Qualifications for leaders in the assembly

In this write up, we’ll look primarily at the qualifications of overseers and deacons. We will not focus so much on the details of how the leadership should function within the church or the method of ordaining and commissioning leaders. Also, we will be primarily looking at 1 Timothy 3. This is by no means the only scripture which give direction concerning church leadership. Titus 1 correlates closely to 1 Timothy 3. There are also other passages such as Matthew 20, Mark 10, Acts 6 & 20, Hebrews 13, 1 Timothy 5, 1 Peter 5, James 3 & 5, Ephesians 4, and more that give direction as to the qualifications of leadership in the church.

Examining 1 Timothy 3

First, let’s look at the words that are used in relation to the functioning of leaders within the assembly. Over the centuries, and throughout the various denominations and traditions, various applications and practices have evolved in the functioning of church leadership. For myself, one of the more troubling dynamics which has become very common place in most of what we know as church; is the clergy/laity divide. While, again, that is not the main thrust of this article; this dynamic has very much affected our concepts of church life. While the particular tradition of the conservative Mennonites in which I originated does hold to a concept of brotherhood and accountability that much of Protestant American Christianity does not have; we were still influenced by the clergy/laity divide and church hierarchy. Our particular concept of church leadership was what we referred to as the three office ministry. There, the leadership operates as what are referred to as the offices of deacons, ministers, and bishops. The deacons primarily look after the various needs (financial in particular) of the congregants and occasionally preach, the ministers are primarily the preachers and also the enforcers of church discipline, and the bishops carry the most authority and usually give the final word, with one bishop usually overseeing around 4-6 congregations. While it is not my goal to find fault with the various traditions, I do not believe that what we are about to study here in 1 Timothy 3 would support the numerous offices (such as the Mennonite three office structure; or, on the other hand, the contemporary evangelical practice of the solo pastor) or the clergy/laity divide. Let’s take a look at what the apostle Paul has to say here…

In 1 Timothy 3, the KJV uses the term ‘bishop’ in verse 1. A study of this word using the ‘Interlinear Greek-English N. T.’ and the ‘New Englishman’s Greek-English Concordance and Lexicon’ shows that this word translated bishop here comes from the Greek word episkope (Strongs 1985). The definition is shown as ‘inspection (for relief); by impl. Superintendance; spec., the Chr. Episcopate: – the office of a bishop, bishoprick, visitation’. This word is translated in the KJV N. T. as ‘visitationin Luke 19:44 and 1 Peter 2:12,bishoprick’ in Acts 1:20, and ‘the office of a bishop’ here in 1 Timothy 3:1. This word seems to be derived from the word episkeptomai (Strongs 1980), which means to inspect or by implication to select and by extension to go and see. It is also related to the word episkopeo (Strongs 1983), which means to oversee and by implication to beware. This word is translated ‘looking diligently’ in Hebrews 12:15 and ‘taking oversight’ in 1 Peter 5:2. Then in verse 2, the translated word ‘bishop’ comes from a different form of the word episkopos (Strongs 1985), which means superintendant or overseer. This word is translated in the KJV as ‘overseers’ in Acts 20:28 and ‘bishop(s)’ in Phi 1:1, 1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:7, and 1 Pet 2:25. Personally, I do not care for the term ‘bishop’, as to me it denotes the ecclesiastical system with the clergy/laity divide. However, if used with the understanding laid out in the scriptures, it can be viewed as a simple term of responsibility and oversight in the assembly of believers. A bishop or overseer is comparable to the foreman of a job site, or a fire chief at an emergency incident. He is responsible for the functioning and welfare of the assembly. He will ultimately give account to the Lord for what is transpiring in the assembly(ies) for which he has been given charge. 

In verse 8, the ‘deacons’ are now addressed. The word translated here as ‘deacon’ is the Greek word diakonos (Strongs 1249), defined in Strongs as ‘an attendant, ie a waiter (at a table or other menial duties); spec. a Christian teacher and pastor– deacon, minister, servant’. This word, used many times in the N. T., is normally translated in the KJV as minister or servant, but is translated in three places (Phi 1:1 & 1 Tim 3:8,12) as deacon. Another form of the word, diakoneo (Strongs 1247) which means to be an attendant or to wait upon, is translated as ‘use the office of a deacon’ twice in 1 Tim 3:10&13 and elsewhere as ‘minister, administer, or serve’. Again, I do not prefer such translations as ‘office of a deacon’, as I feel it encourages the ecclesiastical system mindset. Our English word deacon, is a transliteration of the Greek word diakonos in the same way that baptize is a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo. Both of these words, rather than being translated to an English word that meant the same thing, were formed into a new word (rather than translating diakonos as servant, we created a word that fit the ecclesiastical mindset and rather than translating baptizo as immerse, we created a word that fit the present mode of operations). Deacon simply means servant, attendant, or waiter. He serves and ministers to the congregants, but he also is an attendant to or an apprentice under the overseer. 

Here’s the ‘M. G. M. translation’ of 1 Timothy 3 as I understand it…..

“This is a trustworthy saying, If any man aspires to the task of oversight, it is a good work that he desires. It is necessary then, that the overseer is above reproach, the husband of one wife, circumspect, of a sound mind, orderly, hospitable, able to instruct; not addicted to wine, not contentious, not seeking after ill gotten wealth: but patient not quarrelsome,  nor a lover of money, one who administrates his household well,  having his children in obedience with all respect. (For if a man does not know how to rule his own household, how will he care for the assembly of God?) He should not be a novice, lest being conceited he fall into the judgement of the devil. Furthermore, it is necessary that he have a good reputation from those without the body, that he would not fall into reproach and a snare of the devil. Ministers/deacons likewise should be honorable, not hypocritical, not addicted to wine, nor greedy of gain; holding the mystery of the faith with a clean conscience. And also, let these be proved first. Then let them serve, being found above reproach. Likewise, their wives are to be honorable, not gossipers, but temperate, and faithful in all things. Let a deacon be husband of one wife, administering his own household and children well. For those who have served well acquire a good standing for themselves, and much confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. I write these things to you, hoping to come to you shortly. But if I am delayed,  that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

Application

The context implies that it is not wrong, but actually good for a man to aspire to the task of oversight. However, it is clearly laid out that such a responsibility is given upon one’s having been proven. Here is given a list of qualifications for the consideration of all involved, both to the one aspiring to oversight and also to those who would recognize the calling and give the charge.

First of all, the one in question should be blameless, or above reproach. This obviously does not imply that he has no faults or weaknesses, but he should have a good reputation both in the church as well as in the local community. He should be living his life in such a way that he cannot be spoken evil of by any reliable source. If he is a man whom people do not want to do business with, or if substantial allegations have surfaced regarding his character, we need to be aware. Titus 1:6 is similar, “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.”

Secondly, he is to be the husband of one wife. This is indicative of the need for faithfulness to his wife, along with living a life of moral purity. He must be free from any adultery or other promiscuity. Along with this, in accordance with what Jesus says to the church at Ephesus, he should be one who has not lost his first love for Christ; but should be (as opposed to the Laodiceans) on fire for his Saviour, not having swerved aside after any ‘false loves’.

He is to be nephaleos vigilant (KJV), sober-minded (ESV), temperate (NASB), stable (ISV), or circumspect; walking in wisdom, discreetly avoiding pitfalls, and being wary of wolves who would devour the flock. He should not be lazy, undisciplined, or foolish. He doesn’t make rash decisions and does not endanger others welfare, but rather shepherds the flock. I see a man with a clear mind who makes principled decisions.

He is also to be sophron (safe [sound] of mind): to be sober (KJV), self-controlled (ESV), prudent (NASB); indicating that he must be discerning and able to make sound judgements. Strongs says i.e.  self-controlled or moderate as to opinion or passion. Such a man will not be violently enforcing his opinions on others. He will check his opinions against facts and the Scriptures. When he speaks, his words will carry authority because he does not speak lightly or out of his personal agenda.

He ought to be kosmios (orderly i. e. decorous): of good behaviour (KJV), respectable (NASB), decent (YLT); apparently bearing forth the fruits of the Spirit such as patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, etc. (This same word is translated modest in 1 Tim 2:9.) Such an one is not unruly, undisciplined, or self-centered; but rather ‘full of grace and truth’.

