Portrait of a Godly Leader
I Timothy 3; Titus 1
That fact has come home to me in recent days as our church has been in the midst of its first elder-selection process under a new church constitution. For many years our church—like many churches—was governed under a church board system in which we elected “coordinators” to fill specific positions, such as Christian Education, Worship, Missions, and so on. Although that system worked very well for us, many people felt that we lacked the spiritual leadership that a group of godly elders could give us.
So in 1990 we appointed a committee to begin the process of revising our constitution. After three years, two committees, seven drafts, two focus groups, three congregational hearings, and innumerable changes, the new constitution was finally approved in November, 1992.
The major change was a shift from a church board to elders and deacons/deaconesses. As part of the process of electing our first elders, the Nominating Committee studied the qualifications in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 very carefully. We were amazed to discover how specific and detailed the requirements were. Not everyone could be an elder!
What Does a Godly Leader Look Like?
Along the way we formulated a simple question: What does a godly leader look like? Answer: He looks like the man described in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. We realized that if we wanted elders who would be elders in more than just the name, then we needed to take I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 very seriously.
That’s the background of this particular study. It was born out of a desire to help one local church find godly leaders. It is now put in print in the hopes that it will serve many other churches in the same way. It is our hope that this message will be reproduced freely so that other churches can discover the godly leaders who are already in their midst.
One note: I view these character qualities in three ways: First, they apply specifically to the elders of the local church. Second, they fit in a general way all Christians who are called to leadership in any area. Third, they also apply to all Christians everywhere in that these qualities ultimately describe what a godly or mature Christian should look like. I am not aware of any qualification on this list that is unique to those called to leadership. That is, when these qualifications are considered in a broad sense, they fit each one of us. Indeed, elders must be above reproach, free from the love of money, not quarrelsome, gentle, lovers of the good, and so on. But those are qualities that all Christians should display. They describe the kind of people all of us should want to be. While the list is for elders, and then for church leaders generally, we can all benefit from studying this list carefully and asking ourselves, “How well do I measure up?”
On a personal level, I find these standards extremely challenging and convicting. Believe me, it’s easier to preach this list than it is to put it into practice.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of these characteristics!
—Untold trouble when ignored!
—Great blessing when followed!
Before we jump in, remember that this is an aspirational list. No one lives like this 100% of the time. Paul sets before us a worthy goal—which most of us will work on for a lifetime and still not completely reach. We ought to take this list seriously but also graciously and realistically.
I. The Overlooked Ingredient I Timothy 3:1
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” Many of us might completely overlook that verse in our haste to get to the list of qualifications. That would be a great mistake because this verse reveals the overlooked ingredient of leadership:
Godly leaders must want the job.
Paul uses two verbs to bring this out. First, he says that a person must “set his heart” on leadership. The verb means to “stretch out in order to grasp,” like a football player straining to reach the goal line. Second, he says that a leader must “desire” leadership. That verb means to “eagerly desire” or to “be ambitious for” or even to “covet” (in the good sense)
Notice also that he calls leadership a “noble task.” Leadership is a noble calling in and of itself. Consider the following statements:
1. Leadership is a noble thing in the eyes of God and it, too, is a form of servanthood.
2 The desire to be a leader is noble if it is accompanied by a desire to grow in grace.
3. Being a leader is a noble work—but it is work! If a person desires leadership, what does he seek? A title? A name? A big office? A platform for greatness? A big salary? No, he desires a “noble task.”
Here, then, is the first requirement for leadership. A person must want the job! There should be a God-given desire that moves the heart to action. The application is clear: If you have to talk a person into serving, you’ve probably got the wrong person! That goes as much for Sunday School teachers and choir members as it does for elders and deacons. If God is truly calling, that person should eventually feel a deep inner desire for the job.
(Note: Reluctance and hesitation are not always a bad sign. Perhaps the person feels unworthy or perhaps they don’t understand what the job entails. Sometimes reluctance is good because the job of leadership is an awesome task. We don’t want leaders who take their jobs lightly. On the other hand, settled unwillingness and opposition is a sign that you don’t have the right person for the job.)
