Recently, I’ve been working reading Paul’s letters to Timothy. You can see what I have been working through by clicking “Devotional” under “Categories” to the right.
Let me pose a question for believers everywhere to consider. Is it possible that godly leadership development within the Body of Messiah could lead to good governance in the world?
Traveling through Asia Minor, Paul discovered in Timothy a godly young man. Impressed with his mother and grandmother, Paul saw in him a potential spiritual giant (Acts 16:1-3). Taking him under his wing, Paul invested his life in Timothy as they traveled together ministering to others. Over time, the evidence of Timothy’s spiritual gifting was displayed.
Acts 19:1-20 records that Paul served the Church in Ephesus for two years. From there, all of Asia Minor was exposed to the Gospel through his teaching. Ephesus was at the intersection of ancient crossroads in the 1st Century A.D. It had a huge harbor from which goods and people traveled throughout the Roman empire. The Temple of Artemis collected vast sums of money from the patrons who came there from all over the Roman Empire to worship. The funds collected were loaned out to borrowers… individuals, institutions, and governments. In essence, the Temple of Artemis was the 1st Bank of Ephesus, the largest bank in the world. However, it wasn’t too big to fail, and that it did!
Because Ephesus was such an important center for trade, culture, and religious thought, it is only natural that the new community of believers in Messiah Jesus would use this city to establish a beachhead in the pagan world. To provide biblical instruction and leadership, Paul charged Timothy with shepherding the local body of believers in Ephesus (1 Timothy1:3).
I’ve been struck by Paul’s solemn charge to his young disciple in both 1st & 2nd Timothy to be a great example of godly leadership, both to the local body of believers in Ephesus and also to the secular community at large. In 2nd Timothy 2:2, Timothy was instructed to stand firm and strong by identifying men of similar character in the local assembly. He was to pass on to them what Paul had taught him. His reasoning was that as Timothy established other leaders within the Body of Messiah they would be a positive witness in the world around them. It appears to me that Paul was saying to Timothy, “If you train up leaders properly, who govern the local assembly well, the unbelieving Ephesians will take notice of it. Some will come to follow Messiah as well.”
Paul’s instruction to Timothy presents an interesting question that should be considered. When the world looks at the Church, does it see the kind of leadership and governance Paul was training Timothy to provide? Maybe, just maybe, we as believers in Messiah Jesus should take a step back and have a long look in the mirror. Is it possible that we have contributed to the dysfunctionality of civil government at city, state, and national levels all around the world?
Let me be blunt. The lack of doctrinal unity in the Body of Messiah gets in the way of our witness in the world. God instituted human governance with the unconditional (and still operational) Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9:1-11. Throughout HIStory, God had used governments to further His divine purpose, that of glorifying Himself. It has always been His desire that His people, those called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28), would be an example to those that are not His people. This extends to the way that we submit to authority, including within the local church.
There is no way around this. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-11. Where is the kind of humble, selfless attitude that Paul demonstrated seen today? One of the reasons godless leadership pervades our government institutions today is that Paul’s example of godly leadership is so seldom seen in the local church, particularly here in the West. This is why it is essential for believers to remain connected and involved in a local assembly, submitted as much as is possible to the leadership that is in place.
I know that many believers in Messiah Jesus are frustrated by their inability to find a local assembly where sound doctrine is taught and practiced. But, in their frustration, they have taken the path of least resistance. Many have simply “checked out”. They refuse to be accountable to any spiritual authority in any demonstrable manner. Without the potential for Proverbs 27:17 interaction within the local assembly, no one grows. Everyone becomes more set in their ways. A lot of believers who find themselves in this situation genuinely love the Lord. But they get caught up in unproductive behaviors. They become counter productive to the furtherance of the Gospel and the building of the Body of Messiah. They refuse to engage in relational disciple making activity right where they could be the most productive, in the local church.
Believers who should be bound by our common cause leave the center of the boxing and head for their respective opposite corners. Instead of working things out in a biblically productive manner, combatants who should act like brothers shout at the audience about the wrongness of their adversary. Is it any wonder then that the world has stopped watching and listening to us? In some ways we are to blame. This has happened because our own actions have invalidated what we say. By the way, this starts with doctrine. If we can’t even figure out what the Scriptures say and mean as a unified body, how will we ever provide a model for leadership in the world?
Maybe the governments we have are the result of our own problems. Paul understood these things. He taught them to Timothy. Timothy taught those that God entrusted to him. Where in the world is that kind of developmental leadership model in evidence today?