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Step In!, Part 1

From the series The Book of 1 Timothy

As you look around the country, there’s a noticeable leadership crisis happening in Christianity. It’s never been harder to lead a church than right now. In this program, Chip tackles this complex subject as he continues his series based in the book of 1st Timothy. He’ll look at how the Bible defines leadership, God’s expectations for those in authority, and the subtle traps people can fall into.

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Message Transcript

So, we are in chapter 3, 1 Timothy, learning from the apostle Paul, life coaching, big takeaway. And tip number one is that everybody needs a coach. You’ve got to step up. And we all have to ask, what does that look like in our life?

Second, you’ve got to step down. You’ve got to become men that are strong by kneeling, praying, surrendering our rights, our way, our agenda, and experiencing God’s supernatural power to bring about change.

Tip number three, coaching tip number three, is if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time, right? If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. I don’t know many of you had fathers that were in the military, or maybe your fathers who were coaches.

My dad was both. And if I heard this once, I think I heard this a thousand times. And the other one I heard was, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Right. So, by the time I was about twelve years old, I was a workaholic. Because you’ve got to set goals. And so, and I really look back and I hope you take this in a good way, so many things my dad built into my life, I look back and think, I’m so grateful. It was really hard at the time.

“Well, you’ve got a basketball scholarship, you graduated near the top of your class, you’ve got the cutest little girlfriend.”

And all I can tell you, I had never heard of the Holy Spirit, I mean, I’m sure I heard it in church or something. But I had the most overwhelming empty sense that I had ever had in my experience up to that time at eighteen.

Because – and I don’t blame my dad. It was like he cared, so you will be happy if you’re successful. The way to be successful is set goals. The way to get your goals is develop a strategy. The way after developing a strategy is you come up with tactics. The way to have tactics is you do it every day when no one else is willing to get up. I was that crazy kid with gloves outside shooting in the snow and all those crazy things.

Here's the problem: The goal was way too small.

And so, what the apostle Paul is going to do in his coaching tip to Timothy is he is going to say, “Timothy, yeah, the goal is to straighten out the teaching, right? I mean, these false teachers, they are messing everything up. And the how-to is not in your power. I want you to kneel down, I want you to pray, I want the Church, God’s people, to live in such winsome, godly, loving ways that we attract people rather than at this point raising a lot of negative attention.”

But like any leadership book you have ever read or ever will read, the only way you change an organization is it starts with leadership. Everything rises and falls with leadership. You want to change a culture, you can tweak anything under the world but you either have to have a radical change in the leaders or you have to completely change out the leadership.

That’s why, when teams lose, what do they do? They don’t fire the players; what do they do? They fire the coach! When a company is going downhill, what do they do? They fire the CEO! Basically, what he’s going to say to Timothy is, yes, we need to put a band-aid in this and you’ve got to address the problems here.

And in chapter 3, he says, “If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it. What you have to do now, Timothy, is we have to develop leaders who will be the kind of people that don’t let false teaching happen and are the kind of people that live out this faith in a radical way so that we honor the Lord Jesus and the big agenda of the gospel goes forward.

So, we are in chapter 3, 1 Timothy. We pick it up. “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” And then he’s going to give the qualifications. Two words by way of just quick moment here.

An overseer, the word is episkopos. The word literally has, it’s a compound word. Someone that looks into something. In other words, someone who is in charge who looks into something to make sure things are going okay, and then gives help or direction or support.

The other word, interchanged, is the word elder, or you could translate it shepherd. And that’s just a different function. They are used interchangeably. So, he says, “Look, Timothy, whether it’s a house church of twenty or twenty-five or thirty people or ten or twelve people, you know what? Remember how wherever we went we found who the best leaders were, we put them in charge? Here’s the qualifications going forward of the kind of men that you need to choose. So, we want a long-term play. We want to solve the issues in the Church for the long-term. And the way to do that is to develop leaders.”

