The two Epistles of Timothy are packed full with advice for ministers within the church. Paul clearly laid out all the expectations on those that choose to work for God and His church. These range from how to treat widows to personal characteristics that are required. While there is a lot of information to take in, a lot of it can be collected together into 5 general qualities that make up a good minister of Christ, be they pastor, deacon, or any other position within the church.
Teach Sound Doctrine
One of the first challenges that Paul lays out to Timothy is to stay in Ephesus so “that [he] may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer” (1 Timothy 1:3). He goes on to say, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister” (1 Timothy 4:6). To be a good minister, you must be sure to teach the church doctrine which fits with God’s word.
Paul also points out those who don’t teach sound doctrine. He mentions those who indulge in “godless chatter,” saying that “their teaching will spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:16-17). Gangrene works by cutting off blood flow to infected areas. This means that these areas lose access to their life source and so eventually die. Unsound teaching can restrict access to God, causing those who listen to it to be cut off from His presence and begin to die spiritually.
Another problem with gangrene is it can be very contagious, spreading through the body quickly. False teaching can sound very attractive and, because of that, spread through the church quickly, infecting people as it goes. The best way to prevent this is to remove the infection as quickly as possible so it cannot spread. So, it is the responsibility of all those that minister within a church to make sure that all their teaching is sound, and be ready to deal with unsound teaching before it spreads.
Engage in Spiritual Warfare
Timothy is often likened to a soldier. Throughout his first letter from Paul he is encouraged to “strongly engage in battle” (1 Timothy 1:18). In the second letter, he is warned, “no one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian warfare, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:4). Ministers today need to be ready to engage in spiritual warfare, and not engage in anything that could hinder that.
To be prepared, a minister must have two things: “faith, and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:19). Faith allows you to believe for bigger and better things. It is what enables you to engage in spiritual warfare believing that you will win.
A good conscience is what keeps you close to God. If you live in a way where you can be “found blameless” (1 Timothy 3:10) then you can be confident that God will prosper your ways. This isn’t to say that a past that isn’t blameless means you can’t serve God and His church. It is your present way of living must reflect the presence of God in you.
Be An Example
Paul charges Timothy to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Good leaders don’t lead from the back, handing out pamphlets dictating how people should live. Good leaders lead from the front, demonstrating the way to go. In war, they are on the front line, leading the charge and encouraging on those behind them.
As a minister of Christ, it is your responsibility to be an example and set the standard that the church should follow. If a church leader doesn’t pay his tithe, the rest of the church is going to feel justified in not paying their tithe. If a church leader gossips and talks about people behind their backs, the same will be found throughout the church.
Devoted to Study
Another charge Paul gave Timothy was, “devote yourself to public reading of scriptures, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). To fully invest in others through preaching and teaching you need to first invest in yourself.
If scripture hasn’t been sewn into your heart, then what comes out won’t be scripture. It will be opinion or personality, or even church cliché, but it won’t be scripture. Ultimately, if church leaders aren’t invested in the Word, how can they possibly invest the Word into their church?
Care for Physical Health
Paul was concerned for Timothy’s well-being. He could see that Timothy wasn’t at his best and advised him to “use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23). In case anyone was confused at the purpose of the wine, note it says use, like medicine.
Paul recognized that when your physical body gets worn out, your spiritual ministry will often suffer as well. While it is true that you can ‘do all things through Christ who strengthens’ you, it is easy to forget that you are still called to keep the Sabbath. That doesn’t just mean you worship God on a Sunday. It also means you keep one day a week (barring extreme circumstances) where you can rest and relax.
Every leader needs to actively work at taking time to sleep well, eat well, exercise a little and rest. To fail to do so means you are failing to keep Sabbath, and will often result in being burnt out. “You were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:20). You are a steward of your body, so be a good steward.
If you have another quality you think was missed off the list or have any personal experiences of these qualities you want to share, please let me know in the comments below.