I love to read and I love to read almost anything—so my interests include informational reading as well as fiction and history and spiritual writers as well as leadership and formational reading. Last fall I picked up a historical biography of Crazy Horse the Lakota/Sioux Warrior who was famous for putting the “last stand” in Custer’s last stand. The book is titled The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History (Joseph M. Marshall III) and as the author unfolds the story he also draws some conclusions about Crazy Horse and his leadership.
There is one battle that the author recounts in which a small band of Crazy Horse’s tribe are pinned down by a much larger force and Crazy Horse makes a name for himself because he gathers the courage and rides directly into the onslaught to make a way out for the warriors under his leadership. Here is what the author says about that instance:
True leadership is rarely the consequence of election, appointment, dictatorship, or inheritance. Good leadership overall is much too critical to be left to elected politicians, monarchs, managers, administrators, supervisors, and directors. Having authority does not make anyone a leader. True leadership is exercised when someone performs a necessary or critical task and accomplishes an objective, thereby setting an example. Leadership by example, then, is the truest and most effective kind. We are more likely to follow someone who has done it before he or she asks or tells us to do it.
In 1 Timothy 3, Paul begins to outline for Timothy what a leader in the church should look like and he says—a leader in the church is an example—they are people who are “doing” what they are encouraging, teaching and asking other people to do. They are the ones who make a way for those under their care and the primary way they do this is by example.
This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” (1 Timothy 3:1, NLT)
Paul begins by telling us that those who want to lead desire a good thing. We soon find out that by virtue of describing what he means by Elder and by Deacon, Paul tells us the things that make leadership something honorable to aspire to – mainly desiring to lead in a way that makes it easier for God’s work to be done in the world and in the lives of others.
So when Paul says leading is an honorable desire—it is with the understanding that the direction you are leading is toward God, his direction and his purposes.
Although he doesn’t say it, what Paul says next lets us know that leading in the church is not only honorable—it is intimidating.
So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach…In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. (1 Timothy 3:2, 8, NLT)
Paul identifies two roles in the church. Before we get to the detailed criteria, lets look at those two words for a minute.
Elder means “overseer.” It is the word from which we get the word Bishop, but not in a denominational way—that is the reason that “Overseer” is a little clearer word for our understanding today.
Deacon means “servant.” That doesn’t take a lot of explanation. However, there is a difference in focus – not a difference in direction or a difference in priority – but a difference in focus.
The role of deacon was established in Acts 6 when the disciples needed some help in the daily distribution of food to those in need because they were responsible for teaching the Word and attending to the spiritual matters of the early believers. So they set apart some deacons/servants to attend to the administrative matters/details of the early church.
Here at The Orchard we have Elders and Deacons though we don’t call them by those names. Our Elders are called the Jeremiah Council—that name comes from Jeremiah 42. The people ask the prophet Jeremiah to seek God’s direction and wisdom for them. If you read the story I think it will be very clear what the role of our Jeremiah Council is. Our Deacons at The Orchard are called the Leadership Team and although the Leadership Team at Tupelo has responsibility for all our sites—each site has a Leadership Team and those teams serve the role of deacons—they attend to the administrative and ministry details of that particular location.
Paul is addressing the issue of public leadership of the community of faith and he gives order to that leadership by pointing out the roles of Elder and Deacon.
And then he begins to tell us the criteria for leaders. How do you qualify? Paul outlines three sets of criteria:
Criteria for Elders:
- Above reproach: Because it stands at the head of the list, it means: “Not liable to criticism as he would be if he failed in any of these qualities”
- Husband of one wife—completely faithful to his wife
- Exercise self control
- Live wisely and
- Have a good reputation
- Enjoy having guests in his home
- Able to teach—not just teaching gift; but spiritually prepared to teach others truths
- Not be a heavy drinker
- Not be violent
- Not quarrelsome
- Not love money
- Manage his family well
- Not a recent convert
- Respected by outsiders
Criteria for Deacons:
- Well respected
- Have integrity
- Not a heavy drinker
- Not dishonest with money
- Committed to the central truths of the faith
- Have a clear conscience
- Manage his family well
- Be faithful to his wife
Criteria for Deacon’s Wives:
- Not slanderous
Is that intimidating or what? Wow, what a standard. How do you find those people? How do you become someone whose life looks like this?
In this list of qualifications, you don’t see many things that would make it on a resume. What you see are things that deal with character – wisdom, self-control, not lovers of money, managing your household well. It’s intriguing to me that he says household instead of business or something like that, because in a way our households are somewhat private.
Paul points it out…and this is the “thing” you can pass downline today – our private life is more important than our public life.
