Ephesus was a vibrant trading port at the end of the Silk Road, a short sea journey away from what is now Europe. So many different cultures, ideologies and languages mixed in the city - which was physically dominated by the magnificent Temple to the goddess Diana/Artemis. Acts chapter 19 describes the challenges the Apostle Paul experienced as he preached the gospel in the city … from inadequate Christian teaching in the church, to occultism, commercialised pagan worship, and an organised riot to support businesses who traded silver images of their goddess.
Paul wanted Timothy (and Titus in Crete) to choose church leaders from men whose lifestyles had godly integrity (Titus 1:5-9). It was also important that the non-believers could identify them as belonging to God; that their lives would be a magnet drawing them to hear and respond to the gospel (1 Peter 2:11-12). Godliness should start at home. Paul commended faithful husbands, who were able to bring out the best in their wife and children, as the sort of people who could be considered for church leadership.
Of course, it is important for church leaders to have spiritual gifts and skills, especially the ability to teach God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:4). But the pastor’s/elder’s character matters even more. Drunkenness, violence and quarrelling do not honour the Lord, nor does self-importance. The Lord is looking for leaders who demonstrate self-control, hospitality and a well-ordered family. Age does not necessarily bring wisdom and Paul appointed some young leaders, like Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12). But new converts might be tempted to be conceited if selected too soon, and such a responsibility would not be good for them or for the church.
Does that mean that church leaders are perfect? No, neither is any believer! But this ‘selection check-list’ should be a spur to all of us so that we may be usable in God’s service. It sets the standards which the Lord expects of His servants. Where we see that our characters need to be refined, then we should repent and ask the Lord’s help so that we will change. Where wrong habits have taken over, we need to recognise what needs to be transformed and actively cooperate with the Lord until our pattern of life consistently honours the Lord. It is easy to criticise our leaders, but instead we need to pray for them and their families. And when we have the responsibility to authorise people to take spiritual responsibility, we need to pray for wisdom to discern their character as well as their gifts and skills.
© Dr Paul Adams