2 Timothy 1:3-7
Power, Love, and Self-control
When you are looking for a leader, what qualities are most important?
Summer is when our church’s nominating committee looks for people to serve the congregation as elders and deacons. After being nominated and elected, these men and women are ordained to office, which includes the ancient practice which Paul refers to as “the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).
The nomination process requires that committee members look beyond outward appearances to the qualities that are important to God. More than anything else, they are searching for men and women who have a spirit “that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled” (verse 7). This is such an important set of qualities, and it is not always found in the person who has the most attractive appearance, the best education, or the most impressive job.
The work of the committee is difficult because many potential candidates are so stressed and busy that they decline the invitation to serve. Our nominating committee often has to invite numerous candidates before they have a full slate of nominees.
One year, our nominating committee had worked its way through its list, from its top candidates to the bottom. They were almost out of people. But near the bottom of the list was a woman who had never been asked to serve. When invited, she accepted enthusiastically, and she became one of the finest elders that we have ever had.
Many potential candidates had to say no before the committee got to her. Such a process is time-consuming but really not surprising, since humans “see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). It took time for the committee to identify the spirit of power, love, and self-control that is so important to God.
All three of these qualities are important in church leadership. Power is needed because the gospel is not advanced by people who are timid and afraid to act on their beliefs. Love is absolutely critical because Paul tells us that all the Law “has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). And self-control? This quality is more important than you might think, because self-control is a form of discipline, and discipline is related to being a disciple.
Every congregation needs leaders who are disciples of Christ, people who try to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. Such people show self-control because they know that the mission of Christ is not advanced by people who behave in selfish and erratic ways. And whether we are church leaders or not, each of us can benefit from a spirit of self-control. Such an inner quality is not necessarily visible, but it is always seen and valued by God.
Fill me, Lord, with a spirit of power, love, and self-control. Amen.