Also of importance, is that a candidate for the function of overseer should be hospitable. He ought to be friendly and congenial and welcoming to the stranger. He ought not to be impolite, discourteous, or uncaring of others. An inhospitable leader would deter from bringing converts into the assembly of believers.

An overseer should be didaktikos (instructive); apt to teach or able to teach. In order to shepherd the flock, an overseer or shepherd must be able to lead the sheep to ‘green pastures and still waters’. Teaching is not necessarily relegated to sermons or lectures, though they certainly have their place. Teaching has to do with giving edifying and nourishing instructions. A teacher does not have to be eloquent or skilled at public speaking, but he must be able to feed the sheep. A good teacher teaches by example. Can a teacher be effective if he does not have a genuine concern for the welfare of his sheep?

An overseer should not be paroinos (literally, staying near the wine): translated not given to wine (KJV), addicted to wine (NASB), drunkard (ESV). In addition to refraining from drunkenness, he should be free from other addictions and substance abuse. A man who is intoxicated and under the bondage of addictions is not in a place to lead others into righteousness.

Along with the subject of drunkenness, such a man should not be plektes (a smiter i. e. quarrelsome): no striker (KJV), not violent (ESV), or pugnacious (NASB), not contentious. While the physical striking of others is a more obvious transgression, it is the same spirit of plektes that causes men to ‘strike’ and tear down the reputation of others by violent words and slander. A good overseer will seek to strengthen and build up others rather than contentious quarreling. He is not easily induced into arguments.

He is not aischrokerdes (literally sordid gain): not greedy of filthy lucre (KJV), not greedy for money (WEB), not greedy of ill gotten wealth. Such an one is not seeking for money obtained through dishonorable ways. A man who is in a craze for wealth, and seeks for money at the cost of integrity, honor, and relationships; is a man not fit to care for the souls of others.

He should be gentle and patient. Gentleness and patience are characteristics of a shepherd who carries his flock on his heart. These qualities do not usually come naturally for leaders, but often must come through the fires of the crucible as God refines the heart of a man.

This man should be amachos (not a brawler): not quarrelsome (ESV), not a brawler (KJV), peaceable (NASB), not contentious (YLT). An overseer should seek to bring peace and unity among the flock, as opposed to contention and quarreling. While a true overseer will not stand for a false peace, he does seek unity of the Spirit and stands firmly against divisive influences and behavior.

He is to be aphilarguros (unavaricious, without covetousness): not love money (NLT), not covetous (KJV), not a lover of money (YLT). A genuine overseer is heavenly minded and not swayed by earthly gains. He cannot be bought. His focus is on laying up treasures in heaven. Does the prospective overseer have a mentality to amass wealth? Is he free to give of his earthly possessions?

A potential overseer should be proistemi (presiding over) administrates his own household well: manages his own household well (NASB), ruleth well his own house (KJV), his own house leading well (YLT), conducting his own house well (DBT). Along with that, he should have his children in subjection with all respect; having children who respect and obey him (NLT), keeping his children under control with all dignity (NASB), having his children in subjection with all gravity (KJV). This is a very important point, and as the next verse explains, ‘For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?’ A man who does not have his own household in order and whose children do not respect him, cannot expect to be able to care for the local assembly any differently. He must first of all learn how to manage his own home, and thereby gain the necessary experience and training to care for the household of believers. If the church is considering a potential overseer, they do well to consider the affairs of his household.

A prospective overseer should not be a neophutos (literally newly planted): not a new convert (NASB), not a novice (KJV), not be a new believer (ESV). He needs to be a mature believer, grounded in the faith. It is necessary that he has gone through a period of testing of his faith and has become firmly rooted in Christ. The explanation is given for this necessity. Lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil (KJV). If a man new to the faith and not yet tested is given charge among the church as an overseer, there is a great possibility that he will become conceited by his ‘position’ and make errors that will be detrimental and even fatal to his own faith and to the welfare of the assembly. Think of what would happen in the work place if you put somebody who is new to the field in charge of the operations. It would be a recipe for disaster.

Moreover, he should have a good reputation from those outside the Body, lest he fall into reproach and a snare from the devil. Can a man who does not have a good testimony among the community be effective in leading and overseeing the flock, especially in relating to new believers and seekers? If his testimony is marred because of his behavior or lack of character, and it is known that he is an overseer among the assembly; it will cause the Lord’s name to be reviled.

Now, our attention turns to the deacons or assistants. They also should be semnos (venerable i. e. honorable): well respected (NLT), dignified (ESV), grave (KJV), serious (ISV). While deacons have not been entrusted with the oversight of the assembly, it is expedient that they too are men of honor and serious minded, having respect of the Body.

A deacon should not be double tongued. A man who is hypocritical and who makes his story fit the occasion, is not fit to be serving the Body. It is necessary that such servants are men of honesty and integrity, men whom the people can trust. Their words should be trustworthy and free from guile.

As the overseer is to not be given to wine, so the deacon too is not to be addicted to much wine. One who is in bondage to addictions is not free to minister to the Body. A deacon needs to be free and clear to minister and care for the assembly of believers.

Also, like the overseer; the deacon should not be greedy of ill gain. If his heart is caught up in the pursuit of wealth, the deacon is not effective in ministering to the needs of the assembly. Deacons have often been given the responsibility to look after the financial needs of the congregation. A deacon who is greedy of ill gain, is not to be trusted with the finances of the group.

He should hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. The ‘mystery of the faith’ seems to be referring the work of Christ in his life (Col 1:26-27). He should hold that with a pure conscience, operating out of a pure motivation. The Lord’s working in and redemption of his life should be obvious to those looking on.

He should first be proved, and then let him minister when he has been found to be above reproach.

A deacon is a servant, a minister, an assistant. He, like the overseer, should have gone through a season of proving before being given a charge in the congregation.

Not only are the deacons themselves to be examined, but their wives too are to be considered. A deacon’s wife ought to be honorable, not a gossiper, but temperate, and faithful in all things. Why is the deacon’s wife required to manifest these qualities? As a deacon works closely with various situations in the congregation, his wife will no doubt have an understanding of some of the more confidential details of people’s lives and relationships. Imagine what damage a dishonorable, gossiping, undisciplined deacon’s wife could do in the assembly. Therefore a deacon’s wife must be one who lives in integrity, knows how to hold her tongue, has a clear and sober mind, and is trustworthy in all areas of life. If a man has such a wife, it will empower and equip him to do the work of his calling.

Just like the qualification for overseer, a deacon also should be the husband of one wife. His love and affection should be obviously directed toward one woman alone. He should be free from any adultery or other promiscuous behavior. He should not have a wandering eye. You can usually tell a lot about a man by looking on the countenance of his wife.

He also is to rule his own house and children well. If he does not administrate well in his own household, how will he be faithful in the relationships and affairs of the assembly? Since a deacon will tend to be involved in more confidential aspects of congregational life, it is important that he builds healthy relationships and conducts himself with integrity. His family will expose how he really does this in the daily walk of life. If his household is out of order and his children wild and rebellious, it can be expected that he will likewise conduct the affairs of the assembly.

For those who have served well acquire a good standing for themselves, and much confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

 

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‘My people have committed two evils…’

In the 2nd chapter of the book of Jeremiah, we find a striking word picture which God uses to describe the nation Judah’s relationship to Himself. Through Jeremiah, God reminds His chosen people of their previous relationship with Him. He says, ‘I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase; all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them,’ saith the LORD. At one point the nation of Israel had been in love with their Lord, Jehovah. They had passionately followed after Him, and He had blessed them abundantly and miraculously delivered them from their enemies time and again. But now the relationship is dramatically different. Now God says, ‘What iniquities have your fathers found in me, that they have gone far from me, and have walked after vanity and are become vain? Neither said they, where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt?…. And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests said not, where is the LORD? and they that handled the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit. Wherefore will I yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children’s children will I plead… Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.’

