“one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
1 Timothy 3:4-5 reminds us that good leadership starts at home. You see, a congregational minister who is a poor leader within his home is likely to be the same in other areas as well. This provides us with an opportunity to consider two important elements, one that should be obvious and another that may be less so.
First, a pastoral leader must “…keep his children in control without losing his dignity” (NET). While no parent is perfect, an overseer who does not possess the ability to lead his children will probably encounter difficulty leading the church. We can illustrate this point with a look at the Biblical example of a priest named Eli.
Eli had two sons who also served as priests. However, Eli’s sons conducted themselves in a manner that was highly inappropriate. For example, these men diverted the offerings that were dedicated to God and seized them for their personal use (1 Samuel 2:12-17). They also engaged in immoral relationships with women who assembled at the house of God. These repeated acts of misconduct were widely acknowledged by others, including Eli (1 Samuel 2:22-25).
Although Eli confronted his sons about their inappropriate behavior, he failed to use his authority to discipline them (1 Samuel 2:27-36, 1 Samuel 3:11-14). Unfortunately, Eli’s failure to act led to disastrous consequences (see 1 Samuel 4).
This passage also offers a secondary element to consider as well. As is true with any vocation or career, a man may become so engrossed in his work that he neglects his family, thus creating a destructive leadership vacuum within the lives of his children. We can turn again to the book of 1 Samuel to illustrate this danger with an example from the life of Samuel himself.
1 Samuel 8:1-3 tells us, “Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel… But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:1, 3). Since Samuel served as a circuit judge in Israel (1 Samuel 7:15-17), it’s easy to see how those responsibilities may have kept him away from home for extended periods and limited his ability to provide guidance and direction for his children.
These Biblical examples, along with the instructions given to us here in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 thus offer a valuable reminder for ministers and all parents as well.