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What are the qualifications for leadership in the church? In week 5 of our series, FOCUS: A Study in 1 Timothy, David Leventhal teaches through 1 Timothy 3:1-13, showing us when God describes a leader, he prioritizes character over anything else. God is setting a standard for leadership that he desires every believer to aspire to.
FOCUS: Values for the Family of God
FOCUS: Protecting the Church
FOCUS: The Mission and Message of the Church
FOCUS: Church Leadership
Focus: Men and Women in the Local Church
Focus: Sinners and Saints Like Us
Focus: Sound Doctrine
What are the qualifications for leadership in the church? In week 5 of our series, FOCUS: A Study in 1 Timothy, David Leventhal teaches through 1 Timothy 3:1-13, showing us when God describes a leader, he prioritizes character over anything else. God is setting a standard for leadership that he desires every believer to aspire to.
So far in 1 Timothy, we’ve learned that false teachers have always been in the church and that doctrine and discernment keep us from being deluded by them. We learned that God’s mercy and grace should change our vision and response to what’s happening in the world around us and that God calls his church to be a people who prioritize prayer. Lastly, we heard about God’s heart to unleash women in the local church.
Well, good morning, Watermark! Let me start by first addressing the elephant in the room. Why am I on video and not with you in person? That's a great question. The reason I'm on video is because I found out a couple of hours ago that the elder team… We spend a lot of time together. We found out that we had been, collectively, exposed to a gentleman who tested positive for COVID.
So out of the abundance of caution, we decided to film the message that we're going to be doing. It's about 10:45 Saturday night, and we're rolling tape. So that's why you're seeing me via video and not in person. In a little bit, as part of what we're going to do today, I'm going to have Kyle Thompson and Beau Fournet, who are on the elder team with me, join me up on this lovely couch and chair.
Just to let you guys know, we have all been collectively exposed together, which is why we're going to be less than six feet apart from one another. So that's that. Now how are we all feeling now that we have made it past this election? We survived the election. I don't know about you guys, but my guess is if I were to ask you, "How is everybody feeling post-election?" my hunch is that there are a lot of us who still don't feel great about, not only the election, but just the way everything moving into the election went down: all the division, the anxiety, and the stress.
I think it's helpful to acknowledge that a major reason why we felt that way as a country is because of poor leadership. Because, frankly, we have a political system that values certain qualities and characteristics that often don't lead to blessing. So when you have poor leadership, the people suffer. Poor leadership is a really big deal, but it's not just a big deal for our country.
It's a big deal for the church. I think it's fair to say that the decline of the Western church, the decline of the effectiveness of God's church in the West has been largely due to poor leadership, to ungodly leadership, to leaders who serve self and who value the wrong things. Today as we jump back into our 1 Timothy series, we're going to look at what God's heart is for leadership in the local church.
I want you to hear me. This is a really big deal. I think many of you know, I have seven children, and four of those children are daughters, ages 16, 14, 12, and 4. As I think about my daughters, particularly my 16-year-old, it's not hard for me to envision a day when there may be a guy who comes into her life who wants to ask her to be his bride.
As an earthly father, I think about that. I want you to know. I have some opinions on what that guy needs to look like. I have standards. I have expectations. I have a belief system that informs how I think about my daughters becoming brides. Here's the truth. The church is called the bride of Christ. Jesus is the groom, and the bride is his church.
When Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Spirit to come indwell his people to be salt and light on the earth, God has said, "Hey, while Jesus is away, before he comes back for his return, God is going to have certain folks leading his bride." If I, as a finite father, have a perspective on what I think a guy should be who is going to lead my daughter, do you think God has an opinion on what kind of a person he wants leading his church? He does.
God has standards, he has expectations, and he takes those standards very seriously. The reason he takes it so seriously is because the church is made up of his children. God knows that the leadership of the church will affect your spiritual life. Not just your life, but the life of every single individual who yokes himself or herself to Jesus and is a part of the local church.
We've all seen that godly leaders can be a blessing that can bring life, but ungodly leaders are not a blessing. They're a curse. Godly leaders bring peace. Ungodly leaders bring chaos. The hard reality is that if we get this wrong, you suffer. So this is a big deal, what we're going to be talking about this morning. This matters significantly.
