The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,  not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,  for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV
Though the screening process, educational requirements, and final selection process (voting) for bishops, and rectors to a great extent, look a lot like the processes used in secular leadership selection, the church’s goal is very different. As Christ followers, we are encouraged to grow in His likeness. As time passes we aspire to look more and more like Him and less and less like who (and whose) we were before our conversion.
For those called to leadership this process needs to have brought forth visible fruit in our lives. We need to be not only educated, competent, etc but also (and more importantly) we need to be a good pattern for believers to model themselves upon. Like a well-made chair, we need to be fit to the task-solid, serviceable, tested and proven reliable.
We can too easily fall into reading 1 Timothy 3:1-7 as simply a list of qualifications and disqualifications for an office and miss the underlying idea that the overseer needs to be an example that others can profitably pattern themselves after. The desirable pattern which Paul encourages Timothy to seek out in his leadership candidates is very realistic, is doable, and is not some misbegotten search for perfection.
To paraphrase Paul- ‘Timothy, here’s what you are looking for in good candidates. Someone who is-
- A one-woman man (not a polygamist or unfaithful to their wife),
- Sober-minded (not a drunkard or an addict),
- Self controlled and gentle (not violent or impulsive),
- Respectable (not quarrelsome)- his relationships are marked by mutual respect rather than contention,
- Hospitable (not a lover of money)- exhibits open- handed generosity, exemplified by an open home,
- Able to teach (not recently converted) - able to teach and share from experience,
- A good manager of his family/household- (as opposed to his household and family life being disorganized and out of control).’
The image Paul paints is not an imaginary ‘perfect man.’ Not some sort of locally available philosopher-king with a call to ministry, but rather it is an image of a mature and competent man who’s life and relationships are in balance, whose home is harmonious and well run, whose wife is loved, whose children are making their way responsibly in the world. In short, Someone who has demonstrated they can teach and manage what they have already been entrusted with. The sort of man you would hope your son would choose as a mentor or that your daughter would choose to marry.
Why is it important for our leaders to be good patterns for us to follow? Because we want and need patterns on which to model ourselves. We do what we see the people we look up to doing. It is our nature. Paul’s point to Timothy is that the church’s leaders will be teaching by example all the time, in all ways, period. This is why it’s vital to seek leaders whose lives will provide sound examples when followed.
Rev. Dan KloosterPriest
Fr. Dan is an active priest in the ADSW dwelling in El Paso, Texas.