Friday, May 20, 2011

Reputation & Character (Part 3)


The health of a church is directly related to the quality of its leaders.  That’s why the Bible has strict standards for those who serve as elders or in other highly critical roles.  The paramount issue is ones CHARACTER; not talent, skill, or abilities, but character.  A man is qualified because of what he IS, not because of what he does or the skill he possesses. 

I Timothy 3 outlines a detailed list of criteria for elders and church leaders.  In that list are two requirments about ones reputation being a primary consideration.  Keep in mind, these two items are non-negotiable because they are God’s Word:

1. He Must be “Blameless” and "Above Reproach (I Timothy 3:2) 

"Now the overseer must be above reproach" (KJV says blameless)

Blameless?  Above reproach?  Yes.  The overarching qualification for an elder or church leader is that he is “blameless” or “above reproach.”  That is, he must be a leader who cannot be accused of anything sinful.  Sin or vice must not mar a church leader’s life – be it an attitude, habit, or incident.  Of course, that’s not to say that one must be perfect, but he must not have any obvious character defects either.  He must be a model of godliness.

Spiritual leaders must be without reproach because they set an example for congregations to follow.  This is a high standard, but it is not a double standard.  Since believers are responsible to follow the example of their godly leaders, God requires blamelessness of them as well. 

The Biblical standards for leadership are non-negotiable.  God sets the standard very high.  Why?  Because whatever the leaders are, the people become.  Hosea said, “Like people, like priest” (Hosea 4:9).  Jesus said, “…everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40 NIV). 

Additionally, malicious people are always looking for ways to discredit the reputation of Christ and His church, and a sinful leader plays right into their hands.  This is why “blameless” is the initial qualification for spiritual leadership. 

2.  He Has a Good Reputation with Those Outside the Church (I Timothy 3:7)

"He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap."

Elders and church leaders must have good reputations, not only inside the church, but with those outside the church.  That doesn’t mean that everyone will agree with his theology, but it does mean that people in the community know him as a man of integrity and character.  That’s an important qualification because an elder can’t have a godly influence on his community if it has no respect for him.

Incidentally, this qualification isn’t limited to sins committed while in office or while actively serving in leadership.  It also includes any sins in the past that are so notorious that they have given him a bad reputation.  Although he may be forgiven by God, the reputation is attached and it’s what people remember, rendering his or her leadership ineffective and impotent.  The church must therefore consider a person's ongoing reputation in the community before it places him or her into a place of spiritual leadership.

Every Christian has to deal with some level of visibility.  And people need to see a blameless life.  They may not agree with your beliefs, but they must see your godly character and good disposition.  Paul wanted the Philippians to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15).

That’s a high calling and a sacred responsibility.  In Colossians 4:5-6 Paul says, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom towards outsiders…. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. A good reputation includes wise words as well as godly deeds.

No comments: