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Scott Allen September 12, 2016

Leadership Conversation – Married Only Once?

We are in the middle of a series on leadership…specifically a conversation about Elders and what it means to shepherd the flock that God has given you.   Today, we continue talking about the list of qualities that Paul uses to help his young ministers identify leaders within their congregations.  The list can be found in 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus.   What I find fascinating about these texts is that the list Paul uses is not necessarily a list of “Christian” Values.  Granted, there are two moments when Paul places God in the Mix and then one other moment when he tells Titus that the men need to have a firm grasp of the word, but other than that, the list reflects the Highest virtues in Hellenistic moral Philosophy.   What does that mean for us?  Well, in the most basic of terms, Paul was encouraging Timothy and Titus to begin by looking for men who exhibited the highest image of Morality.  So he uses High Moral descriptions.  But Even the most moral, may not necessarily be qualified to lead.  How can we tell?  By asking deeper questions. 

For example, the next quality on the list is simply this.  Must be Married only once.  Now, some people have spent time and energy on trying to parse this particular phrase.  conversations about context and Polygamy.  And although those are very interesting conversations, That is not where we are going to spend our time.  Instead, I want to focus on the deeper questions that this phrase begs us to ask.  Here are some, in no particular order.

  • Is this man committed to his wife?  Notice I didn’t use the word, “Stuck.”  I used the word Committed.  this type of commitment is more than obligation. It describes the desire that one person has to support the other.  Even if we found a man who had been married for 30 years, that doesn’t mean that he’s committed to his supporting his wife. 
  • Another question…Are they happy together? even though they’ve been married for 30 years, has it been 30 years of misery?  Do they enjoy being around each other?  does it show?
  • Another question could be this…Is this man’s faith actually working in the most intimate and intense of relationships?  Our marriage is place where our true emotions and attitudes are shown and shared.  In the midst of their marriage, is he still faithful?  Faithful to his promises?  His vows?  Being the spiritual leader of his familiy?  Does his faith help him keep his promises? 
  • Are they Partners?  Is the man lording over his wife and forcing her to do this or that for the sake of appearances or comfort?  Or do they work together.  Does he value her input and presence and wisdom?  If a husband cannot practice mutual submission and trust with his spouse, then how will he practice this within the Elder group or within the church body? 
  • It is careless to simplify this one phrase as simply, “not being divorced.”  Because even though a man has been married for 30 years, doesn’t mean he has 30 years experience being married.  He could only have 1 year of experience, 30 times.   the truth is, Eldering…Shepherding is difficult.  A strong marriage helps protect an elder from moral failure, provides needed support when he faces draining church challenges, and offers a powerful example to younger believers (1 Peter 5:3).
  • When it comes to shepherding God’s people, commitment matters.  mutual submission matters.  being committed to one another matters and for the elder, The marriage relationship is the crucible in which they are developed into the image of a caring and selfless leader. 

Who do you know that has kept their promises to their wife?  Who do you know that has a God centered marriage?  Maybe it’s time to lift them up in prayer.  Even if they may never serve as a shepherd, the world needs to see their love…their commitment and their faith working itself out through marriage.  This quality is not just about making sure the man doesn’t have a failure of a marriage…it’s about finding men who have made a life of succeeding within it.