Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:2-13
(4 of 6)
Most of you have gone through the process of finding just the perfect gift for Mom. You’ve looked at jewelry, perfume, clothes. Perhaps you’re planning to take her to dinner. You may have something else in mind. If you have a Christian mother however, the best thing you can give her is to follow Jesus more closely. That gift includes being a member in a local church. It means not just attending, but being involved. With that thought in mind, I’ll begin part 4 of the God’s Expectations of Church Members series. So far you’ve heard that God expects you to participate, to unify, and to serve. This morning the focus will be on prayer. The prayer isn’t just any prayer, but prayer specifically for the leaders of the church.
I enjoying watching sports on television. My favorite is college football. Next would be college basketball. Following those two is pro football. Pro basketball moves too fast for me, and pro or college baseball is just too slow to watch at home. A good baseball game at the stadium however, is always a lot of fun. Regardless of the sports, fans often have a way of being a sideline analyst.
“Why did the quarterback throw the ball to that receiver? The other guy was wide open!”
“Why did the guard settle for a missed three-pointer when no one was in the lane?”
“Can you believe the coach this season? He’s got to be the absolute worst in the team’s history!”
On and on it goes. Things happen on the field or court that you think you’d have done differently, and you’re quick to voice your contrary opinion. I’ve done it as well.
It’s bad when fans get into that kind of mindset about their team, but it’s far worse when the same mindset makes its way into the church. In Baptist churches every year, officers, board members and committee members are voted into positions by the congregation, entrusted with doing a particular task to which they’re assigned. When a new pastor is called, he is voted into his position by the congregation, entrusted with being God’s shepherd for the flock for the remainder of his ministry, serving God and the church as best as his limited abilities will allow.
Every one of these positions are challenging. Together they form the leadership of the church. John Maxwell has said that everything rises and falls upon leadership. 1 Thessalonians 5:25, Paul asks his readers simply, “Brothers, pray for us.” This morning I make that same request for me, and in behalf of all the other elected leaders of FBC Nitro. “Brothers and sisters, pray for us.” To honor your Christian mother on this Mother’s Day, and most of all to please God, pray for your church leaders. God expects you as a church member to do so, in at least three ways.
First of all, God expects you to pray for your church leaders with compassion. This morning’s passage gives the requirements for pastors and deacons. Several of these requirements spill over into any position of church leadership. The point is to realize it is tough being a church leader. It’s so tough that it can’t be done without the constant prayers of the rest of the church body. Listen to the qualifications for a pastor that Paul gives to Timothy in verses 2-4:
“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,” The bar is set extremely high here. I’ll go down the list. Keep in mind, many of these things apply not only to the pastor, but to other leaders as well.
- Above reproach – no scandals associated with the person.
- Completely faithful in marriage.
- Sober-minded – in other words, not given to excessive indulgence of any kind.
- Self-controlled – very disciplined.
- Respectable – good reputation.
- Able to teach.
- Not a drunkard.
- Not violent but gentle – never even blows his stack, but always has a kind word.
- Not quarrelsome – never argues.
- Not a lover of money, yet always dresses decently and pays his bills on time.
- He must manage his household well – nice but not extravagant home.
- He must keep his children submissive with dignity – ever parent a teenager?
- Not a recent convert.
Easy stuff right? This list is impossible to do on one’s own! God sets the bar extremely high for church leadership. James 3:1 even says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” The point is that church leadership in general, and the pastorate in particular, come with great responsibility that no one person manage alone. God’s help must be present. So pray for your leaders with compassion. God expects you to do so.
Then, God expects you to pray for your church leaders in wisdom. Verse 5 says, “for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” The focus here shifts a bit from internal character to external balance. Every church leader, especially pastors, have a delicate balance to maintain between church time and family time. It’s nice if they can overlap with time in the church together as a family, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes a leader needs to step back from the church and give his family priority. Sometimes he needs to step from the family and give his church priority. It’s a matter of balance. A church leader’s family is critical to him or her. So pray for them in wisdom, understanding the responsibility they have not only to God for their church, but also the responsibility they have to God to care for their families. If they are having struggles with their children or parents, or with siblings or relatives, pray for them with the wisdom of knowing how important those people are. The responsibilities of leadership alone are more than he or she can handle. Adding the matter of family concerns to the mix makes prayer even more of a necessity. Pray for your pastor. Pray for your church leaders. Pray for their marriages. Pray for their children and family members. God expects you to pray for your church leaders in wisdom.
Then, God expects you to pray for your church leaders for protection. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.” A key phrase here is “a snare of the devil.” Satan’s intention is to bring down church leaders. A “snare” isn’t just something that happens. A “snare” is a trap that the enemy sets on purpose. In other words, the devil is out to get church leaders. For that reason, pray for their protection. Pray that God will protect their hearts, their minds, their bodies, and their finances. Their hearts can easily be drawn from God. Their minds can be cluttered with other things. Their bodies can fall into poor health, or even immorality. Their finances can become a shambles because they give and sacrifice too much. Their reputations can be damaged or destroyed. Satan wants the leaders themselves to do something stupid and even sinful to damage their standing in the church and community. If that doesn’t work, Satan will use the power of gossip and slander. Pray for their protection. Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Now here’s the sad part of the church leader’s situation. Their most fierce attacks don’t come from outside the church, but from within it. One writer said, The only army that shoots its own wounded is the Christian army.” Don’t attack your leaders, instead pray for their protection.
In your bulletin you’ll find the fourth pledge. Let’s read it together.
The pledge uses the word Pastor. I certainly need your prayers and covet them. Other leaders in the church however, need them as well.
I am a church member.
I will pray for my pastor every day.
I understand that the pastor’s work is never ending. His days are filled with numerous demands that bring emotional highs and lows.
He must deal with critics.
He must be a good husband and father.
Because my pastor cannot do all things in his power, I will pray for his strength and wisdom daily.