How Is the Church Run? (1 Timothy 3:1-15)December 5, 2021 | Brandon Cooper
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All right, go ahead get your Bibles up the first Timothy chapter three, Timothy, chapter three will be in verses one to 15. This morning, as you’re turning there, let’s play make believe. So let’s pretend we’ve got a, let’s say, a sort of a smallish church has been in decline for a period of years. And they bring in a new leader, new pastor, to be sort of a visionary, something like that, who’s got some ideas for church revitalization? So how could this go? How could this shake out, let’s,
let’s imagine a couple of different scenarios here with different sort of church governance structures. So perhaps this guy is a charismatic personality, obvious gifting to everyone. And so he could just kind of, you know, go it alone, get a board. And this would definitely not be like a group of elders, this would be a board, you know, that kind of idea for sure, a board of Yes, men there to rubber stamp his ideas, because everyone kind of understands. And maybe he even communicates pretty frequently, you know, I am the brand like I am with the driving force of this church growth. And so if you don’t like it, you know, you can get off the bus or get run over something like that. Or let’s take a different version here. Maybe it’s a group of elders, but kind of in an ecclesiastical version of a smoke-filled back room. And so this is a group of guys who are not accepting or even, you know, certainly not soliciting, but not even accepting input. But they’re just gonna make these decisions on their own. He’s just gonna show up one Sunday, and guess what all this change. So if you don’t like it, there’s the door kind of thing. And maybe that’s involved some personnel changes, or something like that beloved children’s ministry director of three decades or something just not hip enough anymore, sorry, find a different job kind of thing. Or let’s go to the opposite extreme, though. And some of you will probably live this one as well. I’ve lived a couple of these, but congregational meetings, so Congregational Church at this point, so we got these proposals, and that’s gotta go to everybody, everybody gets a vote, and so congregational meeting to vote on these proposed changes, and church not real good at keeping up on membership roles, you got 100 People who haven’t been to church in a decade, but they care so much about this church, they don’t want you to change anything about it, other than maybe know what’s going on, but hey, they’re there kind of thing. And so you get the factions and the infighting and it’s, you know, ends up being a split and the thing gets voted down anyway. Or here’s one more. Get one of those churches that’s got more of a deacon model in place. And so you got 16 Different Deacon committees all in charge of their little kingdom, right. And so this proposals got to go through every one of those committees, and every one of them’s got thoughts about it, because of course, this is gonna affect the finances. And this is going to affect the facilities and you know, the missions teams going, why are we talking about the website when they’re people in Papua New Guinea who haven’t heard the gospel yet, and so it dies, 1000 deaths in 1000 committees. And there you have it, what happens so often is the right thing is done in the wrong way, or the right thing is just left undone because of bad structures. The reality is that bad leaders and bad decision making processes wreck churches and distort the gospel. So what is to be done? How is the church to be run? That’s our question this morning. And it’s an important question. Exactly, because what I just outlined right there, the church is a dynamic living organism. And it is also an organization and organizational structures get complicated very quickly. So what’s kind of the main idea what’s the point I’m gonna try and get across this today is that God gifts, qualified leaders to the church for its health and growth, very straightforward, nothing shocking, nothing new. In that statement, God gives qualified leaders to the church for its health and growth. What we want to do this morning is look at who those leaders are, and what the relationship is between them and the church. We’re going to do that by looking at three different groups of people, elders, deacons, and the congregation at large so let’s take them one at a time as we work through the text. So Elders first of all, First Timothy, chapter three, may read verses one to seven for us. Here is a trustworthy saying, Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseers to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him. He must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. Anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can you take care of God’s Church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall into the same judgment as the devil. He must all Have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. Alright, so to aspire to be an overseer is a good thing. But that raises an immediate question. Alright, so what is an overseer though? Let’s define terms here. And along with that, why did I call them elders instead of overseers? Is this the same group, so we’re gonna look at who they are, how they live, and what they do, but let’s start with who they are. There are a handful of words that get used interchangeably in the New Testament, all referring to the same group of people, the word pastor, for example, that’s really important, by the way, because we tend to think of Pastor as the guy who gets paid, and then the elders, the guys who don’t get paid. That’s not the New Testament vision. And that’s fine. If that helps you understand you look at a church website, right? That’s the guy on staff fine, but elder pastor used interchangeably as we’ll see. So it’s the same role. There’s no difference between me or Don, or Joe or pat or Kyle. Overseer, which if you’re familiar with the word Bishop, that’s actually this word right here. So overseer or Bishop, however you want to look at it, and elder, those are all synonyms for the same role. Pastor, overseer, Bishop, elder synonyms for the same role, as I said, used interchangeably in the New Testament, you probably just throw the word leader on top of that as well. Well, that one’s not used interchangeably, but it’s there in the New Testament. So here’s what I mean. Let’s look at a parallel passage, Titus chapter one, here’s verses six and seven, and you’ll see the two words used in exactly the same way an elder must be blameless. And then Paul goes on and lists the more qualifications since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless, talking about the same group of people. Or we see this in Acts chapter 20, when Paul was meeting with the elders of the Ephesian church, it says, Paul sent to Ephesus, for the elders of the church, there’s your word, elder. And then what does he say to them? A couple of verses later, keep watch over yourselves and all the flack that’s interesting, got some Shepherd language going on now of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. So the elders or overseers, and then be shepherds of the Church of God and shepherd and pastor, of course, same word, right? They’re called pastors in Ephesians, 411, places like that these three titles, they all tell us a lot about who these people are, you old testament background to the word elder, for example. It’s just kind of like your city council, in a lot of ways, but also the spiritual leadership of a town or village in Israel, you got an overseer, again, that just the whole idea of keeping watch of managing things, and of course, shepherds, this whole rich imagery there. And so that’s really important. We’ll talk a little bit more about that, because it kind of gives us what they do as well, we’ll get to that in a moment, I want two important points I gotta make about who elders are, before we move on. And in our culture today. One of these is like, Oh, good. That’s a great point we should talk about and the other one is like, oh, no, no, don’t say that. Alright, so let’s hit both of them and hang on, because I’m going to talk through the first one first. But these are the two things. In the New Testament. This is always a group, we refer to as a plurality of elders. There’s never just one guy who is the guy, so it’s always a group. And then second, elders are to be men. See if you can figure out which one isn’t as cool in this culture. I’m gonna talk about the plurality one first, hang on, don’t get up and walk out just yet. Paul, for example, we saw this in Acts 20. He sends for the plural elders is when he meets with the leaders in Ephesus, this the assumption that it’s a group of people, you read his greetings to the churches, you know, Philippians, for example, you know, to all the faithful in Philippi in Christ Jesus along with the elders and deacons. So we get these plural ideas throughout Sam Albury says it like this. Nowhere does the New Testament envisage a ministry equivalent of a one man band, where there will be no one able to offer vital challenge or support. Both of those are key. The church needs leadership, and no one individual leader will be sufficient for this is a great point. Why? Well, because if you just had one person that would of course, reduce the church to the limited gifts and vantage point of a single person. And that’s a terrible idea. Like you notice when Kyle preaches, he just like he says things differently, and says different things. He has different emphases than I do. And it’s great, right? Every time he preaches, I’m like, Oh, that’s good. I should probably say that more, but it’s cool, because Kyle says it so I don’t need to say it. So it’s fine. That’s just one small example. I wish you could sit in on our elder meeting. Sometimes. This happens all the time. We’ll bring something up. You know, maybe Kyle and I have talked about something during the week we bring it to the elders and just get a couple of questions. We’re like, Okay,
I hadn’t thought about that piece. Yep, that’s good. Like, let’s figure this out. Let’s keep going here. This church would be so much worse. If it were just up to me, or just up to me and Kyle or something like that. We we need that plurality of course this also mitigates some not all, but some of the risk of the abuse of authority. You read this and third, John, for example, in the atrophies, who loves to be first. So that person who just wants to be the guy is almost always going to record church right there. And so here you got your first guard against that if these aren’t Yes, men or something like that, as soon as that happens, you got four guys going to hang on. Just tap the brakes guy, we’re not going to do that. All right. So that’s good. So always has to be a plurality. But then also the elders are to be men, you can probably look just up it’ll be on the screen, but look up a little bit from where the passages because it’s the first Timothy two, verse 12, Paul writes, I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man. Now we got to talk about this.
