1 Timothy 3:1–7 (ESV)
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
I was thinking about spotlights when I was reading this passage. Spotlights are powerful lighting instruments that project a concentrated, bright beam of light to focus our attention on particular spaces, objects, or people. There is also the phrase that is connected to spotlights: “living in a spotlight” meaning that a person’s life is highlighted and in full view of the public. We might think of public officials, entertainers, or leaders in the community whose lives are highlighted and frequently noted by the general population.
In many ways, this “spotlighting” applies to us as Christians and especially as Christian leaders; we live in a spotlight. Non-Christians watch us to see if our lives are any different than theirs. They want to know if our relationship with Christ makes any difference in what we do or say in our attitudes, in our interactions, in our behaviors, and in our choices. The life of a Christian leader is lived in an even more intense spotlight as that light is often shined on them by their own congregations.
I’ve been at my current church now for several years but I can still remember what it was like getting settled into my house in my new neighborhood and getting to know the people that live next to me. We’ve had some great conversations and they’ve asked me questions about where I’m from, what I do, and why did we decided to move to Delaware. As the weeks went on, I noticed that my neighbors were watching me, not in a creepy stalker way, but to see what I will be like as a neighbor. Will I be loud, disturbing the peace of the neighborhood? Will I make changes to the house that upset the look of the neighborhood? Will I participate in those things that add to the general positive look and feel of the neighborhood? Will I be quiet and withdrawn? Basically, I was in a spotlight as they watched to see what kind of neighbor I would be.
While the spotlight wasn’t invented in Paul’s day, he certainly understood the principle and applied it not only to Christians in general but especially to Christian leaders. This is a great passage on leadership and spotlighting what is expected of those in leadership. The point Paul is making is that the leader’s life must reflect the presence of Christ in every way, in every relationship, action, attitude, and behavior. Now please note that this is an expectation for everyone who entrusts their life to Christ. But as N.T. Wright notes of Christian leaders, “Their lives must embody and represent the message they are called upon to proclaim.”
If we’re making a list of qualifications for leadership, I don’t know of anyone who perfectly qualifies and meets all these standards. We are all sinners, redeemed by Christ and the good news is that we live under grace and not a list of qualifications, rules, and regulations. But this list has its place to push us and remind us of just how much we need Jesus. The point is that it’s not about meeting the standards of the list—it’s about Christ in us and the question that’s being asked is this, “Are people seeing Christ in us?”
As Christians, we have a responsibility to reflect the light of Christ to everyone around us, even in how we respond to our failures. For Christian leaders, that responsibility is intensified. If we want to be able to share Christ with those around us, they need to know that we care for them, that we are good neighbors, good citizens, and especially as we reach out to the people around us, good friends.
As we grow in relationship with others, we earn their trust and friendship which opens doors for us to share the love and grace that we’ve found in Jesus. For the Christian leader, it’s a bigger picture of trust, not only for the people outside the church but also for the people that God has called them to lead.
So yes, this is a challenging passage for all who desire to be leaders in the life of the church, but we must remember that as missional disciples of Jesus, we all live in this spotlight. The real question is this, “Are we reflecting the light of Christ to those who are watching?”
God bless you and have a great day. Know that I’m praying for you constantly!