Now it's been about a month since we were last in 1 Timothy because we took the last four weeks to do our God and government series, so let me just remind you, since it's been a month, about 1 Timothy. You'll remember that 1 Timothy was a letter written by Paul to Timothy. Timothy was Paul's representative at the church in Ephesus.
Paul's letter was sent to Timothy to remind him of how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church. The reason Paul needed to write this letter to Timothy was because the church in Ephesus was beset with false teachers. It had men who were leading poorly. It had some women who were not behaving well within the church.
That's why Paul felt compelled to pen this letter to his buddy Timothy. In the first four weeks of the series, we have covered all of chapter 1 and all of chapter 2. You'll remember in week one, just to jog your memory… In week one of the series, I shared that false teachers have always been in the church. I helped us focus on the fact that sound doctrine and discernment keep us from being diluted by them.
In week two, Bruce Kendrick helped us focus on how God's mercy and grace changes our vision and our response to what's happening in the world around us. In week three, David Marvin came up and shared with us. He helped us focus on the fact that God calls his church to be a people who prioritize prayer. Then in week four of the series, I tried to help us focus on God's perspective on roles within the local church and how God wants to unleash the women in the local church.
Hopefully that rings a bell for you guys. Are you jogging your memory? So as we pick back up for week five, I want to help us focus on God's heart for leadership in the local church. So what I'd like to do is I'm going to read the passage. I want to make a couple of observations and share some takeaways.
Then I'm going to invite two of the men who serve on the elder team with me to come up here. We're going to talk about some frequently asked questions that we get around here at Watermark. Okay? So with that introduction, if you have your Bibles, turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 3. We're going to be reading verses 1 to 13. Here we go.
"The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.
Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus."
As we jump into this, I want to start by making two opening comments. First, I just want to take a moment and acknowledge what is some insecurity in my heart. As an elder at this church, as I prepare to teach on God's qualifications for leadership… Because here is the reality. There are a lot of you here in this room who don't know me outside of this Sunday morning context.
If I'm being honest, you're usually seeing me at my best: when I have prepared, when I prayed, and when I have done my best to not snap at my wife on my way out the door Sunday morning. So you're seeing me at my best. There are a lot of folks in this room who have known me for a long time, some of them decades.
You've seen the inconsistencies in my life. You've seen me struggle with what I'm about to share with you are the character qualities that God describes for leadership. You've seen moments where I've been quarrelsome, where I've escalated with those I work with, where I've been sharp and critical toward my wife or overreacted at my kiddos.
There have been times where I've failed to exercise self-control in my eating, my thought life, and other areas of my life. There have been times where I've not been hospitable because, frankly, I just want to be left alone sometimes. I just want to acknowledge that there's a bit of insecurity in me as I recognize the inadequacies.
Because these verses, they don't describe somebody who is doing all of these things perfectly. There has only been one man who has ever walked the planet who has done these things perfectly, and he is the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us are in process. I know that there are moments in my life when the trajectory has not looked great. I just think it would be helpful for me to share that with you this morning.
The second thing I want to acknowledge is as we dive into the details of this passage, let me remind you that what we're going to see are qualities that God produces in your life. These are not things you can muster. You can't white-knuckle these qualities. As we spend time with Jesus Christ and in his Word and with his people, we're going to find that our hearts are transformed, and these qualities will increase in our lives.
In other words, these qualities are outputs. They're not inputs. So you ought to really resist the temptation this morning if you hear something, or if you hear something you think is more applicable to the person you came with, to not feel like, "I just need to work harder at that. I need to try harder." That's not what God has for you.
I just want to remind you before we dive into the details. So that said, let me read through the passage again, and just make some observations as we go. Verse 1: "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task." The task is noble, not the desiring of the task. The task of an overseer, the responsibility of an overseer, is a noble, worthwhile task.
I just really quickly want to point out again. Paul uses the term overseer in this part of 1 Timothy. He is going to use the term elder later on in the letter. Those two terms describe the same office. You see that throughout your New Testament. So when I say overseer, if sometimes this morning I say elder, you just need to know those are the same role biblically.
"Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…" The therefore… Because the task is noble, therefore, the men who hold that office need to have a certain quality about their lives so that they don't dishonor the task. They must be above reproach.
