1 Timothy 1:3 Pastoral Longevity


If you were a counselor in the following situation – what would you're advice be? Say a man comes into your office and says, "I've been married for two years to a woman who has nine children. Her kids do not respect me or my children, and neither does she even seem to trust me. Every move I make she second guesses and every decision – she reverses. Doc I'm this close to leaving, what should I do?"

Now in the current climate the typical advice from Ann Landers types would be "clear out of there" but you happen to hold a biblical view of marriage. After a bit of digging you would discover that she's been married 5 times in the last fifteen years, her husbands have all left her for better looking women and her children are divided in parentage from each of those husbands. In your investigation it becomes clear that not only she but the children as well have all learned that "dad" is expendable – they can and will continue without him; and furthermore – dad is not worthy of trust and incapable of providing the solid guidance and direction needed.

Now, what would your advice be? Undoubtedly you would tell that man to buckle his seat belt and strap on his knee pads – because it's going to be a bumpy ride. He's going to have to earn their trust before he can ever be the father and husband he desires most to be.

The situation I've described is very similar to the church. Pastor's come and go with a ferocious speed, using smaller churches as stepping stones to larger congregations. The average pastoral stay in a given church is up to just over three years1. Some might be converted to Christ during his brief tenure and then he moves on leaving spiritual orphans in his wake. Over a series of pastor's the message is eventually assumed, "We don't need the pastor, he's going to leave soon anyway – so don't trust him when it comes to change. After all, he's only temporary." What's going on?

I suppose you could attribute it to anything from an actual or even an over realized sense of God's leading, or to greed, or to a hunt for prestige, or a cure for frustration all the way to God's judgment on a church which blatantly refuses to listen to her leadership. Sometimes the move is legitimate, and sometimes it may not be. It's not for us to judge mind you, it is to God that every man will stand or fall. And no gathering of believers is outside of God's loving – gracious care.

Ministry Demands Endurance.

It's impossible in a paragraph to try and clarify all the reasons that pastor's move but Timothy was doubtless up against a number of those reasons. In fact if you take the concept of ministry where it belongs – where every member of a church is supposed to be a minister to others thus serving the kingdom of God – then the same pattern develops where people sometimes inexplicably just quit serving the kingdom. Somehow we have forgotten that ministry is certainly difficult work but it is also worthy work.

Take a look with me at 1 Timothy 1:3-4, where we discover that Timothy's desire to move was not the right move for the moment.

NAU 1 Timothy 1:3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

As I have already stated, the necessary foundation for the church being the church has already been laid in Christ Jesus. The church needs (1)Pastoral authority grounded in (2)good Christology. The church is established of people who dwell in the grace, mercy and peace that comes from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the third verse we return to the pastor and establish that the next major necessity for a functioning church is a (3)dedicated pastor who will stay the course to teach and instruct in the truth, fighting against falsehood as he will frequently have to. It is these three ingredients that I would suggest make up the proper introduction to the overall concept of church 101.

Either to your disappointment or relative glee I remain dedicated to the principle of Pastoral Longevity. I believe you need a dedicated pastor who will stay the course to teach, fight and instruct in the truth as long as he is able.

When you look at the text, I think perhaps Timothy was considering moving on – which is why Paul reminds him of his task to stay and fix the ills in the church at Ephesus. The false teachers need correction and Timothy is the man for the job. In fact the command, "remain in Ephesus" is emphasized in the Greek text by being split away from the rest of the command and placed before Paul's departure for Macedonia. So that it reads, "Just as I urged you, "Remain in Ephesus," as I was going to Macedonia, "so that you may give strict orders to certain people not to teach different {false} doctrine."

The word "urged" here is the verb form of the same root word used to describe the Holy Spirit as the Comforter: pa?a?a?e´? (Paraclete). Throughout the New testament it is used more than 100 times in a few different ways but very often the concept of comfort has to be somewhere in the mix.2 Paul was not merely ordering Timothy to stay put, he was urging him as a friend would passionately urge you to do what you knew was right.

"Timothy, you know you should stay there to finish the work, please be faithful to that post until you have completed it."

A pastor must stay with his church in order to grow it and command it – so that he might protect it. Not leaving when the going gets tough but staying and fighting the good fight of instilling faithfulness. A Good pastor who teaches and corrects is the backbone of a church. I believe strongly that the perceived weaknesses in the American church today can often be traced back to the lack of pastoral longevity. I know there are times when God moves a pastor on, but I think there are also plenty of times when the pastor just believes he sees greener grass somewhere else. Sometimes God moves his ministers to a place where they can be more useful, sometimes for other reasons, but I have a sneaking suspicion that what you – the church- need is not a new pastor but the same one you have known and hopefully grown to trust.

