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When Leadership Fails

While the precise causes of the French Revolution are complex, one major contributing factor was the corruption and oppression of the ruling class. The backlash against the aristocracy was so severe that during the “Reign of Terror” (1793–94), over 16,000 members of the aristocracy were executed without a trial.

When leadership fails, it is often tempting to throw out the good with the bad. In Ephesus, some of the elders were responsible for the problems Timothy was facing. In today’s reading, Paul outlines a healthy way for the church to restore trust in their leadership.

Paul notes that good leaders need to be honored and supported. Elders who faithfully teach, preach, and administrate the church are worthy of financial support (v. 17). Paul grounds this teaching both in the Old Testament law (Deut. 25:4) and in the teaching of Jesus (Luke 10:7).

But what should happen when elders are wrong? Charges against an elder must be supported by two or three people. Elders who are “sinning” should be reproved publicly (v. 20). While this may seem harsh, the entire church is impacted when leadership falls into sin. A public rebuke serves as a warning to others and helps heal the damage that has occurred (v. 20).

Because of elders who had sinned, Timothy needed to add replacements. Paul encourages him to take time to ensure the right people are selected (v. 22). He reminds Timothy that he is living “in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and elect angels” (v. 21). This should prevent him from making decisions for the sake of expediency or out of favoritism (v. 21).

>> Many churches today have had the difficult experience of having a leader who has fallen into sin. Paul’s advice gives guidelines on how to deal with sin in an appropriate way. And, this is a good reminder to honor and support faithful leaders. As for us, we should speak and act as if we are living “in the sight of God” (v. 21).

BY Ryan Cook

Dr. Ryan Cook has taught at Moody Bible Institute since 2012. He earned his bachelor of arts in Bible and Theology from Moody and his master of arts in Old Testament from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He has worked in Christian education and served as a pastor in Michigan for seven years. During his time as a professor at Moody, he earned his doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary. He now lives with his wife, Ashley, and their three children in the Chicagoland area.

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