How To Lead A Church
Read 1 Timothy 6:11-14 (ESV)
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote today’s verses to Timothy as he pastored a church in ancient Ephesus. How is Paul’s charge to Timothy relevant to all Christians today, not just church leaders?
There is no such thing as the perfect church. That was true in Paul’s day, and it is still true in ours. Leading a church is a huge responsibility and there is almost always opposition to face and difficulties to overcome. Thankfully, when we go back to the Bible, we see that we are not without guidance or instruction on how to lead a church. In fact, that is a topic of major importance in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, his “true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).
Paul wrote 1 Timothy in approximately A.D. 62-63 from Macedonia. Paul had placed Timothy in charge of pastoring the church in Ephesus, but Paul knew Timothy would face some challenges. Because Paul was older, more experienced, and had apostolic authority, he wrote to provide guidance, instruction, and encouragement to a younger, more timid Timothy.
First, Paul urged Timothy to confront false teaching in the Ephesian church and defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Those who believe in Him have eternal life (1 Timothy 1:16). Paul wrote: “This charge I entrust to you Timothy…wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18-19).
In chapters 2-3, Paul instructed Timothy on matters concerning church worship and the organizational structure of church leadership. He emphasized the necessity of prayer for all people (1 Timothy 2:1) and the fact that the church should conduct itself with humility, unity, modesty, obedience, and respectability. He specified gender roles for the church and defined the qualifications for church overseers (pastors/elders) and for deacons (servant leaders) with the focus, not on their skills and abilities, but on godly character.
In chapter 4, Paul returned to the issue of false teachers and warned that some will fall away from the faith. According to 1 Timothy 4:1, Timothy shouldn’t be surprised by this and neither should we: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” Paul also instructed Timothy in how to be a “good servant of Christ Jesus” by being “trained in the words of faith and of the good doctrine” and by training himself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-8). Sound doctrine and godly character should be the aim of Timothy’s ministry. Paul then exhorted Timothy to treat the members of church like a family and addressed some matters of church discipline. He also laid out how Timothy should care for widows, how to handle accusations against church leaders, and how to be content.
Finally, in today’s verses, Paul contrasted how Timothy, a man of God, should conduct himself with how the false teachers conducted themselves. Timothy should have nothing to do with the false doctrine, controversies, quarrels, envy, division, slander, depraved and deceived thinking, selfish greed, and the love of money that characterized false teachers (1 Timothy 6:3-10). Instead, Timothy should be noticeably different. Paul charged him to pursue a godly character marked by unwavering faith and gentle love. Rather than engage in pointless arguments and controversies, Timothy should “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). In other words, Timothy should fight for the things that matter, namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for that is what Paul charged Timothy with guarding: “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 6:20).
Friends, Paul’s personal words to Timothy serve as an instruction manual for church leaders even to this day. But even if you aren’t in a position of leadership, Paul’s instructions to Timothy apply to you, too. We all should be trained in the words of faith and in good doctrine and we should all be trained for godliness so that we can live lives that glorify Him. We all have been entrusted with the Gospel and we should all guard it well against heresy and false doctrines. We all have been called into the fight—the good fight of the faith.
Lord, please give me Your wisdom so that I can faithfully guard the deposit entrusted to me—Your Gospel. Help me to live a life that glorifies You and is above reproach. Train me in Your Word and train me in godly character. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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