“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 3:1–13, ESV)
Paul tells Timothy that there is a need for a radical overhaul of the church’s leadership. The men who strayed from the truth and led others off course must be replaced with men of integrity who can lead the church in its mission. There are two words used for leaders in this chapter are overseers and deacons. In the New Testament, the word overseer is interchangeable with the word elder. An elder is a mature Christian, who is in a position of leadership in a local church and overseer, describes his responsibility to watch over God’s people. Deacon literally means servant. There is an overlap in many of the qualities required for people holding these two offices. The major difference is that an overseer is required to have the ability to teach (v. 2). Overseers/elders lead, watch over, and teach the Word of God, while deacons work alongside them so that the elders can exercise their ministry effectively. Paul may have been concerned about the witness of the local church in the community. The church must not have leaders whose domestic life is in a shambles, who quarrel with one another, are the scandal of the neighborhood or who drink too much wine. The church must develop new leaders who are men of integrity.
Although Christian leadership is a huge responsibility and a lonely task, Paul makes it clear that it is a price worth paying. There is a conditional part of being and elder/overseer because Paul says if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. The word "aspires" describes someone who is taking concrete steps towards a goal he has in mind and the word desires refers to the passion that drives him. Paul is not talking about someone who wants to be a leader because of the position it brings, but about a man filled with the conviction that God has called him to this noble task. Deacons social standing does not improve when he takes up the office. Instead, as he fulfills his responsibilities, he will have restored the reputation of the church in the community.
Just because someone seems capable, articulate, strong, and a natural leader does not mean they would make a good spiritual leader. Before anything else, the men who are being considered for the role most be mature Christians. They must not be a recent convert (v. 6) which is the picture of a seedling that did not have deep roots and could easily be pulled out of the ground. Time is a part of the maturing process, but just because someone is advanced in their years does not mean they are advanced in their faith. The elder and deacon should have strong marriages. They should be self-disciplined, able to relate to people, not abusive with alcohol, and integrity in relationships is a must. They should not love money and have a peaceful home. Since the church is the family of God, the conduct of these leaders' families should demonstrate that they are capable of managing their households through steady leadership.