All right, a couple things to say. You look at verse 11. Right before this, it says a woman should learn and quietness and full submission. And now we read that and we go, did you just say quietness and full submission? Back then when they were reading this, you know what they would have said, a woman should learn. So we got some radical equality happening here. That’s just was really unusual. For this time, a woman should learn it’s important that women are full participants in the life of the church. I’ve quoted some rabbis before, who talked about how pointless it is to instruct women in the Torah. And here’s Paul gone. None of that. None of that? Absolutely not. And we see elsewhere, pastors like First Corinthians 11, that women are serving, they’re speaking, they’re praying in the church. This is a good thing. This must happen. How much richer is our church? Because we’ve got Julie and Caitlin upfront all the time. Should they talk? Should they explain why we’re singing? What we’re singing? Should they pray for the church? Yes, absolutely. We’re so glad that they do. That’s the first point make second, this is a specific role that we are talking about here. That is when Paul talks about allow women to teach or to assume authority, we are talking about the elder role, specifically because that’s what’s on view here, that authoritative teaching in the church, the congregation wide teaching authority. These are related points. Of course, most of the authority that the elders have in the church is expressed through the teaching ministry of the church. And so that is a good reminder in its own right to because just remind everyone that our authority as elders is a derivative of authority. And it comes from the word of God. And as soon as we get out of step with the Word of God, we really don’t have authority at that point. We’ll come back to that in a moment. Third thing to note is that Paul Grounds this in creation, since verse 13, if you were to keep reading says For Adam was formed first then even Adam was not the one to see if it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. So this is grounded in creation. Adams formed at first Paul seasons of being significant. And notice then that Satan tempts Eve specifically this is not because women are more susceptible to deputation or anything like that Adam standing right there, he ate the fruit to okay, it turns out, we’re equally good at sinning men and women. That’s not it. But Satan is undoing the whole idea of headship right there, and kind of flipping the family at that point. So what this means though, the fact that this is grounded in creation, is that this is not related to specific circumstances in Ephesus, Paul’s not saying here in this church, like those women are crazy, you better make sure they’re not talking. This is just, it has to do with creation, or it has to do with God given roles. We see this throughout scripture from page one to the end, that two truths that are affirmed equally strongly on the one hand, men and women have equal worth and dignity. Absolutely equal and worth and dignity. So important. And second, have complementary roles, complementary roles, just doing different things. And so it’s a little bit like going to see Romeo and Juliet. And you really want somebody to play Romeo and somebody to play Juliet. And you don’t want to have somebody you don’t want to play Romeo. I’m sorry, you’re so you’re gonna play when we’re just both gonna say Romeo’s lines. Like that’s gonna be a bad thing. Juliet may be the better actor. She may get top billing even, and you still are glad she playing Juliet instead of Romeo. So this has nothing to do with who’s more gifted, who’s more capable in the leadership? Who’s got better insight or intelligence or anything like that? One more comment before we press on it, it would have been so much easier for me to skip this part. It’s not in my passage. I’d like to draw your attention to it.
But it’s important that we talk about it also, like I recognize, that’s a hard thing to say. People could leave today. The last time we see some of you because you just go I can’t believe that That’s what that church thinks how out of step with society. Let me encourage you in this. There’s sometimes we’ll hear pastors who are almost apologetic on this point. Like, I wouldn’t have set it up this way. I’m sorry. I don’t know. I don’t know what God’s doing here. I don’t want to apologize for God. All right. God is smarter than we are a lot smarter than we are. We don’t need to apologize from we can trust his wisdom. Even we don’t fully understand it. I do not fully understand this. I do not fully understand why only men get to be elders. Alright, good question. But I trust God, they would invite you to do so as well and not begrudge him his commands. They are not burdensome. John reminds us if that’s who they are, though, plural group of men serving as elders, overseers. pastors, leaders, how do they live? That’s the focus of our passage, isn’t it? Fascinating, really. We got, you know, seven whole verses here. And there’s almost no formal definition of the role. We’re gonna get to that next, though, but there’s a ton of qualifications. And so there’s the focus. Notice also, the focus is not on what we think the qualifications should probably be. I had been interviewed many times many different churches. And usually these qualifications, it’s just sort of an assumption that you know, your character is fine, right? Okay. So let’s talk about how you preach. Let’s talk about how you lead. Let’s talk about your vision for the church. Paul’s focuses on character, that’s what mattered most to him. It is true that an elder managers and teachers and their need to have some strength there, but this resume looks nothing like a CEOs resume. These are totally different things. So let’s just kind of walk through them briefly, but I want to hit them all here. So first of all, are we above reproach, that does not mean that an elder should be without sin. Good luck. First John, one eight, if anyone thinks they’re without sin, they’re deceiving themselves, and they’re worse than a liar. Okay, so not without sin, but certainly living a godly life, obviously, just be clear, like this is somebody who is passionately pursuing Christ and trying to live like Christ live part of this, I think, would be that an elder would be the first to confess, like, No, that was not, that was not good. Right there. So that’s part of it not without sin, but above reproach the husband of one wife. This one always raises questions here. So can someone who is divorced maybe even before they became a Christian, get to become an elder or what if you’re single, you’re supposed to have a wife kind of thing, reads much more literally, as a one woman sort of guy. And that’s really what it kind of means. I’m pretty sure he can be single. Because I would like to think that Paul, who’s writing this passage could be an elder in the church. And also Jesus, I think, would be a good elder. So let’s assume that the whole point here though, is that you have faithfulness, like absolute faithfulness in marriage, and then chastity, even celibacy, in singleness, temperate, then sober minded, is the idea here clear headed, thoughtful, a sort of a singular purpose. And so not somebody who’s me prone to flights of fancy, which is not good when you’re setting the vision of a church self controlled, meaning discipline here, especially the most important things, prayer, and the study of God’s word. This is one of the reasons why, and our elder meetings we ask regularly, what’s something that God’s been showing you in your study of God’s word this week, because if an elder is coming and going, I didn’t get to it this week. That’s bad. That’s really bad. Now, it’s nice here, it’s one of those encouraging times I have each month, you’re gonna listen to these men talking about what God is teaching them in Scripture going.
