Church elders are not leaders because of skills they have learned in regard to leading. They are leaders because God has granted them a grace to lead for His purposes in His family in the earth. They have been called, appointed, and anointed for the responsibility of leading in the body of Christ. There is a substance of heaven deposited in a God-appointed leader that is a part of a grace given to them by God to lead in the way that He has ordained each leader to lead. It is not a matter hierarchy or position of control. It is a matter of heaven’s grace and heavenly responsibility for a heavenly purpose in the earth. When Paul wrote his letters to Timothy he charged Timothy to pay attention to the gifts given him through the prophetic word of God and the impartation of the Spirit. He was to meditate on the things spoken and given to him by God. He was to give his life entirely to them.
1 Timothy 4:14-16 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
A leader in the church must recognize that the gift of leadership does not belong to them because of their personal knowledge, skill, or performance. It has been entrusted to them because of God’s doing. It is an authority given to bring the life of God to a purpose of God in the earth. It is not given to simply maintain an operation of ministry or to teach a group of people to adhere to a written code of life. It is a gift from God to lead God’s people forward in His plan and purpose in all things. It is about a change of life, a way of life, and a purpose of life in all things.
Again, the instructions of Paul to Timothy were very practical. They involved everyday life, in an everyday world, with everyday responsibilities. The main issue was not to do works of ministry, but to become transformed by God to become a testimony of His divine nature in the earth.
The responsibility of leadership is a responsibility of family relationships. It involves a culture of connection and honor. Timothy was to set an example in treating older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers and younger women as sisters. This is a responsibility of all of the members of God’s family, but leaders set an example that others can follow.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.
Practical things, like the care of widows, were part of his responsibility as a leader. Paul did not give Timothy an instruction of law concerning taking care of widows. He wrote to him in regard to a practical responsibility in the family of God and how children of God should take care of one another according to their own responsibilities. Timothy was to teach those who are responsible to be responsible for others, but to see to it that everyone is cared for. He was not to rob anyone of his or her own family responsibilities. No one was to become an irresponsible burden upon others.
1 Timothy 5:3-16 Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, having condemnation because they have cast off their first faith. And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some have already turned aside after Satan. If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
Paul’s instruction concerning the care of widows was not meant to be a legalistic rule for widows in the doctrine of the church. It was not about ridged rules of religious discipline or some magic age for qualification of entitlements. It was merely an example of relational and practical responsibilities in the family of God. Timothy was to teach families to be responsible for their own family members, but that everyone in the community of God should be cared for. No one should put their burden upon those who are not legitimately responsible for them. Anyone who is able to care for him or her should do everything to care for him or herself. Anyone who has a needy family member should accept the responsibility of the needs in their own family. The community of God must also accept its responsibility as a community so that everyone is cared for, but no one is taking undue advantage of another. Everyone has been given a life to live, with a ‘cup to drink’ and everyone must accept their own life, including its family responsibilities. Everyone must drink the cup that is set before him or her. This is part of being a responsible and healthy family in God. Leaders must lead for a culture of responsible, loving, caring, and diligent community of life. The objective is not to recognize the entitlements of the community but to equip the community and its members to seek the fullest potential of empowerment in their lives.
When we look at the instructions of Paul to Timothy we see an example in principle, pattern, and value in regard to the responsibility of leaders in the church. These things are about life! They are about living as the community of God in the earth to reveal the goodness of God to the world!
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson