The Church Leaders (1 Timothy 3)



Next week our VBS will start. I’m excited about at least 3 things…

  • I get to teach 1st & 2nd
  • Our church has a dedicated week of gathering for fellowship and mission.
  • Our church and community will partner together to raise funds The Blue Ribbon Project with Anne Arundel County Foster Families. They provide backpacks for children who must leave an unfortunate or unhealthy home life with nothing in their possession. So, this backpack becomes their clothing and their comfort for owning something.

We believe children grow best in families. We don’t want children to grow up without moms and dads and loved ones around them. Growth is hindered and harmed without parental guidance.

The same is true for Christians.

  • Many Christians today are spiritual orphans without a church family.
  • Other Christians are like foster children, bouncing from house to house and never finding a home.

Today’s message will further encourage us how to function as part of the family & household of God. We will grow in at least three actions with our church family.

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EXAMINE           1 Timothy 3/Titus 1               The Church’s Leaders

Grow in awareness with our church family.

Paul says pastors have a “noble/good/beautiful task/work” καλός ἔργον.

In this passage of chapter 3, Paul identifies at least 2 offices of the church: pastors and deacons. He describes their character qualifications (who they are) more so than their activity function (what they do).

First and foremost, Paul & Peter speak of church leadership in this way:

  • “God’s household, church of living God” (1Tim 3:15)
  • Ephesians 5:23 / Colossians 1:18 “Christ is the head of the church”
  • 1Peter 5:4 Christ is the “Chief Shepherd”

Paul and Peter use synonymous terms: “overseer” (episkopos) cf. 1Peter 2:25; Acts 20:28; 1Timothy 3:1; likewise in 1Peter 5 “elders” (presbuteros); “shepherd” (poiemen). Some have suggested that though these terms are interchangeable they each have a different aspect of the same office:

  • elder = lead & legacy with personal disciplemaking
    Discipline of members (Mat 18; 2Tim 2:2, 15)
  • shepherd = feed & protection (preach)
    Doctrine of message (Acts 20; 1Tim 4:6-16)
  • overseer = knead (organizational unity) & prayer
    Direction of mission (Eph 4; 2Tim 3:16-17)

Church government structure varies with denominations and churches. The NT describes offices and organization, but offers little prescription for exactly how a church is to be structured. Yet, at the very least we see these two offices (pastor & deacon), and a pattern for plurality and unity.

Whenever the NT discusses elders in the church, it does so in the plural, signifying single elders not described in practice of early church. And whenever the NT discusses the church, it always urges unity. Both these prescriptions and principles for leadership are important to us at SPBC, and is an area SPBC leaders have been studying and considering future leadership structure for our church: How and when can our congregation have unity and accountability with a biblical eldership (pastor) model in practice with functioning deacon servant leadership?

You may be thinking: “How do pastors and deacons relate to me?” I believe that church leadership affects us all on some level, either positively or negatively.

  • Many of you have been helped and profoundly encouraged by church leaders. (I have)
  • Some of you have been hurt and profoundly disappointed by church leaders. (I have)

The church not only impacts individuals but influences culture; and when the church is failing, society is failing. So, while church government & leadership structure may not sound engaging, it is essential. It’s the bones & spine for which your flesh can grow a healthy body.

  • Every member must be active and aware. We cannot have “inactive membership”; it’s contradictory terminology and contrasting to the teaching of the NT. When members are active, they are aware and awake doing the work of the Lord (Mat 24:42; 1Thess 5:6; Rev 16:15). Previously, we’ve encouraged people to be active with the principle of 7 (complete/mature/perfect).
    • 4 Sunday Gatherings each month.
    • 1 daily devotion in loving God.
    • 1 consistent area of service (ministry teams, parachurch orgs, etc.)
    • 1 person to reach with gospel


Grow in alignment with our church family.

Paul lists qualifications for elders and deacons. Again, the emphasis is on character more than function, but who the person is will also determine what they do.

The character qualifications for Elders and Deacons are similar with overlapping qualities. It would seem the only distinction between Elders and Deacons are their function, with elders having to be able to teach and exercise authority, and deacons supporting and serving practical needs of the church (cf. Acts 6).

Qualifications of an Elder

  1. male (no separate category as deacons;
    also context from 1Tim 2:11-12)
  2. above reproach
  3. husband of one wife (one-woman man)
  4. temperate (vigilant, serious minded)
  5. self-controlled
  6. respectable (virtuous, orderly)
  7. hospitable (love strangers)
  8. able to teach (not nec. preach)
  9. not given to drunkenness
  10. not violent but gentle
  11. not quarrelsome
  12. not lover of money
  13. manage own family well, with children giving respect
  14. not a recent convert
  15. good reputation with outsiders

Qualifications of a Deacon male

  1. dignified
  2. not double-tongued
  3. not addicted to much wine
  4. not greedy for dishonest gain
  5. hold the mystery of the faith with clear conscience
  6. tested and proved blameless
  7. one-woman man
  8. manage children and household well

Qualifications for a Deacon female

  1. dignified
  2. not slanderers
  3. sober-minded
  4. faithful in all things


In other places, Paul illustrates the role of an elder in various ways: pulling load of an ox (1Tim 5:17-18); having strength of a soldier (2Tim 2:3-4); having discipline of an athlete (2Tim 2:5); being a hard worker as a farmer (2Tim 2:6). Further in various other passages, elders are called to pray and study Scripture to teach it (Acts 6:4); protectors of God’s people (Acts 20:28); managers and leaders (1Tim 3:4-5, 5:17); teaching the Bible correctly (Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3:2, 5:17); protecting the church from false teachers  (Acts 20:17–31; 1Tim 1:3; 2Tim 2:15, 4:2-4; Titus 1:9); disciplining unrepentant Christians (Matt. 18:15–17); care and shepherd people in the church (1 Pet. 5:2–5); living imitable lives (Heb. 13:7); rightly using money and power (1 Pet. 5:1–3); to give account to God for the church (Heb. 13:17); praying for the sick (James 5:13–15); and developing other leaders and teachers (Eph. 4:11–16; 2 Tim. 2:1–2).

