Mickey D. Brackin
Senior Pastor, Mars Hill Baptist Church, Lawrenceburg
Sitting in a classroom at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over three decades ago I heard some words that were forever etched in my mind.
These words were stated by a professor who simply said, “Who you are thunders so loudly I can’t hear what you say!” In that one sentence, he was helping those future church leaders understand the importance of their own personal example in the context of church leadership.
In I Timothy 3, Paul turns his attention to church leadership as he writes to the young church leader (vv. 1-13). Paul not only offers qualifications for church leaders but addresses the importance of personal character and conduct as a major core of these qualifications.
For Timothy to stand against the false doctrines and false teachers that were rising up in the church at Ephesus he must know and install church leaders who were godly examples in personal character and conduct.
For those who desired the position of overseer it was a noble work (v. 1). Based upon the wording and context of the following verses of chapter 3 there were in Ephesus false teachers with ungodly flaws in character and unholy manners of personal conduct trying to assume positions of leadership.
Paul is calling on Timothy to preach and teach the truth and to be the example of that truth both in personal character and conduct. As other church leaders are appointed, they too must be examples of the pattern set forth in (vv. 2-13).
In verses 2-7 we find these qualities that pertain to the overseer (pastor, elder, bishop).
A key to the understanding of these verses is found in verse 2 concerning the characteristic of “blameless, above reproach.” The person who is blameless (above reproach) is obviously not a sinless individual. It is a behavior that rises above criticism.
This conduct and character must be evident in the context of home and family (vv. 2, 4, 5). It must also be exemplified in matters of personal conduct and integrity (vv. 2b-3). Paul then offers instruction that the overseer should not be a new convert, or a novice (v. 6).
There should be a time of growth and maturity or perhaps pride would surface. Many false teachers were being revealed by their own conceited pride.
The “above reproach” life of the overseer is a powerful testimony to the watching world (v. 7).
In verses 8-13, Paul writes concerning the important ministry of deacons in church leadership. Deacons should share in the same manner of character and conduct of overseer (v. 8). Deacons as well as overseers must demonstrate a life controlled by the Holy Spirit. Deacons should be examples in personal lifestyle of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the home, church and community. They should be proven by the measure of time (v. 10).
For church leaders, the message is clear: “Who you are thunders so loudly I can’t hear what you say!