Two implications to think about:
1. If leadership is a noble task, then churches should uphold their leaders before the congregation. Being an elder is a great work, being a deacon or a deaconess is a great work, serving the Lord as a Sunday School teacher is a great work. Being a trustee is a heavy responsibility. The same is true for all volunteer positions in the church. Let’s uphold leadership and encourage our people to show respect and appreciation for the leaders God has given.
2. Young men and women should be taught that leadership is a worthy calling in the local church. Too often church members make disparaging comments about the pastor, the staff, the elders or the deacons or the choir director or the Sunday School teachers … and then we wonder why our teenagers drop out of church as soon as they can. How much better to uphold godly leaders and challenge our high schoolers to aspire to the same kind of leadership someday.
II. Character Qualities of a Godly Leader
With that as background, we turn now to discuss 25 qualities of spiritual leadership in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Don’t be discouraged as you work through this list. No one meets these qualifications 100%! We’re not looking for perfection, but rather solid evidence of growth in each area.
A. The Leader’s Temperament
1. Temperate I Timothy 3:2
The Greek word for temperate originally meant “wineless.” When Paul uses the word, he means something like “even-tempered,” “clear-headed,” or “balanced.” It refers to a man who has nothing that muddies or muddles his senses. In that sense it certainly touches the use of alcohol, but also goes far beyond it. A temperate person is “cool, calm and collected,” especially in a moment of crisis. He’s not credulous, not easily deceived, not carried away by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). He’s old enough and experienced enough not to be rattled under pressure. You discover this quality in a person’s life as you watch them in a crisis situation. A temperate man doesn’t fall apart when his world falls apart. He doesn’t lose his emotional equilibrium when the rug is suddenly pulled out from under him.
2. Sensible I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8
The Greek word describes a person who has a “safe mind.” The NIV translates the Greek with two different English words—"Self-controlled” and “sensible.” Both describe a certain pattern of thinking, a way of approaching the problems of life. The sensible person is balanced, reasonable and discerning—not given to extremes. He is experienced enough to keep his balance when life throws him a curve ball. The word also implies a sober and serious attitude. He’s not a goof or a light-weight flake. He’s a great man to have around when a tough decision needs to be made because he doesn’t jump to conclusions or act solely on the basis of his emotions. Again, this quality comes from long experience with life. Few young men or women will have this quality in abundance, but it is often seen in older people.
3. Disciplined Titus 1:8
The word describes a person who has “his strength under control.” He eats, but he is not a glutton. He sleeps, but he does not sleep forever. He loves, but he does not love indiscriminately. He loves a bargain, but he knows how to say no. He has a credit card, but he knows when not to use it. He gets angry, but he never “loses his cool.” He is strong physically, but he doesn’t intimidate others.
Proverbs 25:28 warns of what happens when this quality is not present: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” Such a man is easy prey to sexual temptation, financial temptation, uncontrolled anger, arrogance, envy, sloth and a critical spirit.
Seneca said, “Most powerful is he who has himself in his own control.” Many gifted men and women fail at precisely this point. Great promise is squandered by a failure of self-discipline. This is the difference between Mike Ditka and Tom Landry.
B. The Leader’s Interpersonal Relationships
It’s interesting that Paul uses four negative expressions to specify how the godly leader must live. Some things simply must not be present in his life. Those four are counter-balanced by one positive characteristic.
1. Not violent I Timothy 3:3
I like the King James rendering—"Not a striker.” That says it all. A “striker” is a violent person who is easily angered. Such people tend to be assertive, manipulative, demanding, coercive and highly critical of others. They are quick to pick fights and slow to make up afterwards.
The term warns again those who use physical abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse or emotional abuse in order to get their way. Paul’s command is simple: Don’t choose a person like that as a leader!
2. Not quarrelsome I Timothy 3:3
Again the King James uses a picturesque phrase—"not a brawler.” Some people just love to pick fights. They love to argue, love to “mix it up,” love to trade insults and put other people down. Such a man is the master of the cutting remark, the king of the cute comeback. Proverbs 20:3 says, “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” Do you know how to spot this person? In any group, this man (or woman) dominates the discussion by arguing every point into the ground. He can always find a thousand reasons why a new idea won’t work. When challenged, he sends out the clear message: “My way or the highway.”
