I was reading in the New Testament Book of Titus recently. It was there that I read the qualifications for Elders found in Chapter one. As an ordained Deacon and Elder, these verses are always humbling to me as I read them.
There are three offices noted in the New Testament for the local church: Pastor; Elder (also known as Bishop or overseer); and Deacon. Additional qualifications can be found in 1 Timothy 3. The Pastor’s responsibilities are to preach the Word, counsel, and provide direction for the congregation. The Elder’s responsibilities are to set a Godly example, govern the congregation, protect the congregation, and teach the Word. The Deacon’s responsibilities are to be a servant, to help meet the needs of the congregation. They, too, are to be Godly examples.
At least, that is the way it is set up in my church. Others may have different assignments and duties. But in the twenty years that I have been recognized by the church as an ordained leader, I have heard it said, on numerous occasions, that the leadership should have a higher standard. I have experienced fellow church members withdraw in fellowship from me because I was now in leadership. I have had church people said, “You better be careful what you say. There is an Elder present!” I have others try to get close to pump me for information, only for them to be disappointed when I didn’t gossip about confidential information about some struggling family in the church.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us…
The membership likes to point to the standards of the leaders, but in many cases, they choose to ignore the standards for every day that every Christian is to live by. I believe I should meet the requirements given in Titus and 1 Timothy, and live up to the standards given in Titus 3 for all believers.
3 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. Titus 3:1-8 NASB
Here is how I see the standards listed above and how I identify them.
Paul tells Titus to pay attention to the government. Governments are established by God. The scripture says that God will raise up or He will plant governments at His will. In our government, we elect people to represent our beliefs and to make laws and vote according to the desires of the majority. It’s not perfect, but it can be effective. I admit, many of the elected officials have strayed or abandoned the law. Many choose to ignore the laws of the land and the will of the people. Yet, I am to remember that a Sovereign God has a plan that He will carry out, even overcoming the paperwork of the United States government.
Secondly, I am to pay attention to those around me, and especially the way I treat or react to them. I am to be helpful, not hurting in my speech, not to be quarrelsome, and to show kindness. I am to treat others as the Lord has treated me. I should be a daily ambassador of Jesus to my fellow-man.
Lastly, I am to pay attention to myself. I have to remember that I have been changed when Jesus saved me. My salvation was not based on my deeds, but upon God’s mercy and grace to me. All of my thoughts and motives should be adjusted and weighed with this knowledge. I am not saved by good deeds, but my salvation should generate good deeds in me.
So, whether you are in leadership or not, we all have standards to live by every day. May we treat others as we would want to be treated and even more importantly, may we treat others as Jesus has treated us.