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8. Criteria for Church Leaders, “Elders”

1 Timothy 3:1-7

“Paul’s concern for an effective local church ministry is next seen in his counsel about church officers. The unbelieving world judges the worth of a local church by what it sees on the outside. The conduct and ministry of local church leaders and laity alike are under scrutiny daily, often without their being aware of it. Paul considered it extremely important to have highly qualified men in the positions of leadership; hence this chapter on the qualifications of bishops and deacons.” (Irving L. Jensen, 1&2 Timothy and Titus, A Self-study Guide)

Day One Study

1. Some people learn their working skills on the job; others learn their skills at school. Where did you receive the training you needed for your current job or role? What characteristics make a desirable worker?

2. Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7. This section begins with the second “trustworthy saying” in the Pastoral Epistles. [Note: we covered the first one in the lesson “Amazing Grace”.] What is the focus of Paul’s trustworthy saying this time?

3. How does Paul describe the work, or task, of an overseer in 3:1? Why do you think he describes it this way?

4. How is personal desire connected with the office of overseer? Why would this personal desire be important?

From the Greek: The term overseer (episkopos), sometimes translated “bishop,” is only one of several words used in the New Testament to describe church leaders. “Elders” (presbyteroi) is by far the most common. Other terms such as “rulers” (proistamenoi, Romans 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:12), “leaders” (hegoumenois, Hebrews 13:17) and “pastors” (poimenas, Ephesians 4:11; Acts. 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2) are also used. Though each of these terms may describe a different facet of leadership, they all seem to be used interchangeably in the New Testament to designate the same office. This office is different from that of deacons. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 736)

5. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul lists 15 qualifications for an overseer. In the space below, list these qualifications, considering whether each is a character quality or ability. Note why each is important for leaders.


Character or Ability





6. Conclusion: Do these qualifications focus primarily on character qualities or abilities? Does this surprise you? Explain.

Day Two Study

7. Read Titus 1:6-9. Paul again lists the qualifications of an overseer, or elder. How are these qualifications similar to those you listed in the previous question? How are they different?

8. How do Biblical qualifications for leadership compare to what you know the world in general considers as qualifications for leadership?

9. Regarding 1 Timothy 3:6-7, what are the dangers facing a recent or new convert if he is given a leadership role in the church?

10. Why is a good reputation with outsiders essential for an overseer? Who is waiting to trap him if he does not possess such a reputation?

11. Adorning Yourself: Think about the leadership roles you currently have in the many areas of your life (family, community, church etc.), and think about the list of leadership qualifications we just studied. Which qualification(s) do you want to cultivate or deepen in your life? What specific steps will you take to do so? Pray that God will work in your life to help you develop the leadership qualifications you desire.

Related Topics: Curriculum

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