Jump Start # 2670
1 Timothy 3:6 “and not a new convert, let he become conceited and fall into condemnation incurred by the devil.”
Our verse today is layered among what we commonly call the qualifications of an elder. The Holy Spirit uses the word “bishop” or “overseer” which refers to the same office and same group of leaders as elders. What is found here are the qualities and characteristics of the man who is able to do the job. This is not so much a job description but rather a description of the type of person who can do the job.
And, our verse today opens the door to a much larger thought and discussion. What happens when someone has made the wrong choice? Our verse warns about appointing someone too new in the faith. Without maturity and experience, the leadership role can become a power trip and rather than leading by influence and example, one forces by threats and fear. The wrong guy became a bishop. He should have never been appointed. He wasn’t ready and possibly, he may never be ready. And, things have gone downhill ever since he’s been chosen. It was a mistake.
This can also happen in marriage. After a few years, rather than getting better and better, the marriage becomes more and more strained and difficult. A person realizes that he made a mistake. He married someone that he shouldn’t have. The world has a simple and easy answer, get a divorce. But the child of God goes by a higher standard than his feelings. He must follow the law of God. God is very specific about divorce and when the reason isn’t there, it simply isn’t there. And, looking for a way out is looking the wrong direction.
What happens when the wrong choice has been made? What is one to do when there has been a mistake?
First, the damage, both with a congregation and in a marriage, can be severe. The wrong person leading can result in people dropping out, quitting or going elsewhere. Those that hang in suffer. Things are just not right when the wrong person leads. Rather than helping, people are hurt and injured. Tensions rise. Worship becomes difficult. And, in a marriage, the heated arguments, icy feelings and indifference to each other leads to living alone in different parts of the house. The kids sense the turmoil. Most often, things pile up, both in a congregation and in a marriage, until it reaches a boiling point. I saw some boiling points when at Yellowstone. Old Faithful blasts high into the air. It’s a beautiful sight when it is a geyser. But in a church it often leads to a split and in a marriage it often leads to separation. Doing nothing is not the right course of action. These situations will not improve on their own. They will not fix themselves.
Second, the solutions are hard. One cannot just “fire” an elder because he lacks leadership qualities. Our verse today actually reveals some problems associated with appointing the wrong person. He becomes conceited. Now he’s in and he’s certainly not stepping down without a real dog fight. His misunderstanding of what he is supposed to do causes more troubles. He views himself as a CEO of the church. He loves bossing people around and giving orders and running the place to his liking. He won’t step away from this.
The other shepherds need to talk with him face to face. It’s time for “come to Jesus” meeting about his attitude, example and the way he is treating people. This won’t be a nice conversation. Feeling his power is about to be taken away from him, he’ll fight tooth and nail and rally people to support him to stay in that role. I’ve seen this. It’s not pretty. And, after this conversation, one of the things that may have to happen is for all the other elders to step down. Biblically, one man alone, can not serve as an elder. It is a plurality. Without a plurality, there is no eldership. But this likely won’t settle things down. The man who should have never been appointed with campaign to try to get himself and anyone else reappointed. His actions show that he is not the humble servant of Christ. And, in some places, the man succeeds and he is once again back upon his little throne of power, crushing hearts and running the church as if it was all his.
In a marriage, a conversation must take place. Feelings must be put on the table. It’s time to consider counseling. And, this often is not well received. And, in a drastic manner, a person may have to leave for a very short time. But leaving always invites the devil in. Leaving can be the first step towards a divorce. The solutions are hard, especially when on side does not want to cooperate or listen.
Third, you continue to walk with the Lord and PRAY. You need God more than ever. You pray for that man who has no leadership qualities. You pray for that mate who is not on the same page with the Lord. You continue to worship. You continue to live as God wants you to. It is so easy when things are not right, for us to drop our responsibilities and commitment to Christ. We can leave grace, patience, forgiveness and love at the door and engage in heated arguments that are laced with threats, unkindness and shouting that only worsens the terrible situations. I have heard the stories of a preacher and an elder shouting at each other across the auditorium full of people on a Sunday morning. I’ve known people who walked out of worship because things were not going well. I know the stories of people spitting on the preacher as they walked out the door because they disagreed with him or doing mean things to others to get them to leave. I expect the Lord wasn’t pleased with those actions. Remaining true when others are not is valuable and shows the true character, heart and colors of a person. In difficult times, one must search the Scriptures for help. What does the Lord want him to do? Remember the example of Jesus. When He was reviled, He uttered no threats in return. You must continue to walk with the Lord.
Finally, you must get yourself to Heaven. If you cannot do that worshipping and being part of a congregation that is dysfunctionally led by incompetent elders, then you may have to find another congregation to worship with. Leaving is never easy. One should not leave just because they do not like things. If you do, you’ll spend the rest of your life leaving and leaving and leaving. It’s a matter of right and wrong, not like and dislike. It’s a matter of souls being strengthened or souls being ruined. It’s a matter of following what the Bible says or following someone who is acting like a dictator.
In a marriage, leaving isn’t an option. The situation is much more complicated and harder. One must dig in and try this and then try that to find a way that improves things. One must always look in the mirror as well. We often want others to change, without realizing that we can step up our game as well.
Backseat driving tells us that you should have never married that person, and, that guy should never have been appointed as an elder. And, there will be those who say that. Those words do not help, encourage or make matters any better. Everyone knows by this point that a mistake was made. Now, what to do with that mistake and how can one turn that around into something positive, godly and healthy. Lessons will be learned that ought to be shared with others. Don’t appoint someone too quickly. Don’t get married too fast. Take your time and look, observe and think things through. Look beyond the surface. Those are great thoughts on one side of the choice. But on the other side, it’s tough. And, often one must live with the choices, even the wrong ones, that they have made. Simply changing your mind doesn’t give you an easy door to exit through.
Making the most of a bad situation is often the only option one has, especially in a marriage. If this is you, you need encouragement. You need to be reminded of the right direction that you need to travel. Satan will tempt you with choices that are even worse. When we know others who are like this, we need to support right and help them. So often a person feels alone, embarrassed and unsure what to do. Strong preaching helps both a congregation and an individual when wrong choices have been made.
In a perfect world, we would never make a wrong choice. But this world is not perfect…