Exchanging a fountain of living waters for a broken cistern?! Picture with me a beautiful, bubbling, crystal clear spring of water flowing out from the side of the mountain. For my two oldest sons and I, this picture was a refreshing reality on a recent backpacking trip through the mountains. We had been climbing hard through the muggy July afternoon and our water supply was gone. Then, lo, our pathway before us began to be muddy and soon our trail through the woods was transformed into a little stream. Sure enough, as we rounded the next corner, there was a beautiful spring of cool, clear water gushing from the side of the mountain. We gratefully knelt by the spring and drank deeply from the cool, sweet water; refilling our canteens with fresh, cold water. For us, it was very literally a life giving fountain. Now imagine trading that experience for what is referred to here as hewing out cisterns, broken cisterns. The water in a cistern is collected water, often run-off water collected from the rains. It is still and often stagnant. While it may look good on top, the bottom is full of sediment. On top of being stagnant and potentially dirty, what water is left in this cistern is leaking away because it is a broken cistern. So now, instead of drinking from a clear, gushing fountain; we are trying to gain our sustenance from what remains of the tepid, tainted, and algae laden water of our crumbling, self-made cistern. Not a good trade! Why would anybody make this trade?!

Why indeed? How could these descendants of Abraham, that great patriarch of faith, have turned from Jehovah, the fountain of living waters, and followed after the cracked and crumbling cisterns of all the abominations of Baal worship and other evil adulteries? How could they ever be so foolish?! We are shocked at their ridiculous decisions. But, then, as we consider our own lives; what do we see? If you and I are really honest about our lives, can we find a broken cistern? Maybe more than one? Maybe it is time for us to take a moment of sober reflection of our own hearts. To be shocked at our own tendency to drink from the tepid, grimy puddles of our hewn out, man-made cisterns. To be ‘astonished and horribly afraid’ as God recommended.

The reality is that anything which we turn to for fulfillment other than Jesus Christ, will leave us disappointed, empty, and corrupted. Maybe you are seeking to defend yourself by insisting that you aren’t caught up in the corruption of the obvious sins and addictions. ‘I don’t do drugs, smoke, or drink. I’m not an immoral person.’ Well, my friend, that’s good. But there are many cisterns. Some that appear very sanctified. Perhaps you are caught up with making money. It’s for the Kingdom, right? Maybe it’s the time that you spend on social media or other discussion groups. Is that where you are finding your fulfillment? Sure, you are having spiritual discussions and ‘ministering’ to people. Maybe it’s your search to have correct doctrine. The focus of deciding whether you are a premillennial or an amillennial; a calvinist or an armenian. Maybe it’s the focus on being ‘biblical’ or being part of a biblical group of believers. Maybe it’s all the good books you read. Wonderful, spiritual books by great men like Tozer, Spurgeon, or any other great Christian writers. Perhaps it’s the good messages that you are listening to. Maybe it’s your desire to prove yourself as a spiritually mature believer. We could continue on endlessly of all the cisterns that man has hewn out. You must search out your own heart before God and be brutally honest with yourself. He knows what your broken cisterns are, and He will show you if you allow Him to.

In the 43rd chapter of Ezekiel, God is declaring how He will dwell among the children of Israel forever, and they shall no more defile His holy name by their whoredoms and abominations. In the eighth verse, He describes their evil actions as “In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their posts by my posts, and the wall between me and them…” I don’t know exactly what Ezekiel was seeing here, by what I observed is that one of the abominations of the children of Israel is that they had constructed a doorway beside the LORD’s doorway. And they were calling it the LORD’s doorway. But there was a wall between, baring those who entered this doorway from actually coming into God’s presence. To this doorway which they had constructed by their own rebellious wisdom, which was setting beside the LORD’s doorway, and which they were calling the LORD’s doorway; they were inviting all to enter in. But this false doorway which appeared so close to the real, only led to death. So close, but so far. There was a wall between, keeping those who entered from experiencing His life. This evil thing of building a man made structure and calling it ‘the Lord’s doorway’ is still very alive today. And it still causes the LORD to be angered. There is one doorway into the LORD’s presence, and He is the owner of it. No denomination, group, or ministry has a special handle on this doorway. Any structure which man builds and points people to to get to the Lord, is false and evil. There is a strong tendency in man to try to replicate and even ‘improve’ upon movings of God. There are various ways this is done. It may be an effort to encapsulate a work of the Holy Spirit. We recognize that God has moved among us and we want to keep His presence, so we try to capture and hang on to the moment rather than to continue walking forward in trustful obedience. It may be that as we study history, we see how He moved among a certain people, and so we try to reconstruct the experience by endeavoring to copy the details of their beliefs and lifestyle. While it is good to emulate the faith of those saints who walked with God; all He wants for us today, is for us to come directly to Him in humble obedience and repentance. Then, all the abundance of His living springs is ours for the taking.

