“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim 3:1), ESV.
December 27, 2009 became my first Sunday in a row of many Sundays to come as Senior Pastor of Tunkhannock Baptist Church. Through many ups and downs and much patience (and still more patience demanded) I find myself in the most difficult, most dangerous, and most noble task a man could ask for. Jesus Christ has entrusted me to serve as an under-shepherd in His body. I am entrusted with the esteemed task of preaching and teaching the Word of God and pastoring a small portion of the greater flock of Jesus Christ.
Since high school I have wanted to serve in this noble calling. Paul tells us that one who desires to serve as an overseer desires a noble task. Paul does not say that one should not seek the office of overseer. The desire of this office is seen as a good thing. It is noted this is a noble task and one that men should seek if they feel the Lord calling them to it. What a great privilege it is to communicate week in and week out the riches of the Word of God? What a privilege it is to love and to lead a flock of people into full maturity in Jesus Christ? It is indeed a noble task, in fact probably the most noble. It is a task that comes often with little thanks or appreciation. It rarely causes one to be rich in the worlds eyes, but the one who serves Christ by serving the church as pastor, is truly rich.
Yet, it comes with much fear and trepidation. What follows Paul’s statement about a man desiring a noble task is a great and heavy passage regarding the qualifications of an elder. Paul goes on in vv. 2-7:
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
When I see these words I tremble. For I look at qualifications I do not feel I have? Am I above reproach? Can someone rightly accuse me of sin in my life? Do I manage my household well or do I fail to lead my wife rightly? Do I control myself? Am I sober-minded? At times, perhaps, at others, I cringe to think of myself. Like Paul I find myself to be the worst of sinners…
but by the grace of God…
The thing is, that while I feel that I do not measure up to the standard that Paul lays out here, I know someone did measure up to it, the Lord Jesus Christ. He obeyed the Law perfectly so that when I do not, the Father sees His obedience not mine. No pastor is perfect in any way. We will fail constantly and continually. In fact, to the chagrin of our congregations, we will frequently make the same mistakes! But like every believer in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and are justified in Jesus Christ. So, through Jesus Christ my Saviour I can do anything. I have the power through Him to conquer sin in my life and pursue purity so I can be a worthy example for my flock to follow.
The pastorate is a noble task. But it is one to also be feared. If we do not fear for our own souls or the souls of our congregations we do not understand the sacredness and importance of our duty. But, if through the recognition of our own weakness we realize we can do nothing apart from Christ and everything through Him we will serve as the best of all ministers of the Gospel. We will be blood-bought and forgiven men, just as we year for all within our reach to also be. And we will be able to point people not to us or our success but through our failure and weakness to Jesus Christ and His success.
I pray that through the many years of Sundays I will be with Tunkhannock Baptist Church I will be able to say with Paul, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5), ESV.