Read His Words Before Ours!
As the young wife of an aspiring pastor, I’ve encountered many big words from my husband’s journey through seminary. Having grown up in the church, I thought that I had a firm grasp on basic theology and doctrine. However, upon entering seminary, I suddenly began to hear my husband using words like eschatology, soteriology, antinomianism, and, my personal favorite, ecclesiology.
Ecclesiology is theology as applied to the nature and structure of the Christian church. Growing up at a First Baptist Church, the way the church was structured and functioned wasn’t something I had given a lot of thought to. I knew that some of my friend’s dads were called “deacons” and they had meetings where they discussed things, but that was pretty much the extent of my thoughts about church leadership and structure. Even through my college years, I was still a church-consumer. I came, enjoyed the worship, soaked in the message, and socialized in the lobby.
My husband and I were married shortly after we finished college and suddenly found ourselves on the core team of a church plant in a new city. My husband would be leading worship, and I was eager to serve in any area I was needed.
If you had asked me about the structure of the church at that time, I would have said that you need a pastor, a worship leader, a kids ministry, greeters, Sunday School, and an awesome youth group, complete with a hilarious youth pastor.
It didn’t take me long to realize how naive I was about ecclesiology.
I remember sitting in our core team meetings, discussing elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; 5:17-25), deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13), and how to best serve those in our congregation and the community that God was calling us to (1 Tim. 5:3-16).
There wasn’t much said about Vacation Bible School.
It didn’t take long for me to realize why ecclesiology is important enough to be included in the Bible. Our pastor was a godly man, but he was also a sinner.
We are all flawed, selfish, and prideful, which is why we must look to the scriptures to find God’s plan for His church.
Paul wrote letters full of wisdom from the Holy Spirit to Timothy on how he, as a pastor, could shepherd his people, as well as a wealth of practical application for the local church Body. Paul writes, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:14-15). Timothy probably felt overwhelmed and unsure of how to dole out responsibilities among his growing congregation. Paul, having led many churches and witnessed the challenges they faced, gave Timothy clear instructions for two offices in the church – overseers (elders) and deacons.
He clearly outlined the character and integrity that would be required of such individuals. After reading these two descriptions, it can feel a little overwhelming.
How can anyone match these qualities?
Paul quickly reminds Timothy of his foundational truth, the mystery of godliness.
“He was manifested in the flesh,
Vindicated by the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16b
Ultimately, overseers and deacons must have a firm grasp on the mystery of Christ, the Gospel, and live their lives in light of that truth.
When looking for a church home, how does the leadership measure up to God’s Word? While it’s easy to point fingers, how tightly are you holding on to the gospel as you live for Jesus? For we, as Christ-followers, are all ministers of the gospel!
Paul goes on to address another practical issue facing the early church – widows. (1 Tim. 5:3-16). Many churches today have ministries that serve widows, but we can take a broader biblical approach. Widows were the most marginalized citizens in the early church; their futures were often uncertain and insecure.
Who are the “widows” in our church and society?
Let the modern church be a community that seeks to identify and serve those people, while leading them into godliness.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he states that all of us are called to godliness,
not just the prominent leaders in our church.
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Col. 1:9-10
Paul goes on to encourage the believers in endurance, patience, and joy.
How are a group of sinners supposed to live up to this tall order?
Just a few sentences later Paul gives this truth and encouragement:
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Col. 1:17
Believers can abide in love and harmony through God alone as He joins us together in unity.
Praise God it’s not up to us!
We have His word and the Holy Spirit to lead us into the path He desires for His Bride, His Church!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!