Jesus came into this world, bringing healing and liberty. He claimed to have water that would never let us thirsty again once we take it in. Listen to Him… In talking to the woman at the well and referring to the water of the well, He declares, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” And again, as He speaks to the crowd at the feast, He cries out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Will you believe Him today and drink deeply of the life giving stream which He offers? The choice we make will not only influence us, but countless others. If you will be satisfied by the springs of living waters, you too will have that same life giving stream flowing out of you, bringing life to others!

In closing, I would like to consider the words from a brother in bygone years who has wisdom to share on this subject. A. B. Simpson wrote a tract which he entitled “Himself”. In this tract, he shares how so often we seek for everything other than Jesus himself. We seek for the healing, the blessing, even faith. But what we really need to seek for is the person of Jesus Christ. Here’s an excerpt… “I prayed for a long time to get sanctified, and sometimes I thought I had. On one occasion I felt something, and I held on with a desperate grip for fear I should lose it. I kept awake the whole night for fear that it would go, and of course, it went with the next sensation and the next mood. Of course I lost it, because I did not hold on to Him. I had been taking a little water from the reservoir when I might have all the time received from Him fullness through the open channels. I went to meetings and heard of people speak of joy. I even thought I had the joy, but I did not keep it, because I had not Himself as my joy. At last He said to me–oh, so tenderly– “My child, just take Me, and let Me be in you the constant supply of all this Myself.” When I got my eyes off my sanctification and my experience of it, and just placed them on the Christ in me, I found instead of an experience, the Christ who was larger than the moment’s need, the Christ that had all that I should ever need, who was given to me at once, and forever! And when I thus saw Him, it was such a rest; it was all right, and right forever. I had not only what I could hold that little hour, but also in Him, all that I should need the next and the next and so on. Sometimes I get a glimpse of what it will be a million years afterwards, when we shall “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of… [our] Father” (Matthew 13:43), and have “all the fullness of God.”

I’ll close with a poem by Simpson, also entitled “Himself”.

                                 HIMSELF

Once it was the blessing; now it is the Lord.
Once it was the feeling; now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted; now the Giver own.
Once I sought for healing; now Himself alone.
Once 'twas painful trying; now 'tis perfect trust.
Once a half salvation; now the uttermost.
Once 'twas ceaseless holding; now He holds me fast.
Once 'twas constant drifting; now my anchor's cast.
Once 'twas busy planning; now 'tis trustful prayer.
Once 'twas anxious caring; now He has the care.
Once 'twas what I wanted, now what Jesus says.
Once 'twas constant asking; now 'tis ceaseless praise.
Once I tried to use Him; now He uses me.
Once it was my working; His it hence shall be.
Once the power I wanted, now the Mighty One.
Once for self I labored, now for Him alone.
Once I hoped in Jesus; now I know He's mine.
Once my lamps were dying; now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited; now His coming hail.
And my hopes are anchored safe within the vail.
                                -A. B. Simpson





Emergency Response protocols in the house of God

Protocols for Emergency Medical Response in the House of God

Medical Situation

A. Five incoming steps

1. Is the scene safe?

-the scene is always safe when I am being led of the Holy Spirit and Jesus is by my side.

2. Do I have my PPE (personal protective equipment) on?

– I am fully protected as I have donned the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shoes of readiness, and am grasping the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. His Presence is more protective than any earthly protective systems or barriers.

3. What is the mechanism of injury/ nature of illness?

– I need to assess my brother’s soul and listen to what has been happening. What does he look like? What is he saying? What are others saying?

4. Call for additional resources.

– First of all, I lift my brother or sister up in prayer before the Lord. I call for wisdom from above. Also, as the occasion calls for, I enlist the help of other mature believers to care for and remedy the situation.

5. Hold C-spine.

– I do all I can to prevent further injury. I cradle my brother’s head gently, stabilizing and caring for him as we await help and healing.

B. Chief complaint and age

1. What is the patient’s chief complaint?

– I listen to my brother’s heart and hear what it is that is bothering him. What is he feeling? What does he believe about his condition and the situation?

