“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (I Timothy 3:1).
Current usage of the term “bishop” does not completely reflect the Biblical meaning. The term should not be restricted to a leadership role in denominational hierarchy, but rather should include that of a leadership role in a local fellowship of believers. This word and its parallel terms might be better communicated by the terms pastor, elder, shepherd, or overseer. The qualifications for leadership (as listed in the verses following our text) cannot be overstressed, although they are all too often ignored by local churches.
Here, the duties of oversight of a church are identified as work, albeit good work, as anyone who has ever shouldered such responsibilities would agree. They include the exercise of “hospitality” (v.2)—opening one’s home, pocketbook, and heart to Christians in need. Teaching (v.2) also implies hard work in study and preparation.
Likewise, such an overseer must be in the habit of visiting and ministering to those in need (James 1:27); shepherding or feeding the flock (I Peter 5:2); protecting the flock from those who would teach error (Acts 20:28,29); being examples of humility and service to the rest of the flock (I Peter 5:3); being examples in faith (Hebrews 13:7) and blamelessness (Philippians 3:17) among other duties—all of which are hard work.
Perhaps the duty most sobering to a church leader is that he must take responsibility for the spiritual health of the flock and must give an account to God for such (Hebrews 13:17), either in “joy” or “grief.”
May God enable each Christian leader to undertake those duties with vigor and victory, and may He also enable each Christian to bring joy, not grief, to those under whose authority God has placed us. JDM