By contrast, the godly leader is uncontentious, willing to listen, not argumentative, not given to a fighting spirit. He is a peace-maker, but not a peace-breaker.
3. Not quick-tempered Titus 1:7
The word means “not passionate.” Moffatt translates it as “not hot-tempered,” while the New Testament in Basic English says “not quickly moved to wrath.” It describes a person who doesn’t blow his top whenever he gets angry. Proverbs 29:22 warns us about this tendency: “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” Let’s be clear on this point. There is such a thing as right-eous anger (Ephesians 4:26), and there are times when leaders need to be angry. No one wants a leader who always smiles and never frowns. No one wants a leader who lives in Fantasyland and thinks everyday is Christmas. We need leaders who know how to get angry at the right time for the right reasons in the right way.
But Paul is warning us against putting a “hot-head” on the Board of Elders. Don’t do it. One hot-head can destroy the work of a dozen godly men. Leaders deal with people and their problems. And sometimes people can be frustrating and the problems can be annoying. Godly leaders know how to remain calm under pressure and provocation.
4. Not overbearing Titus 1:7
The word literally means “not self-pleasing.” It describes a person who is free from arrogant self-will, who does not always have to have his own way. Some people refuse to listen to others because their own concern is promoting their own agenda. They aren’t team players. Very well, then, don’t elect such a person to any position of leadership.
5. Gentle I Timothy 3:3
The scholars tell us that this word is difficult to translate because it contains so many delicate nuances. It has the idea of patience, forbearance, consideration and personal kindness. It describes a person who considers the whole picture before acting. A gentle leader protects and does not humiliate. He “guards each man’s dignity and saves each man’s pride.” In making a decision he judges both the letter and the spirit of the law. He is willing to lose even when he is right. He is willing to yield, willing to forgive, willing to overlook. Matthew Arnold calls this quality “sweet reasonableness.” You know it when you see it because the person who has it always makes you feel better when you are around them.
It’s doubly important for elders to have this quality because elders lead the sheep. They don’t drive them, beat them or harass them. Gentleness is important because sheep can be exasperating at times!
C. The Leader’s Reputation
1. Above reproach I Timothy 3:2
This phrase serves as a general summary of all the character qualities a leader should have. The Greek word describes a garment without any “folds.” When applied to personal character, it means that leader must be free from any secret or hidden pockets of sins. Said another way, it means that a godly leader is one whose life is such that there is nothing a detractor can “grab hold of.” The Living Bible uses the phrase “a good man whose life cannot be spoken against.” Knox says “one with whom no fault can be found.” It means that no charge could be brought against such a person that would withstand impartial examination. Leaders are often attacked, their motives questioned, their actions criticized. While such things do happen, a leader who is truly above reproach will weather the storm because there is nothing about him which a person could say, “Aha! I gotcha.” This means no questionable conduct, no secret sins, no deliberately unresolved conflicts.
Lest this seem too discouraging, I should point out that to be “above reproach” describes not perfection, but a model Christian life. We should expect nothing less from our leaders.
2. Blameless Titus 1:6,7
This word comes from the legal realm and carries a slightly different connotation. It means “without indict-ment” or “unaccusable.” The difference is this: “Above reproach” means “one who could not be accused,” while “Blameless” means “one who is not accused.” Taken together they establish a very high standard of personal conduct.
3. Respectable I Timothy 3:2
The Greek word is kosmion—from which we get the English word “cosmos.” Its describes a person whose life is well-ordered and well-arranged. Another word might be “dignified.” This quality is seen in a leader’s outward behavior—his dress, his manners, his speech, the way he relates to the opposite sex. It touches the way he keeps his home and how he handles the various affairs of life. It basically describes a person who can keep a dozen balls in the air at one time—without dropping any and without saying, “Hey, look at me!” Such a person can work through difficult problems with clear thinking. To use an old phrase that sounds sadly out-of-date, a man with this quality is a “Christian gentleman.”
Titus 2:9-10 uses another form of this word to encourage slaves to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Godly leaders should live in such a way that their life beautifies the gospel. A “respectable” person makes Jesus beautiful and the gospel attractive to outsiders.
