Dan Popp
By Dan Popp
July 26, 2013

The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men. – Samuel Adams

By all standards of decency and common sense, the twice-disgraced politician Anthony Weiner does not have what it takes to be a leader. But he may serve as a living warning of what a leader is not.

Of course, leading a city isn't exactly like leading a church, but from the New Testament standards we can glean principles applicable to other leadership roles. Here's a passage outlining the criteria for a church leader.
    An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:2-7, NAS95)
This formula is repeated elsewhere in the New Testament. It's worth a little scrutiny.

An overseer – This is the English translation of the title, "bishop." A local church was governed by elders (presbyters), one of whom was the human leader of the church, the overseer. Judging from the writings of those who were present, this constituted the entirety of the paid clergy in the early church. Yet the qualifications aren't diminished even for the unpaid deacons, which you can check by continuing to read the passage in 1 Timothy 3.

Above reproach – I don't think this means "perfect;" but if you were to make some eye-popping accusation against this man, someone would say, "Wait a minute; I know that guy. What you're saying isn't even plausible." The husband of one wife – Church leaders were to be married as a safeguard against temptation and scandal. They were to testify to God's design for marriage – one man and one woman for life – by living it.

Temperate – This is also translated "vigilant," "sober" and "self-controlled." Prudent – Not rash, acting with an eye to the future and the ramifications of his actions. Seen any good Weiner pictures lately? Respectable. Hospitable. No explanation is needed.

Able to teach – Just now we've come to the qualification that many Americans think is the sole measure of leadership ability: One must Know Something, and be able to Communicate it. When this requirement becomes the only requirement for a leader, we've fallen into dark shamanism. I'm not saying it's unimportant; I'm saying that it's one qualification of many.

Not addicted to wine or pugnacious – That's an odd combination, isn't it? But one test speaks to a man's control of his body, and the other to his control of his spirit. Before he can be servant-master of a church or a family, he must be the master of himself.

Gentle. Peaceable. Free from the love of money. One who manages his own household well – the Apostle asks the obvious question: If his family members don't follow him, why wouldn't we accept their opinions as experts on the subject?

Not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil – Too quick a promotion can provide material for pride. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil – We're back at reproach, this time considering it from the side of the pastor's well-being.

Taken together, all of these pixels create a portrait of a man who is truly a man. He is in control of his mind, his emotions and his body. He is respected in his family. He is respected in his community. We see a disciplined, humble, active and loving adult.

Make one more note with me, please: Do you see that some of these things are outside, or somewhat outside, the leadership candidate's control? Some talebearer may malign his reputation without grounds; he may have been divorced and remarried before he became a Christian; his children may be naturally rebellious; and so on. This should inform us that God isn't playing fair when He chooses those who lead His church. Just because you have a gift doesn't mean you'll get to exercise it. It's not about you, you see. And if you don't see that, you're not a godly leader.

I understand that the qualifications for leading a city or for representing a community in the legislature may not be quite as high as the ones we've been studying. But the primary principles will hold true for Presidents as well as for Kindergarten teachers. Character not only counts, it counts for almost everything. A leader's person, his character, shows us what we will become if we follow him.

The fact that the voters don't recognize that men like Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer have disqualified themselves from leading anything more significant than a carpool is a potentially fatal mistake. But the politicians themselves should recognize that they have fallen short of the bar, and would slink off into anonymity if they truly cared for their communities. That's the right thing to do. And doing the right thing is the essence of leadership.

© Dan Popp


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