Summary: Jesus has given leaders to the church who are called to a lead through their Christian character and example; it is not a calling that all desire because it comes with great responsibility. It is also a calling that requires great respect.

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“The Noble Task of Leadership”

1 Timothy 3:1

Why do politicians get such a rough stick when it comes to their leadership?

I don’t want you to answer out loud but I suspect, if we were to share our thoughts and answers, there would be many reasons … and a few of us might even start getting a bit upset … and even a bit passionate … about the poor job our political leaders are doing.

Now I am not a political expert. And I’m not saying I have all the answers. But I think politicians get a rough stick for two main reasons:-

They have forgotten that leadership means serving.

Too many of our leaders do not appear to be looking out for the interests of the country, rather they appear to be more interested in their career … and making themselves look good … and putting down the opposition … and being opportunistic.

The whole concept of the greatest becoming the least is a foreign concept to many … not all … but many. It wouldn’t hurt for a few of our leaders to have a look at Jesus and take a few lessons from him.

But I think there is a bigger issue.

They have forgotten that leadership is a noble responsibility.

If you don’t believe me just watch question time for 30 minutes … if you can last that long.

Bullying, name-calling, deliberate deception, opportunising, grand-standing, avoidance, character assassination and just general rudeness.

That is a typical question time … there is nothing noble about what is going on there.

And when you take the nobility out of leadership you take the heart out of leadership.

Paul understood this. So when he gave directions on establishing leaders in church he made sure that nobility was at the heart.

Let’s turn to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (read)

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.

This call to nobility is a call which impacts all of us.

Being an Godly overseer … a Godly leader … means upholding the nobility of the task.

Being a Godly congregation … a Godly flock … means respecting the nobility of the task.

For all the shortcomings, and questions and doubts and stumblings that leaders have – there is something very noble about taking up the responsibility of church leadership.

Paul wants us to clearly see that reality.

Indeed he emphasises the importance of this issue Here is a trustworthy saying. This phrase is used only 5 times in the whole Bible it always means, “This is the truth – count on it”.

• If it was spoken to a geometry student, you'd say ... "Here is an axiom – something that is always true”.

• If it was spoken to someone in business you would say … "This is something you can bank on”.

You can see the relevance of this statement in a biblical context by turning to 1 Timothy 1:15. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

When he speaks about the importance of leaders Paul is not talking about some superficial issue … one of those issues about which we can have different ideas.

In the mind of God the noble worth of the overseer is on a similar level of importance as one of the fundamental beliefs of our faith namely … Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

God takes the issue of leadership in His church very seriously … and so should we.

These truths bring us to the next phrase section whoever aspires to be. When it comes to leadership there are going to be people who feel called … who set their heart … who believe they are called … who stretch towards.

They seek to be equipped.

They are willing to grow, learn and be challenged.

They know some of the pitfalls, but desire to be involved anyway.

It’s at this point that verses 2-7 come to the foreground. What are leaders stretching towards? What are leaders setting their hearts on? The stretching is done in order to be people who fulfil the qualifications of an overseer.

• It involves character formation … temperate, self-controlled, respectable, gentle.

• It involves family relationship … the husband of one wife, having children who obey with respect.

• It involves a social consciousness … not given to much wine, not a lover of money.

• It involves certain gifts … able to teach, hospitable, a good reputation with outsiders.

As we look toward leadership we use our time to prepare … stretching to reach these qualifications.

Why is this necessary? God wants leaders who have a heart that is willing to provide spiritual leadership, willing to serve the church, and willing to provide a visible example to others of what it means to follow Jesus.

Simply put, God wants leaders who are willing to work hard for the progress of the kingdom.

It’s hard work to consistently feed the church with sound teaching; to guard the church from the attack of "savage wolves".

It’s hard work to model unselfish service when faced with an individualist world; to invest time in the spiritual development of other believers.

It’s hard work to be a leader and it comes with a great responsibility.