Look, I don't know about you guys, but above reproach is not normally in my vocabulary. That just simply refers to the inward and the outward conduct of a man such that there are no grounds for accusations or criticisms. That's what above reproach means. It means that his character can withstand assaults from within the church and from outside the church.
"…the husband of one wife…" This is probably the most hotly debated clause in this whole passage. Here's what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that an overseer has to be married. We would gladly welcome the Lord Jesus Christ as an elder at this church. We would be thrilled if the apostle Paul wanted to serve as an elder at this church, and those men weren't married.
What I think God is concerned about is fidelity in marriage in a way that is pleasing and acceptable for him and before the watching world. The overseer needs to be a man who is committed to his wife in a way that aligns with God's heart for marriage. He needs to be able to teach. Note this is the only thing in either list that refers to any kind of a competency or a skill, able to teach.
Paul is not necessarily referring to teaching in this context, in a one-to-many context, although that could be a part of it. He is saying that an overseer needs to be able to open the Word of God and explain it to people, especially in a world as in Ephesus where there were false teachers. There are false teachers in the world today. So an overseer needs to be able to open God's Word and teach it and explain it.
"…not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?"
As Paul talks about the household, he is making a bridge between the home and the church. He is saying, "Listen, if a guy can't steward and lead his home, he should have no business trying to do that at the church. There shouldn't be a disconnect between his home life and the way he leads outside. There's a direct correlation. This reminded me, as I was preparing. When Missy and I first got married back in September of 1998, 22 years ago, I was taking third-semester Greek at Dallas Seminary.
We were living in Denton. So I was working Dallas and going to school in Dallas a couple of nights a week. So right out of the gate in our marriage, within the first month, I'm spending a couple of nights a week late down at Dallas Seminary trying to survive third-semester Greek, coming home late.
On those nights when I wasn't in class, I was staying up late just to keep my head above water. My sweet, newlywed bride was finding herself crying herself to sleep trying to figure out, "Why doesn't my husband want to go to bed with me? Why doesn't he want to be in the same room with me to go to bed?"
That's what newlyweds do, and yet I have my dumb Greek textbook out there. It occurred to me, "Hey this is not a great start to the marriage," as I realized how I was discouraging my wife. So I called my academic advisor at the seminary. I said, "Listen, I don't need three options. I need you to tell me as a young 20-something, what should I do? Here's the situation I'm in."
Dr. Lanier Burns said to me, "Hey Lev, you need to drop third-semester Greek. If you don't have a marriage, you don't have a ministry. The seminary… Third-semester Greek will be here. You focus on loving your bride and being all that God has called you to be as a husband." So I dropped third-semester Greek, and I began to love my wife in a way that brought her life and encouragement.
So men, part of leading our household means being present. It means we show up. It means we teach. It means we disciple our kids. It means we discipline them out of love when we need to. It means we live with our wives in an understanding way. That's what it means to manage your own household well. By the way, I am still waiting to take third-semester Greek.
"…keeping his children submissive…" Does this mean that all the children of an overseer need to be believers? The answer is, of course not, because that's not something we do. That's a work of God. If God does not touch the hearts of my children, then they will never come to faith. So I pray. I do all that I can to lead them to the throne, to lead them to Jesus' feet. Then I trust God to do the work there.
What this does mean is if my kids decide to go their own way, they'd better not be able to say, "I don't believe in this Jesus because I've seen the hypocritical life my dad lives and the hypocritical life that I see from my mom. They were abusive emotionally. They weren't present. They were absent. So yeah, I don't want to follow that Jesus, because if that's what he produces, I don't want any part of it." That would be problematic.
But if that child says, "Listen, I don't much want to follow Jesus, not because of my dad. My dad was a great guy. He was present, but just because I want to go do my own thing." That's what I think Paul is talking about in this keeping children submissive. Verse 6: "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil."
So we should take time before we put somebody in a position of leadership. We shouldn't rush that. Spiritual growth takes time, measured in months and years, not days and weeks. "Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." Paul ends this section on overseers a lot like he started it.
So if needs to be above reproach is an umbrella statement, needs to be well thought of by outsiders is a broad statement. We've talked about this in week one that the way the church met, gathered, it was open for outsiders. Jesus is very concerned that his bride represent him well. So he wants to make sure that leadership in the church is well thought of by outsiders. They're not poorly thought of because of poor conduct. That's what's going on here.
