Series: A Sound Church
Article 2: God’s Leaders
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Page 3: Church leaders must have their homes in order
The role of an elder is to serve as a steward and manager of God’s house, which is an immense and sacred responsibility. If the elder cannot manage his own household, he should not be considered a manager of God’s people. For if his marriage-the most important relationship in his life-is in disarray, or if his children are unruly and make headlines in newspapers and tabloids, this will undoubtedly affect the image and perception of the Church. The elder’s leadership and character are a reflection of the Church, and any negative aspects will inevitably reflect on the Church. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the elder’s household is in order before he assumes the responsibility of leading and managing God’s people.
To steward God’s house effectively, one must first be a faithful steward of their own house. Paul emphasizes that a man who doesn’t meet these requirements, as we’ll see here, is unfit and unqualified for leadership.
The home is the first place where a leader’s character and leadership are expressed
5 … appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife
Paul begins by addressing the importance of a man’s marriage. He doesn’t start with questions like, ‘Does he know the Bible?’ or ‘Is he a good guy?’ or ‘Is he a good teacher?’ Instead, Paul says, ‘Show me the man’s marriage first.’ When Paul says that an elder should be the husband of one wife, he is not necessarily referring to polygamy, and he is not saying that the man must be married. However, it can be assumed that the man will be married, and his marriage should be a good one.
Paul’s point is that an elder needs to be a committed and faithful husband to his wife, regardless of whether he is currently married or not. While Paul may not be addressing every question about divorce and remarriage at this point, he emphasizes the importance of a healthy and dedicated marriage for those who aspire to be leaders in the Church.
Being a “one-woman man”
Alternatively, this requirement could be translated, as many scholars do, as being a “one-woman man.” This means that an elder should not be someone who is flirtatious or has inappropriate relationships with women. It goes beyond just sexual fidelity, although that is certainly important. It also means that there should be no other woman in his life to whom he is closer in any area.
An elder should be blameless in this area, having healthy and appropriate relationships with women. He should not engage in any form of sexual or emotional infidelity. He should not have any unhealthy emotional connections to women, and even spiritually, he should not have any unhealthy connections to women.
Paul is emphasizing the importance of the husband’s call in this context. It may sound unusual, but having unhealthy connections with women, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, can be highly detrimental to an elder’s role and responsibilities as a husband and leader in the Church. Thus, it is crucial for an elder to maintain purity and faithfulness in all aspects of his relationships, especially with women other than his wife.
Essentially, Paul is emphasizing the importance of a husband being aligned with biblical principles. It is crucial that his heart is fully committed to his wife and no one else, as marriage is a covenant and a union that should not be compromised. This requirement is non-negotiable.
A husband’s wife should be his best friend, despite the challenges that may arise in marriage. It does not change the fact that there should be no other woman in his life whom he is closer to on any level other than his wife, as that would be considered adultery. Similarly, there should be no other woman in his life with whom he spends more time spiritually, praying together and emotionally connecting, other than his wife. We are all aware of the potential consequences of failing to maintain proper boundaries in relationships outside of marriage.
In general, we would advise a married man at work, for example, to prioritize going home to his wife instead of spending time with someone else, as it is essential to uphold the commitment and intimacy within marriage.
Guarding Against Dangerous Pitfalls of Leadership
When we consider who are to be leaders in God’s kingdom, we must recognize that it is a dangerous calling, as there are pitfalls all around. These pitfalls may start in subtle and seemingly godly ways, such as in counseling sessions that turn into unhealthy emotional dependence and connections. Sharing tears with each other creates an emotional connection, and comforting with physical gestures like hugs further deepens that connection. It may then progress to exchanging emails, texts, and emojis that have nothing to do with the ministry aspect of the relationship, but rather serve to foster a personal connection.
Before we know it, a full-blown scandal may emerge. This is precisely what Paul warns against – if a man engages in such behavior, it is likely to end up in scandal, and he should not be allowed to lead. If a man frequently finds himself alone with a particular woman, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and we all know this truth. Sharing intimate insights and developing connections with someone other than his wife, while his marriage is suffering, is unacceptable and must be avoided.
Take, for example, the recent news about Ravi Zacharias, whose adulterous behavior began with counseling, emails, and text messages, as he assumed the role of a spiritual father to these women. Paul’s warning against unhealthy relationships with women is evident in such cases – it is not a desirable trait for a leader to possess. Leaders must strive to be above reproach in this regard, with no suspicion from their wives or others in the church or outside.
It is not uncommon to hear from wives of men who have fallen into adultery that they had suspicions about their husbands’ behavior. Paul’s teachings on marital faithfulness should not be strange to us; in fact, they should be seen as the ideal for any marriage. The same standards that apply to leaders also apply to all married men, as marriage requires utmost commitment and fidelity.
Continue on the next page: Living by biblical principles
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