That’s awesome. That’s really good. Like, I had to write that down, because that’s some good stuff that God is showing you. So disciplined, and of course, part of this means not rash, or impulsive as well. Very important. Kind of see that a little bit here in a moment, respectable? Or as public perception does matter. Although it’s interesting. Paul doesn’t say respected. But respect to bull, because the world is so wrong so often gives status wrongly. And we look at Jesus right? respectable. Yeah, perfectly so respected. Not always, not always. A lot of people hated him, right? But so respectable worthy of respect, even if it isn’t given hospitable. Why? Because shepherds love that sheep and they want to be with them. They also love strangers like Jesus loved strangers and welcome outsiders able to teach. This one’s important because this is the only pure skill qualification. This is the one skill we got to have able to teach. Why because it’s so central to the calling of an elder even saw that first Timothy 212 authority and teaching a go together. We’ll see this in a few other passages later. Also, this is not just public preaching. A New Testaments kind of clear that you get some people teach more regularly upfront like I do, for example, but able to teach maybe that’s explore our here maybe that’s journey groups or community groups, all sorts of opportunities even in informal conversations, are you able to hear somebody the situation they’re in and direct them to God’s word and show how God’s Word would direct them from they’re not given to drunkenness. And here I think wine is standing in for a whole lot of other things that is, is not just abusing drink, but abusing all created things. That is, I don’t think this is just have you had too much to drink? But do you watch too much TV? do eat too much food? Like these are all good questions. You have ordinate desire and ordinate consumption of the things God has given us not violent but gentle. In other words, like Jesus, who doesn’t break bruised reeds, because you got a lot of bruised reads in ministry, a lot of situations where people require patience, and the utmost care in speech, not quarrelsome. peacemakers, right, but not stirring up conflict. And this one’s really important because especially in light of attacks, I can let you in on a really big secret. You’ve never heard this before, I’m sure. But you get criticized a lot when you’re in leadership, and especially in ministry leadership, so you can be constantly provoked, does that ever cause you to blow up? If so, probably not the right spot. Of course, not a lover of money. Now, a lot of people go into professional ministry for money. That’s another big secret. But there you have it. But it’s more than that, though, of course, because you can not have money and still love money and be obsessed with money. Now this is someone who knows where his treasure is. So he’s not caught up in the love of this world or love of the things of this world. He manages his home well, and this one has kind of character and skill, as I said, able to teach is the only pure skill qualification there’s skill here for sure. But this is a proving ground for everything else. Why? Because if you got kids, you better be teaching the word. Right. Okay, so there, that’s where it starts. How are you at? Are you able to teach the word to your kids? Are you respectable? Do you have a surly teenager who maybe doesn’t respect you? Okay, fine. That might be your teenagers problem or something like that. But Are you worthy of respect? Are you able to oversee the family? If you got somebody who’s leading his family to always live beyond their means? Do you want that guy overseeing the church’s finances? Probably not. Right. So that’s what I mean by proving ground doesn’t mean kids won’t ever sin because even pastors kids are sinners. Secret number three, um, just everything’s getting ruined today. They’re sinners too. But do they respect and obey their dad mature believer. Next, that word elders important? I think they’re supposed to be old. Wisdom comes from experience. And of course, one of the problems is you’ve given too much authority too young, the temptation to pride is overwhelming. We’ve seen that in some really sad ways recently, and the church here in America. So those people were there too gifted, too young, and their character never grows, to reach their gifting leads to all sorts of problems, mature believer, and then a good reputation with outsiders. And this, after all, was the group of people who are leading the church evangelistically. And so if everyone outside the church hates them, that’s probably a problem. So will they be offended by the message of the gospel? Occasionally? Yes,
absolutely. But of course, that’s a different sort of thing. So what do we notice? Having went through that list pretty quickly here? Number one, that’s a really lofty standard, isn’t it? I’ll just tell you right now, I get really nervous when we do like older interviews and stuff. If you say, you know, we read these, what do you think about this? And if people are like, yeah, no, I
feel like I’m qualified. Oh, gosh. Okay. So cross that name off. Like, I’m looking at dawn and Joe and Pat and Kyle. And I’m feeling it myself. Right now. They’re