4. Hospitable Titus 1:8
The word literally means a “lover of strangers.” We might tend to overlook this quality, but in the early church hospitality was non-negotiable. In those days there were no Holiday Inns or Marriott Hotels where traveling Christians could safely spend the night. Therefore, if you came to my town, you automatically planned to stay with me and I automatically opened my home to you. The fact that I didn’t know you beforehand wouldn’t matter. If you were a brother in Christ, then my home was your home. In addition, since the early church had no buildings, the believers met in homes. Every church was a house church and hospitality was essential.
To be hospitable touches your attitude toward others. A godly leader must be open, approachable, vulnerable, transparent, one who genuinely cares for others. Here are some questions to ask about potential leaders: Does he open his home to others? Does he share easily with others? Is his life transparent? Would I feel free sharing my problems with him?
5. Upright Titus 1:8
The word means “fair, honest, just.” This touches a man’s business dealing, his financial affairs, how he handles his employees, what kind of deals he makes, whether he pays his bills on time, whether he keeps his promises, how he speaks about others, and whether you would trust this man with your wife and children overnight. It is a combination of “goodness” and “honesty.”
6. Good reputation with outsiders I Timothy 3:7
Here is another quality that is often overlooked. The phrase for “good reputation” is literally “good witness.” What kind of “witness” do you have with the people outside the church? All too often we neglect to consider a man’s reputation in the community. But the “voice of the people” may be the “voice of God.” This touches a man’s reputation with his neighbors, his friends, his co-workers and his non-Christian buddies. The godly leader ought to be admired by those outside the church. Although they will not always understand why, unbelievers are quick to spot a difference. “You’re different somehow. I just can’t put my finger on it.”
Here’s a penetrating question: Would your unsaved friends be surprised to discover that you had been elected to a position of leadership in your church? Would they be surprised … or pleased?
We have too many “Sunday Christians” who turn out to be “Monday Scoundrels.” If unbelievers do not respect us, that may say something negative about us. It’s not always the offense of the Gospel. Sometimes we are just offensive in the way we live.
Why is this important? Because the unsaved watch us all the time. Your life may be the only “Bible” some people ever read. They watch us, examine us, listen to our jokes, study the way we do our work, take note of how we treat others … and then they draw their own conclusions. And their judgment is often extremely accurate!
But notice the warning Paul adds to this qualification: “So that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” Church leaders are especially susceptible to Satan’s attacks. We hear about it all the time—so often now that it hardly seems like news when we read that another minister has fallen into sin. When Satan wants to destroy a church, he goes after the pastor and the elders first! He loves to disgrace God’s work by trapping leaders in open sin before a watching world.
When that happens …
The church is hurt
The gospel is mocked
Christ’s name is defamed.
There are many lessons here, not the least being that you need to pray for your pastor. His feet are made of clay—just like yours. Don’t assume your pastor is always strong. He sometimes faces overwhelming tempta-tion—generally when it is least expected. So pray for him. And pray for your church staff. And pray for your elders and deacons and trustees. Pray for God to strengthen all the leaders of your church so that they might have a good testimony for the name of Jesus Christ.
D. The Leader’s Spiritual Life
1. Not a new convert I Timothy 3:6
The word for “new convert” is neofuton—from which we get the English word “neophyte.” It literally means “new plant.” Don’t put a “new plant” in a position of leadership. “New plants” need nurturing, they need fertilizer, they need someone to pull the weeds and make sure they get enough water and light. “New plants” need lots of tender loving care. What they don’t need is the pressure of leadership. Remember, even a mighty oak tree was a “new plant” once. Given time and careful attention, that “new plant” will someday become strong enough to stand on its own. Until then, keep it in the hothouse.
But note the warning: “He may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” The Greek is very picturesque: “He may be wrapped up in smoke.” That is, by elevating a man too soon to leadership, he may begin to “blow smoke” and eventually be blinded by his own arrogance.