And so, the first thing he says, he says, “If any man aspires,” that’s our good English translation. Literally there are three little words. “If any man sets his heart.” If any man – in other words, his desire, his dream – sets his heart like I set my heart to be on that basketball court. I set my heart to date that cheerleader. I set my heart to…

“If any man sets his heart or aspires to the office of overseer, it’s a fine work.

And then he says and overseer or an elder, “…must be above reproach,” and what you’re going to see is he sort of bookends. Above reproach includes from inside the Church, outside the Church, how he speaks, what he does, his money, his marriage, his family. In other words, everything is – he’s not perfect – but what you see is what you get.

At the very end of this list he’ll say, “Someone who is dignified.” It’s another very general Greek word that basically has the idea that when you meet this guy, you respect him. He’s the kind of person that – you respect the kind of marriage he has, you respect his finances, you respect how he handles conflict, you respect how he raises his kids.

And so, now he’s going to give sort of a very specific list of the kind of men you want to look for. You know in baseball – I played baseball in college as well. And you, the dream was to be, remember? A five-tool player? You hit for average, hit for power, you can field, you have an arm, and is it speed or is there one other one? Yeah. I mean, that’s the ultimate player that you’re looking for.

So basically what he’s saying is, “Look, Timothy, we are going to deal with the problem. And we are going to do it a really different way. We’re going to use God’s power, sort of not our human anger and stuff. And then we need five-tool elders. We need elders that live this out. And you need to develop them, because they don’t grow on trees. But what you need to do is you need to have a perspective, you need to have a profile.”

It’s like those of you who are, if you’re ever looking to hire someone. Here’s how not to hire someone. Find someone you like and see if they’ll take the job. Here’s how to hire someone. What is the job, what are the functions, what do you need to do? And you develop a very clear profile of: What are the characteristics and skills for that job? And then once you have the profile you go try and find a person that fits the profile.

And so, that’s what he’s doing right here. Isn’t it amazing how much leadership there is in the Bible? So, he says, well, here’s the profile. “He must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, skillful in teaching.” All pretty positive.

“Not indulging in much wine, not a bully, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man doesn’t know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the Church of God?), and, by the way, not a new convert, so he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the Church, so he will not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise,” very similar, “must be men of dignity,” that big, general words, “not insincere, not prone to drink too much wine, not greedy for money, but holding to the mystery of,” are you ready again? “…the faith,” these truths, these doctrines. And how? “…with a clear conscience.”

Remember what the goal of this? The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, sincere faith. That’s – he’s going to weave that all the way through the book.

“These men also must first be tested; then have them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.” So, you’re looking for these kind of men and these spiritual responsibilities. And then these that have more of the servant, hands-on issues.

I mean, the early Church, we’ve got to feed people, we’ve got widows to take care of, we’ve got all kind of very specific issues. So, we want a little bit different giftings. But we’ve got to have great character in both of them.

“Women must also be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.” Commentators will agree or disagree whether this deaconesses as an official role in the Church or whether it’s the wives of deacons. Either way, it just means that the women that are leading need to be godly just like the men.

“Deacons must be the husbands of one wife, good managers of their children and their households. For those who serve well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

Before I go on, let’s just pause. There’s a lot of different words here. You might jot in your notes, it’s a title of a book. It’s called The Measure of a Man by Gene Getz. I have taken elder groups through it, young men through it. I mean, he will take a short chapter on every one of those words. Probably where there’s some controversy that it’s worth pausing is the husband of one wife. You know, people will say, “Well, gosh, that means if your wife died I guess you can never be an elder.” Others, “If you’ve ever been divorced for any reason, even if it was an unbeliever you can never be an elder.” Or, back then, people had more than one wife. Like, two or three. And that sort of was not what we’re looking for in the model for the future.
I think Gene Getz has a very interesting observation when he looks at that whole list. He just makes this one observation, because that thing about the husband of one wife has, is very controversial in the Church over many, many years. He says, literally, it’s one-woman man. And he just makes this point: Every, single thing in that list is about character, not about history.