all going. I’m not sure I should be in this role. And yeah, that’s probably about right. It’s a lofty, lofty standard. As we’ve said, second, it is all about character. Do you notice something too, though, apart from the one phrase able to teach, these are things that should be true of every one of us, right? Should be true of absolutely every one of so an elder, in other words, is really just an exemplary Christian. That’s all we’re talking about here. These are the character traits that we are all striving for. The lesson we keep learning say it again, we cannot be promoted out of character qualifications. Gifting does not ever excuse sin. So that’s who they are. Now we got how they live. Lastly, what do they do? What activities do these overseers have Leaders pastors perform four of them that I see lead, first of all, certainly implied in the language of overseer, nevermind the language of leader that you find in like Hebrews 1317. They manage the church well. So there’s a leadership piece there under Christ’s leadership. Of course, Kyle said this in praying for us even today, right? Christ is the head of the church, but under Christ’s leadership, seeking God’s direction, especially as regards the ministry and mission of the church, so that all the ministries of the church function under the guidance and authority of the elders. And a big part of that is so that we maintain our priorities, what we talked about last week, as a church, but this is done with humility, and love. Why because we are servant leaders. We may be shepherds, but we’re also sheep. So that kind of changes the way you shepherd and ever so aware of the possibility of abusing authority again, the sin of Diotrephes, but lead second teach, obviously, there’s that skill requirement, we cannot neglect, the ministry of the word. We talked about this a few weeks back how important the proclamation of the Word is, and what it accomplishes. In us, this is how we grow the word is the transformative agent. And so this is how we feed the sheep. What Jesus tells Peter to do, it’s with the Word of God. And of course, part of this teaching here is protecting the church from false teachers and false doctrine. Third, then we shepherd
the word right pastor. Paul says, Be shepherds of GOD’s flock, which means what you got to know the flock like sheep know shepherds voice kind of thing. No, the flock minister to them. Looks like visitation looks like Council looks like discipline, which we’ll talk about next week. And of course, above all, it looks like prayer. It’s so interesting. We’ll get to act six in a moment. But it’s one of the things the elders of the church say we cannot neglect prayer, and the ministry of the word, know things I love most about our elder readings, about a third of them are spent in prayer. There are a few times where we will be like, Oh, man meeting looks like to me over early tonight, this would be great. Get home early and whatnot. And then 45 minutes later, I’m like, Okay, we’ve we had to pray. So that’s what happens. So we pray. James 514 even says, if you’re sick, you’re hurting, something like that. What do you do you call the elders of the church to pray over you? And then fourth, we equip it’s right there in the main idea, right? God gives qualified leaders for the church’s growth. How does the church grow under this leadership? Well, it’s because Ephesians 411 Christ Himself gave the leaders, the church pastors and teachers to equip God’s people for works of service for works of ministry. So we’ve got this unbiblical notion creeps up in churches sometimes that pastors do the ministry. Fact even sometimes call the pastor the minister. I am not the minister. I’m a pastor, teacher, y’all are the ministers. Because I’m equipping you the elders are Equipping You for works of ministry that’s in our mission statement, even what we looked at last week to equip God’s people, magnify Christ, and serve others. So equip. So God gifts, qualified. Now we see how important that little adjective is right? God gives qualified leaders to the church for its health and growth, and we see how elders function in that purpose. I do want to note too, that I chose a weird word, you know, God gifts, qualified leaders. But I say that because it’s right there in Ephesians 411. But because we are truly gifts to you, it’s weird to say that I also think you all are gifts to the church, too. I think sometimes we talk about spiritual gifts, and we feel like it’s this, like, the gift is over here. If we’re lacking discernment, we pray for the gift of discernment. What are we praying for that God would give us a person who has discernment, right? So we’re gifts, but godly leaders are gifts to the church. And I say that because we are in an authority averse culture. So you may be here today, even as a Christian, but especially if you’re here today, and you’re not totally sure about Christianity, like this is just rocking your world. I’m sure we’re not real keen on authority, because we love our autonomy. In this called What do you mean? I’m gonna obey my leader? Are you out of your mind? And yet here, it isn’t God’s word. So if that’s you, if you’re kind of freaking out about this, let me encourage you to consider and maybe even to bold, I’m gonna say it still embrace the idea of submission. I think it’s something our culture needs to talk about more. We did a whole series on this a couple years back called the S word. The S word is submission, how important it is. Why is it so important? Because you got two options. Honestly, you can either submit to God’s authority, including the leaders he places in authority again derivative authority under his word, or you get to be your own god, which seems really dangerous to me. So you come across something like what? So God’s word says only men can be the leaders in the church. I reject that. On what basis because you don’t like it. Because your culture teaches you not to like it. God’s word is infallible. You see anything in our culture that gives evidence of infallibility? No, obviously not. It is clear that collectively we are very, very dumb. Put your trust in the right place. That’s all submission is is going, I’m gonna trust you instead of me here. Alright, second group, though.
