Monday, December 19, 2005

Characteristics of Christian Leaders (6)

If we compare the lists of qualifications for elders/overseers in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, we will notice that Paul directs Timothy that an overseer "must not be a recent convert". However, this qualification is missing from Titus 1. Did Paul forget to mention this to Titus? Or, in the new church in Crete where everyone was a recent convert, would this have been an unworkable and impossible restriction?

I believe the absence of this qualification for the Cretan church means that Paul was flexible in how elders/overseers should be appointed. This is a good example of how cultural differences might have been accommodated in the early church. I wonder if Paul had been writing to a church where multiple marriages was normal if he would have insisted that overseers be the husband of one wife, and therefore left them elder-less. Perhaps in a church made up entirely of women married to non-Christian men he might have said the elders should be "faithful to their unbelieving husbands".

So, are the lists in 1 Timothy and Titus meant to be inflexible rules for all churches in all times, or as guidelines for choosing elders/overseers from the most spiritually mature in our communities?

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