1Ti 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (v3) not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

In our quest to understand the character qualifications of a deacon we continue to examine those laid down for an elder.

‘..respectable..’

This is the next characteristic in verse 2. It has nothing to do with wearing a suit to church in Sundays! Quite simply this refers to someone who is worthy of respect – literally ‘able to be respected’. No leader can be effective in leading people if they cannot respect him. There are those leaders who see this as an opportunity or excuse to be ‘put on a pedestal’ but emphatically this is not the implication. A leader should not be ‘held up for view’ in a wrong way (which a pedestal would be) but his life should be an example worth following. It should be pure and open to examination without fear of something sinful being uncovered. That is what servant leadership embraces.

‘..hospitable..’

Those who are called to leadership positions must, by nature, have a love for people. Hospitality does not refer to the quality of the catering but the openness of our homes and lives to be shared with others. In Romans 12:13 practising hospitality is described as a spiritual gift, evidence of a grace-filled life.

‘..able to teach..’

Teaching is about imparting truth in a way that affects another’s life. It may occur in many forms, both formal and informal. It is worth noting that ‘lecturing’ does not automatically qualify. It is only when the content has been understood, absorbed and subsequently acted upon that the hearer has been taught. Good teaching will ensure that the content has been understood; it is a two-way process. Hence the apprenticeship-type of discipleship may be the most effective form of teaching in this context, where one person is being mentored by another who then expects to observe that what has been taught is implemented.

Characteristics to avoid

All the above characteristics appear in just one verse which focuses on positive aspects of character. 1 Tim 3:3 however addresses other characteristics of a leader by saying what qualities must not be observed.

‘..not a drunkard..’

This has already been referred to in an earlier posting when considering ‘sober-minded’. Here the emphasise is on the sin of excess. The Bible does not teach abstinence; had this been the teaching Paul would have been explicit. Rather it is the excessive use of alcohol that is forbidden.

‘..not violent but gentle..’

Violence tends to arise from anger being out-worked in loss of control. There is, of course, a place for righteous anger. For example, Paul teaches ‘Be angry and do not sin’ (Eph 4:26), and Jesus in the temple, when he turned over the tables of the moneychangers, was extremely angry and took what could have appeared to be violent action (Matt 21:12). However, his actions were always purposeful and fully in his control, the deliberate confrontation of unrighteousness and hypocrisy. There are times when it is appropriate for a leader to take a strong stance to withstand sin. There is never the place for him to be violent in his manner.

‘..not quarrelsome..’

There are those who are contentious for the sake of being obtuse. This is not a godly quality. Open debate in order to understand truth more fully is to be commended. But a contentious spirit is destructive. Proverbs 26:21 tells us, ‘As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife’. No good comes from a quarrelsome attitude, only destruction.

‘..not a lover of money..’

Leaders are frequently responsible for handling considerable funds. It is essential that there can never be any suspicion of financial impropriety nor the desire for unhealthy personal benefit through the position held in the church. ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs’ (1 Tim. 6:10).

It may be that leaders receive personal financial gifts on occasion from members of their churches. It is clearly not sin to receive such gifts; they may be genuine expressions of love and gratitude, or the fulfilment of the leader’s prayer of faith. However, if there is any sense in which hints are dropped or people are manipulated to obtain such ‘gifts’ this would undoubtedly be sin since this is the fruit of a love of money.

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