So we got elders, then we got deacons. Let me read verses eight to 13. In the same way deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience, they must first be tested. And then if there’s nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy and everything. A Deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household. Well, those who have served well being excellent standing, and great assurance and their faith in Christ Jesus. So here Paul turns his attention to the next office, that of Deacon and the word Deacon again, isn’t just a Greek word, they just wrote it out for you in English, but it’s a Greek word, the Greek word just means servant. That’s all it is. So in a very real sense, every Christian is a deacon, including all the elders, of course, we’re all called to be servants. But the office itself really born out of Acts chapter six. And so what happens in Acts chapter six, the early church, the Greek widows are being overlooked in the distribution of the bread. And so they raise this issue with the apostles, the elders of the church, and the elders there say, we can’t neglect our duties. And so they appoint deacons to take care of it. Here’s x six, three and four up on the screen for you, brothers and sisters, elders speaking to seven men from among you, who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom, we will turn this responsibility over to them, and we’ll give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. So that’s who they are. Servants. It also points to what they do what their role is, but it’s very loosely defined. And so for us to really get their role actually want us to back up a little bit and get to this moment in Acts chapter six. So again, this is the very earliest church. Satan is constantly attacking this church and this is the third and the threefold attack. So Acts chapter four, Satan’s strategy is outside persecution. What if we, you know, whip and flog and beat the apostles? Maybe then the church will get really nervous and stop preaching did not work. They go home rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer as Christ had been? Acts chapter five, strategy number two, inside corruption, and an essence of Fira. What if they started lying to the Spirit? What if we could get rots from the inside and eventually the structure of the church will just collapse did not work either. Then we get to Acts chapter six, and we quote John Stott, here who says, The Devil’s next attack was the cleverest of the three, having failed overcome the church by other persecution or corruption, he now tried distraction. If he could preoccupy the apostles with social administration, they would neglect their God given responsibilities to pray and to preach and so leave the church without any defense against false doctrine. That’s what the elders recognize here in Acts three and four. We just said why they say we can’t give up prayer and the ministry of the word, the elders must focus on the spiritual welfare of the whole church. But they do so recognizing the importance of physical needs. You notice the elders here, don’t go what do we care about bread guys can’t live on bread alone. Gotta live on them. every word that proceeds to the mouth of the father. No, they go, Okay, this is real. Like we got to talk about this, but we can’t do it. So they put in place this permanent structural solution, the Office of Deacon so that the elders can remain committed to what needs to be their priority. Mats met her says it like this I love it. He says a church whose ministers I don’t like to use the word ministers there, he means elders, I’m gonna change it right, a church whose elders are chained to the tyranny of the urgent which show so often shows up in tangible problems is a church removing its heart to strengthen its arm it’s a kind of slow motion suicide and this by the way, if I could be straightforward from this is why sometimes people ask me questions and I will just decline the conversation that has happened sometimes they’re like, you know, I got this and this and this this and be like, You What? Sorry,
I don’t do the finances at the church. We have a finance team, please, direct all inquiries over there. I can’t respond here because we’ll be a distraction from what I need to do here. So that whole idea, though, helps us out in understanding what do deacons do well, they serve. They solve problems, how do we make sure the bread is distributed equitably? And they absorb shocks, because this had the potential divide the church right there and it doesn’t happen. They’re actually brought together and the church explodes as a result. So it’s this loosely defined role. That’s so important. Truly, here’s the rule, deacons do whatever is needed to keep elders free to pray and to preach. That’s it. That’s what a deacon does whatever is needed to keep elders free to pray and preach. We have a running joke among the staff here. And by among the staff, I mean tile. But you know, in these job descriptions, there’s always like, you’re here, you’re responsible for this, and this and this, and this. And then the last one gives you all the wiggle room you need right. other duties as assigned, which is things like setting up a temporary lobby in the gym. You know which guy when I did this week. That’s deacons, other duties as assigned. That’s my role. That’s it. That’s it in a nutshell. That’s what a deacon does. So what does that look like? Typically coordination, especially of vital ministries in the church, I think of our connection team here. Mark Meyers is the deacon who leads that ministry, how important is it, that we have people who are welcoming, especially guests into the life of our church, helping people who are going to struggle to navigate all the construction and things like that it’s so important, is that something I should be doing? I’m actually trying to float before the service because I’m trying to shepherd sheep at this point. But because Mark’s doing that, and he’s got a team of people doing that, I’m free to do what I can do. So coordination of vital ministries looks like compassion, comments in the clothes closet, that’s a deacon ministry for sure. And our benevolence fund, what we call the fellowship fund here, that’s a deacon ministry also looks like operational issues, cities, finances, things