That's what Paul talks about overseers, but then he keeps going. He talks about deacons. He starts this other section in verse 8. "Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain." When we use the term deacon, a deacon is a guy or a gal who helps care for the day-to-day needs of the church.
This comes out of Acts 6. That is where we think the model for the deacon came from, when they had some men who helped care for the widows in the early church. It says that they must be dignified. So these men who play a complementary role to the elders and the overseers, these men and women as a complementary role, they need to be dignified.
Just like above reproach is a blanket statement, an umbrella statement, must be dignified is the same kind of way. All the other qualities kind of fit underneath that. Their outward lives must reflect the inward transformation of Christ. "They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things."
So this translation of this verse actually varies. What you're reading may say what I just read. You may have a Bible that reads, "Women likewise must be dignified…" So it's either "Their wives likewise must be dignified…" or "Women likewise must be dignified…" The difference in the translation reflects an answer to the question, "Can a woman be a deacon or deaconess?"
Based on Scripture, Romans 16 talks about a woman named Phoebe who appeared to serve as a deaconess in the church of Cenchreae and other nerdy textual things, I would say that I think the right answer is that yes, women can serve in the role of deacons. Because they can, they need to be likewise dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate and faithful in all things.
Verse 12. "Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well." Just like an overseer, a deacon needs to demonstrate being faithful at home prior to stepping into a leadership role at the church. "For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus." We've walked through the passage. Let me zoom out my lens a little bit and give you two takeaways from these verses.
1 . When God describes a leader, he prioritizes character over anything else. These lists are character-focused. They're not focused on competencies or how much cash is in somebody's bank account or someone's charisma. This is not a list of what kind of skills a person needs to have. This is a list of what kind of heart a person needs to have.
Let me say that again. This is really important. This is not a list of what kind of skills a person needs to have. This is a list of what kind of a heart a person needs to have. Too often in the church, we operate like the world. We elevate those who have the most money, or are the most charismatic, or the most gifted, or are the best looking (clearly not in my case).
We value things that the Lord does not value. We do so to our great detriment. One of the things I like to do is I like to teach Bible using Scripture. I want to show you from somewhere else in Scripture what this looks like. So if you go to 1 Samuel 15 and 16, you see where King Saul, who is the first king of Israel, is rejected by God because he wasn't obedient.
If you go back to 1 Samuel early, you see how Saul was chosen. It says he was from a wealthy family. He was super tall. All the things about Saul that are mentioned in terms of his leadership are all irrelevant to what God values. So God rejected Saul because he wasn't obedient. He is going to send his guy Samuel to go anoint the new king. We see this play out in 1 Samuel 16. Samuel is sent by God to a guy named Jesse. Jesse has some sons. God is telling Samuel, "The next king is going to be found within this family." So it says,
"When they [Jesse and Samuel] came, he looked on Eliab and thought, 'Surely the LORD's anointed is before him.' But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.' Then Jesse called Abinadab…" His next son. God says, "Nope." Jesse brings all of his sons, one at a time, and God says, "No, no, no, no."
Samuel is like, "Well, I don't understand. Are these all your kids?" Jesse says, "Well, no. We have this one young kid. He is out in the field. He is keeping watch over the sheep. He is our youngest." I mean, of course it wouldn't be this guy. Samuel says, "We're going to wait until he comes." Wouldn't you know it?
The kid who is tending the sheep in the field, the youngest, is the guy who God puts his hand on because God does not see the way man sees. God looks at the heart. Man focuses on the outward appearance. It is critical that within the church, we value the things that God values. Over and over again in Scripture, God desires a heart that is fully turned toward him.
Can I just say, as gently as I can, as I look around our body, sometimes I get concerned because I see some of us valuing things that God doesn't value. I see guys valuing things as they're looking to date. I see them valuing the wrong things. Can I just meddle for a moment here? Three of my daughters are in small groups that are led by, many of them, single, godly women.
I want you guys to know. I don't understand. When I look around at the single, godly women at this church, I don't understand what you single men are doing. I don't get it. Part of it makes me wonder, are you guys valuing the wrong thing in women? I would just say gently, put your Xbox controller down, pick your head up, and go ask some of these godly women on dates. Okay, off my pedestal.
