“I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” ~ 1 Timothy 3:15
Yesterday, we read about Paul’s instructions to men and women in church during worship services. The common thread throughout the chapter? We all need to pray in humility. As Paul continues his letter, he talks more about what a church should look like, focusing in particular on church leadership. He describes two different leaders: Pastors (or Elder) and Deacons. The job requirements for both of these positions may seem a little bit overwhelming. Instead of being the usual list of requirements that you might find in a job listing (e.g. must be upbeat and engaging, a team player, bachelor’s degree), these requirements shine a light onto the heart of a leader.
If we are a new believer, the first step we should take in our faith is to grow in our relationship with God. We do this through daily prayer and Bible reading and through meeting with our church family. However, after we have committed ourselves to the faith and have started to mature in the faith, we need to begin to work in ministry. We may not become a pastor or a deacon, but we may lead a Sunday School class for kindergartners, be on staff at an annual church youth camp, or be involved in a visiting ministry for shut-ins. If we are working in ministry, we are leading some group of people. Even if you feel like you are leading no one, you can look at your family, whether that’s children, younger siblings, or cousins, and see the effects of your influence.
Though the requirements listed for pastors and deacons were written specifically for them, we can look at this list to judge how well we are filling our leadership role. We are not saved by these characteristics and traits, by having them shows evidence of how God is working in our lives. For instance, we should all strive to not be a bully or quarrelsome and instead be gentle (1 Tim. 3:2-3). Why? Gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). If God’s spirit is working in our lives, we should be showing evidence of that. So, as you look through the traits listed, think about how you measure up to the job requirements. If you find that you would not be able to fill these requirements, you should take a look at your life and ask God to help you change those areas. Those that are following you are counting on you to lead them down the right path. They are looking at you to see the way they should act. Where are you leading them?
~ Cayce Fletcher
It brings me so much joy to see youth and young adults pursuing ministry. It is wonderful to see the next generation serving other members of the church and the community in the name of Christ. Young people that “get it”. They want to make a positive difference and make an eternal impact on the world around them.
I am so thankful for the people who were there for our generation. The adults that worked, studied, served, and prayed with us. Our Youth Workers’ commitments to our church and faith were evident in their church involvement. I was so blessed because I got to serve alongside so many solid servants of Christ. We did the little, insignificant things along with the big stuff. It didn’t matter if it was unclogging a toilet, doing a food collection, visiting a nursing home, rolling coins after a fundraiser, working on a broken down church bus, speaking or singing in a worship service-whatever the task, our Youth Workers were working it out beside us. They spoke with encouraging words of wisdom and instilled confidence as we overcame difficulties that stood in the way to completing our mission. After all, a true follower of Christ is willing to present the gospel, help others, even wash some dirty feet…
The Apostle Paul had the opportunity to bring countless generations of people to Christ. We are still learning from his writings today. Timothy had the chance to learn from him first hand. Paul refers to Timothy as “my true son in the faith”. He had worked alongside Paul for years and had served the churches. Paul made sure that Timothy understood and practiced the essentials of the Christian faith. He also prepared him for leadership.
Paul informed him in 1 Timothy 3:15, “But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Paul wanted Timothy to know how to serve the Church, how to deal with problems and encourage the people to grow in Christ. He warned him about terrible times in the last days because of how evil many people would become (2 Timothy 3:1-5). He also passed along a charge, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:14-17)
What great advice for all generations!
Acts 15 – Conflict is Inevitable
Life would be SO much easier (for me) if everyone always agreed with me.
BUT – I am not always right.
AND – conflict is inevitable.
Acts 15 is about a whole lot of conflict.
First, the Jewish Christians thought the new Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians needed to follow the whole law of Moses – and prove it with circumcision. However, the Gentile Christians felt their faith in Christ – proven by baptism, not circumcision – provided salvation rather than the old law. And, the church in Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were teaching and preaching was being torn apart by the division. Sometimes conflict does that.
But, here we get to see some great steps for conflict resolution.
- Go to find wise counsel. Look for spiritually mature and trustworthy individuals. In this case Paul and Barnabas were sent with a delegation to the Jerusalem church elders 300 miles away (a trip that may have taken them approximately 15 days if they were able to cover 20 miles per day – sometimes conflict resolution takes some time – but it is worth it).
- Everybody gets to share their side of the argument. And even through “much debate” (vs. 7), we see order and respect – standing to speak and not speaking out of turn. And, during the debate – lots of listening (rather than merely preparing your rebuttal).
- After everyone has had their say – listen to the leadership (in this case, James the brother of Jesus – vs 13) and be prepared to peacefully abide by their decisions.
- And don’t forget to go to God’s Word! James shares words of the Prophet which clearly say that it is God’s desire that all mankind will seek Him and that there will be Gentiles called by His name. Using this and the evidence that had been shared of how God had been working amongst the uncircumcised but believing Gentiles, James gives his judgment – no circumcision is needed, but Gentiles must follow some basic rules to be set apart to God and holy.
- Share the findings with those impacted by the decision – aiming for peacefully being of one mind. A letter is written and members of the Jewish church are sent back with the Antioch delegation to share the letter with the body of believers caught in this conflict.
The Antioch church received the letter and delegation and “rejoiced” and were “strengthened” and were at peace. Conflict resolution at its best! Unfortunately, we know this issue will come up again throughout the New Testament as other churches grapple with the change. Old traditions die hard for the Jewish believers. So too, we must be careful to be tuned into God’s will rather than traditions or merely what “I want” or “I think” or has always been done this way. Search out what God thinks on the subject. Aim for becoming of one mind – centered on God’s mind – not yours.
Just as peace is reigning once again in Antioch, a new conflict transpires! But, this time it’s a very personal one – and between our two heroes – Paul and Barnabas! Even great heroes of the faith don’t always see eye to eye. Barnabas – always the encourager – wants to take Mark on the next missionary journey. Paul – perhaps more “task oriented” – remembers that Mark left them in the middle of the last journey and doesn’t want to give him a second chance. “And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another” (Acts 15:39). It could have easily become an opportunity to grow sour and bitter toward one another, or even God’s work – allowing bad feelings to fester. However, sometimes a decision to peacefully disagree and get on with God’s work – even if it results in parting ways at least temporarily – can actually deepen relationships and be a useful thing. In this case, the missionary efforts were doubled since Barnabas went in one direction with Mark to teach and preach and Paul chose Silas and went in another direction to preach and teach. Differences remained – but both were still actively spreading God’s Word. And, what fun to later read (Colossians 4:10) that Paul would find Mark to also be very useful in ministry.
Life would be so much easier (for me) if everyone always agreed with me.
BUT – I am not always right,
AND – easy isn’t always better.
When we use Biblical models and Godly wisdom to face the conflict, we can grow through the conflict and come out stronger, wiser, and more in line with what God has designed us to be – either as a church, a marriage, a friendship or an individual. Face your conflict – with much prayer, Bible searching and wisdom and Godly counsel.