like that. so vital that this is happening. I spend a lot of time trying to get people to help. I stayed up here, and we’ll talk about like, we don’t have enough volunteers down in Kansas City right now, which is true, by the way, or we got to clean the church because construction and no one wants to sit in a dusty seat, or we need this visitation team to be up and running. And right now we got nothing. That’s all a distraction. Or that’s all keeping the elders from doing what we need to be doing a church without a thriving Dakine. It is a hobbled church, that will be ineffective. Remember, God gets qualified leaders to the church for its health and growth. And this is going to keep us from growth. If one person or group small group of people got to do everything. Now they still need to be qualified leaders how they live, right. Did you notice very similar list of qualifications these are to be still exemplary Christians. And act six even read that that would be full of the Spirit and wisdom. Did you notice this time? It includes women explicitly? So NIV just translated as the women, verse 11. Right there. I think that’s right. It’s not wise. Some translations will have wives here. I think very definitely. It’s not wise, for a couple of different reasons. Some of it, it gets into the nitty gritty of the Greek you don’t need to worry about that. But the biggest one is that it’s really hard for me to imagine that Paul thinks we should interview the wives of potential Deacon candidates but not the y’s of potential elder candidates. So a deacons wife has got to be above reproach, but the elders wife Well, she can be a backstabbing hussy. So that can’t be so I think we’re very definitely talking about women deacons here, as some would say. But it’s weird that he all of a sudden addresses women and then goes back to men, if not weird at all. Look at what he does. And verses eight to 10. He gives General General qualifications. And then in verse 11, he gets qualification specific to women. And then in verse 12, he gets qualifications specific to men. And then in verse 13, he wraps up with a concluding statement that is true for all deacons, regardless of sex. And notice that last verse, that one’s important, those who serve well. What are they given great assurance, great standing in the faith? They’re wonderful words, aren’t they? It’s just a reminder that deacons are not JV Christians. Male deacons aren’t you know, like web best, maybe their elders and waiting they can finally join the big boys or something like that. How do we know that? Because Jesus is the original Deacon.
I mean, Deacon just means servant. John, chapter 13. What does Jesus do? He doesn’t just serve the disciples. He actually takes on not just the role of Deacon but the will slay even below that knelt and wash the feet of his disciples. He says in Mark 1045, this famous verse, Let me just read it to you in the Greek I came not to be Deacon but to Deacon. And to give my life as a ransom for many. That’s a high calling. You see this in church history, deacons were not treated as JV Christians. I’ll tell you just one story. This is about a guy named Lawrence and year 258, and Rome and a new emperor had just been installed, new edict goes out that all the elders and deacons in the Christian church were to be executed. And so Lawrence is brought there to be executed. And they say, if you surrender the treasure of the church, we will spare you. And so he says, Absolutely, I’ll be right back, comes back the next day, with a treasure of the church. The people love that. So they kill them naturally. That’s how you get yourself killed. They don’t appreciate a keen wit and those moments, so they burn him alive. And even as he’s been burned alive. He says you can turn me over this sides done. That sounds like a JV Christian to you know. So Paul said aspiring to be an elder is a good thing. And would that every man here in this room aspired to be an elder, because again, what is an elder just an exemplar Christian, I just want to be more like Christ. So of course, I want to be elder qualified. My hope is that every man in his church could be an elder, we’re gonna look around without, you know, 7080, elder qualified men, and we’re like, we only need three. So sorry, you don’t get to serve here. But I’m so glad. And would that every person in this church aspired to be a deacon? Like Lawrence? How do you do that? Start serving. That’s how, because it says you must first be tested to prove yourself, you’ll jump into leadership, you start in the lowest rung. And it starts, especially in the home. So we’re to parents here, especially,
we’ve seen you got to manage your family. Well, so key part of being a deacon and being an elder. So start there. Are you doing this at home? What kind of parent are you aspiring to be? Are you teaching the Word of God your children? Are you shepherding them? Are you prone to outbursts of temper? Or are you temperate, self control, discipline, all the rest. Last section, though, congregational be a little bit shorter here, verses 14 and 15. Although I hope to come to you soon, I’m writing you these instructions so that if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth, that include these verses, if you had your bookmark, they weren’t on the verses. So pastors prerogative, we’re using these ones, too. Why? Because it reminds us Paul reminds us here that how the church is run matters for the whole church, and matters for all churches. So he is writing this letter to Timothy. But it’s quite clear here in these verses that even though he’s writing to Timothy, he’s writing for all of us, because what does he say? I’m writing this, you might know how everyone, how people, how everyone ought to conduct themselves in church not should consider conducting hymns. No, this is how we ought to conduct ourselves in church. And so Paul saying it matters, that we know all this, who elders are, who deacons are, and how they relate to the congregation, because it concerns the health growth of the church. So I want to spend these last few minutes just considering how the congregation and its leaders relate, including in the selection process of who gets to become a deacon or an elder. First congregation is called to honor and submit to its leaders. It’s not optional. This