The danger here is that new believers simply haven’t been properly trained or tested yet. They lack the maturity, wisdom and experience that only comes from knowing the Lord for many years. Martin Luther said that three things were necessary for the making of a minister: Prayer, Meditation and Temptation. Only when a man has been “around the block” a few times is he ready for leadership. This applies to every level of leadership in the local church. Don’t put a new believer in a key position! Don’t be quick to elevate someone new to your congregation. Give them time to get acclimated. If they are worthy, they will demonstrate that fact over time. Don’t rush. Take your time. It takes a lifetime to grow a good leader. Don’t spoil the process by elevating someone too soon.
2. Holy Titus 1:8
This word refers to personal piety. It is that quality of life which causes a leader to conform to that which pleases God. Not very helpful? How about this? A holy person is someone who brings you into the presence of God simply by walking into the room. It doesn’t refer to fake piety or to a holier-than-thou mentality. In fact, that’s the opposite of what this word means. A holy person makes it easy to believe in Jesus. They simply exude the presence of God by the sheer force of their goodness and godliness.
Recently two people referred to Dr. Hudson Armerding, past president of Wheaton College, in those terms. One friend told me that you felt whenever you were around him that you were in the presence of a holy man. Another said that whenever he spoke, he made you feel as if God were speaking directly to you.
Perhaps you saw Larry King interview Billy Graham on the day of President Clinton’s inauguration. At one point he asked Mr. Graham, “Are you afraid to die?” “No, I’m not afraid to die. I know that I’m going to heaven.” Larry asked him, “You know you’re going to heaven.” “Oh yes, I’m certain of that. I’ve put my trust in Jesus Christ to take me to heaven. I’m not worried at all about dying. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.” With that, the camera switched to Larry King who said nothing for a long moment. The look on his face told the whole story. You might call it baffled amazement. Larry King—who has an answer for everything—had no answer when brought face to face with a holy man.
When you are choosing leaders, choose those men and women who make it easy for you to believe in God.
3. Holding fast to sound doctrine Titus 1:9
This verse is worth quoting in full: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Every word is important. “Hold firmly” means “constantly holding onto and not letting go.” The “trustworthy message” refers to the essential truths of the Christian faith—the fundamentals which must not be compromised. “Sound doctrine” is literally “healthy doctrine” or “wholesome teaching,” referring to the well-balanced teaching of God’s Word that produces healthy Christian living. To “refute” is to “correct” or “convince” those who “contradict” the truth.
1. A settled body of Christian truth.
2. A knowledge of that truth.
3. A willingness to proclaim that truth.
4. A willingness to defend that truth.
The Christian message has never been universally popular; some have always opposed it. We need leaders who are so well grounded in the truth of the Bible that they can accurately teach it to others and courageously defend the truth when it is attacked.
4. Able to teach I Timothy 3:2
This is a more general statement of the same principle. Interestingly, the ability to teach is the only character requirement related to the actual work of an elder—indicating that teaching and leading belong together. Teachers are leaders and leaders are teachers.
The phrase “able to teach” translates one Greek word which means both “having a teachable spirit” and “able to teach others.” This presupposes:
1. A teachable spirit—eager to learn.
2. A good working knowledge of the Bible.
3. Willingness to share spiritual truth with others.
4. Willingness to confront false teaching when necessary.
Leaders must love the Word, must cling to the Word, must know the Word. No wavering, no doubting, no compromising.
Since teaching is also a spiritual gift that not all believers possess, how can this requirement be met by those without the spiritual gift? The answer is not hard to find. Not all elders will be equally gifted in teaching. Some will flourish in front of a class, others will do better leading a small group or in one-on-one discipleship. Not all will teach in the same way. But all must be able to do it in some way.
The church of Jesus Christ is built on the Word of God. Elders lead the church. Therefore elders must be men of the Word. This is non-negotiable.
E. The Leader’s Family Life
Churches suffer when this category is ignored or downplayed. Paul listed three very specific requirements concerning a leader’s family life. We ignore them at our own peril.
1. Husband of one wife I Timothy 3:2
Unfortunately this qualification has been so wrapped up in controversy that we have missed its essential teaching. In Greek the phrase literally reads “a one-woman man.” What does that mean? There are several possibilities:
1. Only one wife at a time
2. Never divorced or remarried
3. Never remarried even after the death of the wife
4. Marital faithfulness
Everyone agrees that # 1 is included. This standard clearly excludes polygamy, bigamy and digamy. There are good arguments for and against # 2. I would say that I doubt that # 3 is intended since it seems to contradict what Paul says in I Corinthians 7 about the advisability of remarriage.