I see some of the ways we think about and evaluate what we want our spouses to become. I see the way we value or prioritize our kids' schedules and our activities. It makes me wonder, are we focusing on or valuing the wrong things for our kids? I see the types of people who we want to be in community with.
Sometimes I wonder, man, I think you're valuing the wrong thing. If you are asking these questions… If you're not starting from, "What is the character of this person?" then you might be prioritizing the wrong thing. Because when God describes a leader, he prioritizes character over anything else.
2 . What God requires for leaders, he desires for every believer. What God requires from his leadership within the church, he desires for every believer. The character qualities we need to see in our leaders within the church are the same character qualities that the Lord wants to produce in you. Colossians 1, Paul writes to the church, not to the leaders, but to the church.
"And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order…" Why did Jesus do that? "…in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…" So what God requires of his leaders, he desires of everybody. There's good news. The fact is we're all on a spiritual journey.
We're at different places. God wants to produces these qualities in you. The more you spend time with Jesus, the more he is going to produce change. The more you abide with Jesus, you're going to find an increase of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control.
I could read dozens more passages that lead to the same point. What God requires for leaders, he desires for every believer. This change, as I mentioned earlier, does not come about as you white-knuckle it. You don't need to try harder. You don't need to add more to your plate. You need to raise your hand and admit, "I can't do this. I need to stay by Jesus' side."
This is what Jesus meant in John 15. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." Again, we don't use the term abide much, but that just means you're staying close to Jesus. You're remaining with Jesus. So when Jesus says, "Abide in me," He is saying, "Stay with me."
The way we have these character qualities in abundance is to have our heart transformed. The way that we have our heart transformed by the love and the kindness of God is by being with Jesus. The best way to prepare yourself for spiritual leadership is to spend time with Jesus, so when God describes a leader, he prioritizes character over anything else, not their skill set, not their bank account, not their charisma. What God requires of leaders, he desires for all his believers. He wants us all to be holy and blameless and above reproach before him.
Now what I want to do, I want to invite my friends up, Kyle and Beau. These are two of the men who serve with me on the elder team. We know that there are a lot of folks in our body who don't know us and have not been members of Watermark very long. We get questions asked to us, honestly, rather frequently. So we thought it'd be helpful to answer some of these questions together. So really quickly, why don't you guys introduce yourself and share how long you've been on the elder team?
Beau Fournet: Absolutely. My name is Beau Fournet, and I've had the privilege of serving on the elder team for the last seven years.
Kyle Thompson: My name is Kyle Thompson. My wife and I were in the first membership class. I had the joy of serving as an elder for 16 years and rolled off about three years ago. Then I got to jump back in two months ago.
David: Awesome. Well, as I mentioned earlier, we get a lot of questions. I thought we would use this time to help answer them. Kyle, why don't we start with you? What does the elder team do? How do we prioritize the tasks or the things that are coming at us? How much time…? I mentioned earlier that we spend a lot of time together. How much time do we spend together?
Kyle: Well, as I think about that question, I first want to give context to really our role in life regardless of our positional role. It really touches on some of the things you mentioned earlier, David. We know from Scripture, Matthew 22, that my first priority in everything is to constantly be abiding and deepening in intimacy with Christ.
Then second to that is that I love the people who God brings across my path. We know from Mark 10, that in every leadership position that I have, my focus is really to serve and to care for and love the people who I'm responsible for leading. Because of that, we spend significant time every week making sure that we do four things.
First, our relationship with Christ. It's our devotion to Christ. Making sure that we're walking through life in ways that are informed by Scripture. That God has our hearts. That he is growing and convicting us as we walk by the Spirit. Secondly, because we're all married, that we are loving and serving our wives so that we can have the marriages that God really desires and intends for us.
Thirdly, that we love our kids. For me, my grandkids, that we pray for them, that we encourage them, and that we're investing time in those relationships. Fourthly, our mutual submission as we shepherd each other. So you heard David mention that we spend a lot of time together. We do, because we're constantly encouraging, sharpening. We're learning from each other how God is growing and convicting us. It's critical because we have to walk in unity of the Spirit. So there needs to be a depth of relationship and trust for us just as we get to lead together.
