Church Leaders are Discovered, Not Developed

Scriptures: 1 Timothy 3:1-7
by Jacob Abshire on January 1, 2023

Bobbing for apples was never my thing. You need the right mouth with the right bite. I have neither. But regardless, no one succeeds at bobbing for apples when the barrel is empty. To borrow different imagery, there must be fish in the water for a fisherman to catch fish. And, there must be deer in the field for the hunter to get game. In the same way, there must be godly men in the church for the church to find leaders.

This idea undergirds the qualifications of church leadership found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. The apostle Paul is instructing Timothy on how to discover candidates for church leadership by looking through the lens of Scripture to find those with godly qualities in the local church. Here is the passage in its entirety.

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

1 Timothy 3:1-7

Discovering Godliness

When we speak about “qualifications,” we are talking about specific conditions by which a man is measured and approved. The conditions give the church a picture of the kind of man that is suitable, in God’s mind, for overseeing the local church. In the list provided, we can identify at least fifteen qualities. Each of them, in one way or another, are to be understood as character qualities that “an overseer must be (1 Tim. 3:2).

We must be godly men before we become church leaders.

Notice that Paul does not say that “an overseer must become,” for this would indicate that the leader is developed after he is named pastor. Instead, Paul writes that the aspiring pastor must be first proven, before he is positioned. He must be a godly man before he becomes a church leader. Only after a man has been proven godly can he be a candidate for the office of overseer. This is a clear indication that the church leader is discovered from a collection of godly men. He is not developed to be a godly man afterward.

Developing Godliness

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he urged the church to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Paul uses the word “call” to communicate the idea of being effectually and supernaturally invited by God to His family and into His presence. It serves as a synonym for salvation and all that encompasses the new life in Christ. The one who is called into God’s presence is called into godliness.

Furthermore, he says that we are to “walk in a manner” that proves it. The word “walk” relates to our daily life. It includes our actions, behaviors, and choices. Our lifestyle, in other words, ought to reflect the godliness in which we were called to live within. This idea is so fundamental to the Christian life that it might be one of the reasons Paul introduces this list of qualifications with the phrase, “the saying is trustworthy” (1 Tim. 3:1). It was meant to call attention to what followed. It was important and needed our undivided attention. Every man in the church ought to set his sights on the qualifications of a pastor as his own qualities for which he strives. For the pastor is not developed in ministry, but discovered for ministry.

Men, if there was a need for leadership in your church, would you be ready? Are you continually striving toward godly character? Does your walk consist of steps firmly placed in the character of godliness? Maybe, it’s time for you to realize what God expects from you.

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