What kind of leaders do you think God wants to lead His beloved people? He wants leaders who are of sterling character, having strong spiritual vital signs. Those who will love and take care of His people, provide them with a good example to follow, and show them how to have a meaningful relationship with Him.
Good character is not optional for leaders, it is essential. Above all, a Christian leader leads people to God. God will not stand behind or bless a leader who leads in name only and who is not interested in obeying God or loving His people.
To help Christians recognize the leaders who have the kind of character God is looking for, the books of Timothy has a list of character traits and behaviors that leaders should exhibit.
1 Timothy 3:1-14 says,
1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop (leader or overseer), he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8 Likewise must the deacons (ministers) be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Now let’s break it down and look a little deeper into what all that means:
The first character quality listed in 1 Timothy is “blameless” The Greek word is anepilēmpton, and it literally means, “without reproach.” A leader is to exhibit positive qualities that set an example, and carefully avoid behaviors that can be used against him or the ministry. God wants His leaders to have a good reputation so they best represent Him to outsiders.
The Husband of One Wife
A Christian leader must be a “one woman man” in his marriage with his heart and eyes as well. It is also clear that a minister cannot have more than one “woman.” He cannot be an adulterer nor have mental obsessions about other women. Similarly, women leaders are not to be flirts, immodest dressers, teases, or sexually immoral.
“Vigilant” is the Greek word nephalios; meaning of “clear-minded, temperate, watchful”. The temperate person has a clear perspective, is watchful, and has a proper orientation in life. Temperance is essential for leaders.
“Sober” is the Greek word sophron. It means “prudent; sensible; of sound mind; self-controlled.” Sophron is used of one who follows sound reason. A leader who is sensible does not have arrogant elevation or pride about him, and also no unreasonable self-hate or self-degradation.
Of Good Behavior
The Greek word is kosmios, and it means “respectable; orderly or decent.” It refers to one who is modest, well behaved, respectable, and orderly in his life and also in the way he dresses. It refers to a person who quietly fulfils his duties and is not on an ego trip, trying to draw attention to him.
Given to Hospitality
The Greek word is philoxenos, and literally means “loving to strangers.” “Given to hospitality” involves opening one’s home and life to others. Every Christian is an ambassador for the Lord (2 Cor. 5:20), and one of the ways we win people is by being “given to hospitality.” We should be willing to house and feed one another, and inviting a visitor at church to a home-cooked meal and fellowship should be commonplace among Christians, especially those who lead and thus set the example.
Apt to Teach
The Greek word didaktikos, means “able and skillful in teaching”. It is important to note that this is the only thing on the list of qualifications for a leader that is a skill or ability. Everything else on the list involves personal character. However, it is important that they learn to teach well. This requires meekness, because teaching does not always come easily to most people, and many people think they are far better at it than they really are. Being skilled in teaching also requires grounding in the Word of God. The leader must be grounded in Scripture to the end that he or she can teach the truth and refute error (Titus 1:9).
Not Given to Wine
The Greek is me paroinos, (me is “not,”), which means “not addicted to wine or drunken.” A leader is not to be an excessive drinker. There are times when drinking in any amount causes inappropriate behavior to be more likely. This requirement about alcohol should be taken in the “wider” sense as well including other “mind altering” substances not mentioned. The Christian leader must be able to serve at any time, and this directive applies to any substance taken for pleasure that can affect one’s ability to lead. For example, a Christian leader should never get “high” on drugs just because God did not specifically mention it.
The Greek is me plektes (me is “not,”), and it means “not a striker, pugnacious” i.e., not contentious or quarrelsome but peaceful (amachon) and gentle (epieikes in Greek means yielding). The concepts of moderation, forbearance, gentleness, and reasonableness all touch the full meaning. A true Christian leader is reasonable, not rigid. A leader is not one who puts others down with words or fists, is not a bully or “hard” leader, and does not have a belligerent attitude because of his or her position; someone not always wanting to pick a fight. Not a person with a chip on his or her shoulder who seems to be in a fight or quarrel about anything or everything. A true Godly leader is a person of peace.
Not Greedy of Filthy Lucre
The Greek is aphilarguros from “a” which is “not;” philos, which is “like or love,” and arguros “silver”; i.e. “without love of money”. This refers to all kinds of gain that can be acquired in a dishonorable manner, not just money. God and His kingdom are the treasure, not money. But (in contrast) should be patient (appropriate, moderate) and not a brawler (contentious, opposite of peaceable), not covetous (greedy). Greed for money, power, recognition, etc., can cloud the mind and ruin the ministries of Christian leaders.
Ruleth Well His Own House
A leader must be attentive to his own family such that things are not out of control there. A leader will generally lead people the way he leads those in his own house. If he is a dictator at home, he will usually eventually be one in his ministry, and if he provides no effective leadership in his house that will probably show up in his ministry also. Children who are disobedient, disrespectful, or generally out of control reflect poorly on the leader’s ability to lead their ministry. Men and women who cannot handle their children will probably also allow themselves to be pushed around by strong willed people in the Church.
Not a Novice
The Greek is me neophutos (me is “not,”) and it means “not newly planted,” not a new convert. There are many temptations and hardships in Christianity, and even more so in Christian leadership. A leader should be one who has been tested and stayed faithful through a period of time, and in hard times. Thus ministers are not ordained as leaders when their ministries are first established, but rather after they have been functioning in their ministry for a reasonable period of time.
Have a Good Report
A leader must be held high in the opinion of others. Moreover, Christian leaders need to be well thought of by people outside their immediate group. This discourages “cult” mentality and encourages evangelism.
Holding the Mystery of the Faith
Faith (AKA believing) is very important to the Lord, and leaders are charged to keep hold of it. To be “holding” it means more than just knowing about it. “Holding” is the common Greek word, echo, and here, as in Philippians 1:7 and John 14:21, it means “to have in one’s heart, to keep in mind.” Leaders are to teach about it, and should also be walking in the power from on high available to them thus setting an example by boldly operating the manifestations of the holy spirit.
So that clearly outlines the character traits and skills that God wants to see in a leader of His beloved people. He wants leaders who are of sterling character, those who will love and take care of His people, provide them with a good example to follow, and show them how to have a meaningful relationship with Him.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Sweet is the founder and President of God's Word First. He is an ordained minister, biblical scholar, teacher and an expert on the subject of Leadership. He served 8 years on the Board of Directors for The Association of Christian Fellowships, a worldwide biblical research ministry and served as acting Vice-President four of those years. Daniel Sweet and his wife, Debbra Sweet, were in charge of the North San Diego County Region of in home fellowships for ACF. They have overseen the growth and development of multiple in home fellowships and have been instrumental in helping many people come to the knowledge and truth of God's Word.
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