is a command of God, Hebrews 1317, where you’re ready to Hebrew says, Have confidence in your leaders, and submit to their authority because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Now, you see there, of course, this means submission. The code of submit is not a free pass for leaders to lead, as we see fit quite the contrary. Because at some point, I’m going to stand before Jesus and give an account for how I lead you. This is why reading the Hebrews says, do it. So there will be a joy, not a burden. So that would be of no benefit to you. But that’s the question that I’m going to get asked right. When you lead the church down as you leave the church, Joe, as you lead the church? Is it for the benefit of those you lead? Did you give them grace? And there are hints at the limits of submission, of course, throughout the New Testament as well, right there in the early chapters of Acts, would the apostle say, sorry, like you’re telling us not to preach the gospel anymore. We must obey God and not people. And so of course, there’s a limit there. Francis Schaeffer reminds us that our loyalty to Christ in our loyalty to Christian principles comes before loyalty to the organization to the institution. But even more than that, the limits to submission are actually part of the congregation. Asians role and you see this in pastors like Galatians. One, where if the leadership of the church gets off, whose responsibility is it, to deal with that? Yours. So hopefully the first guard if I started teaching heresy is that the four men who serve alongside me as elders
rebuke me, and if need be, lead the charge to have me removed. But if the four of them because we’re in the smoke filled back rooms kind of thing, aren’t doing it, then it’s your job. And your job. Authority is given to the congregation. It means by the way that the church has got this really weird governance, doesn’t it? And the most obvious sense the church is a monarchy. Christ is king. Good news, very good news, Christ is king. In another sense, the local church is an oligarchy, and that it is led by a few, but another sensitive democracy, because it involves the full participation of its membership. In fact, we see throughout the New Testament, how membership, the membership of the church is involved in the selection of leaders, we saw in Acts chapter six, especially choose from among yourselves, seven men, and honestly, the qualifications that are listed here, assume congregational input, how are you going to know some of these things? We got to ask people? Is he worthy of respect? That’s a great question. So so that then he it’s another funny thing, like chapter three, verse one, we see an elder is sort of self selecting, I aspire to be an elder. And then we see that the there also elder selected, we see, you know, Paul, for example, appointing elders, and then also congregation selected is this interesting balance between all these different groups, we use the language of affirmation here, which I think is good language. So the elders select men, although we certainly welcome recommendations always, for example, for the elder development program that we run here, and then we put them forward for comment before they become elders here. Again, we don’t elect them because I don’t think that’s the language. The New Testament uses all but affirm because of the congregation looks at a guy and goes, No, I can’t affirm him. Well, okay, that’s serious. And we’re going to walk back that recommendation for sure. I think we need to do a better job of this with deacons. deacons just sort of happen and we say welcome to a new Deacon. But it seems quite clear that we need to do this the same sort of way and put them forward, receive comment and then affirm them, that’ll be a process moving forward. Hold church is also involved in discipline, which we’ll talk much more about next week. But that includes discipline of leaders. You seem pastors like First Timothy 529, you deal with the abuse of authority and deal with it publicly. Let me quote close at this point, so verse 15. Paul says that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, entrusted with the gospel is the way that Paul says in Thessalonians, what does that mean that we’re the pillar and foundation of truth, if a church is run? Well, it displays the gospel to a watching world, which of course leads to its health and growth, a healthy marriage proclaims the gospel of Christ husband, loving his wife, as Christ loved the church, for example. In the same way, a healthy church leadership structure proclaims Christ, because Christ is the Good Shepherd, he’s the chief Shepherd, the original elder. And so when elders lead the way, Christ led in light of the gospel, we proclaim Christ. And of course, Jesus is the suffering servant. He’s the original Deacon. And so as the church serves one another, well, we proclaim Christ, God gives qualified leaders to its church, to the church for its health, and growth. Let’s pray. Father, we thank you for the reminder that how a church is led matters. And even as we remember that, Lord, we’re so grateful for the reminder that you leave the church. Those of us who are elders, here we are under shepherds, we’re not free to lead as we see fit. But we follow the Good Shepherd as sheep. And then strive to lead to shepherd the flock entrusted to our care, Lord, speaking as an elder here, we confess our inadequacy for that task, and pray that you would strengthen us with your grace to do what you’ve called us to do. Lord, we pray that you would continue to raise up men who can serve as elders in this church, and that we would do all we can to equip them well for that task where we pray that you would raise up deacons to serve in the church in an official capacity to take the burden off the elders so that we can remain committed to prayer and the proclamation of the gospel, knowing that qualified men and women are handling the things that they can handle, and probably with more skill and efficiency than we could. And Lord, I pray for the church as a whole that in all we do in the organization. nation of the church that we would proclaim Christ that you Jesus the original elder the original Deacon the good shepherd would be exalted in the leadership of this church we worship you as Christ our King