I am currently preaching through Paul’s first letter to his protege’ Timothy. Yesterday’s sermon was chapter 3, verses 1-16. The common use of this chapter is as a checklist in order to remove potential candidates for leadership when it should be used as a guide to help Christians mature. I say this because we all should aspire to a higher level of maturity than the one currently attained. The word Paul uses for “eagerly seeks” literally means to stretch forth or up, desiring something more. Everyone is to aspire to be more, to go deeper in the full knowledge of Christ which brings unity and deeper maturity.
I titled the sermon, “How to Kill a Church.” If in an attack the leadership can be compromised or nullified, it is then much easier to attack the rest of the body. If this occurs, the church is in danger of diminishing or even outright being “killed,” or no longer existing in a specific location.
For this reason, it is so important for leadership to be mature and continuing to grow in that maturity, and that maturity is to be shared with the rest of the body. If it is not, the body is in danger of remaining immature and susceptible to attack from the enemy. But when it is leadership that is not demonstrating and growing in maturity, the rest of the body is effected.
There is a prime example of this very thing currently occurring in Seattle with Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Church. http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024534198_marshillprofilexml.html. This situation saddens me, but is an explicit reminder to myself and other pastors. We must always be growing toward maturity in Christ, which is done not as much through proclamation as it is through living it out in real ways in the presence of the body.
Paul said to the church in Ephesus that God gave certain gifts (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor/teachers) so that the church would grow in maturity and the full knowledge of Christ which would be expressed in love and unity. If leaders aren’t not continually growing in maturity and going deeper into what it means to be a follower of Christ in real-life situations, then those leaders can only take the body so far, and then stagnation occurs.
To a specific point, Paul tells Timothy that the maturity level of “overseers” must be such that that person is not open to attack and has a good reputation with those outside the church in the community. When those two points of maturity are lacking, as is seen from the article, that causes damage to the church.
May it be a new reminder to all who would aspire or eagerly seek the office of an overseer.