The office of the office-bearer is holy. This article discusses the qualifications needed for the office.

3 pages. Translated by Bram Vegter.

The Holy Office About the Office in the Church

These weeks we see that new teams of elders and deacons are installed again. A joyous occasion in the church: men who are willing to serve God as office bearers. The person who wants that, may receive some honour and praise. Right? Or does this also contain some flesh and some worldliness?

High and Holy🔗

The office (of office bearers) is seen as high and holy. When you read 1 Timothy 3, then it is easy to lose most of your courage: who can be found, who…

An overseer must be (here it goes): above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. He cannot be a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders. And a deacon: he must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy.

It is not easy to find such people, that is clear. More and more church councils are struggling with permanent vacancies, they cannot put up two candidates, and think they must appoint someone (vs allowing a vote). This does not deserve a beauty prize. At times it may look like someone is trying to squeeze a few drops from oranges already squeezed dry. The (less lofty) goal becomes to fill the empty seats, and not the recognition of certain gifts. And with the nominations the congregation has no choice at all: not even to say no to a certain candidate when you deem him less suitable or for whatever reason you would rather not see him as an office bearer.

Or have we perhaps set our demands too high? But that is exactly what Paul does in 1 Timothy 3! His demands are no joke. You could almost say: who can answer this call? And that is then often the reaction people give: not me. But, fortunately, almost no one complies with these demands! Therefore, fear not: we are all willing amateurs, right? These are high demands, but there is no person who scales those heights. And so, we rest in a common powerlessness. Or: obligate humility?

For let us also use fewer of those big words when we speak about the Office. Some office bearers (especially elders?) do that quite easily and apparently write the word “office” with a capital: The Holy Office. We see it as a high calling: “chosen by the congregation and thus called by God himself…” And on top of that we do feel ourselves very responsible: guiding the congregation, making sure that all goes peacefully and in good order, to be addressed when things go off the rails, all of that is not nothing! Church councils consist of men. And they can act important and feel that they are very important. Not everyone is blessed with a healthy dose of self-relativization and self-reflection. Everything is extremely heavy and serious and important.

No wonder, that many will pass up that honour. Find someone else, for me this is too much. Who can comply with this?

Heavy and Serious?🔗

But is this a true picture of the situation? When Paul formulates these demands in 1 Timothy 3, are these demands really so high then, that you must say: this is too high for me? Blameless. You can say: no one is like that, no one can be that, therefore no one has to be like that. Is that true? Then please look at what follows: the husband of one wife. Most office bearers are married, and I have never seen an office bearer who had more than one wife. But hey, men who do not take the marriage morals that seriously, we do not place those on the nomination list. What do we do then with this demand?

Well, place yourself in Paul’s time. Timothy is an evangelist, appointed by Paul to continue his church planting work, to enable the new churches to grow into a mature faith life, Christian life and congregational life. But in those mission churches there were still many recent converts, people who still had a long way to go in life’s sanctification. Some of them indeed had multiple wives. And…, such a person was not a good prospect to have as elder, who after all had to be an example for the flock.

And this holds for more matters in relation to lifestyle: no excessive drinker, no men with families which are derailed, no recent converts, no men who still have a bad reputation.

In short, no people who have just recently become a Christian, who are still busy to wrestle themselves away from a life without God and who are still learning what it means to follow Christ and who are learning to follow God’s commandments in their lives.

The people that Timothy must look for, they must be mature Christians. They must be sincere Christians, people with a mature faith life. And if you look at it like that, are you then to say that this is so special, so extremely high? Actually, it is not: it is about “regular Christians”. Or should they be people who stand out?

No, it is indeed about “regular” Christians. Only, could it be with office bearers just an ounce more? So that as Christians they stand out just a little more? Those, who as “men of God” are able to inspire others? Yes, that is what it is about: to be a Christian is, since God’s Son became man, not something that is so high, that it is unattainable for regular folks. It sounds weird perhaps, but thanks to him you can say: if he could do it, then I can do it too…For that is what it means that he became a man: holiness, love, obedience is no longer outside our reach! Jesus gives us an example to follow, a model that we may grow towards, by the power of his Spirit. Someone who showed us: to be a regular Christian, a man for Christ. Jesus does not place the bar so high that you have to withdraw with disappointment: an unreachable ideal, frustrating heights, to look at as if it were a mountain…

And at the same time: his holy life is also high. He is the Son of God, and he gives us a model, a guideline, something to strive for, to fight for, to pray for. So, he surely holds out a high norm for us! Jesus does not give us an easy life, to lean back lazily in the pillows. With him your life is not without crisis, with him there are no Christians who do not feel the knife in their flesh. With him you become small and you bend your knees, you let yourself be led by the Spirit of Jesus to become a new creation.


What kind of people is Jesus looking for then? Well, people who are blameless: those who no longer act as better people, but because they are truly sincere. People who know their sins and shortcomings and who bring those to the cross. Who will be open about this, and not hide behind their “office”, but who will be able to show their true face. Do blameless sinners exist? Yes, people who admit to their mistakes, who confess their missteps (James 5:16a). Not obligate, but sincere and truthful.

Husband of one wife: therefore, no internet-sex addict? No, unless he discusses it openly with his wife and seeks help to deal with his lust. Sober, sensible, moderate: so, no Burgundian? No, unless he knows times and place, and moderates his enjoyment of life. I once experienced that the gin stood ready and cold for the visiting elder on a home visit. An elder does not drink in the time of his Boss, I would say. Or at least do not have any big talk anymore about the young people who go to bars etc.

A good teacher: so, someone who can read the law to people? Not exactly, but someone who is wise enough to listen and to weigh his words. No drinker, or person with a short fuse or money wolf? No, unless he fights to control himself and can show this. Also, by being so honest that he can apologize when things go wrong. Such people can be useful. Peace-loving and friendly? Yes, that is always good. Someone who can lead his family: so, not someone who makes a mess of family life? No, unless he allows support and assistance in this and not reject it in an authoritative manner. Not a recent convert? No, at least not someone who does not have a mature faith yet. Someone with a good reputation? Yes, as long as that reputation is not that he attends church on Sundays and throughout the week acts quite differently.

For deacons it is much the same. There is no difference between men who are to be elder or to be a deacon. For: Christians are servants, people who want to live in sincerity and truth.

In summary, nothing special come to think of it.

Or is it? How many of those (men) can we find in the congregation? Perhaps not so many, when we see the struggles to fill the vacancies? If that is the reality, then you can no longer mask those struggles behind the work pressures and the many responsibilities that people have in our busy and hectic time. Then there is another crisis: a crisis in our hearts…Then we have to bend, on the knees: Lord, help us in our little faith and in our spiritual mediocrity! Come, Creator, Spirit, and live in your church! Make us into humble servants. Like the Son of Man, who came, not to rule, but to serve.                                                                                                                          

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