So as we're all doing that, then we each individually every week have opportunities to jump in and spend time with our staff and with our volunteer leaders so that we're caring for them and caring for the needs of the ministry. Then because we really shepherd our body through our Community Groups, then every week, we get detailed updates from our community team on individual groups that allow us to pray for them in more informed ways. It allows us to celebrate the health and growth of our groups.
It allows us to give counsel when we see that there are Community Groups that are struggling or hurting. From time to time, we will jump in if the situation dictates that we need to be directly involved. Then, lastly, as I said, we spend a lot of time together just praying for our members, for our leaders, and for each other. So it's not uncommon for all of that to add up to over 15 to 20 hours a week.
David: Awesome. Thanks, Kyle. Beau, I'll throw this next one to you. We get this. This is one we get maybe the most. Why is the elder team so small? How is it possible for Kyle and Beau and David and Brian Buchek and Mickey and Todd to effectively shepherd such a large church?
Beau: Absolutely. That is a common question. In most of our 20 years, we've had four to five elders. Right now, we have six elders. We spend most of our time in that four to five to six range. A number of other churches will have eight to 12 elders, and people are curious, "Why don't you have eight to 12 elders like other churches?" I'll just go back to what our core focus is. Really, it's two areas.
The first thing that Kyle touched on is the whole idea of shepherding one another. We need to first and foremost say, "Follow my example as I follow Christ." To do that, we need to really know one another. It's no coincidence that most of our Community Groups on the single side are four to six men or women. With our couples, it's four to six couples.
It's just a level of which you can really know each other. With six elders across four Community Groups, we're trying to shepherd one another. Our Community Groups have really the same level of care for one another as elders, and it takes time. Then the second thing where we could really fall short if it's not to follow my example as I follow Christ is if we lose focus of the main things that elders are supposed to do in a church.
We really see this happen really early in the church in Acts 6 where the elders were getting pulled to things that were really important for the church, but it was not their primary focus. So they found other faithful leaders and they appointed them to lead in certain areas. They really focused on their main thing. For us, there are really two areas of utmost importance to us.
The first one is just doctrine, making sure that we are dedicated to the Word just as you see in Acts 6. You see that with our seven essentials, which is what every member agrees to. We also have our full doctrinal statement that we ask every member to agree to and we expect every leader to be aligned with us in all of those areas, even beyond the seven essentials.
Then we go through things that are just current events where we feel like we need to jump in and we need to equip because they become relevant topics. So recent ones are the role of women in the church; marriage, divorce, and remarriage; in-vitro fertilization…jumping in and figuring out what God's Word says about those things. It's not just the six elders who are jumping in on that. We're relying upon faithful leaders like our Equipping team on that.
Then the second area where we also rely on people is in the whole idea of shepherding the flock of God who is among us. Kyle spoke a lot on that, so I'll be brief. Things like our Membership Covenant is a picture of what we think a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like. So making sure that we continue to assess what we are calling one another to and then jumping in with our 10 or so community directors and our 300 community shepherds who are pouring into every Community Group, which means they are pouring into every member at Watermark, and jumping in and helping them and making sure we don't lose focus on those things.
So if we could stay faithful to Christ ourselves and then stay focused on what we're supposed to be doing as elders in God's church, then the issue is not whether or not you have six elders or you have 12 elders. The issue is, do you have the right elders who are following Christ? Then focus on the main things that elders are supposed to do in a church.
David: Awesome. Thanks, Beau. Kyle, another question we get is this. What role do our wives play in the way we lead together? What impact do they have?
Kyle: Well, in one word, it's huge. Genesis 2 talks about how when we get married, the two become one flesh. So when you think about that, there's no aspect of my life that Lucina is not a part of. That's true for all of us with our wives. It's invaluable for us. God made my wife different. She thinks differently. She has different gifts. She gives me just incredible insight.
As I share with her issues that we're wrestling with, decisions that we're making, then it allows her to bear that burden with me as we walk through life. Also, more importantly, she offers counsel and discernment that's really helpful, because our wives know our weaknesses and our shortcomings. So God uses our wives in significant ways to help us be the men and the elders God intends for us to be.