Such is the responsibility that God has a greater expectation, and therefore is stricter in His judgement, on leaders then He is with others.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

James 3:1

We can’t take up the responsibility of leadership lightly. All leaders, whether they have been in leadership for a short time or a long time, need to keep checking their motives.

You want to be in it for the right reasons.

You want to make sure you are upholding the nobility of the task.

Paul brings these challenges because he knows that some are in leadership … or aspire to leadership … for the wrong reasons.

• Some think leadership means issuing orders and dictating what goes on in the church.

• Some think leadership is an opportunity to promote a personal agenda.

• Some think leadership will satisfy their ego as they are put on a pedestal.

• Some think leadership means being in control and putting in to place a personal stamp of what righteousness means.

Some may think like that; but it is not biblical. If you aspire to leadership for those reasons – then change your mindset – that is not the sort of leader God wants.

We are told what sort of leader God wants by Paul who says whoever aspires to be an overseer … Paul is defining this particular leader.

To be an overseer.

It is a word that comes out of the contemporary Greek culture and meant “to inspect with an eye toward giving relief".

Greek civilisation during New Testament times grew and spread through the planting of new cities by a mother city. The Greeks had a mission to spread Greek culture into areas where there was none. The mother city would supply building materials, soldiers, food, money and most of the necessities needed for the new city to be successful.

But because these resources were limited, and because there would be no more of these things given from the mother city, a group of people were sent with the new settlers who were called the overseers.

In short, the job of the overseer was to

... inspect the progress of the new city.

... identify where things were not going as well as they should.

... give relief or help from the supplies that had been sent with them by the mother city.

That was how the word was initially used.

Eventually the word came into religious circles and came to be applied to the leaders of the church. Peter helps us see why this word was adopted by the church in 1 Peter 2:23-25.

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Jesus has come to inspect our progress. He identifies where things are not going well. He brings relief into our spiritual life when we need to help. That makes Him the ultimate overseer … and overseers in the church follow in His footsteps.

You can see now can’t you why those who aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.

If I offered you a dollar coin or a hundred dollar note – what would you take?

If I offered you a night in a cosy cabin, or a week at a 5 star resort in the Whitsundays – what would you take?

If I offered you a 1991 Commodore or a brand new Porsche 911 – what would you take?

Your answer just defined noble. It’s the best. It’s the highest. It’s the most valuable.

Despite the criticism which comes.

Despite the extra standard God places upon them.

Despite the times when they have doubts and worries and fears and concerns.

Despite the hard work and sacrifice.

Despite all these things being an overseer is a noble, worthy, valuable task.

It is something upon which to set your heart – as you do all you can to be qualified for the task. It’s not something to be scorned. It’s not something to be quickly looked down upon. It’s not something that should be easily criticised. That is a trustworthy saying.

As we focus on our leaders today here is how we apply these words.

To those who are currently involved, or about to be involved, in spiritual leadership … trust that what you are doing is noble.

You may be feeling discouraged and weary … wanting to give up.

You may wonder if the time sacrifice and the family sacrifice is really worth it.

You may even feel inadequate.

Be affirmed by these words of Paul. God takes the issue of leadership very seriously. He will give what we need to move on in hope and strength.

It is a noble task, and God will help you to act in a noble way as you stretch yourself to continue to be properly qualified by walking in the footsteps of Jesus the perfect overseer.

To those who are being called to follow leaders – make sure you remember the esteem God gives to them.

God takes the issue of leadership very seriously – which means He will also treat misdirected criticism of leaders very seriously.

As we move forward as God’s people we have a God-given responsibility to figure out how we can encourage and support our leaders.

We have a call to lift them up in prayer and acknowledge the decisions which they make.

Not blindly following … but looking and seeing faithful leaders who are worthy of double honour.

Today we thank God for us all.

For those who lead and for those who honour the leadership.

We thank God for His continued provision to us.

We make this day a day of joy and prayer, knowing that Jesus the ultimate Overseer continues to provide for his church.