down the road in another church. But if you aspire to be an elder or a deacon, by all means, lets get together and see if we can make that happen.