Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Characteristics of Christian leaders (7)

When discussing leadership or eldership the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy invariably come up, and rightly so (and I've already referred to this letter a number of times).

It's important that we look at the BACKGROUND and the CONTEXT of the list of qualifications so we understand the reason for it.

There was obviously a serious problem at Ephesus and Paul was instructing Timothy about his role in solving the problem. The problem centred around some of the leaders and was actually foreseen by Paul years before when he spoke with the elders of the Ephesus church on the beach at Miletus:

"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. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:28-31)

From 1 Timothy we discover certain features of these bad leaders:

  • they were guilty of bad behaviour as well as bad teaching (1:3-7; 6:3-10).
  • the bad behaviour included being argumentative and quarrelsome. They were proud, arrogant and divisive.
  • the false teachers believed they had a superior knowledge of doctrine (6:20-21), but it was not based on an intimate relationship with God.
  • these "knowledgeable" teachers are possibly of the same type as the people "in the know" (gnostics) in Corinth who set about making rules for believers - Judaizers and legalists.
  • money was a major part of the problem (6:5-10). Some people love to have control over church funds, not necessarily because they want to use it to feather their own nest, but for the CONTROL it gives them over other believers.

Timothy is not being instructed in how to appoint leaders. Rather, he is to tell the elders how they SHOULD be behaving! Many of the characteristics Paul describes are in contrast to the bad behaviour of the existing leadership.

This highlights a problem which the church has faced since the start. There have ALWAYS been bad leaders, so we should not be surprised when we are confronted by the same issue today. The challenge for us is how to deal with bad leadership when we recognise it.

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