Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Paul on Leadership: Overseers/Elders, part 2

Paul begins his description of the qualification of an overseer in 1 Tim. 3.1-7 with the idea that the one who aspires to be an overseer desires a “good work.” The term “good work” has the connotation of a charitable deed performed on behalf of someone less fortunate. To hold the “office” of overseer, then, is to involve oneself in such a benevolent undertaking. This reflects well on the previous understanding of wealthy or prominent believers appointing themselves to serve God’s people and to use their wealth and status as a benefit to their congregation.

One of the abilities that an overseer must display is that of managing his own household well. Once again, as I have stated in previous posts, the term is the same as the one found for leadership in Rom. 12.8 (ho proistamenos). The Greek term (proistemi) in the NT (used only in Paul) emphasizes the leadership role of one who has been placed at the head of the family or the church and who is responsible to “rule, direct and lead.” The correlation of “managing” and “taking care of” in 1 Tim. 3.5 is a reminder to include the secondary sense of proistemi, “be concerned about” or “care for”. This leadership/care the overseer must exercise “well” is the measure of one’s ministry in the family (1 Tim. 3.4) and in the church (5.17).

The importance of managing one’s household was especially important in view of the fact that so many churches met in the homes of church members. This understanding was especially pertinent to the Pastoral Epistles in that the house setting determines much of the thought of the PE. What seems to be given in 1 Tim. 3.1-7 is a list for choosing suitable people to host and preside over these congregations. In Titus 1.7, the first and primary description of the overseer was that the overseer was to be above reproach as God’s steward (oikonomon). The term oikonomos could very well be translated, “house manager.” The term overseer could be understood as the designation for a house church leader.

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