Shepherds, Servants, and Saints
by Matt Fray
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
1 Timothy 3:1-13, Ephesians 4:11-16
Surprise. Confusion. Fear. Sadness. As news of the tragedy in Nashville unfolded, and as we learned of the connections to our own church through the Scruggs and Dunlap families, perhaps you felt some or all of these emotions. I know I did. If left to ourselves, those emotions could paralyze us or swallow us up. But in God’s grace, He has not left us to ourselves. God Himself has drawn near in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. And He has also given us His Body, the Church, to guide us through every emotion and every tragedy.
When Paul Goebel preached about the roles of Elders and Deacons this past Sunday, he reminded us that the Church is not a business, a building, an organization, or an institution. Rather, the Church is a people. So consider for a moment the different people at Park Cities Presbyterian Church who God gave us this week. God gave us church members and staff to communicate what had happened. God gave us Deacons to graciously welcome and vigilantly protect us. God gave us Pastors and Elders to lead us to God’s throne of grace in prayer and to remind us of the promises of God’s Word. God gave us musicians to wrap truth in beauty, soothing and strengthening our souls. God gave us brothers and sisters in Christ to embrace us, weep with us, and pray with us. God gave us each of these people, with their various gifts and roles, and used them to guide us through these hard days.
In his influential book, You’re Only Human, theologian Kelly Kapic writes, “The church, at its best, realizes God’s relational design for humans, not simply promoting programs but promoting shared lives…God created us for community and interdependence…It takes the whole church to be the one Body of Christ (p. 189-190).” Whether in days of tearful tragedy or days of vibrant mission, we all need one another. We need leaders like Pastors, Elders, and Deacons. And we need one another, each with valuable gifts to contribute as a part of the Body. It is God’s design for our guidance and our growth. As the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:16, “When each part is working properly [it] makes the body grow.” Have we grown this week? It may not feel like it today, but I dare say the answer will prove to be “yes.”
Violent and shocking tragedies like this may be rare, but make no mistake: more tragedies will come. And if left to ourselves, they will paralyze us or swallow us up. So remember this, dear brothers and sisters: you need the Body, and the Body needs you. The only way forward is with God, together as saints.