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 —
I’ve gotten out of the habit of curating and quoting other blogs recently. But as our church continues to look at Titus 1 and the role of elders in the church, I find David Murray’s post on 1 Timothy 3:1–7 extremely enlightening—especially, his final point.
In numerical fashion, Murray lists ten realities about elders from 1 Timothy 3:1–7.
- The vital importance of these verses: This saying is trustworthy
- The huge responsibility in these verses: the position of an overseer
- The powerful and pure desire in these verses: If anyone aspires to the office…
- The worthy work in these verses: a noble task
- The uncompromising imperative in these verses: the elder must be
- The beautiful self-control in these verses: blameless
- The useful service in these verses: hospitable, able to teach
- The testing ground in these verses: manage his own household well
- The fearful danger in these verses: not a recent convert
- The evangelistic impact of these verses: well-thought of by outsiders
In his blog post, he explains each of these. They parallel a number of the points I made in yesterday’s sermon on Titus 1:5–9. However, it’s the last point that he makes that deserves our consideration. As to the evangelistic impact of elders, Murray writes,
Who we elect to office communicates so much to the world about what the church and the Gospel is all about, that it should be considered a major part of our evangelistic message to the world. The list of elders’ qualifications have two similar bookends: “above reproach” and “well-thought of by outsiders” underlining that electing elders is an evangelistic act.
“Electing elders is an evangelistic act.” I couldn’t agree more, and I think it is an under-appreciated truth.
The Vital Role of Elders in Evangelism, Church Growth, and Church Health
To many, church leadership structures are a secondary or tertiary matter. In recent days, I’ve had more than a few comments downplaying the importance of leadership structures.
Especially when a church is struggling or filled with strife, it is easy to think that revival or changed hearts is needed. There is no denying the need for repentance and reconciliation. But to dismiss the role elders (or the lack thereof) plays in church health misses much of what the Pastoral Epistles teach.
Church health—and by health I mean ability to protect, proclaim, and display the gospel—is necessarily retained and promoted by true elders. And when the structure of elders is missing or leaders in the church are less than what 1 Timothy 3 describes, it should not come as a surprise that evangelism, church growth, and church health are all in decline.
May God be pleased to raise up godly elders in your church and mine—not just for the sake of church leadership, but as David Murray reminds us, for the sake of evangelism too.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds