God has Standards for Leaders - The Warrior's Journey®

God has Standards for Leaders

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” (1 Timothy 3:1) 

People often misread Paul’s statement here. Note that Paul is NOT saying, “It’s noble that a man aspires to be an overseer.” Paul is not praising ambition. For, when it comes to serving the Lord in a position of leadership, “No one takes the honor on himself, but receives it when he is called by God” (Hebrews 5:4). Jesus’ advice to someone seeking leadership in the Kingdom of God is to first become the slave of all (Mark 10:43-44) and – under no circumstances – seek any glory that might come with the responsibility. No, Paul is not praising ambition. He is merely saying that the work of an overseer is a noble task. But he goes on to say that not everyone qualifies for it. 

There are standards for becoming an overseer (Greek episcopos), which is equal to the role of a pastor (Greek poimen) and elder (Greek presbuteros). Look at Acts 20:28. Paul met with the elders (presbuteroi) of Ephesus (Acts 20:17) and said to them: “So be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episcopoi), to shepherd (poimainein) the church of God which He has purchased with His own blood.” The Bible uses the three words interchangeably. 

And these standards for leadership in the church include what Timothy already knows without Paul telling him – that he or she be a believer and be filled with the Holy Spirit (See Acts 6:3). But even these qualifications are not enough according to Paul. Paul knows that many believers who are zealous to become leaders have impure motives, so they cannot be recent converts, but should display spiritual maturity (1 Timothy 3:6).   

And on top of that, prospective leaders must have nothing in their lives that draws criticism. They must be married to one person of the opposite sex – and be faithful. They must be self-controlled and free of addictions. They must be wise, worthy of respect, hospitable, and able to teach the Bible and its doctrines. They cannot be combative or argumentative, but be gentle. And if they love money, they’re out. Their motives for leading must be pure. In addition to these, Paul says that leaders must manage their homes well if they hope to manage the church. Finally, Paul says prospective leaders must have a good reputation with those outside the church. If unbelievers know a totally different person than the people in the church do, there’s a problem. Prospective leaders must speak and live their faith before the world, as they do before the church (1 Timothy 3:2-7). 


  • Are you a leader in the church or do you hope to be one? Do you measure up? 
  • Should most of these standards apply to all positions of leadership? 
  • If we seek to be leaders – in or out of the church – shouldn’t our lives be free of addictions, impure motives, besetting sins, and problematic traits?

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