The fourth option suggests that Paul has in mind marital faithfulness as a character quality of a godly leader. Why is that important? Because if a man is not faithful to his wife, how can he be trusted to be faithful to his obligations elsewhere? If a man cheats on his wife, where else will he cheat?
Here are some questions we ought to ask about potential leaders:
1. Is he a flirt? Does he have roving eyes?
2. Are his affections centered on his wife?
3. Does he demonstrate that affection and loyalty in ways others can see?
4. Is his marriage a model for others to follow?
5. Is he above reproach in his dealings with the opposite sex?
6. Is his life free from pornography in every form?
Many Christian men who have never been divorced would have trouble answering those questions. That’s why I regard this as a higher standard than simply asking, “Has he ever been divorced?” The real question is, “What kind of marriage does this man have?”
For that matter, many divorced men couldn’t meet this standard either. If a man has been married more than once, and if he has children from his previous marriage, it will be quite difficult for him to truly be a “one-woman man” as regards his present wife. He may have alimony to think about, child support payments to make, relational difficulties to solve, old wounds that need to heal, and so on. In every divorce there is sin on every side, and that sin leaves lasting scars that remain for many years.
To say that is not to say that a divorced man should never be an elder. Each case needs to be considered indivi-dually. But divorced men will have a harder time meeting this standard. That’s the inevitable fallout from a world where divorce has become all too common.
Back to the main point. I understand the phrase “husband of one wife” to be teaching that an elder must have “an exclusive relationship with one woman and one woman only.” It’s a positive statement about loyalty and faithfulness. Seen in this light, to be the “husband of one wife” is a moral qualification, not simply a marital qualification. The issue is the quality of the marriage, not simply the legal state of the marriage.
(Two quick side questions: 1. Does this mean that an elder must be married? No, the phrase is not “husband of a wife” but “husband of one wife.” The contrast is not between having a wife or not having a wife, but between having one wife and having many wives. I think it is fair to say that Paul assumes that most elders will be married, but he does not require marriage. The meaning is, “If he is married, he must be a one-woman man.” 2. Does this mean that an elder must be a man? Yes, I think that’s the clear assumption behind the text. However, I think the question is answered definitely in I Timothy 2:8-15. This list of qualifications merely assumes in chapter 3 what Paul makes explicit in chapter 2. After all, a single man could get married and thus become a “one-woman man” but a woman could never literally meet that requirement no matter how it is understood.)
2. Manages own household well I Timothy 3:4-5
The word “manage” means “to stand before and lead.” The word “well” means “in an orderly fashion.” Paul says that when we need leaders we should begin by looking for those men who handle their families in an orderly fashion.
But why does he bring up the family? Because the home is the best training ground for local church leadership. Spiritual leadership begins at home! The family is like a church in miniature where the father is the pastor of his own family. And the church is like a large family where the elders are the spiritual fathers who care for God’s children.
Notice the penetrating question Paul asks: “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” The word translated “take care of” is the same verb used of the Good Samaritan who “took care of” the poor man he found on the road. It means to “assume personal responsibility for the care of another person.” That’s what a father is to do for his family. As the head of the home, God holds him responsible for his wife and children. He’s got to answer to God someday for what happens to them. If a man fails at that great task, how can we dare to give him a leadership position in the local church?
So the home is the church in miniature and the birthplace of budding spiritual leaders. Habits formed there last forever. Principles imparted there are never forgotten. Eternal truth is hammered out on the anvil of daily life.
Remember, elders don’t run a business. They lead a family! A man who learns to lead his family well will someday make an excellent elder.
Managing involves many things, including the following:
A. Setting priorities
B. Planning for the future
C. Providing what is needed
D. Handling crisis situations
By the way, when is management best seen? In a crisis. Anyone can lead a business when things are going well. Good managers shine when the business is in trouble. The same is true at home. Family problems should not disqualify a man from spiritual leadership. It’s not what happens but how he responds that makes all the difference. Some men rise to the occasion; others cut and run. The men who rise in a crisis are the leaders you want.
