In 1 Timothy 3, Paul is giving the description of the kind of elders God wants. One trait he mentions is managing his own family well. Then, almost as an aside he says, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:1 NIV) Reading this passage of scripture sparked several thoughts in my mind. Some I will share with you in this article.
First, I thought of my own children. I am very thankful for my children and love them dearly. All three have many good traits. As a dad, I enjoy hearing from you and others some of the good things they do. However, I know they are not perfect. Each has his or her own weaknesses and shortcomings. I treat each one in a loving and caring way and try to be as consistent as possible. Yet, I do not treat them in exactly the same way. One child may be more sensitive, and I have to take extra precautions not to overly criticize when correcting. Another child may be strong willed and I am firmer in what I say than with other siblings to get the point across. (I am staying very generic for those who can guess which one.) The examples could go on and on, but you get the idea. I thought of some of those examples that stretch me and challenge me as a parent. Paul is pointing to the same sort of practice in the church. As members, we are to love and care for all fellow members. However, this does not mean we treat everyone the same exact way. Some are more sensitive. Others are more strong-willed. All are to be loved. Hopefully, we all practice this verse in our dealings with each other. Naturally, since this is said in the context of elders; elders have the most experience with this. The main training ground for elders is in the home. This is why we are excited when we see dads who are heavily involved in their children’s lives, especially the spiritual side. We know he is an elder in the making whether he realizes it or not.
My thoughts also went to Sparky Anderson. He was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970’s when they were regularly contending for the playoffs. (Later, he also managed the Detroit Tigers to a World Series win in 1984). Once, I was watching a documentary on the 1970’s Reds and their accomplishments. Near the end, the discussion was on how the Reds ultimately slid back to mediocrity. Sparky described a scene where the front office met with him. Several players were up for free agency. They were coming off a championship year and all those players would command a high salary. So the front office management came to Sparky and said, “Who must we re-sign, and who can we let go?” Well, he gave his opinion and that was what the money side of the management followed. In the interview, he said something like this in a very sad tone, “Obviously I was wrong. I let the player go who was the glue to our team. We never won the World Series again. Maybe that shows what type of manager I am.” (Personally, I think Sparky was a great manager!) However, the tone of his voice and the comments he made stand out in my mind. Even a good manager makes mistakes and learns from them. Sparky didn’t quit managing. As I mentioned above, he went on and managed another championship team.
Unfortunately, I have seen people at a family level or a church level make a mistake and then conclude, “I have made a mistake. I am done leading!” Thus ceasing to be a leader in the family or the church. If you find yourself in that situation, I would like to remind you; your children aren’t perfect. We as members aren’t perfect. We don’t expect perfect parents, or elders, or preachers. We do expect leaders who live and learn, seek forgiveness and grow. We expect leaders with management experience. Thankfully, God is giving us plenty of that in our house and his.
Written by: Jimmy Hodges