I have started rereading a classic book on leadership called “Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for every believer” by J. Oswald Sanders. It is a great book, and as I was considering his initial thoughts on this topic, he got me thinking. He begins with quoting 1 Tim. 3:1 which says,
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”
As I studied this verse, a couple of things impressed me. The first is the word “aspire.” This word is describing something for which a person eagerly longs. It also describes someone stretching out to grasp something. The concept of aspiring can be a good thing if the motives are right. Aspiring for selfish ambition obviously would be a bad thing. As Sander states,
“All Christians are called to develop God-given talents, to make the most of their lives, and to develop to the fullest their god-given gifts and capabilities. But Jesus taught that ambition that centers on self is wrong.”
Leaders who aspire to be “boss” may not be aspiring appropriately. They may have confused Godly aspiration with selfish. In the time in which Paul wrote this letter, leadership was not glamorous. Being a leader meant you were a servant-leader and the first to suffer.
I also found it interesting that what is being commanded in this verse is not an aspiration to be an overseer but the aspiration to the office of overseer. Although Paul explains what type of character is expected of a person in the office, Paul commends those who desire to attain to the office of overseer. Overseer is a reference to those who wish to serve as servant-leaders in the church. They want to give their lives away serving others. Unfortunately, some can aspire to an overseer in the church for the wrong reasons.
As Sanders says, “True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you.”
If you aspire to lead, what does that mean to you? If you desire to give your life away in serving others, that is fantastic. If it is more a desire to be in charge and have others, serve you, that probably reveals a self-centered motive and is not a good thing.
Father, thank you for this great reminder that I should evaluate why I want to lead. What is my motivation to serve as an overseer of the church? I also need to make sure I have the same definition of leadership as you do. Leadership is not bossing others around, but serving others and leading them to your will for them. Help me to keep pure motives in my service of you and others.
Following Jesus with you,