2. What is the patient’s age?

– I consider my brother’s walk before the Lord, taking into consideration the number of years he’s been walking with the Lord, and more importantly, his level of maturity.

C. Airway and O2

1. Check the airway for obstructions.

– What is keeping my brother from receiving life giving breath? Is he open? Are there obstructions that are threatening his life?

2. Apply oxygen as needed

– If my brother is in a situation where he is not receiving life giving breath of his own accord, I must intercede for him and ‘pump life into him’.

D. Bleeding, Skin, and Pulse

1. Bleeding

-Is there bleeding? Is my brother losing life? Is his life, energy, and joy slipping away? What is causing it and where is it leaking out? What kind of wounds do we have?

2. Skin condition

– How does my brother’s outer condition look and feel? Is his skin (mood) cold and clammy, indicating that he is going into shock or having a heart attack (shutting down)? Or is it hot and flushed, indicating overexertion, stress, or anxiety? These indicators must be observed in order to give direction to nature of response.

3. Pulse

– As I feel for my brother’s pulse, is it weak and faltering or strong and vibrant? Is it irregular? How is his heart functioning? Is he alive and well, or slipping away?

E. Priority

– My brother in Christ is always a priority patient. Nothing should keep him from having the best of care. Life flight him into the throne room of God.

F. OPQRST

1. Onset- what was the onset of this condition?

– What brought about his current condition? What were the circumstances leading up to this crisis?

2. Provocation- what causes the pain?

– As I observe my brother and feel his pain, I ask, ‘what is it that brings pain or causes it to worsen? What could alleviate the pain?’ Seek to bring him into a position of rest and comfort his soul.

3. Quality- how do you describe the pain?

– I try to get my brother to describe what is going on in his heart. What are his feelings (whether or not they seem factual), and how can he describe the sensations?

4. Radiation- where is the pain and does it extend?

– I ask him to locate the pain and describe where it goes. What part of life is most painful?

5. Severity- how severe is the pain?

– I ask my brother how this experience compares to other times in his life. Is this the worst situation he’s ever been in? Is it totally unbearable?

6. Time- when did this start?

– I question as to when this situation started, how long it’s been going on. How has it changed since the outset?

G. SAMPLE

1. Symptoms

– I observe my brother and look for symptoms of problems. Is he expressing fear, bitterness, unbelief, etc.? Are there signs that something is wrong with his belief system, his walk with the Lord?

2. Allergies

– What is it that causes my brother to react? Does he have knee jerk reactions that point to deeper issues?

3. Medications

– Is my brother leaning on medications? Does he have props in his life? Is he dependent on things other than Christ?

4. Pertinent history

– What is it about my brother’s past that I should know? Has he had prior experiences of bitterness, unbelief, etc.? How have others related to his issues in the past?

5. Last oral intake

– What has my brother been feeding on? Where has he been gaining sustenance and strength for his life? What kind of a diet does he feed his soul?

6. Events leading up to

– What events triggered this situation in my brother’s life? Has he been through a lot of sorrow? Instability? Lost relationships?

H. BPR

1. Blood pressure

– What kind of ‘blood pressure’ reading am I getting from his life? Is he apathetic or passionate? Depressed or motivated?

2. Pulse

– As I feel for my brother’s pulse, is it weak and faltering or strong and vibrant? Is it irregular? How is his heart functioning? Is he alive and well, or slipping away?

3. Respirations

– Is my brother breathing heavy, laborious breaths? Are his breaths fast and shallow? Is he living in the vital breath of prayer?

I. Intervention

– As I have considered and monitored my brother’s life and soul, now I must make some decisions and actions as to how to move forward. How can I intervene for his life? What is it that he most needs? Lord, give me the grace and strength to walk this out in a way that can bring healing to his situation.

J. Reassess

– As time continues, and we pray and work for healing and restoration, I must continue to reassess my brother’s heart and life. Is he just barely hanging in there? Is he making good progress? Where is he with the Lord?

K. Report

– I report to the chief medical director of the universe each day in prayer. I tell him how my brother is doing. The disappointments and the encouragements. How I feel about it all. I ask for heavenly wisdom and strength. I ask for the fortitude to be more than a conquerer in my calling. Someday, I will call in to medical command for the final time. Then He will call me into his presence, and I will joyfully hear the words, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant!’