We see that leadership is a stewardship of personal character and public reputation; the home life and public persona should reflect one another. But what stands out among these qualifications is that they are all ordinary more than extraordinary. The character of an elder or deacon should also be the character of any Christian, because every Christian is an ambassador and priest of Christ (2Cor 5:17-18; 1Peter 2:9-12). The priesthood of believers demands holy character and high calling of us all. For those who name Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, character matters whether you’re a person in the pew, a pastor in the pulpit, or potus.

There is the sense that persons in the role of elder or deacon are tested and affirmed by the congregation. Leaders should be examples before they are employed with a title; we don’t give titles and roles to encourage participation, but one’s initiative and actions are observed by the congregation and affirmed with roles and titles. Ultimately, there is no such thing as unaccountable leaders. And so, we affirm the importance of the body to choose holy and humble leaders and follow the pattern of their ministry under Christ.

The role of Deacon is servanthood (διάκονος = servant, literally “through dust”). The early church elders could not care for all the needs of a growing faith community, so they appointed godly servants (Acts 6). The work of these godly servants was a partnership with the elders to enable each to fulfill their unique God-given calling in the church. To note, the passage is descriptive of their role (serving food) not prescriptive. In other words, a Deacon’s role may be a variety of giftings/service to the needs of that unique body and individual; they are servants of practical needs, and peacemakers for unity in the church.

Excursus: Deacon women vs. Deacon wives (1Tim 3:11)?[1]

  • The text is uncertain since the word can mean either “women” or “wife.”
  • Γυναῖκας is in the plural, perhaps indicating a new category rather than a Deacon’s wife (singular).
  • Context shows no mention of overseer wives and could imply the focus is not on wives but an argument of silence in that females are excluded from the overseer/elder/pastor role; and thus permissible for female deacons. This would also relate back to context of 1Tim 2:11-15 for women not teaching over men. Further, why would a deacon’s wife have a higher qualification than an elder wife, which is without description?
  • Also, other Scriptures indicate women likely serving as Deacons: Phoebe in Romans 16:1. Other women are listed prominently in service roles but perhaps not specifically as a deaconess: Mary in Romans 16:6, Tryphena & Tryphosa in Romans 16:12, and Euodia & Syntyche in Philippians 4:2-3.
  • At the very least, deacon women/wives are to have similar qualifications for godly character.
  • Again, SPBC leaders have been studying topic of Elders & Deacons and will be sharing further in coming months with open forums and recommendations on this topic.

A few applications

  • Alignment happens leaders and people share common faith and mission (Heb 13:7 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”)
  • Some of you will become an elder or deacon.
    • Pray – this is a noble work.
    • Equip / SEBTS GO Certificates & Degrees
  • Leaders – family is primary. Family is fragile, if dropped will be broken; while ministry is woven with others, if dropped will bounce back. (Illus with legos and ball).
  • On a practical level, fathers are home elders and deacons based on the phrase “manage own household.” Pastor Dads encouraged to lead by example.

Boys play house. Men build homes.
Boys need someone to take care of them. Men look for others who need care.
Boys have their needs met. Men sacrifice for the needs of others.
Boys seek approval. Men earn respect.
Boys talk about and at girls. Men listen to girls and women.
Boys shack up. Men get married.
Boys make babies. Men raise children, and sometimes not their own.
A boy can be a father but it takes a man to be a dad.
Boys don’t have a schedule. Men have strategies and priorities.
Boys make excuses. Men have sweat ethic.
Boys find their way church. Men make disciples.
Boys have the Bible read to them. Men have their life read by the Bible.
Boys learn the faith of others. Men live a legacy of faith.
The world and our churches need boys to become men.

Grow in appreciation with our church family.
Paul is writing not just to Elders and Deacons, but to all the church in Ephesus to understand how to behave in the household of God. Reading these instructions for qualified leaders is to give the church an appreciation for brothers and sisters who are good and godly examples of faith.

  • Many churches & ministries are ruined by reckless leaders. There are scores of scandals from previous and present generations. But, we can and should be thankful for good and godly examples.
  • Our leaders often endure distress. People used by God have a target on them for spiritual and emotional attacks.

Arm-chair QB’s and critics abound. Good & godly leaders will have to give an account for your soul (Heb 13:17), so help them – make it a delight not drudgery; and above all the best way you can pay them is with your prayers and participation (not he only way you can pay them – worker worth wages) but it is the best I believe.

  • When is the last time you spent 5-10 minutes praying for your pastor and church family? Why not start today – at the altar if necessary?



Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the Supreme Servant Deacon who gave his life for us (Mark 10:45) and also is the Chief Shepherd who protects the 99 and pursues the 1, and Sovereign Overseer to sustain our souls (1Peter 2:25).

  • Christ wants you to be part of his family and he wants your entire family.
  • Gparents, make a commitment to your grandchildren to pray and read word with them.
  • Parents, make a commitment to speak well of church and prioritize participation.
  • Staff, Deacons, Ministry Leaders… you are loved and today would be a wonderful day to renew your walk and commitment to serving the Lord. If I can pray for you…



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