1Tim 3:4-7 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, (5) for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (6) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. (7) Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Having seen some of the disqualifying characteristics in 1 Tim 3:3 we will return to the positive actions and attributes, and warnings.
‘…manage his own household well…’
The standard set in verse 4 is high. There is an unassailable logic to Paul’s argument – home is the proving ground to be able to demonstrate our management ability. I am sure these verses have challenged many leaders over the years and have caused much self-examination. As children grow they may try to ‘push the boundaries’ of discipline and restraint which, like the butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, is a necessary part of development. Nevertheless, not the actions of the child but the response to and management of those actions by the parent is the all-important quality being spoken of here. Do we lose our tempers when a child behaves irresponsibly or have we learnt to act in quietness and grace, bringing firm correction where necessary? Do we also take the situation back to God in prayer?
Be encouraged; falling short of perfection does not disqualify us. The verse talks about managing well (not perfectly) and it does not measure this by the responses of the child (not that they can be totally ignored). Inevitably children will not always respond as positively as we would like. The important issue is how we handle them as that will be a measure of how we manage the church with all its complexities. So, as I have alluded to elsewhere, this verse relates in a significant way to what is going on internally with our attitude and self-discipline rather than the externals, in this case of a child’s performance.
‘…. not .. a recent convert …’
That a leader should not be a recent convert (1 Tim 3:6), with its potential pitfalls, is included in the list partly for practical reasons and partly to protect the individual. The practical reasons include the matter of experience. A new convert cannot have received the training and experience to handle leadership issues in a mature Biblical way. We have seen elsewhere that a Biblical response frequently differs from the way the world would handle a situation and the danger of putting a new convert into a decision-making situation (the stuff of leadership) is that he would revert to his former ways of making that decision or of handling that situation.
Protection is about his growth and self-esteem. How often a high profile celebrity who has been converted has been asked to share his or her testimony publicly within days of conversion. Sadly, one then frequently hears later how the individual has back-slidden. Sometimes the more dramatic the change of lifestyle through conversion the greater the profile given. The flesh and the devil love that – if someone gets ‘puffed up’ by such prominence the battle is lost! There is the need to die to self before being put into a place of responsibility. To protect vulnerable new converts and lay a strong foundation into their lives before ‘promoting them’ is the responsibility of the church leadership.
‘…. good reputation …’
The matter of having a good reputation (1 Tim 3:7) has been considered in earlier posts, although here there is an additional dimension referred to – ‘outside the church’.
Those having positions of church leadership should be held in good respect by unbelievers. Their demeanour should be a testimony of godliness and trustworthiness which, even if not popular with unbelievers, nevertheless commands their respect. Further, when an opinion about matters of the world, particularly ethical issues, is sought, the world needs to have confidence that church leaders can be approached for a responsible view.
What an awesome standard these verses set! Yet, more daunting for the potential administrator is that the character requirements for him are even more stringent than for eldership. ‘Deacons likewise..’ we read in verse 8, which embraces all the above – and then Paul adds to the list! Some of these characteristics are repeats but in the next posting we will consider those which are additional.