Moved with Compassion

For the last several weeks, I have been impressed with the subject of compassion. Primarily, I am being reminded over and over of the scripture in the gospel of Mark 6:34 where he tells us, “And Jesus, when he came out, saw many people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.”

Also, in the ninth chapter of the gospel of Matthew, we read very similar words along with examples of Jesus’ compassion and what he had to say about the subject. In this account, Jesus healed numerous people of their ailments and even raised a girl from the dead. He also demonstrated his compassion by sitting down to eat with the ‘sinners’. That’s right. He sat down to dine and converse with the lowly and disreputable. They loved him. But the Pharisees wagged their heads and their tongues. Their very basis for their holiness was separation from such ones. They asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus’ response to their query was an interesting statement. He said rather simply, “They who are well do not need a physician, but rather those who are sick.” He continues on with these words, “Now go and learn what this means, ‘I will have compassion rather than sacrifice.’ For I am not come to call the righteous, but rather sinners to repentance.” Our compassionate lord would rather have us imitate his compassion for the lost and desperate than to be zealous in our ‘sacrifices’. What is more important to you? After recounting various miracles of healings, we again come to these words, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.”

This past week has been a very intense week for me. I have been in the middle of some concentrated and emotionally charged situations. I have poured my time and energies into situations. I have experienced the feeling of wanting to force people to see reality. But, as I consider the question of how Jesus would react to each situation, I realize that he would be moved with compassion. He would weep for the pain in their hearts. I realize that if he had not been moved with compassion towards me, I would be in a really bad place. Only because of his compassion towards me in the first place, do I even have the capability and opportunity to reach out to others. Our Lord, who was moved with compassion for the multitudes because they were as sheep without a shepherd, says very simply, “Follow me.” Simple words. Simple actions. Simple but hard. Being moved with compassion for people is a simple thought. But if I am really moved with compassion for people, it will be hard. If I will be moved with compassion, I must be willing. I must be unselfish. I must put others first. I must give up my preferences (even my ‘convictions’). I must give up my plans. I must give up my hard earned resources. I must give my very life. I must die.

Mission possible?

Is it possible to be representatives of the Invisible? The title ‘Image of the Invisible’ is a description that the writer of the epistle to the Colossians gave of our lord Jesus when describing his preeminence in the out start of that letter. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…” Christ communicated various times in his ministry that he had come to represent God to the people. To bring the message of the Creator to the creation. That is why he is called the Living Word. And, I believe, we as the Body of Christ here on earth are called to carry on that same function of representing God to the people and conveying His message to them. The question is, “How can we make it real? How can we convey the message in a meaningful way? How can we avoid the dead orthodoxy of religious trappings that has plagued the church for centuries?”

I think so much of the answer lies in our personal understanding of Christ. Who is He to me? How real is he in my experience? Do I think that I can communicate something to others that is not a reality in my own life? See, I think that is essentially what ‘Christianity’ has been doing. And I think that is a big problem in our experience so many times. We may not be a part of the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, but we have allowed so much of its ideology to migrate into our experience. We are thankful that we are not part of their system, but in essence, we have embraced the spirit. Our forefathers gave their lives through bloodshed and much hardship to come out of the system and to identify with a King who allows no rival owners. It is unfortunate that their progeny have so flippantly returned to the old way of systematizing beliefs and impersonalizing the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. We have systems. We have traditions. We have doctrines. We have 501(c)3’s. But the question is, “Do we have Jesus?”

And I will be honest enough to admit that the reality does not always seem to be there in my experience. When I get to the end of a day and realize that I’ve fallen flat on my face, that I have misrepresented Christ to the people, even to my own children; I often have to weep. I long for perfection. I long to be a consistent ambassador of a heavenly Kingdom. The reality is that I am not a perfect representative. But He continues to call, “My grace is sufficient for you. Go and sin no more. Come follow me. I will make you fishers of men. All authority has been given to you. Go into all the world and make disciples. And I will be with you until the end.”

So to answer the question posed at the out start of this short essay, I cast my vote to say “Yes, it is possible to be a representative of the Invisible when we have Him living within our hearts.” What do you say?