As in today, the early church struggled with the question on who should do the caring. Division started to develop because a group of saints was not being cared for. Should the leaders of the church make it happen or someone else? This is not to say that leaders do not care or do not take actions to show such, but when push comes to shove, who does the hospital visit when things are tight and hectic?
Meet the Servants
Read Acts 6 and you see this problem addressed. The church leaders realized a pivotal moment was at hand. Remember, the power of no is a stronger yes. The leaders said no to helping the critical need to focus to the Word and to prayer. (Many today would say that is callous.) Their no to one thing was a stronger yes to another. The elders had a solution, call out 7 above reproach men who we can trust to handle this task. These servants would serve. So that is what the church did.
Deacon means servant
In the Bible the word deacon means servant. (What many churches call deacons today are actually endearing. Every church has elders, not every church has deacons.) The role of this special group is to free up the elders to focus on the ministry of the Word and of prayer. To reach the whole world takes a diversified team of servants. The church needs people who are geared to focus on serving.
But what about my needs?!
The needs of those in the church are vitally important. So is the need of solid doctrine and prayer. To move forward on mission the church needs both. Fortunately Jesus organized his church in such a way that both can happen. We have a specialized team known as elders who are to equip the saints for their role as ministers. We have a specialized team known as deacons to help the saints with needs that may arise and that they are cared for. If a deacon serves you or your family instead of a pastor, it is not that you are less important. It means the church is acting as a diversified team as God intended.
One must have three flavors of ice-cream to truly have a Neapolitan. Three distinct flavors for one amazing experience. Now, those who loath one of the flavors try and pick out the ones they like. Sometimes people cheat and slice the separate flavors apart. Then you don’t have Neapolitan, you just have three different flavors of ice-cream. The office of pastor is like Neapolitan ice-cream, three distinct flavors that make for one distinct office.
The three flavors
The Bible uses three key terms for the office of Pastor: Pastor/shepherd, Elder, Bishop/overseer. To see these terms used interchangeably, read 1 Peter 5:1-3. In fact Titus 1:5-9 use two flavors interchangeably while describing their actions as that of the third flavor of the other. In Acts 20:17;28-30 Paul talks with elders in their role as bishops to perform the task of shepherds. When you hear the term pastor, think three flavors, one dessert.
Flavor #1: Elder
The term elder is a carry over form judaism. Elders would gather to offer council and wisdom. This is a critical role for the pastor. It should also be noted that elders is frequently given in the plural. A key aspect we see in ministry is that it should not be done alone. Even Jesus sent out his disciples two by two. This flavor carries the idea of wisdom and team.
Flavor #2: Bishop
The term bishop or overseer carries the idea of administration or leadership. Clearly Jesus chose to organize his religion to make sure all is done in order. Paul’s instructions to the church of Corinth, Timothy, and Titus points to the need for order. (For a later discussion, order is not the opposite of love and authenticity.) This flavor carries the idea of administration.
Flavor #3: Shepherd
The term shepherd carries the idea of protection and feeding. It is a stewardship role whereby someone takes care of the flock of his owner. In this case, pastors take care of Jesus’ sheep. The descriptions of shepherds for the church is to guard against false doctrine and to teach proper doctrine. Of note in the 4 gifts Jesus gave to the church, the term pastor-teacher us used. Jesus’ concern with Peter at the end of John was that he would shepherd. This flavor carries the idea of protection and teaching.
Of the three flavors, the term pastor is most often used. It should be noted that Jesus gave pastors, not CEO’s. This is not to say that leadership isn’t needed in the church. That flavor is clearly there and it is described as a gift. But, the primacy of these three flavors is to pastor. In Proverbs 29:18 it says that without vision people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law. It is vital that people are regularly taught the Scriptures with clarity. Without that, interaction with the living word of God, nothing else will truly matter. The idea isn’t to be scholars, but to have a clear view of who God is and to live in light of that.
I do not recall the speaker or passage he was directly dealing with, but I do recall a statement made: Character is the foundation of leadership. The speaker went on to detail old verses new books an commentary on leadership. In the church it is interesting that the term leadership is used more often than shepherding. While there is significant overlap, there is a different in concept. What we seemed to sacrifice is character during the transition.
Being over doing
As we read 1 Timothy 3, it seems that God is more concerned with being over doing when it comes to pastors and deacons. The overwhelming emphasis on character is without questions. In today’s church climate it seems outcomes are more values than character. We’ve moved to focus more on what people do than who they are. This allows for legalism, and also allows for bad pastors or deacons to remain at their posts.
When trails come
Trials reveal our character, as well as refine it. Sometimes good character is demonstrated by how a person handles failure or flaws. In the spiritual warfare that does exist, solid character acts as a defense against false accusations. It also protects the church for too often people of poor character have fled rather than taken care of God’s sheep. Too often people with good outcomes imploded because the character didn’t match.
Reality not perfection
Given the nature of ministry, the reality is some of our stories may prevent us from doing certain ministries. This does not mean God can not use us in amazing ways. The Bible is not all pie in the sky and recognizes that people are likely to ignore things based on past character missteps. The foundation of character is not about legalism, but about the realities of being up front and in the lime light. For sure in 1 Timothy 3 all pastors and deacons struggle with some aspect of the list. Solid character gives us confidence to do our ministry well.
A popular TV sitcom once featured a man and woman discussing why it is important to attend the Sunday church service.
“It gives me a chance to thank God for you and the kids,” the wife told her husband, “and to ask God for another week of strength to put up with you and the kids.”
That’s actually not far off, especially in the sense of starting with the idea of thanksgiving.
Which came first?
A lot of people use flowery words for worship, such as, “seeking God’s face,” or “entering into His presence.” Some even know the dictionary definition of the word of worship being “to attribute worth” to God. But all of these miss an important part of the equation:
We wouldn’t be able to worship God if He hadn’t revealed Himself to us first.
Psalm 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” and when Peter recognized that Jesus was “the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), Jesus noted that “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (verse 17).
Even the salvation we celebrate came from a love that God had when we did not know him: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
How will we respond?
In addition to celebrating salvation (for those of us who have accepted this gift), we have a lot to celebrate concerning God’s provision for us in everyday life – if we stop to notice. Sometimes it’s material needs, sometimes it’s physical healing, and sometimes it’s spiritual encouragement. If nothing else, our daily walk should give us a better appreciation of who He is.
As we prepare for worship this coming Sunday, may we be ready to respond to how He has revealed himself in our lives.
1. What “God sightings” can you celebrate from this past week?
2. What divine attributes do you appreciate from His revelation?
3. How will the answers to #1 and #2 help you better worship on Sunday?
Have you noticed the contradiction among people who wear uniforms?
The word “uniform” means “the same.” The idea is to build a “team” identity, without undue focus on the individual. However, those who wear uniforms have plenty of opportunity to call attention to themselves. The military, police, and even youth organizations have badges of rank, insignia for years of service, and medals for outstanding performance. Those with more brass and braid tend to stand out from the rest and receive more honor.
Lest the civilians feel left out, there’s plenty of pressure to stand out with the physical trappings of designer labels and the latest grooming styles. In some circles, the pricier the business suit, the more perceived status and power. (Before some people protest, we know stories of fashion snobbery among jeans-wearing saints, too!)
But Scripture suggests a different set of priorities.
While the latter part of I Timothy 2 causes some debate over a term or two, the passage contains other terms that should be viewed as positive attributes -- worthy goals for everyone: modesty, self-control, good works, to name only a few. (Go ahead – read the passage again and see how many you can list.)
These characteristics are not always recognized and rewarded in the current culture, but they are noticed. They are noticed by those who need a kind word or a helping hand. And they are noticed by Someone who is ultimately more influential than any Paris-based clothing designer.
Following the example (yet again)
What might we learn from the example of Jesus, who lived an earthly life without all the “brass and braid” befitting His holy status? From His humble birth to His daily walk among the common people, Jesus “wore” a wardrobe of service and compassion.
How’s that for a fashion statement?
1. What temporary “earthly” trappings are you tempted to “clothe” yourself with?
2. What spiritual attribute do you think God wants you to replace that with?
3. How will you achieve this?
“God said it. I believe it, and that’s good enough for me.”
Fair enough, but how often do we stop to consider why God gave some of His commands? Does God simply enjoy bossing us around? In many cases (spoiler alert!), it’s because obeying those commands can lead to good things – for us and others.
What’s the end result?
No, living out the Gospel message does not necessarily lead to fame and fortune in the earthly sense. Because of the sinful world culture – and sometimes because of our own fumbles and stumbles – a Godly lifestyle is not always comfortable.
Yet, living out biblical principles such as those in I Timothy is not only glorifying to God, it’s beneficial for us -- not only for eternity, but for the “right now,” too.
We’ve already considered the “peaceful and quiet life” mentioned in I Timothy 2 (and that can happen despite real and certain challenges). Further, while some grapple with God’s design for authority in the family and the church, consider that people will benefit from “holy hands” doing “good works.” Persevering parents can have the joy of raising physically and spiritually healthy children (who, God willing, will repeat the process, blessing many others along the way).
