Today’s devotional offering from Donald Fortner falls short as a devotional for me. I am not an elder, nor a deacon, nor a deaconess, and I’m not involved in church leadership. Furthermore, there are many interpretations of these descriptions. Some use them to put pastors on a pedestal. Others use them to downgrade the role of women.
From listening to many church leaders, I’ve learned that the passages about their qualifications are a head’s up for the rest of us. Being in leadership, as the saying goes, makes one’s backside totally vulnerable to being kicked. However, few pastors tell their people about the many angry phone calls, emails, and threats they receive. As the Bible says, average Joe-Christian must be respectful and encourage them in the work they do.
“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. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 3:1–13)
Two things come from this description as God’s reminders to me. The first is direction on how to pray for church leaders. At the top of the list is asking God to help them live and serve without doing anything that deserves criticism. They will be criticized anyway, so I also need to pray for God’s wisdom when falsely accused.
I also need to pray for the attitude of pastors and leaders toward women and for a strong relationship with their wives. Too many pastors fall to temptation in this area. I should pray for their children too, and for the pastor’s role in his home, and that he does not neglect it while taking care of his church family.
The passage has several godly attitudes and leadership responsibilities. I put them on my prayer list as well as others that are hinted at, such as humility and the ability to be friends with those outside the church. I also pray that church leaders keep short accounts with God.
The second thing that comes from this passage is supported by many other passages. When asked to speak to the wives of church leaders about the role of women, I was startled in my Bible study preparation. God showed me that women are to have almost identical characteristics as male church leaders. While their venue might be different, both men and women are to manage their responsibilities well at home, be godly without greed, addictions, vices, etc., and to be in loving submission to the needs of those around them.
For those reasons, when I read this passage directed to elders, deacons, and church overseers, I can see that it is not just for them. I must apply it to my own life as well because I need power of Christ in my life just as much as church leaders need Him. All of us represent the Lord Jesus Christ to those around us, and all of us need the prayers and encouragement from one another, just as God’s Word describes.
Jesus, I know my role is not as prominent in the church and community as that of the leaders in our church. But I also know that if I neglect praying for them and supporting them, I can be a cancer to their spiritual health. If I am negative in any way about what they do and how they do it, that cancer can spread and bring them down. Help me to be what You want me to be so that I can encourage and pray for our pastor and church leaders. Help them also to be all that You want them to be.