I have been in church with pastors who were hard to get along with. But I have also experienced churches that metaphorically destroyed pastors. The sooner we get it through our minds that imperfections are there, and that we're here to work together rather than against each other we'll be able to get on about the business of building God's kingdom – and quit trying to defend our own!

Ministry Must Endure Through Trials.

I believe Paul had to encourage Timothy because he was serving in a very difficult place and culture.

By looking through the scriptures we can begin to understand the situation that Timothy was in. He had been left in Ephesus as a representative of Paul the Apostle in order to pastor the Ephesian church. A quick read through the Ephesian sections of scriptures would give us a better understanding of this letter. (Acts 16; Acts 18, 20, 21; 1 Co. 15:32; 16:8; Eph. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:18; 4:12; Rev. 1:11; 2:1)

Paul visits Ephesus at least three times (Acts 18:19; 19:19; 20:28) It was during his second visit that some of the Jews became "hardened and disobedient"; which propmted Paul to stay there for two years or more teaching them. During this time some of the most amazing miracles and conversion stories occur in Ephesus; followed by a city wide riot over the deprecation of their temple due to the massive increase in Christian believers.

Later on his way to Jerusalem Paul would warn the Ephesian believers "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock… after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them…" (Acts 20:28-38)

This is the hotbed of Ephesus in which Paul left Timothy with the mandate to teach them and it serves even more to illustrate the importance of a committed pastor; or for that matter you – committed to continuing to serve God where he has put you, even under hostile conditions.

Your service to God's people in the church and to the unsaved around you is always going to be met with resistance – but it is a ministry required by God; and you must not abandon your post until God has sounded the retreat; and primarily the reason to quit a ministry is because you have completed that ministry.

Ministry Must Be Completed.

Take a look now at the purpose statement of Timothy's Ephesian ministry in verses three and four. <read>

SO THAT YOU MAY INSTRUCT CERTAIN MEN NOT TO TEACH STRANGE DOCTRINES

In most every church there are going to be people who teach error. Some from ignorance and others intentionally because they want people to follow them. The false teaching will come in many flavors, and some of it will simply spring from mindless discussion, arrogant people, or just plain ignorance of the scriptures. While some will come from evil minds and hearts. The danger is the same between them as you see in the fourth verse: God's people cease to produce fruit – because in this case all they ever do is talk – rather than work to expand the kingdom.

It is in this sense that false doctrine, however apparently minor is never innocuous but always detrimental to the life of the church of the Living God. Today, ignorance of the scriptures or a refusal to believe what they say is largely responsible for the fracturing of major denominations on clearly answered topics like homosexuality, marriage, abortion, and even the way to salvation.

Timothy was called to counter and stop the false teachers in Ephesus because they were already stopping the church in it's tracks. He was called to run interference in a place which was typically difficult. To accomplish that task he needed pastoral authority. He needed authority to guide, direct, teach, rebuke and correct the church. Without that authority both stated and recognized the capacity of the church to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Jesus Christ is greatly hampered.

In today's climate especially obtaining that authority is frequently a function of earning trust through longevity. Ministers must endure the ministry, Ministry must Endure the Trials, and Ministry must be continued until it's complete.

Stepping away from Timothy – how do these concepts carry over to each one of you? I believe it passes over in the gentle reminder to continue in your own ministry. You are to remain actively laboring in the master's field. If it is the pastor's Job to train you for ministry (Eph. 4:11-ff) then let me also be the one to urge you either to continue the ministry God has called you to; or else to call you into service.

It is never enough to listen to the word and sing a few songs. God is calling you – to be involved in some ministry that feeds and strengthens the church. As a matter of fact, God has uniquely gifted you to do what otherwise cannot be accomplished among his people. The plain truth is that we need you. God has brought us together in order to strengthen each other, but if only part of us are laboring, then we are lacking in all that God wanted to give us. Are you working to spread the grace of God? We must labor – through many difficulties until we enter the rest which Christ called us to.

Are you ready to take on a ministry to which God has called you? This morning let me close with this call to service – an altar call to service if you will. If you are prepared to serve God in some ministry – be it a specific task you want to do or if you know you should serve but you don't know what you can do – this is the day to publically declare yourself available to the church and to God. I will then ask you about your interests and abilities. We will search out a task that matches your passions and gifts.

But this morning as we close, won't you come?

1The actual time is difficult to judge with numbers ranging now from 2.5 to 4 years.

2So EDNTentry: "The concentration of vb. and noun in Acts, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon, and Hebrews leads us to emphasize the root meaning "comfort," and to interpret its further occurrences in prominent passages … on that basis. … The word overwhelmingly expresses a personal and often emphatic concern. … "