Look at the lists of the criteria and every single one of those characteristics is the fruit of a priority of our personal lives with Jesus. Even the criteria that are expressed publicly like—hospitable, not a lover of money, managing your family well, not a heavy drinker, not slanderous, these are ALL cultivated with a priority placed on a personal, vibrant relationship with Jesus.
We are very, very blessed at The Orchard in all our sites (Tupelo, NS, Oxford, Origins and Hispanos) to have some great men and women who serve in the roles of Elders and Deacons. They are absolutely some of the finest people I know anywhere—some of the finest disciples/followers of Jesus I know anywhere. They publicly serve and not just on a team or board or in meetings—IN ADDITION—they serve in children’s ministry, youth ministry, as small group leaders. Most of them today as I lift up this list of criteria are privately cringing at the thought that they can be an example.
I know them all very well—but here is the thing I know about them the best. Their aim is not the public life—it is the private life—and out of the private life, the public life is born.
Paul’s instruction is upside down thinking in our world where the focus is on the public life, where what is important is not that you have it all together—but that you at least appear to have it all together. Often it doesn’t matter what is going on inside you as long as the outside is in order. How about this for example…
“Cellphonies Know How to Fake It,” Dallas Morning News, Amy Harmon – The cashier had already rung up Keri Wooster’s items when she realized she didn’t have her wallet. She dashed to her car and returned empty-handed to face the line of fidgeting customers she had kept waiting, a cell phone pressed to her ear. “Jordan, did you take my wallet out of my purse?” she asked in parental exasperation, as she made her way back to the checkout counter. “I’m holding up this line! You need to put things back where you find them.” Wooster, who has no children, was not actually talking to a Jordan, or indeed to anyone at all. But her monologue served its purpose, earning her sympathetic looks from the frustrated crowd at her local Wal-Mart. Call Wooster a cellphony. She is a part of a growing number of people who are using their cell phones to carry on fake conversations to deceive or manipulate those around them. Some cellphonies use their cell phones to avoid contact with annoying coworkers or supervisors. Some pretend to be finishing a call when they arrive late for a meeting. The fake phone call has a technique all its own. Inexperienced cellphonies risk exposure with their limited repertoire of “uh-huhs.” Sophisticated simulators achieve authenticity by re-enacting their side of an actual dialogue. Or they call voice-activated phone trees, so it sounds as if someone is talking on the other end.
Celebrity Liars and Fakers: Do You Care? – A USA Today story asks, “Is anything for real these days?” It’s getting tougher to tell of our celebrities and superstars are shooting straight with us. Lance Armstrong lied and cheated. Manti Te’o is a liar (although Manti told Katie Couric, “I wasn’t as forthcoming, but I didn’t lie”). Beyoncé was apparently (maybe?) lip synching at President Obama’s inauguration. In December, Dave Hester, a paid star bidder on A&E’s Storage Wars sued the network and producers, claiming that “Nearly every aspect of the series is faked.” No wonder the article notes, “From sports heroes to superstar performers to reality TV, we’re deluged by deception.”
Our world focuses on the public life. Paul attacks that here by pointing out that the capacity to lead – to be an example – is born out of a priority on the private life.
This is not permission to withdraw and live ONLY a private life. Remember Paul says it is an honorable thing to aspire to a public life—to leading, to helping, to being an example, to making clearer the way of God and his plans for our world. But it is out of the private life that loves Jesus, that Jesus is able to love the world through your public life.
We see this in the two halves of John 15 (a central Gospel text to our lives together). In the front half of John 15 Jesus reminds the disciples that, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (15:4-5) And in the back half of John 15 he sends them out into the world, out of the vibrancy of that relationship to “tell the world about me as those who know me best” (15:27)
Bill George, the founder of Medtronics (the company who developed the pacemaker) once wrote: Character without capacity usually means weakness in a leader, but capacity without character means danger. (Foreword xx, True North by Bill George) The inward life and the outward life are inseparably intertwined.
Do you want to know what is meaningful—what is worthy of receiving and passing down the line? It is this—we are to be examples to others in the faith—and the way we serve God’s purposes in others is this—Our public life is lived as an overflow of our private life.
This is true for leaders no matter how big or small our leadership responsibility.
Here are three suggestions for practical ways you can pass this down the line this week.
- Join the summer reading plan—work on your inner life by planting more of God’s Word there.
- Read the Bible each night with/to those in your household.
- Begin each day with private life cultivation—before you go out to public life expression. Read the reading plan, spend a few minutes in prayer, listen to worship music, sit quietly before God, etc.
Because Our public life is lived as an overflow of our private life.