Over the last two weeks we have reset our expectations on what it is to be God’s Men and Women. The slides we have used subtly point at the sort of understanding we are to have of church.
Like a chord wrapped up really tight, we are to understand how we are, in a sense to wrap around each other’s lives. We are intertwined with each other’s lives like strands and we are far stronger together as a chord than apart as separate strands. Today we turn from looking at the expectations of God’s men and women to look at the strand of that chord that is the first to be laid out.
It is the one strands that other strands get their direction from in order to form a chord. Ultimately these strands are knitted together by God himself, but it is this leading strand that is used to set the direction for the others to go.
God’s leaders are that strand. We have leaders that must set the direction for the rest of us to remind us of God’s plan for how we are to serve Him.
This leading strand tells us of God’s truths and in doing so reminds us of what it is that binds us together. And more than that, like a strand mixed up with all the other strands our leaders are among us, showing us what it means to live out faith.
Let us stop and pray now as we consider what our expectations of God’s leaders should be.
1. Guildford Anglican is a Family: Our Fathers are Leaders
1. Guildford Anglican is a Family: Our Fathers are Leaders
The last couple of weeks we have seen the roles of Men and Women in light of how the Bible presents them. We are to live alongside each other in complementary, loving ways. Not just husband and wife, but brother and sister, mother and father. In other words, the Bible, particularly in the NT, refer to the church as existing like a family. It might be odd to begin a leadership talk with having a chat about family, but that is just what church is - a family. Before talking about who God’s leaders are, we need to see who they are leading.
Now, the church is made up of what the Bible refers to as disciples. These are followers of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 12.46-50 Jesus has an interesting interaction involving these disciples.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Do you see what he did there? He changes, not only our understanding of what it is to be a disciple, Jesus reshapes our understanding of what a collection of disciples is. Here, Jesus refers to his disciples as his family. So following suit from Jesus, we at Guildford Anglican, a collection of followers of Jesus are a family.
We are one big family in Christ now. The whole 260 core members who have committed to church here is the biggest this church has perhaps ever been. And this church has adopted some brothers and sisters who are already believers but have joined us here at church. We have seen new both of life in the 4 or so baptisms just in January alone. We are a rapidly growing family of people of all ages.
As a family, Jesus bought us back into relationship with God and in doing so he taught us how to live in this family. He taught us to pray to our one true Father in heaven (Mt 6.9) and taught us that because we are now adopted into this heavenly family, our focus is not on this world, but the one to come - the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5.3). We are a family with a heavenly father and a heavenly home. This is who we are.
Paul picks up on the family language. 1 Tim 5.1-2 guides the church for older men to be treated as fathers, older women as mothers, younger men as brothers and younger women like sisters. Each one of us is a student and follower of Jesus, and by the gift of his death and resurrection for us we are bought into this new relationship with each other. We are welcomed into this family.
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
So in terms of leading this family, the Bible logically looks to father figures to do this. And of course, within the context of women’s ministry, we are happy to extend the analogy to mother figures. We just saw in 1 Tim 5.1-2 that sort of relationship is consistent with how Paul thinks of the church.
Now, every mention of Fathers in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean a leader of a church and not every leader is an actual Father, but there is enough overlap for the relationship to warrant some attention and to help us focus our reading as to what God’s leaders look like. We get a firm grasp of our identify as a family in Christ, with the biblical model of male leadership over that family, we are now in a position to see what it is these fathers do.
From Paul, particularly, we hear a lot of what God’s leaders are to look like. In 1 Corinthians 4.14-17 Paul highlights that Fathers are to be characterised by love, and our leaders are to lead the church by loving us. And this love is what causes others to follow and imitate the leader. For Paul he writes:
1 Cor 4.14-17
I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul became a Father through the Gospel. Paul get’s his direction from Jesus and bases his Fatherly habits from him because it is Jesus that is what binds this family together. Paul’s expression of leadership in love is based on the very love that enables him to lead - that is the love of Jesus.
The work of Jesus means that slave or free, Jew or Gentile, Lebanese, Sudanese, Chinese, Villawood-ese people are all adopted into this family. And all of those cultures each have a differing sets of expectations on what it is to be a Father. But what Paul tells us here is that these fathers are not shaped by any of those cultural norms, but are shaped by the sacrificial love of Jesus.
So how are our leaders meant to lead us in this love?
2. Leaders teach the Word of God
2. Leaders teach the Word of God
Point 2 - our leaders teach the word of God.
We should not appoint our leaders because they are older than us, or good cooks, or that they have a big enough house for Bible study, but because they can teach the Word of God.
In researching God’s leaders I found myself directed to Nehemiah chapter 8. Carson describes this as the first couple of bible conferences held in Nehemiah’s time. For us, we might think of this as something like our house party that we have coming up in October.
Nehemiah essentially is speaking to a generation who is unfamiliar with how it is they are to be living for God and Nehemiah begins chapter 8 with the first day of this great house party for the people of God. Day one goes like this.
Neh 8.8, 13
They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
So everyone came on day one of the house party and were taught from the Word of God, had it explained, then they all went home. But look what happens on day 2 in verse 13.
On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law.
Literally the text reads that the chiefs of the fathers of all the people, we called back on day two of this house party because they had a particular role to play in this family. And what was it they learns about? They came to study the words of the law.
