A Burden: The Burden of an Overseer for Overseers

We all agree about the great need for good leadership in both society and government. While we may question the decisions which men and governments make, we should never question the reality that God is in control. “The powers that be are ordained (appointed) of God” (Rom 13:1).

The Need for the Work

If the need for leadership is great in the world, there is an even greater need for leadership in God’s assemblies. But leadership for God has a higher requirement. All believers need to understand the necessity for exercised, Spirit-guided lives in the home, workplace, and assembly before a brother can be considered for oversight responsibility.

Paul wrote, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (1 Tim 3:1). He proceeds to give the qualifications for overseers in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. In Acts 20:28 he reminds us that preparation for this role is the work of the Holy Spirit of God.

The Necessities for the Work

In 1 Timothy 3 Paul begins with husbands, indicating that training and preparation begin in the home. “If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?” He must learn to correct and discipline with gravity and dignity (3:4) but remembering the instructions, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col 3:21).

The use of the term “blameless” in Timothy and Titus tells of the need for a life in conformity to the Scriptures, a Christ-like life. No one should be able to point a finger and find fault with such a man in his testimony. This includes his actions, conversation, appearance, and separation from all evil (1 Thess 5:22). We live in a day when separation does not seem to have the same impact in our lives as it once did.

An overseer must be marked by self-control. His home is to be marked by having his children in subjection, with all dignity and gravity (1 Tim 3:4). In Colossians 3, the Spirit of God describes what should mark every believer. The qualities which should be seen in every saint, however, must be seen in those who lead the people of God. He begins with “anger” as He describes the things which must be “put off.” In verse 12 He then points to the things which must be “put on.” Finally, in verse 15 we are to “let the peace of God rule …”

The term “vigilant” (1 Tim 3:2) carries the idea of a temper not easily excited, marked by restraint. To be “sober” means to be discreet, curbing the desires and impulses. He is marked by “good behavior,” manifesting a well-arranged and disciplined life. He is not a contentious or quarrelsome man, or a “striker.” He is a “patient” man, gentle and moderate in his ways. “Not a brawler” means that he is ready to forgo his personal rights (J. R. Baker). As one that “ruleth well,” he guides his household as a leader and teacher, not as a dictator. His wife is not a slave but a true help-meet. He presides over his family so that there is no room for blame. His children are in subjection. They are marked by reverence, respect, dignity, and sanctity: “children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6).

Further reference to behavior is found in Romans 12:17, where we are instructed to recompense to no man evil for evil. He is not greedy of “filthy lucre.” Honesty in his personal and business life will mark him. The man who will lead God’s people is not a novice (1 Tim 3:6), not newly saved, but mature in his spiritual growth, showing evidence in his prayer and public worship, and being “apt to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). This is the ability to edify the believers with truth. He holds the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience (v 9).

The Nature of the Work

He has made himself an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and purity (ch 4:12). He holds fast the form of sound words (2 Tim 1:13). He studies to show himself “approved unto God” (2 Tim 2:15). “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine, showing uncor-ruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:7-8). A bishop must be blameless as a steward or manager of God’s household. He is not self-willed or dominated by self-interests. He does not arrogantly assert his own will.

An elder, shepherd, teacher, and leader cannot expect the believers to follow his lead if he is entangled with the lifestyle and character of the world. He must not carry a hammer but lead in tenderness and love. His wife will be marked by the truth of 1 Timothy 2:9. The rewards are great for faithfulness. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor” (1 Tim 5:17). The Lord’s own words should encourage all who do this work, as we wait for His coming: “Well done thou, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21).