Being above reproach is the summary of all that Paul lists in the passage. It is so important that Paul states it twice; once in verse 6, then again in verse 7. There should be no gaping holes in a leader’s character. Any truly humble leader wrestles with the statements in this list, wondering if they wash him out. No leader truly feels above reproach. Thankfully Paul elaborates by providing a list of character traits that define what “above reproach” means. The assembled components make up the model of a Christ like leader.
Here is the first in the list of components:
The husband of one wife
The church planter needs to demonstrate competent leadership in his own home before presuming to lead in God’s house. It is important to draw a distinction here regarding male and female leadership. Paul addresses the qualifications to males in this passage, speaking to the husbands. Nonetheless, he includes qualifications for their wives as well, indicating team leadership in marriage. That said, I’ll address the characteristics to a male audience as Paul wrote them. Understand however, that I consider women both necessary and biblical in church leadership. In every church I’ve planted, we’ve needed women to shepherd the women, and found that females in leadership are essential. John Wesley employed women evangelists. Priscilla and Aquila instructed Apollos together as a team.
While I’m at it, I feel the need to touch on male leadership in the home because the nature of spiritual leadership is often misunderstood. Leadership in scripture never has to do with pressuring, bullying, or bossing, but rather, leading and setting the example for those who are being led. My wife is not obligated to obey my every whim. She is told to submit, which means to allow me to lead. The realm or sphere in which I lead as a husband is in regard to spiritual things. Although my wife has every right to pray and teach from the word in our everyday life, it is my responsibility. I will answer to God for having led my family as the mini-church within my church. Therefore, I lead in spiritual matters and ensure that the family is being spiritually provided for. It cannot be argued that being the leader in my home spiritually means that I’m the boss domestically. In other words, answering to God for the spiritual well being of my family is a far cry from insisting on the type of garage door we buy, and demanding my wife to obey my particular preference as the CEO of Jones Inc. Many husbands have used the verses in scripture regarding spiritual leadership to justify domestic tyranny. The scripture does not make you the “tie breaker” on all decisions in the home. When at an impasse, my wife and I listen to each other, show respect for each others preferences, and weigh through the pros and cons, making mundane decisions together. I have yet to see any scriptural grounds for a man asserting that he is the boss over domestic affairs. Besides, good leadership is about good teamwork, and I believe that God intended marriage to be all about team.
Paul addresses the husband by putting a finger on a key character trait of any man; faithfulness. Faithfulness at home, and devotion to the wife of his youth, are key indicators of a man’s prognosis of remaining faithful to Christ’s bride. There will come a time when the shiny church he planted will begin to sag and wrinkle with time. Because the leader will have to nurture people spiritually uglier than his own kids, he will be required to employ every ounce of faithfulness he can muster. If the leader is unable to demonstrate loving leadership to those who matter most in his life, how will he show the same to those who matter the most to Christ? If a leader is willing to allow his own kids to derail their lives through neglect, will he stand idly by as the church careens out of control? Paul puts it like this to Timothy, “…for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:5). Faithful leadership as a character trait doesn’t change whether you’re leading three or three thousand. Simply put, size doesn’t matter.
A church planter should learn to see his wife as the MVP in his ministry. In the lives of most great world leaders, political revolutionaries, or spiritual luminaries, there is always, “the woman behind the man”. Your wife can be your greatest asset if you value her place in the ministry, or she can drag you out of the pulpit by your ponytail, as John Wesley’s wife did should you neglect her. All leaders know the disconnect that happens when their at odds with their spouse and they attempt to minister regardless. There is a ripple effect into the pulpit that is felt in the pew. For this reason, Peter warns us that we need to be gentle with our wives lest our prayers are hindered. God is not pleased when a leader neglects the family. When prospective church planters are going through the assessment process, the wife’s perspective can be very telling. If the “little woman” is being towed in a Little-House-on-the Prairie-bonnet behind the chuck-wagon in submission to her husband’s bully-tactics, there will eventually come a time when she’ll buck and plant like the horse on a tether…and rightly so. Rather than being pushed out of the airplane kicking and screaming, the planter must wait until a tandem-jump can be completed with grace and finesse. The spouse is to the church planting leader what Goose was to Maverick; his copilot, not a hitchhiker on a jetplane. She doesn’t just clean up after you at home, she’ll also be cleaning up the shrapnel of personal attacks, stitching you up after tensions with fellow leaders, and wrapping your psyche of your post-preaching neurosis. Conversely, a word from her can devastate the leader in his vulnerable moments like a friendly grenade in a foxhole. She is your strongest ally on the field, if you lead her well. Any soldier knows he’s got to regularly oil and clean his firearm. Without the support of your family, you won’t be able to shoot straight.
The remainder of this component will be covered in part 2 of this post.
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.