Why Is Being “Above Reproach” Necessary in Hard Times?
Claire sits before the jury with a dry mouth, her heart beating at a jogging pace. The courtroom buzzes with intensity about a situation she knows nothing of and has no desire to learn about. She’s in the room for one reason: to tell the jury whether her experience of her friend matches the narrative being presented. The facts of the case are not hers to weigh. Claire is there to weigh a reputation against a story—she’s a character witness.
The congregation of God’s Spirit-filled people are called into a similar moment as they examine a potential pastor. The timeline is out of order—no crime has been committed nor accusations leveled. Still, they are called to testify to the character of a man.
This is the God-breathed wisdom of Paul instructing Timothy to establish the leadership of the church. Paul calls for pastors to be “above reproach.” This phrase forms a heading for the rest of the qualifications. Paul calls men into authority who have a loving track record of authority in every arena. Paul calls the church to embrace submission to men who demonstrate self-control and sacrifice for the good of others as their modus operandi.
Because the enemy is an accuser. The battlefield of ministry is messy. There will be days of hard decisions and heartache. When the dust settles on those challenging moments, many won’t have all the facts. Many will want to understand but won’t—and can’t.
In those moments, there will be a deep need for trust. Sheep must trust the Chief Shepherd most. And they will also need to trust the under-shepherds they have called.
The congregation will need to remember their own character witness. Are they omniscient? Of course not. But they can prayerfully be comforted by the character of the pastors they’ve appointed, and the pastors’ track record of faithfulness and Spirit-filled living. As the old saying goes, “Past action is the best indicator of future action.”
There will be days when the going gets tough. At that time, you won’t need a tough leader, but one who is tough to accuse.
By God’s grace, you want shepherds who live with such obvious Spirit-dependence and fruit that false accusations fall flat. The church searches for men whose past faithfulness layers future confusions with trust.
In our day and age, we’ve traded character for charisma and faithfulness for fast-growing. Many churches surge on the back of charisma. Sadly, many of the same have stumbled under the burden of unhealthy leadership. Perhaps we will learn and return to the biblical model.