So how do you respond when you daughter turns up pregnant? What do you do when your son turns to drugs? What will you say when you have to file for bankruptcy? How will you react when you suddenly lose your job? What if your oldest son flunks out of college? What if your wife needs hospitalization? What if your marriage is in trouble? Will you face the problem or will you try to avoid it? Good managers never walk away from a problem. They face life head on and deal with it honestly.
3. Children who obey him Titus 1:6
This particular qualification is stated two different ways. I Timothy 3:4 says the elder must “see that his children obey him with proper respect.” Titus 1:6 is more specific: “a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” These verses are frighteningly specific. I say that in full view of the fact that I have three boys living at home—ages 13, 11 and 8. The challenge today is to raise godly children in a world that constantly pulls in the opposite direction. We aren’t told how the father is to do this, but we are told what the results will look like:
1. Children who believe (or it may mean faithful to the parents).
2. Children who obey.
3. Children who show proper respect.
4. Children who are not wild.
5. Children who are not disobedient.
One or two points deserve special mention. He’s probably not speaking of young children, and possibly not even of teenagers. He may be envisioning grown children who have already left the home and gone out on their own. Certainly that is the only way to get a long-range view of how the children have turned out. I look at my own three boys and say, “So far, so good.” But we’ve got a long way to go.
The word “wild” is literally “unsaved.” It means to live an “unsaved” lifestyle. It refers to a wild, indulgent, immoral and debauched way of life—one that is typical of the surrounding pagan community. More than that, the word speaks of excessive lewdness as a pattern of life. Children make many mistakes in the course of life, but those raised in a godly home will be inclined toward righteousness. Some will try drugs, many will rebel, many will be trapped by immorality, some will seek abortions, others will break the law, but the seeds of a godly heritage will eventually bear fruit along the way.
1. An elder should be a model father.
2. No one can raise “perfect” children who never make mistakes.
3. The godly man never gives up on his children.
4. Wild and disobedient children reflect badly on a father’s ability to guide others.
5. How a father responds to a crisis in his family reveals much about his ability to handle crisis in the church.
A godly leader takes great care with his children knowing that they are his single greatest contribution to the world. One writer describes the ideal father this way:
“His firmness makes it advisable for the child to obey.”
“His wisdom makes it natural for the child to obey.”
“His love makes it a pleasure for the child to obey.”
Do your children respect you enough to submit to your leadership? If so, then you are an excellent candidate for leadership in the local church.
Summary: The ideal or perfect leader has a family that is committed to Jesus Christ, where the husband loves his wife and the wife is dedicated to her husband’s spiritual leadership, where the grown children love Jesus Christ and love and respect their father. That’s the picture! It’s takes time to build a family like this and it takes a father with the discipline and desire to see it happen. But it’s worth it in the end.
F. The Leader’s Personal Habits
This final category touches the leader in his relationship to alcohol and money—two areas of perennial tempta-tion. Don’t overlook God’s Word on these crucial points! If you do, you will regret it later.
1. Not given to drunkenness I Tim 3:3; Titus 1:7
Literally this phrase means “not lingering over wine.” It is variously translated as “not a lover of wine,” “not addicted to strong drink,” “not a drunkard,” “not a hard drinker,” “not excessive in his use of wine.” I might add that the word also includes the thought of not frequenting places where wine is misused. It means not using wine as a way of life.
While this does not demand total abstinence, it also makes clear that a lover of wine cannot be a leader of God’s people. Godly leaders must be above reproach in the use of wine.
Unfortunately, too many people read this caution as a permission to drink wine. Since the warning is repeated twice, I take it that alcohol abuse was a serious problem in the first century. One wonders what Paul would think if he suddenly arrived in modern America and saw how pervasive alcohol abuse has become. Please do not turn this warning into a permission! Godly leaders must be very careful about alcohol, either using it in great moderation or not at all.