David: Yeah, that's awesome. Beau, here's one. We actually just recently tackled this, bringing Mickey Friedrich on the team. How do we vet a potential candidate for the elder team?
Beau: Yeah, that's something that we're constantly doing. Then we get to points where we introduce candidates to be elders. So the first thing is we have to go to God's Word. We say, "What are the qualifications for elders?" David talked about that with 1 Timothy 3. We also see it in Titus 1. So what are the qualifications?
The second thing, and we'll be teaching on this in a few weeks in 1 Timothy 5, talks about not being hasty or too quick in adding leaders. So making sure we are thoughtful about that. Then God in his grace balances the, "Don't be hasty," with also… I love the picture at the beginning of Acts where they're trying to replace Judas and find another leader. They narrowed it down to a couple of people. Then they cast die to see who the next person was going to be, just resting in God's sovereignty. We recognize that we need to trust in that even as we're not hasty.
Then finally, just remembering that, "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." So this is a big deal getting it right. It's really painful to come to a wrong answer. So with that as our biblical backdrop, we spend a lot of time praying about this that God would show us the right man and protect us from our flesh in identifying men.
We ask others often and say, "Who are the men we should be considering to be in the role of elder with us?" Then as we go through that, we try to seek unity. When a name comes up, then we go into more focus with that. So we spend time doing ministry with someone, and there we can really see somebody's doctrine when they are in pastoral care situations.
It's not about just knowing God's Word. It's how you apply it. How do you serve people? How are you careful and gentle? How are you still not being a people pleaser? So you see those things. Then we also have a list of 36 topics that are important to us. We don't want to invite somebody into the role and then find out where they stand on important issues.
So we go through that ahead of time. Once we go through those things and we're doing ministry together, we spend time with their wife, their children. If they're at an appropriate age we spend time with them. We spend time with their Community Group and their coworkers in the office. Then we present it to the body. So we go through all of those things before we're ready to invite somebody into the role of elder with us.
David: Yeah, that's good. Last question. I just spent some time unpacking the qualifications of deacons. Do we have deacons at Watermark?
Beau: I would say yes, we do. We have them because we see in Acts, chapter 6, as I mentioned, there are far too many things to do in the church that people with just one focus and gifting could be doing. They were told to appoint people to serve with them on things that were important, and we've done that. I look at everybody who is on our staff is a deacon.
All of our community shepherds are deacons. The leaders in re:gen small groups or close groups and re|engage and Prodigal and Women's Bible Study and Summit. They're deacons. We don't use the title deacon, but those are trusted leaders who are fulfilling the same roles that we saw in the church going back to Acts, chapter 6.
David: Awesome. I really appreciate you guys jumping up with me. Let me close us in prayer, if I could.
Heavenly Father, we want to thank you that you have not been silent on the types of individuals who you want to lead your church. I do, I pray, Father, for the elder team at this church. For Beau, for Kyle, for Mickey, for Brian, and for Todd. I pray for myself, that you would protect us, you would guard our hearts, you would keep us from doing anything that would dishonor Jesus, that would hurt the ministry. Would you keep us from hidden sins, from presumptuous sins? Help us to walk humbly before you.
Father, thank you for the hundreds, as Beau mentioned, of men and women who are serving this body in the day-to-day needs. They are functioning as deacons around this place to help care for our body. I pray, Father, that you might bless them and protect them and you might increase their influence among those who they're leading.
God, I pray that this would be a place that produces the kind of characteristics that we've read in 1 Timothy 3. That your Spirit would be so present in the lives of the individuals of this body that as we abide with you, we would see more and more and more of what's in 1 Timothy 3 in our own hearts. That we would not be quarrelsome. That we would be self-controlled. That we would be above reproach.
Father, I pray that you would grow our hearts and our affections for you. I pray, Father, if there are folks in this room who don't yet know you and have not had the privilege of being introduced to your Son, that for the first time this morning they might come realize their great desperate need for a Savior, that they might raise the white flag and they might come to know Jesus. I pray that you would use us in any way to help that happen.
We thank you for Jesus, for his life, for his death. We thank you that you raised him from the dead, declaring victory over death and sin. We thank you that as he has ascended into heaven, we know that he is coming back one day. So while we wait for him to come get his church, help us to be men and women who lead well. We give all this to you. In Jesus' name, amen.