Thursday, April 12, 2012

supportive leadership in the church

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
1 Timothy 4:13

There are three aspects of spiritual leadership that Paul encouraged the young man Timothy to practice in Ephesus. These would be the sustaining elements of good church development and would mature both the body of believers and Timothy's own leadership. And they center around the Word of God.

The very first practice that Timothy was to devote himself to was the public reading of the scriptures. This was the way in which most church members learned the Word of God. Yes, there was a higher degree of literacy in the Roman world, but access to scrolls and books was still pretty limited, particularly as persecution of the church ratcheted up to serious levels. Most people learned the truths of scripture and memorized the Word through the practice of public reading. It was the way biblical literacy and knowledge of the truth advanced. It was very important in the practices of the church for substantial public reading of the Word of God to take place so that vital exposure to the gospel and the content of the scriptures could be maintained. People learned the truth this way.

The second substantial support ministry in which Timothy was to engage was exhortation or encouragement. This is the ministry of personal application of Christian truth. It is what we might think of as coaching and it is also a kind of warning. It is personal discipleship and corporate encouragement. And it is the type of activity that is time intensive for a leader. It is people focused, and requires not only that we know the scriptures, but that we get to know our people. It helps people live out the truth by encouraging them, counseling them, and warning them.

The third practice vital to successful leadership within the church is teaching. Without good teachers, the church will fail its mission. Teachers have a passion for the gospel, for explaining the scriptures, for advancing the church, for helping people understand God's truth and live it out. Great teaching guards the doctrinal distinctiveness of scriptural theology while also helping believers apply it to their unique local church setting. It makes deep truth personally accessible. Teaching "the whole counsel of God" equips believers to be Salt and Light in the world. It draws hearts to the majesty of God. It leads to repentance of sin to serve Christ. It defends and presents the gospel in a culture that does not naturally seek God's truth. It ties all three practices together as teachers read scripture and encourage believers with God's Truth.

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