1 Timothy 3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
There is an alarming crisis occurring in the western churches today. For the most part, we have been lulled into thinking that it’s not a big issue but merely a way of showing tolerance, inclusiveness and building the numbers of young people coming to church. But the problem has arisen because of ignorance and unbelief in what our Bible teaches. Namely, it is most concerning how many young people are holding positions of authority in our churches, without giving much thought to their character and caliber.
Far be it from me to vilify young people. They are the energy and future of our churches. However, I have my doubts if many who are chosen to fulfill leadership roles are ready for them. I have worked as a mentor for the past six years, supporting small groups of young people attending Bible College. Most of these people are in their very early twenties, some as young as nineteen. They are all involved in some capacity in paid or volunteer ministry in their church. Sadly, many of the young people I have mentored have addictions to pornography, alcohol and gaming. Many have not developed sound, consistently-practiced holy habits. They struggle to read their Bible each day and pray. And many are unfamiliar with the basics of the faith. Some, unbelievably, have been Christians for less than twelve months before jumping into Bible College and ministry. And yet they are leading others! Am I the only one who thinks this is a little ludicrous?
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world.
The church does not progress beyond the level of spiritual maturity of its leaders. Or put another way, as are the leaders, so is the congregation. Therefore leadership is crucial; the character and reputation of leaders is of critical importance. Without a doubt, there must be certain qualities in our leaders, which people recognize and aspire to emulate.
Turning to 1 Timothy 3, Paul writes in detail to Timothy (who was considered to be young in his thirties!) directing him on the essential qualities of those who serve as deacons or overseers (elders). In this chapter, the scriptures set the standard of how our leaders are to behave. There is no room for skills, personality, charisma or popularity, in this list. The qualifications of an overseer (those who have a shepherding and teaching/preaching role) and deacons (those to whom specific tasks of service are assigned) are almost synonymous. But for the purpose of this article I will list the qualifications of a deacon.
1 Timothy 3:8-12 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, And let these also first be tested; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
Those who serve in ministry in our churches need to be serious minded, reverent, displaying both gravity and commitment in their role. They see ministry as a privileged business not to be taken flippantly. They must be sincere in their conviction, not double-minded, easily distracted or diverted from their role, faith and love for Christ. They must be not given to too much wine, but instead, be filled with the Spirit of God. They ought not to be greedy for money or dishonest gain, but content with what God has given them. They are spiritual, upholding the entire Word of God with a clear conscience. They are known as true men and women of God. They must be settled, and if married, show marital fidelity and be able to manage both their own lives and their households. And finally, such people ought to be tested so that there is found nothing against them. That is, they are above reproach. They are to be appointed to positions based on the evidence of a godly lifestyle. No-one is sinless, but those in serving roles, need to have a good reputation with others both inside and outside the church.
Leaders therefore, need to closely critique those who are selected for serving roles, regardless of the age of the applicant. Often leaders are so eager to fill positions, time is not taken to carefully and prayerfully select men and women based on these qualifications.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
It is a sad state of affairs when leaders do not take seriously the directives God has given them in His Word as to the type of people who are to serve in His house. If they are ignorant of, or unwilling to yield to the Scriptures, what chance is there for their flock? This is surely a clarion call for us all to turn back to our Bibles and diligently study what God says, on the issues that so seriously affect our church.
“Heavenly Father, help me to yield to Your call to study the Scriptures daily. Give me a deeper longing to know the truth and the courage to stand up for it. Thank you.”