This morning, before heading into the office for my 9-5 job, I spent about an hour at my "other" office...okay, it was Starbucks. I wanted to take some time this morning for prayer and personal study. I opened my bible to 1 Timothy. Whenever I think about the responsibilities of being a disciple of Christ, a man, a husband, a father, a pastor, and a leader, I find myself turning towards Timothy and the the words of instruction that Paul gives to his friend and young pastor. I figure you can't go wrong seeking advice from a church planter and mentor for young pastors, right.
I read 1 Timothy 1:1-11, but felt drawn to focus on verses 3 through 11.
Timothy Charged to Oppose False Teachers
(3) As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer (4) or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. (5) The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (6) Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
(8) We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. (9) We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, (10) for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine (11) that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
My eyes were pulled to verse 5.
"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure hear and a good conscience and a sinere faith."
I asked, what was the command?
Timothy was to stay in Ephesus. He job was to command the people who were teaching a false doctrine and those chasing after the false doctrine to stop. Stop teaching, and stop being swayed by the teachings.
Okay, so in the church in Ephesus, there were ideas about the faith that were false. Ideas perhaps about who Jesus was, what he taught, what he did. Maybe the falsehood included what live as a follower should look like; how believers are to live? Maybe the disception was in what the church should look like, how it was to operate, or how regular worship and teaching were conducted? (These are the questions are was asking myself before reading the rest of the chapter. I wondered what the false doctrine might have been.)
Verses 6 and 7, give us a little peek at some of the problems, meaningless talk and teachers/leaders who want to be teachers/leaders but have no idea what they're doing and saying.
Timothy's job was to root this things out, expose them as false, and to remind the church what it was to be focusing on.
As I sat thinking about this, in the context of church planting and how to answer some of the questions we are facing in regards to what the church should look like/be like, I began to wonder if we have gotten too caught up in the ideas of what we think church should be? Is it possible that we have allowed the current idea of 'church' that populates the majority of the "big church" landscape to become so much the norm, that we might be missing the simplicity of what the church was?
I started reading chapter one of, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Author, Mark Dever, asks a similar question, What does a healthy church look like? Is it in the music, the building, the coffee and donuts, the children's ministry, the events, the community outreach, the student ministry, the structure of the worship service, the amount of people in the chairs? You see, these are often the standards by which we grade a church. A church is only a good/sucessful church when it confirms to what we think a good church should look like.
I wonder if similar thoughts found their ways into this church that Timothy has been put in charge of? If so, I think Paul is reminding Timothy to remember what the church is suppose to focus on. Paul says, (v. 8) "the Law is good when it is used properly." What was/is the purpose of the Law? To expose our sin. That's what he means in verses 9 through11, the law is what shows us what sin is by giving us God's standard for all of life, including the work of the church. And why do we expose sin? The show our need for a Savior. Enter the Gospel.
Paul tells Timothy, "Hey man, what's being taught isn't right. It's not in line with the Gospel. They're worrying about things that are leading them away from their true purpose of the church. Get them back on task. Stop the false teaching and meaningless chatter. Stop looking to other things that might grow the church, and get back to what works. You want to see the church grow? Get back to God and exercise faith. How? Through Love. What's that look like? It comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and in a sincere faith." (At least, that's how I hear Paul speaking in my head.)
In other words, church growth is a work of God through the Spirit as the body seeks to live by love. Church models and business plans and copying what someone else is doing will not guarantee church growth. But a church who commits themselves to the teaching of the true gospel, depends upon the work of the Spirit, and seeks to glorify God will witness the power of God poured out on His church.