I Timothy 3:1-10
Who Are We as a Church? “Praying Hopefully”
3rd Sunday in Lent, 02/28/2016
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Heavenly Father, on this 3rd Sunday in the season leading up to Resurrection Sunday – the day we celebrate Christ’s victory over death – we confess our own self-centered agendas. As we enter into this season of special attention to our own wanderings from Your Word, our wayward walk-aways from Your path, our seemingly perpetual propensity for sin and self-centered decisions – help us, as Your Church, Your people, to move closer to what You want for us. Draw us closer to our Lord and Savior, in His name we pray, Amen.
5 or 6 weeks ago we had a training day for our new church officers, our new deacons and elders. We should probably invite all deacons and elders, not just the new ones, and even any church members who might wish to come and learn something deeper about how God’s Church gets things done. But we didn’t do that, we only invited our brand new deacons and elders
One of the reasons we offer this training session is simply to remove some of the shock that comes with being called into positions of leadership. Even with this one-time session I always warn our new church officers that most of their training will be “on-the-job”.
That was certainly true for me. I went to four years of undergrad school and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies, and then I invested three more academic years in full-time study to become “qualified”, declared “ready”, to “receive a call into ordained ministry”.
But there really is no way to prepare someone for the sometimes 60- or 80-hour work weeks, the occasional month with no days off, the middle-of-the-night phone calls, or all-night vigils in the hospital, or the 24-hour period that includes joy-filled new babies being born, graduations, wedding announcements, and fatal car accidents, terminal diagnoses and news of marital infidelity. I have had just such a day!
This is why, at least in part, Paul counsels Christ-following disciples to pray for their leaders. “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O lord, standing in the need of prayer!”
This Lent Season we have talked about how we honor our differences – I Corinthians 12 illustrates this with the “Body of Christ” image; about what the Bible says about the Church being in unity – John 17 gives us Jesus’ prayer for His Church being in unity; and about how we are called into humble service together – Philippians 2:5-11 tells us to be of the same mind of Christ who humbly gave up His place in heaven to die on the cross for us. That’s the question we are dealing with over this Season of Lent. Who Are We as the Church? Today we look at our role as people of prayer – for our church leaders. This week’s lesson is about praying hopefully – not just hopefully praying, but praying filled with hope, hope–fully!
Let’s listen to the Word of God written from the Apostle Paul to his more youthful church leader Timothy in the Turkish city of Ephesus, from I Timothy 3:1-10…. —-
“1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.”
Before we get off to a wrong start, let me share why we are reading this together. If you are thinking, “I’m not an overseer (a bishop [episkopas] or a pastor; I’m not an elder or a deacon, or at least not serving as one right now, so why do I care what this says?” Here’s your answer: this applies to every one of us because in the chapter immediately preceding this one, Paul tells Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
This is why we need to pray for our leaders!
Two Sundays ago we ordained and installed four new officers. On Sunday immediately after worship one of these new elders asked me about the process of getting a key and a secret code for the security system – Mark is the new Buildings and Grounds Elder; I told him that we’d get that taken care sometime in the next week or so. That very afternoon a window got broken in the kitchen, and we learned about that on Monday morning, a national holiday, when Vern came in to clean up. So I called Mark; he came in that afternoon, got a key and password, and by the next day he had that window secured.
Ordained one day, called in for an emergency the next day – a holiday, and made things secure the next day. Welcome to ordained leadership, Mark.
My first year as a solo-pastor, there were some weeks when we had three funerals! I started toward the end of November and by Christmas I had already officiated at 3 funerals! There had been NO funerals or deaths in the previous three years combined! Welcome to ordained ministry!
In our training day we looked at this passage in I Timothy. And we asked “exactly how ‘pure’, how ‘above reproach’” must a church leader be? Because Paul also says that “all of sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. So, if “all fall short of God’s standard of glory”, then who is worthy enough to be called into leadership?
Pray for our church leaders. Pray for my preaching, And not just, “O Lord, how much longer?”-kind-of-prayers – pray for my time of preparation, for my ability to properly interpret, for my time of study and devotion to be undisturbed, for my articulation of Gospel truths – and for each other’s and our own abilities to receive what God may me saying through me into this church’s lives.
Pray for our families. Notice how much time Paul spends talking about our married lives, our children, our stability and our safety and our devotion. Join Paul in praying for our deacons and elders and pastors.
Pray for our protection – protection from temptation, from cruelty (attacks from both outside the church and from within), from self-doubt and from small faith and small vision.
Pray for our physical and mental health – for good nights’ sleep, for a chance to play and exercise, for joy and hope and encouragement. Pray for our deacons to have attitudes of sincere service and hospitality, for our elders to be focused on following Jesus, for our pastors to devote ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
Two weeks ago, at the monthly LPC Breakfast Club gathering, one of our new deacons led our morning devotions and included this page of advice/counsel. Listen carefully. It’s entitled Four Ways to Get Rid of Your Pastor:
- Say “Amen” once in a while, and he’ll preach himself to death.
- Encourage him and speak well of his work, and he’ll probably work himself to death.
- Offer to help out with the ministry and ask for the name of someone with whom you might share the Gospel – your pastor just might die of heart failure.
- Get the church to unite in prayer for the preacher, and he’ll soon become so effective that a larger church will take him off your hands.
Each week during this Lenten Season our Sermon Notes Page has included a pledge for us to read, sign, and tear out, and use to remind us of our responsibilities as members of a church that wants to live like we believe what we say we believe.
Last week someone told me that she has been using the pledges, but she confessed that they are harder than she anticipated. Jennifer and I went to an event with stand-up comedians and one said something about why we make vows when we get married. It’s because staying married can be hard work. That’s the point of a vow or a pledge. No one has to make a vow about eating sugar. We might make one about avoiding sugar.
Our fourth Church Member Pledge – this is not just for those who are actually on the roles of this particular church, but this is for any who claim to be followers of Jesus and saved by grace through faith – our fourth Church Member Pledge that we invite you to read, sign and tear from your bulletins so you can use it as a Bible bookmark, hang it on your prayer-closet wall, or attach it to your desk calendar, reads as follows:
“Paul instructed his younger disciple, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (I Tim 2:1-2)
I will pray for my church leaders (Deacons, Elders, staff, Pastors) every day. I understand that their work is never truly done; their days are filled with numerous demands that bring emotional highs and lows. They deal with critics. They have families. I will pray for God’s power and presence to guide them daily.”
Read – sign – tear from your bulletins.
Let’s be the Church of Jesus Christ – may we start praying hopefully – well – to the glory of God. Amen.
deHaan, Richard W.; Your Pastor and You; http://www.rayfowler.org/2007/06/08/four-ways-to-get-rid-of-your-pastor/.
Nyquist, J. Paul & Carson Nyquist; The Post-Church Christian; Moody; Chicago, IL; 2013.
Rainer, Thom S.; I Am a Church Member; B&H Pub. Grp.; Nashville, TN; 2013; Pp. 33-42.