2. Not a lover of money I Tim 3:3
This touches how a man views his whole life. The godly leader must not make money the goal of his life. He must not be absorbed with the goal of increasing his net worth. In I Timothy 6:17-19 Paul has some strong words for the rich. They are tempted to be arrogant and to put their trust in their wealth. Instead they should learn to trust God and then focus on becoming rich in good deeds. This, he says, will lay up a firm foundation for the future.
Being a “lover of money” doesn’t imply anything dishonest or wrong. It simply means that you have wrongly made money (and the things money can buy) the measure of your life. How foolish, how sad.
3. Not pursuing dishonest gain Titus 1:7
This characteristic is different. It implies a kind of deliberate dishonesty. The godly leader must not be an embezzler, a thief, a crook, a pilferer. His financial dealings must be above reproach. There cannot be the slightest question about the way he handles his money. If there is, if he has a reputation as a “sharpie” who cuts a hard deal, if he is known as a man who plays fast and loose in his business affairs, if he laughs and says, “Everyone does it,” forget it. Don’t make that man a leader!
Note the difference: The “lover of money” is honest but wrong. “Pursuing dishonest gain” is dishonest and wrong. Both are condemned as inappropriate for a leader of God’s people.
4. Loving what is good Titus 1:8
We come to the final characteristic and find that it serves as a fitting conclusion to this list. “Loving what is good” means to support good people, good causes and good ideas. It reaches to the motivation of a leader’s life. What excites him? What hobbies does he cultivate? What brings a smile to his face?
Some people are excited by trifles and trivia, others by outright evil. Few there are who truly love what is good in life. When we find such people, we ought to follow them for they understand the difference between the good, the near-good, and the not-so-good. One commentator calls this quality “the unwearying activity of love.”
As we survey this list, we need to keep several things in mind. First, it takes time to develop a life like this. That’s the best argument for not elevating young men and new believers to eldership. Most 30-year-olds won’t have developed these qualities yet. That same principle applies to leadership generally. Second, a life like this doesn’t happen by accident. You have to work at it. If you want to be this kind of person, it will take real effort expended toward a definite goal over a long period of time. You can’t read this list, pray about it, and expect to wake up tomorrow morning a brand-new person. Change is possible, but for most of us real change is a slow, agonizing process. In five years you could substantially change your life; in two years you could be a very different person; in one year you could see real change; in one month you could begin to grow in several areas; in a week you could focus on one key area; and by tomorrow you could write down each quality on a chart and rate yourself in each area.
A. Concerning All of Us
This daunting list is not meant to depress us, but to inspire us to be better men and women!!!!! A noble work demands a noble person. If after reading this message, you feel depressed, that’s okay … as long as you don’t stay depressed. Recently one of the most godly men I know—a veteran 75-year-old missionary—assessed his own life in light of this list. His evaluation: “I’m above reproach, I’m the husband of one wife, I’m free from the love of the money, I don’t linger over wine … .” Then he paused for a long moment and said, “But I could use some work in the rest of the areas.” I thought to myself, “If he would say that, what about me?” As I survey this list, I see 5 or 6 areas of strength, 7 or 8 areas of growth, and 4 or 5 areas that need real work. And I’ve been a pastor for 15 years! Does that mean I should retire? No! Because the next man won’t be perfect either.
•It’s okay to say, “I can’t meet those qualifications now.”
•It’s better to say, “By the grace of God, that’s the kind of person I
want to be.”
What God wants: Not perfection, but growth toward a goal!
B. Concerning Our Leaders
What should we conclude when we read a list like this? How about this? Being a leader is a tough job! How would you like to be an elder or a pastor or a board member and have this list applied to your life!!??!!!?? Perhaps that’s one reason why so few men and women are willing to volunteer to serve as leaders.
Therefore, I think we ought to highly respect those godly leaders who serve in our midst. Let me leave you with three specific suggestions.
1. Leaders are held to higher standards. They deserve our respect.
2. Leaders face greater temptations. They need our prayers.
3. Leaders bear heavier burdens. They depend upon our support.
A good leader is a great gift from God. Let us therefore give 100% support to the godly leaders around us. And let us each take these principles to heart, asking God to make us better people than we’ve ever been so that we can do more for him than we’ve ever done before.
- Listen to this sermon (43:16)
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Portrait of a Godly Leader
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