Friday, 20 January 2012

Forgotten Elements of Leadership in 1 Tim 3:1-7

I’m busy working my way through the so-called “Pastoral Epistles” in preparation for a course I’m teaching in April.  While working through this passage, I’ve noticed that within much contemporary preaching and teaching on the topic of leadership, or at least what I’ve experienced, there has been an emphasis on certain elements within this “list of qualifications.”  What usually gets discussed or debated is the “one woman man” phrase; whether or not all elders have to be “skilled teachers”; and then “managing one’s household”.  It is also taken for granted that those in leadership should not be addicted to alcohol.  But what of the other elements in this passage? 

Firstly, the passage mentions that those who want to be leaders should be people “against whom no charge can be brought” (Barrett, 58).  This indicates someone of impeccable character with no obvious defects in their behaviour.  Then the double whammy of “self-controlled” and “self-disciplined.”  The first word refers “to being restrained in conduct, self-controlled, level-headed,” while the second is a cardinal virtue in the Graeco-Roman world, a characteristic of those who are in control of their faculties and their responses to stimuli or situations.  Such people evoke confidence in their ability to handle crises and make difficult decisions.  Then we have the word “respectable” or “dignified” which was often used as an epithet for honourable people. 

Then, the one I’ve learnt the most about recently, is “not given to violence.”  The word has a wide meaning, including bullying, verbal abuse and physical acts of violence.  To the contrary of this negative aspect of character, leaders are called to be “gentle” and those who “create peace,” as opposed to those who cause “fighting”.  Gentle, “as a human virtue can almost subsume all virtues into itself, coming to mean a “virtuous equilibrium” that expresses itself in a balance between honesty, tolerance, and gentleness” (Towner).  And those who “create peace” or are “peaceable” are those who do not stir up fights, both physical and non-physical, but bring healing and restoration.  It is the exact opposite of what is described in Titus 3:9 and 2 Tim 2:23-24. 

I wonder what would happen if we restored the balance and gave as much attention to these elements of character and life as we did to the other elements.  I wonder what kind of leaders we would produce by focussing on such elements.  I wonder if those who are in leadership positions shouldn’t spend a bit more time reflecting on these elements of their biblical “job description.”  On a final note, Jesus embodies these virtues perfectly, and it is by implementing his character and concern for others, empowered by the Spirit (Titus 3:5-6), that we will be able to be such leaders in God’s household.  


  1. Leadership Journal listed their must read leadership books for 2011 the other day.

    Best of the Best in regards to leader's outer life was Eugene Peterson's The Pastor. I've read this and it was awesome!

    Best of the Best in regards to leader's inner life, (I'm not sure of the dichotomy between inner and outer, but hey) was a book called Humilitas by John Dickson. I don't know they book buy from blurb it sounds like it would resonate with this post.

    Bring it. Humility is a must in any context. Personally I think perhaps never more so than for the Christian leader in a postmodern context.


  3. I've read Humilitas, and it is very good. Dickson is a well respected Australian historian who has done some good work translating scholarship on the historical Jesus for a contemporary crowd. He's not adding anything new to the discussion, but is a good journalist surveying the field - he works in apologetics mainly.

    His PhD, which I think is one of the best I've read yet ultimately wrong, argues that Paul did not expect communities to engage in active verbal proclamation of the gospel toward outsiders, but rather that that was the job of apostles, evangelists and specialty ministries within the community. It's a fascinating thesis, but I've argued against it from 1 Thessalonians.