Church is no place for fear

Church leaders can be both ordained and lay, both male and female (depending on the denomination). Some people think that the qualifications for church leaders recorded in the Apostle Paul’s First Letter to Timothy and his Letter to Titus were written only about men and apply only to men. All of the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, however, can be readily applied to both men and women.

Marg Mowczko, a theologian in Sydney, Australia, tells us this: Paul wanted church leaders to be people of honor and dignity. In the 1st century Mediterranean world, the honor-shame dynamic was a powerful force in society, and the conduct of individual members of a household directly affected the level of honor of the entire household. Paul wanted leaders with a level of moral integrity that was above reproach. He did not want church leaders who might bring dishonor, disrepute and shame on the church.

Today, 2,000 years after Paul, we continue to live in troubling times. Abuses in organized religion, whether sexual, financial, spiritual or otherwise, turn good people away from the church. We hear disturbing news in the media about the conduct of both clergy and lay leaders. The church should be a place of sanctuary, not a place where fear resides.

Church leaders are called to a higher standard, but they are also flesh and blood human beings. They experience joy, sorrow, guilt and grief just like everybody else. Expect your leaders to be compassionate shepherds. Love them and pray for them. God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called. As we enter this Lenten season, try to remember that.

— Robert Fowler, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Jacksonville


Leaders should not be proud

In The Message, a contemporary translation of the Bible, 1 Peter 5:1-14 gets right to the heart of the matter of the responsibility of leaders: “I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it is to lead. Here’s my concern: care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way. All of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in plain people. Be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; He’ll promote you at the right time. Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith.The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ — eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, He does.”

— Beverly Mattox, Word Alive International Outreach