This summer was my first summer being a lead pastor. In many ways I’ve felt prepared for the task because of my previous experience and education, but in so many other ways I’ve felt overwhelmed and unsure of myself. We’re in the middle of numerous opportunities as a church. The future is bright but the journey is long. So, when it came time to choose our first series together, I chose to study 1 Timothy.
Timothy was a young pastor like me who needed 1) encouragement to lead boldly and 2) instructions to lead wisely. Paul gives him both in the letter.
But 1 Timothy isn’t just a book for young pastors; it’s also a book for churches. Any church that wants to pursue health and maturity must consider 1 Timothy. Especially a young church like ours.
So, after a summer of being in 1 Timothy together and learning to navigate life as a young pastor, I thought it’d be helpful to reflect on some takeaways from the summer.
1. The church is God’s house // God lives with his people, and when the people of God gather locally, that’s the church. So, God lives in the church. The church is God’s house, his family, his home. God cares how the church conducts itself because people will form their opinion about him based on their experience with us. So, the church matters!
2. The church is a foundation of truth // The church ensures the message of Jesus does not collapse under the weight of false teaching. We proclaim, explain, and defend the faith passed down to us from the apostles. This means that the church is something ancient and enduring, just like our God.
3. The church is a pillar of truth // Ephesus was known for the temple of Artemis, which was famous for its beautiful marble pillars. To call the church a pillar of truth means that the church not only props up truth, but does it beautifully. We proclaim, explain, and defend truth… but we do it compellingly, remarkably, and irresistibly so that all people might come to love the one who is truth— Jesus.
4. Strong preaching builds strong churches // Throughout the letter, Timothy is commanded to ‘teach, charge, instruct’. If the church is going to be all it can be as God’s house, then people need to learn and live the truth. The primary way this happens is through preaching. Strong preaching is preaching that is 1) clear, so that people can understand it; 2) practical, so that people can apply it to their normal lives; and 3) faithful, so that people learn from the Bible what God says and how God has arranged for their redemption.
5. Praying keeps a church centered on the gospel // God wants everyone to be saved, so Paul wants everyone to be prayed for. When we intentionally pray for all kinds of people, our demeanor becomes one that’s quiet and peaceful. This enlarges our gospel witness and warms our heart to gospel priorities. I want to be a church that intentionally prays for all kinds of people. This is why every Sunday our church prays together for people all over the world.
6. The church is led by elders // Most problems arise because of poor leadership. God’s design for the church is to be led by elders ( or pastors / overseers) with tremendous character and competency. Elders are responsible for 1) living a godly life, 2) teaching people how to walk in the ways of Jesus, 3) loving people sacrificially, and 4) protecting the church from various dangers. One of our most important tasks in the months ahead is establishing a wise team of elders.
7. The church is served by deacons // Deacons are people of character called by God to do three basic things — 1) meet practical needs of the church, 2) promote the unity of the church, and 3) support the teaching work of the elders. They can go by different names, but the bottom line is — we need people who are willing to organize our efforts to sweep, mop, scrub, count, drive, setup, teardown, host and serve… all with a smile.
8. Church leaders are accountable to church members // When a church leader refuses to turn from sin, the church should remove the leader. Unhealthy leaders are unqualified and unable to lead the church to be a pillar and foundation of truth.
9. Faith is something beautiful to be pursued // We live in a time when it’s cool and admirable to deconstruct your faith. Asking questions and wrestling with doubts should be free and encouraged in the church; but the goal is to wrestle doubts, not embrace them. The goal is to have reasons for faith, not endless questions. There is a spiritual enemy who wants to deceive us into thinking that questions are cool and answers are arrogant, and his lies can shipwreck our faith. But the truth is — faith should be pursued and fought for, because it is through faith that we’re saved and experience life that is truly life.
10. The church should be strategic in how we serve // Some people argue we should get back to the ways of the early church, supposing that in the early church everything was “organic and grassroots”. There weren’t any programs, systems, or structures. Everybody met in homes and ‘just loved’ each other. The problem is, from the very beginning the church met corporately, was organized, and had ministry programs with structure to make sure people were cared for effectively. This is clear from Paul’s instructions to Timothy about widows. Therefore, we need to be strategic and purposeful in our mercy ministries.
11. Rich theology is grounded in Jesus // Throughout the letter, Paul drops these sticky statements about who Jesus is and what Jesus accomplished. He says that good Old Testament teaching helps us see our sin and see our need for Jesus, “who came into the world to save sinners”. He says God “desires for all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, for there’s one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all”. He says that Jesus was “manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up in glory”. He says that Jesus is the Savior of all, that is, those who believe. He says that Jesus will appear again to judge the world. Holding “the faith” and proclaiming “the truth” means knowing, trusting, and walking in the ways of Jesus.
We want to be a church who pursues health and maturity by keeping our eyes on Jesus!