By Grant Vissers
Read: 1 Timothy 5:17-20
I feel a little awkward writing my thoughts on this particular passage. Especially when Paul writes, “Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.” I don’t disagree with him, however, there have been far too many, “health, wealth, and prosperity gospel” preachers leverage Bible passages like this for personal gain. Pastors who do that drive me crazy and I don’t think they’re worth listening to. Some even have personal private jets that they’ve somehow worked into their, “philosophy of ministry.” (If a picture is worth a thousand words, just know that I’m doing air quotes around those words.) Like I said, if your pastor has a personal private jet, I might be looking for a new pastor.
And yet, Paul still wrote those words. Here’s the thing, I think Paul knew how hard ministry is. Paul traveled from town to town preaching the gospel and spreading the good news and in return he was booted out of cities, thrown into jail, beaten and stoned. In one instance he was stoned, drug out of the city and left for dead. All for preaching about Jesus. (Acts 14, check it out) Paul was acutely aware of the harsh realities preachers were up against and so Paul was adamant that churches should guard their leaders. While Paul went from church to church raising support so he could last even one more day, he wanted pastors and preachers to be freed up to do their most important task: preaching, without worrying about where their next meal was going to come from.
Equally as important is not to condemn a leader on a false accusation. “Do not listen to an accusation against an elder unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses.” How many leaders have we seen in our time lose their influence and leadership because of moral failure? In my estimation, too many to count. Both inside and outside the church, leaders seem to be disproportionately affected by scandals and failures. Perhaps its simply because leaders have a public role and so everything they do is examined by the court of public opinion, but I think there is more to it than that. I think the evil one knows how to bring down a leader. I think the evil one knows there is nothing more destructive for a church than false accusations. So again, Paul say, “Guard your leaders.”
Now, at this point you might be thinking, “Looks like leaders have it pretty good,” but there is a second warning in this section of Paul’s letter. This time it is directed at the leaders. “Those who sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others.” Leaders don’t get carte blanche when it comes to power, authority, decision making etc. Too many leaders have abused their authority and used it to do unspeakable things. To those leaders Paul’s warning is loud, reprimand them in front of the whole church. This is what you call accountability. In Paul’s economy leaders live public lives and are accountable in public ways. Anyone wishing to become a leader should first check their heart and ask themselves, “Am I willing to live an authentic life, bearing witness to the gospel, for all to see?”
- Why does Paul urge the church to guard its leaders?
- If you’re a leader, have you ever felt like you’ve needed to be guarded? Have you ever felt left exposed?
- If you follow a leader, what do you think guarding your leader looks like for you personally? For some it may look like a commitment to pray for your leader.
- Why do you think leaders seem to be more susceptible to moral failure in the church? Do you think we’ve created a culture where people can be honest about their failures?
- What do you think authentic leadership looks like?