There is a greater expectation that the Bible sets upon these leaders because they are to act like the Fathers of the children of God. They are to teach them the words of God which lead to eternal life. Teach these words that you may live, is what is said in Deut 4.1.
Later in Deuteronomy 17.18-20, Moses again commands the leaders to write, word for word, a copy of the law and it is to be read ‘all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God’. This dedication to the word was not meant just for his own learning, but Deut 17.20 so that he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel’. In other words, leaders teach the word so that their children might live with God. The head of our family the church serves us by teaching us what it means to bring glory to God and subsequently bring eternal life.
But how do we know that these words point to life? It’s all nice to say hey these words point to eternal life - but how can we be sure of this?
We have certainty that these words lead to life because all of these words point to Jesus. God promised that he would send a child of Eve to come and crush the head of the serpant, to defeat sin and death. He promised a servant-saviour-king. Then, Jesus came and fulfilled that role perfectly. Jesus promised new life for all those who trust that their sins have been paid for because after 3 days he defeated death itself by rising from the grave. Jesus’ resurrection to life points to the fact that all those who trust in Him will live in heaven with God forever. And here is the clincher - we know that these words point to eternal life because the one person who one eternal life for us uses them!
After his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples and said:
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Jesus himself said that every word points towards the message of hope and reconciliation found in the Gospel. Therefore, we are to have leaders that teach the whole Word of God. Who are sons of the risen Jesus and are willing to act as fathers of the spiritually young. Who love, and have compassion for and comfort us, not with empty words, but with words that remind us of the cross. With the words that Jesus himself told us that point towards Him. We have leaders who serve to ensure that their spiritual children, their brothers and sisters in Christ would know life.
3. Leaders live the Word of God
3. Leaders live the Word of God
Therefore our Fathers are to teach the whole word of God. But if we think about it, our sermons are only 25-30 minutes long. Bible studies last for maybe 2 hours. A one to one catch up is another hour. So if out of 168 hours in a week, we only spend 3-4 hours teaching the word of God, is this the only time our leaders lead? Point 3 - Leaders live the word of God.
If the word of God is meant to affect the way we live, and our leaders are meant to be teaching it, it needs to be head and heart knowledge. It needs to be lived out completely. That’s why Timothy gets this big list off of Paul in 1 Tim 3.1-14. Specifically, this is for bishops, rectors and deacons, but the principles are what we also expect of our leaders of other ministries. Paul tells him that anyone who aspires to being a leader is aspiring to a noble task and then details the picture of spiritual fathers we are to have. These leaders are to be above reproach, not married to more than one woman, level headed, self-controlled, prudent, respectable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not a bully. This is what a leader looks like. This is a picture of a leader who takes their holiness seriously.
As we look at this list here, all the ‘do nots’ lead to sinfulness don’t they. A lot of these are also echoed in Ephesians 5 as Paul again calls us to model our lives around Christ. He calls for us to put off the desires of the flesh and instead be filled with the spirit. Again in Galatians 5, before getting to the fruits of the Spirit, Paul lists off all these ‘acts of the flesh’ (sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcrafts, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, drunkenness etc’ because those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom.
That is what is at stake for our leaders living out the Gospel. Not only will they not inherit the kingdom of God, but they will lead others down that same path. This is why we need our leaders to take holiness very very seriously.
We don’t need leaders to show us how to be Australian. We don’t need leaders to show us how to be Togan, or Vietnamese, or Sudanese, or Persian, or in shape, or out of shape, to play guitar or do our hair. We don’t need leaders who fit into Guildford, we need leaders who show us what it looks like to live in Christ every day in Guildford. We need leaders that point direct us on how to keep together as one single chord in our love and service of God.
That is why Paul finishes 1 Tim 3.15-16 like this.
if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
Did you see that in verse 15, our household. If all else fails, Paul says - this is what you stand on. We are under one roof here and we have one Father in Heaven who sent his Son, who appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the spirit, seen by angels, preached among nations, believed in the world and taken up in glory. This is what our family is bonded by.
Hebrews 13.7-8 summarises our view of leaders like this.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
So, Are our leaders worth imitating? Do our bible study leaders, prayer leaders, mens and women’s leaders, music leaders, wardens, youth leaders, administrators, fathers, mothers, are they worth imitating? If we follow these people will we hear God’s word, see it live out, know Jesus and bring glory to God?
At Guildford our family has grown to such a size that our current leaders need significant encouragement in the faith and new ones who show potential need to be encouraged to step up and grow into roles. We need those who have been spiritual children in this family for a long while to realise that they are not the baby of the family anymore and they need to step up and be someone worth imitating. And they can only do that if they are strong in the faith. So let’s encourage those who lead now and those who we need to start leading to take their faith seriously. Take holiness seriously and actively put to death sin each and every day.
We want our family to be strong in the faith and we need good leaders to do it. Our family has grown at such a rate that people who were boys and girls yesterday are suddenly men and women today and they need to start thinking about leading others in the faith quickly. We have a big family now. And we have lots of spiritual babies who need the food of eternal life. We don’t need to tear down leaders, but build up the ones we have to reflect lives that love Jesus and identify new leaders who could imitate their lives.
This is a noble task. Will you pray with me?