Theme: Living above reproach Text: 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Christians play a very important role in the society. They are always expected to do the right thing and live lives that serve as role models for others. Even in these times when social structures are collapsing, family life deteriorating and everyone appears to be concerned about acquiring wealth no matter how, a lot of people are looking up to Christians to show the way and provide the answers. The Christian life is to prove that the Christian teachings are true and makes them attractive to those within and outside the Church. As followers of Christ we are under obligation to live as Christ lived and any conduct falling short of the standards given to us in the Scriptures will invite criticism and bring reproach on the name of Christ and inevitably restrict the growth of the Church. The Scriptures assure us that we can partake of the divine character of Christ, that we can be people of integrity, people who live above reproach. Billy Graham puts it this way, “when we speak of integrity as a moral value, it means that a person is the same on the inside as he is on the outside. There is no discrepancy between what he says and what he does, between his walk and his talk. A person of integrity can be trusted and he is the same person alone a thousand miles away from home as he is in Church or in his home.” The Church needs men and women who live above reproach, who are people of integrity. The Church needs men and women who cannot be bought, whose word is their bond, who put character above wealth and who will make no compromise with wrong and who will be honest in small things as in great things. The qualifications for Church leaders are, for the most part, characteristics of the person who takes his faith seriously and is growing in the knowledge of God and maturing in his Christian life. A person may have great talents and an extensive knowledge of the truths of the Bible, but any weakness in his life will damage his ministry or destroy it completely. A Christian is to live above reproach and be blameless in all areas of life. When tested they must be found blameless in the sight of the people they will be ministering to. This does not mean a person needs to be perfect to be a Church leader since no one is perfect. But it means that this characteristic pattern of his life must be in line with the biblical standards of leadership. A leader cannot witness and function effectively in the community if a cloud of disgrace hangs over him because of questionable or clearly sinful activities. The witness of the entire Church in the community and the authority of such a leader within the Church itself would be seriously damaged. If a leader’s character is in question, it is not only bad for the Church but also dangerous for the individual since we are warned that if a leader does not have a good reputation, he will fall into the snare of the devil. And Satan is working hard to discredit Christians and weaken the witness of the Church. A Church leader should be respectable, dignified and take his role seriously. He is to live a disciplined life having control over his passions and appetites. This self-control is not merely self-effort; it is cooperating with the indwelling Holy Spirit to make wise choices and depending on Him. Such a person will choose to live for God and not for himself and not in bondage to sinful desires. Such a person should not be addicted to alcohol, drugs, food, sex, TV, money, power, work or an all-consuming hobby. A Christian who is known as someone who gets drunk, or spends too much time drinking is an embarrassment to the Church. Instead of being controlled by the Holy Spirit, he is being controlled by wine. A disciplined life involves a lot of training and sacrifice. It requires spiritual fitness. Many people today are only concerned about bodily fitness which has only limited value and not about spiritual fitness which has unlimited value, both for this present life and for the life to come. Paul drew many parallels between the training and performance of athletes in the Olympic games and the duties and privileges of the Christian. Every serious entrant to the games then, as now, was determined to excel and win the prize in his particular event. In order to realize his ambitions he was ready to pay the prize through strenuous training and denying himself of many things and all this only to win a medal. The athlete unless he conforms to the rules of the contest cannot win. In the Christian race there are many distractions to lure us from the track and those found running outside the track are disqualified. We can only win the Christian race when we conform to the rules of the contest and these rules are found in the New Testament. In our sports conscious world the great majority are only TV athletes and too few actually take part in the actual games. They are the ones who think they know everything about the games. Here in Ghana, those who watch football on TV behave as if they can play better than the real footballers themselves. Unfortunately, in a large measure, the same is true in the Church. While some Church members will admire the sacrifice, discipline and self-control of the mature Christian, they are not prepared to listen when it is suggested that there should be a comparable dedication on their part as a disciple of Christ. As Christians we are to live a disciplined life demonstrating a growing Christ likeness and being in control of our passions and appetites. Our adversary does not want us to finish the race and win the prize and we should not allow him to distract our attention. He should not prevent us from growing in the knowledge of God and maturing in our Christian lives. We need to constantly examine our lives to see whether we are becoming Christ like in word and action. Church leaders are to show what God values in their lives by having the same values. They are not to be greedy for money or pre-occupied with material wealth, but should be concerned about laying up treasures in heaven. In all financial dealings whether personal or business, the Christian cannot use unethical or questionable tactics to make money. Instead he must have an earnest desire to please God and his attitude and actions must reflect this devotion. His life must demonstrate that his heart is centred on God and His Kingdom and not on worldly things. Much is expected of Christians who must practice what they preach and be good examples to the believer’s they are guiding and serving. A person’s home life is the most revealing aspect of his character and leadership ability. The family is the smallest unit of the Church and a Church leader who cannot govern his own household can hardly be trusted to govern the Church. It can be argued that if a father cannot discipline his own children, how can he be expected to be effective in leading others to faith and maturity in Christ. As Church leaders we should always be concerned about pleasing God and not men. In the book of Hebrews chapter 11 where the men of faith are listed we find no mention of Aaron, the first High Priest of Israel. The reason was because of his grievous mistake of giving the people what they wanted instead of what God wanted. He gave them what they wanted instead of what they needed. The people believed they could worship God through a golden calf and were deceived. Are we behaving any differently today? God is looking for faithful people to do His will – people who are prepared to give up their lives to serve and glorify God alone. The Christian leader is to equip the saints or assist them to lead a fruitful life of service, teaching biblical truths to those they disciple, that they in turn can disciple others. Government, military and business leaders are seldom judged on their personal lives. Leaders in the Kingdom, however, are judged not so much by what they accomplish as by the character they reveal, who they are before what they do. This high standard applies not so much to the leaders achievements as to the condition of his or her heart and spirit. It is possible to have great achievements and even acceptable behaviour but still manifest a loveless and ungodly spirit. But if first the leaders heart is right, godly behaviour will always follow and good leadership will be manifested. The biblical standards for Church leadership are personal character qualities. Would you qualify for a position of leadership in the Church? If not, what needs to change and what is preventing you from making these changes? Amen!