It’s not always easy to sort out the messes of life, family, and church, but with God’s help, it’s worth it!
1. What benefits do you see in obeying God’s guidance in His Word?
2. What needs to be adjusted in your daily lifestyle that will glorify God and serve others?
3. How will you pray (and act) to make these adjustments happen?
A quick reminder: if a particular biblical verse or passage is difficult to understand, be sure to read the context (the verses, and even chapters) surrounding the difficult passage.
When thinking about the “submissiveness” issue (I Timothy 2:11), we suggested yesterday that Jesus was a great example of “submitting” to others’ authority, especially that of God the Father. We might also remember that passages like Philippians 2 tell us that Jesus voluntarily gave up the independent exercise of His divine attributes and “made himself a servant.”
How did Jesus “serve”?
As a child, Jesus submitted to His earthly parents’ authority. As an adult, He worked as a carpenter, submitting to the wishes of His clients (not all of whom, likely, were friendly, reasonable, and honest). In His formal earthly ministry, he spent time with “real people,” taking time to talk, weep, and care for people’s needs. He even washed the disciples’ feet!
All of this happened without any of the “royal” trappings one might expect to be given to a “King.” The only crown he wore was made of long, painful thorns, and that was only a piece of the torture to which He submitted Himself.
Following the example (again)
There are some things that Jesus did that we could never do (as we are not God). On the other hand, it might be fair to say that He doesn’t ask us to do anything He (as a human being) was not willing to do.
The word, “Christian” has been interpreted to mean “Christ-like” or “little Christ.” How are we doing in truly imitating Him?
1. What aspect of Jesus’ “serving” impresses you the most?
2. What aspect of Jesus’ “serving” is the hardest for you to imitate?
2. Despite the answer to #2 above, how is God calling you to “serve”?
Maybe it’s because of our American tradition of “freedom” and “liberty.” Maybe it’s because we are urged to be “independent” and to celebrate “individualism.” Maybe it’s because we said, “You’re not the boss of me!” too often when we were kids.
Regardless, it’s easy to bristle when someone talks of “submitting.” And relax, ladies; men have the same problem (and the same challenge). Regardless of the relationship (family, employment, government), a lot of us simply do not want to be told what to do.
Words mean things
Paul didn’t shy away from using the term “submissiveness” in I Timothy 2:11. While some will try to soften the definition, the word “submit” means to “yield” or “defer.” It means we don’t necessarily get our way. To borrow the words of Jesus, “not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42).
And it’s good to start there: with Jesus. His earthly life and ministry were filled with examples of how he submitted to His Father’s will. We might paraphrase I Timothy 2:6 to say, “…who submitted himself as a ransom for all.”
Following the example
So, the biblical charge of “submissiveness” is not given in a vacuum. Anyone still have one of those WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do?”) bracelets? Maybe it would be better to ask “What did Jesus do?”
Over the next few days, we will consider that question. In the meantime, you can get a head start now:
1. How did Jesus “submit” to others’ authority?
2. What did His “submission” lead to in the end?
2. How can His example inspire us to do likewise?
This month marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The idea of the Reformation was to reform the holy Catholic Church. Massive amounts of corruption and the discovery of
When we read 1 Timothy 2:1-7, and we read Romans 12:16-13:7, a clear picture emerges as to how we can love our neighbors as ourselves. A key aspect to living a dynamic Christian life is to live at peace and to be a peacemaker. The aim of living a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness is a key. In all points of history, it is radical.
The role of government is to acknowledge good and to punish evil. Rather than rioting, demonstrating, protesting, etc., the Holy Spirit gives us another and a better way to deal with things: Overcome evil with good. This sentiment was given at a time when Christianity was under persecution. Things get more tense when government suddenly stop fulfilling its God ordained role. Still, the thrust of living a peaceful life is critical.
This leads to a key concept we need to repent of: If we are constantly stressed out, there is something significantly wrong with our Spiritual walk. Christians should be the most calm and centered people in the room, bearing the wisdom from eternity, and sure of a bright future. In North America we get rattled all too easily. We need to learn to relax and live at peace.
Make a difference, be holy
Making a difference and being holy are commands, but those commands are carried out in living life well. Urgency is tempered by sovereignty, holiness tempered by grace, perfection tempered by forgiveness. The Gospel is THE solution, but we too often forget it. It permeates everything as The Trinity makes all things new. Our prayer life and our choices reflect our view of the Gospel. Are we seeking to live a quiet and peaceable life? Are we living the better way?