So, I mean, I, it’ll take me a little while and I’m not sure you’re all that interested. You might be. I mean, most of those things that I just read, you don’t even have to be a Greek scholar to see, “Not addicted to too much wine.” I wonder what that means in the Greek. Don’t get drunk! Not, ooh, ah, that’s profound. How about, “Not a lover of money.” I have no idea what that means. I just, I don’t know, I just…you know? Right? I mean, you know what this list is? Be a Christ-like man. Be a godly man.

Don’t most of you know what a godly man looks like? Most of you know what it looks like to be a loving husband. Not perfect, but a really good dad? Know what it looks like to have things under control and not have a secret life? Yes, have our issues, right? We have all been through probably some level of addiction in our life and struggled with whether it’s porn or alcohol or drugs or codependency or whatever.

But he says, “Timothy, this is a trustworthy statement. If any man sets his heart on the office of being an overseer.” See, I think in God’s perspective, the elder who is living the life and accepts this humongous responsibility of giving oversight to the Church of Jesus Christ, has far more standing than the biggest CEOs of the biggest companies in America or around the world. And it’s just as big of a job, because as the leaders go in a church, so goes the church.

And so, he gives qualifications and then he, in verse 14, he says – why? “I’m writing these things to you hoping to come to you before long. But just in case I’m delayed,” I’m in verse 14, “I write so that you’ll know how one should act in the household of God.”

In other words, “Timothy, just want you to know, this is what a pastor does, this is what leaders do.” And then he talks about the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, not a religious institution that is the pillar and the support,” and put a box around this one in your Bible, “the truth.”

Over and over and over he starts with the truth. There is a right, there is a wrong, there is a God, there is One, there’s one Mediator. He came to save sinners. There is an eternity. Everyone will stand before a holy God. Jesus has paid the price for all men of all time. Those who receive the gift, eternal life. Those who say, “I don’t need You, I’m on my own, maybe later,” and diss God, God says, “I respect you. I will give you the freedom to reject Me, you can be apart from Me, but whatever you choose in this life, you get for eternity.”

“I don’t need You now!” God will say, “I won’t force Myself on you now or ever.” And it’s a Christ-less eternity. And you are bombarded by an enemy who has orchestrated a world system that says success and salary and sex and security, that’ll make you somebody. Do you drive this kind of car? And you have this kind of wife and you have this kind of logo and you go to these sporting events, if your kid makes the traveling team, or he makes the scholarship.

And if you can bench press so much. And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That keeps changing and changing and changing.

And believe me, I’m just glad that by eighteen years old I came to the conclusion that success does not mean happiness. Now, I was successful in just a little pond, right? It was
just a little pond.

I mean, my dad taught me well and he gave it to a very driven, workaholic, type-A personality. At age thirty-two I will have a beautiful wife, three kids, an Irish Setter, a luxury car – back then a minivan was really cool – a minivan, and I’ll be a leader in my community. It never occurred to me that I would fail. I mean, that’s a big blessing. Now, because his mantra was – fail? That’s just how you learn how to take the next step. Get up! You failed? Get up! Get up!

So I just assumed if I got up earlier than everyone else, I worked harder than anybody else, and I played out my dad’s game, that I would be thirty-two years old and I would have a beautiful wife, an Irish Setter – and I still had, I was going to wear three-hundred-dollar suits. Because everyone on this planet has this, maybe it’s not real clear in your mind, but you have this invisible picture of what success looks like. And if you could ever hit it, then you’d be a somebody. Man, you’d be a somebody.

You just need to understand the games that people play, it’s just all relative. You’ve got to ask yourself what and who do you really want to be and make sure, as the old illustration goes, that your ladder is really leaning on the right wall, because you can be a successful failure.

And when you have lots of money, it’s really hard to raise good kids. Insurance companies have done demographic studies. The only people that have worse problem with their kids as measured by times in rehab and all the rest is the absolute lowest of the poor of the poor and the richest executives. Be careful what you set your heart to be.