The final three summaries we will cover this week of Paul’s final three letters encompass what is termed “The Pastoral Epistles.” Paul was imprisoned in Rome for about a two-year period and then released. Though the details of what followed are a bit sketchy, it is generally believed that Paul was relatively free to travel for about 4-5 years and visited a number of the established churches.
We wrote extensively and in great detail on the Pastoral Epistles previously here on our devotionals page. It was about a year ago that we preached a series on these two letters to Timothy and a single letter to Titus. The series was called “Nuts and Bolts” and can be searched under that title.
Timothy served in leadership in Ephesus, and Titus on the island of Crete, each being appointed by Paul to stay and help with the local church situation. Both had experiences in other places. We would not be entirely out of bounds to think of these young men that Paul had discipled as pastors in these churches, though the roles might be a bit different than what we think of as a pastor today.
Whether it be in 2017 or in about A.D. 66, leadership in a church is difficult. There is responsibility for a wide variety of personalities, all of whom are scattered across the sanctification spectrum from new believers, to longer-term disciples with more advanced knowledge of the Scriptures and Christian living. Every one of them remains a sinner, and though redeemed by grace they are all still housed in the flesh and blood container of a fallen creature in a fallen world. The church leader is one sheep called to be a shepherd of other sheep.
From the outside of a situation, leadership always looks easier than it actually is on the inside. I look at the Baltimore Orioles and wonder why in the world the management cannot see in players and strategies the wonderful things that I see so obviously! If only they would let me manage the team, surely they would win more games! And even though I actually do believe what I just wrote, I’ve known enough from my life experiences of leading many different entities that it is probably more difficult than it looks to me on the outside.
The same is true in a church. Pastors tend to be kind-hearted souls who want to bless others and make everyone happy. Rare is the pastor who does not hurt when any part of the flock is disappointed or critical about actions taken with 100% good and pure intentions. Being often gentle people, there is a tendency to not stand up strongly to those who let their fleshly exuberance and strong-willed opinions be expressed. Apparently Timothy was such a fellow as to shy away from intense interactions; and thus it is that Paul writes to encourage him toward strong and assertive leadership …
1 Timothy 4:11 – Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Leaders are going to fail and make judgment mistakes from time to time. The issues faced are often very difficult, and a personal sense of reward or fulfillment is slow to realize. In the heat of confusion and crises in the lives of people, it is easy to “mellow down” like Timothy. That is why support and prayer is so helpful from all in the church family.