Tomorrow's Shepherds Today - Community
Leadership and community go hand-in-hand. There are two areas of community that coincide with the leader. Area number one is the outside community. Paul says that the elder must “have a good testimony from those outside” the church (1 Timothy 3:7). There are two ways to look at this. Firstly, by behaving in that “holy” Christian manner, as to not give others cause to speak poorly. Secondly, by doing good in the community through helping those in need. It is one thing to just not give reason for bad testimony, and another to be involved in actions which will cause others to give a “good testimony.” Those “outside” would include friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and more. A shepherd is also called to be “hospitable” (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:8). Literally, he is to have a “love of strangers.” We often think of hospitality as simply opening up your home to friends and family (on a certain level it is), but it is so much more. All Christians are to “love your neighbor as yourself,” in which Jesus gives the example of the Samaritan helping the stranger who was in need (Luke 10:27-37). The elder should be the example of such love and hospitality. He should actively love all people. Interestingly, if one is showing hospitality, the natural result will be a good testimony from others. This is one of the main purposes of the church and its leaders, to impact and improve the world (Geiger and peck 3). While it might be harder to be personally known by many in a big city like Perth, its size is a positive when it comes to opportunities for community involvement/service. One possibility for development in his area could be to divide the men into two groups. Have each group engage in doing things in the community. It could be helping the homeless, those in poverty, the elderly, service projects (e.g. cleaning parks, beaches), and more. In addition, individual research could be conducted as to how outsiders view their hospitality. This could be done in an anonymous manner, in order to help ensure honest feedback. Once the information is gathered, the group can meet over a period of time and discuss ways to improve their hospitality and perception from those outside the church.
Area number two is the inside community of the home. For whatever reason (maybe because it is most tangible), this is perhaps the qualification which most churches look to first. There are three aspects of the home Paul addresses. First, he says the shepherd must be “the husband of one wife,” or literally, a “one-woman man” (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). Naturally, the elder is expected to be married according to God’s plan for marriage, just as any other Christian. The point here is that he is to be in a faithful monogamous relationship, having his heart belonging only to one. Second, he needs to be one who “manages his household well” (1 Timothy 3:4). Third, related to the second, he must have control over his children (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). Paul makes the case that if a man cannot manage his house and his children, he will not be able to effectively shepherd the church.
Training in the area of the home community would fall into two groups: those already married, and those who are not. For those who are already married, or perhaps engaged, emphasis and development in their marriage should be a priority. Many men find themselves “unqualified” to serve as elders because of a failed marriage. The congregation could do a marriage seminar (which the unmarried should attend as well), as well as a parenting seminar (Wayne and Tami Roberts do both). This would help both groups towards having a healthy marriage, but also understanding the consequences that a dissolved marriage can have. Married couples could read a book on marriage and a book on parenting once a year. As for the unmarried, on line with the comment quoted earlier from one of the young men, conscious “goals” should be set toward having the kind of godly relationship expected of the shepherd of God’s church. Classes could be taught on choosing the right spouse. While not foolproof, emphasis on marrying another Christian should be given. Also not foolproof, but certainly helpful, pre-marital counseling should be conducted for couples set to marry. This is extremely important for many reasons, but especially because a marriage which ends in divorce would jeopardize the potential for a man to be an elder. Mentorship from the older men and women in this area would certainly be beneficial.