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Above Reproach (1 Timothy 3:2)

So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. (1 Timothy 3:2)

Some time ago I was talking with someone whose youth pastor had, years earlier, failed morally and walked away from their Christian faith. They talked about how their youth pastor's failure led to their own crisis of faith.

"It felt as though a part of my own faith journey had been invalidated." "How could the person who baptised me do this?"  "If they were unable to faithfully follow Jesus, then what hope do I have?" These were some of the thoughts and questions they struggled with.

Thankfully their faith survived this crisis but this incident illustrates the responsibility leaders have to live out what they teach and how failure or abandoning the faith can have a major impact on those they lead.

In this verse and those that follow, Paul outlines for Timothy the qualifications of a church elder. Not all points will be relevant to you, but there are principles evident that you'd do well to reflect on as a young leader.

The first point to emphasise is that no one expects you to be perfect but neither do they expect you to live however you want. It's noticeable that the points Paul outlines in this passage refer to standards of conduct both outside of the church as well as within.

The lesson is that how you act when you're away from those you lead is just as important as how you act around them. As a leader, you are never "off duty". Much has been made of the social media age in which everyone has a camera on them and at any time can take a photo of you that may make its way into the public arena and be seen by other church leaders, those you lead and their parents.

It's good to be reminded of this but in a sense, it should be irrelevant. A leader's motive for right living is not what a social media post might reveal, but what God sees.

Paul dives into specifics and begins by making reference to faithfulness in marriage. For a young person who is not married this may appear irrelevant but think beyond specifics. Are you faithful to your parents, treating them with respect and making them proud? Are you a faithful son or daughter whose word they trust and who doesn't speak ill of them when they're not around? Are you faithful to your siblings, supporting and encouraging them despite differences you might have?

Actions speak louder than words, and as a leader, the expectation is that you'll "exercise self-control". not doing things you shouldn't, while at the same time "living wisely", and doing what you should.

Consequently, as a leader you should have a "good reputation", both within the church and outside. No one should be surprised to hear you're a Christian. The teacher at school or the boss at work - both will speak well of you. Your friends and acquaintances will have positive things to say about you whether they agree with your beliefs and values or not.

Finally, Paul ends by listing two abilities that should be evident in church leadership: hospitality and the ability to teach. How do these translate into a youth group setting?

Firstly, as a leader you need to have a heart to care for people. You notice the newcomer and speak to them. You notice when someone is struggling and you spend time with them. You're patient with the difficult person - the person you'd not normally befriend. These are important requirements of any youth leader.

Secondly, as a leader you need to have a capacity to teach others which means you yourself must be committed to growing in your knowledge and understanding of Scripture. You may have thought of Bible study as being something you "should do" because God expects it, but as a leader you need to now be committed to gaining knowledge for the sake of those you lead.

This change in perspective typifies what needs to happen within you as a young leader. Your commitment to living out your faith is no longer between you and God alone. Others are affected and so your motivation to pursue holiness is not for your own glory but for God's glory and so that He might use you effectively in discipling others.

Reflection:

Where is it hard for you to live out your faith outside of youth group? At home? at school or work? In your sports team? To what extent could you be considered "above reproach"? What temptations do you face that lead you to sometimes behave contrary to your beliefs?