Paul used a very interesting phrase five times in his letters to pastors: "Here is a trustworthy saying".
Keep in mind that all of God’s Word is trustworthy but Paul is using this phrase to highlight some especially significant teachings. He wants the pastors to emphasize these trusthworthy truths to everyone in the church.
We’re emphasizing them because they’re not only important to the church but because we live in a culture that scoffs at the idea that such a thing as absolute truth actually exists.
Here is the second of Paul’s five trustworthy truths.
1 Timothy 3:1 - "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task."
The Greek word for "overseer" is "bishop" in the King James Version and "elder" in other versions. It is literally "episkope" (pronounced "episcopay") and comes from the prefix, "epi" for "over" and "scope" for "see". The word denotes the person who superintends or "oversees" the work of the church.
Without getting into the differences of opinion among good Christians as to how far reaching this office extends we can safely conclude that Paul at least had in mind here the pastor of a local church.
Now the question for us is, "Why is this so important? Why did Paul draw special attention to the fact that if a man was drawn toward answering the call of God to ministerial service, that this was a noble inclination?"
The Greek word for "noble" in our text verse means "valuable, virtuous, and worthwhile." Anyone sho sets his heart on being an overseer is aspiring to a valuable, virtuous and worthwhile office. If a man does what he’s supposed to do as a pastor he can help a lot of people.
Let’s apply this as a trustworthy truth. What does it mean to you?
1. You should respect and cooperate with the leadership in your church.
Apparently Pastor Timothy was catching some flack as the pastor at Ephesus. He was having stomach problems that may have stemmed from the stress of leadership. (1 Timothy 5:23) He may have been unappreciated because of his relative youth. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Paul wrote to encourage him and remind him that his task was noble.
A lot of church members aren’t aware of how stressful pastoring can be.
According to the Pastor Care Network:
80% of pastors believe ministry has negatively affected their families.
33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their families.
75% report a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they started.
40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
70% do not have somebody they consider a close friend.
50% have considered leaving the ministry in the last three months.
50% of those who go into full time ministry drop out in five years.
94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor’s ministry.
And according to the Jan/Feb issue of The Christian Examiner, between 1,400 and 1,600 Christian leaders leave the ministry every month.
I give you those statistics to underscore what Timothy might have been experiencing when Paul wrote this letter to him. He is writing to encourage Timothy to tell his congregation that he needs their cooperation. No man can pastor a church without the support of his congregation.
This indicates why the office of deacon is necessary for instance. In Acts chapter six, the apostles had so much upon them they had to enlist help. So the church chose seven Spirit-filled men to ease the pastor’s burden.
In the Old Testament the classic example is in the life of Moses. His father-in-law, Jethro, observed a predicament. Moses could not possibly solve the problems of the Israelites by himself.
So Moses wised up and appointed rulers over groups of ten, one hundred and one thousand. Every church that wants to progress must have people to help with the leadership. We must have more leaders in the church than just the pastor alone.
According to Ephesians 4:11-12, the Pastor/Teacher’s job is "to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."
Allow your pastor to train you to use your spiritual gifts to serve Christ. Then take your place of service joyfully and consistently so that the pastor does not have to do his job and yours also.
2. You should encourage those who sense God’s call on their lives.
Those who fill the office of pastor, or the offices of pastoral staff, should have the congregation for their cheering section.
This calls for an unselfish spirit at home and in our local church. Our children many times will be the ones answering the call. All too often churches and parents discourage their youth from ministry paths.
We should pray as Jesus taught us in Matthew 9:37-38 - "The harvest in plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest."
If a parent prays, "Lord, send out workers into the harvest, but please don’t send my child", they are praying selfishly.
Encourage those who may sense the call of God on their lives.
3. You should expect your ministers to have a godly desire.
Many take the approach that the qualifications of a minister begin in verse two of this chapter. Actually, they begin here in our text verse.
The first and foremost qualification of a pastor is godly desire!
A person who does not have a strong, God-given desire will quit when things become too stressful.
God wants people who are zealous in the ministry.
Remember what He said to the church at Laodicea?
Revelation 3:16 - "So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
Their lukewarmness, their lack of enthusiasm for God’s work, was caused by an inflated self-image.
Rev. 3:17 - "You say, ’I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."
Rev. 3:18 - "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see."
The self-sufficient preacher is like the self-sufficient church. They make God sick.
When we look for men to oversee the church we should not be looking primarily for brilliant intellect or a well-known name. We don’t need self-promoters and smooth talkers. We need men who have a holy fire kindled by the Spirit of God! Men like Jeremiah who once got discouraged because people weren’t heeding his message. But he couldn’t stop preaching after all!
Jeremiah 20:19 - "But if I say, ’I will not mention him or speak any more in his name’, his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."
Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:16 - "Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!"
This is the standard by which we must gauge those who would proclaim the Word of God! A fire in their hearts and a compulsion to proclaim the good news!
The church is far too precious to our Savior to allow men in the office of overseer who don’t possess holy zeal!
I’m not just talking about emotion. Anyone can cry - and I’m not saying crying is wrong for preachers - its right - Jeremiah and Paul were both well known for their tears.
I’m talking about a man who cannot quit because he has been assailed by the devil. I’m talking about a man who cannot quit because a few folks in his church don’t like the way he parts his hair. I’m talking about a man who lives and breathes the gospel!
Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.