BY Debbie Eaton
Text: 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Proverbs 11:13-14, James 3:1-12
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
– 1 Timothy 3:1, ESV
I’ve been blessed with wonderful mentors in my life—family and friends, co-workers and bosses, pastors and authors. But my greatest teacher has been my dad.
I learned from him at a young age that how we treat one another and the personal choices we make impact how we lead others. I witnessed the choices my dad made in his own life to love my mom and our family, lead and mentor young leaders, and serve those less fortunate. He loved well and led well. And he believed I could, too.
Ethical leadership in business, education, and government is important; but God sets a higher standard for those in church leadership because they teach, model, and mentor Biblical principles for the body of believers. They invite others to go with them as they go to Christ.
Paul himself experienced God’s grace and forgiveness, and it drastically changed his life and his leadership. He understood the importance of living by God’s standard, and God saw fit to give him great influence in mentoring others—even entire congregations.
In this heartfelt letters to Timothy, his “child in the faith,” Paul outlines the importance of how character shapes the effectiveness of leadership. Hypocrisy in the actions of leaders can have a profound and often immediate impact on the faith journey of others, destroying trust and calling into question the credibility of the church. Specifically, Paul calls deacons and overseers to live a life worthy of the “noble work” to which they have been called, plainly stating, “… if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5).
Let’s pause here for a moment and reflect on what a conversation might be like between Paul and Timothy if we transported them to the present day. Maybe they are sitting in a coffee shop, talking about life and the Gospel over a latte. Paul, the mentor, is asking hard questions of Timothy, the young leader. Paul’s questions reflect his love for Timothy and the Church—they provoke deep thought, genuine conversation and, above all, accountability:
Do you value and respect relationships?
Do you know your limits?
Do you welcome others?
Does your public life align with your private life?
As Paul encouraged Timothy—and as I was blessed to witness in my dad—a leader must live well in order to lead well. This means, first and foremost, a life that honors God and obeys His Word.
Friends, let us pray for those who lead in the church—that they would indeed be “above reproach,” but that they would be so by first submitting their lives to God’s Word, seeking to have the character of Christ. Let us also pray for one another as we lead, mentor and encourage others in our families, our workplaces, our churches and our communities. May all who lead in Christ’s name seek only to lead others to Him.