+ Dr. Mark Roberts introduces 1 and 2 Timothy as helpful guides to what faithful leadership can look like today.
Mark D. Roberts is the executive director for the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller. With years of experience as a pastor and nonprofit leader, he is deeply committed to the De Pree Center’s mission to serve leaders in the marketplace, education, government, nonprofits, arts, family, and the church.
“It’s not just about saying the true things, but it’s about living them and being an example to others.” – Mark D. Roberts
Dr. Mark D. Roberts introduces 1 and 2 Timothy as helpful guides to what faithful leadership can look like today.
My name is Dr. Mark Roberts. I’m the executive director of Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership. We work with folk in the marketplace to help them live as disciples of Jesus in every part of life. We’ll be looking today at the letters of 1 and 2 Timothy, which actually combine my own personal interests. They’re New Testament letters written by Paul to Timothy. They also have so much to say about leadership. They spoke once about the need of leadership in the first century, and they speak to us about what it means for us to be faithful leaders today.
A couple years ago, my mom passed away. And as we were going through her belongings we discovered a treasure. And I’ve actually got that treasure here today. Now you’ll be disappointed it’s not gold and silver treasure. It’s actually a bunch of letters. None of us in my family, not my siblings or I, had ever seen these letters. Turns out they are letters that my dad wrote to my mom while they were dating. This is really a treasure for our family, as you can imagine, to get to know my dad and his relationship with my mom at a time of life when we weren’t around.
You know, in many ways, the letters in the New Testament of 1 and 2 Timothy are a similar kind of treasure. 1 and 2 Timothy are personal letters written to Timothy. We know from Paul’s letters that Timothy was one of his closest colleagues and coworkers. But their relationship is more than just a working relationship. In the letters that we’ll be looking at, Paul refers to Timothy as my beloved child, my loyal child. There is a deep friendship, a deep connection between them.
Paul wrote because they were finally separated, and Timothy was in, what we would now call, modern Turkey, and he was pastoring some churches that were going through some very challenging times. And so Paul wrote to help Timothy be a good leader in a time challenging to the church. And there is a lot in there that also helps us in our own challenging times in leadership.
Paul lays out basically three main things for Timothy as a leader. First of all, he should lead by hanging on tightly to the core truth of the gospel. Many places in these letters, Paul will encourage Timothy to grasp the truth and teach the truth. He also makes it clear that this truth is absolutely connected to Scripture. In the second letter, he says that all scripture is inspired by God, and it’s profitable for teaching and for righteousness. So scripture is so important. Also in the first letter there is a very interesting line where Paul encourages Timothy to attend to what’s usually translated ‘the public reading of scripture.’ It’s the oral reading of scripture in the context of the community that Paul is urging Timothy to do. And the very thing that we’re about here, in what we call the communal reading of scripture, actually it grows out of that verse in the early Christian practice of listening and hearing and believing that God’s Spirit speaks when we listen to God’s word. So, first off, Timothy is to lead by hanging on to core truth of the faith.
Secondly, he is to lead by exercising personal integrity. There’s a line in one of these letters where Paul says that Timothy should pay close attention to himself and to his teaching. In others words, it’s not just about saying the true things, but it’s about living them and being an example for others.
So for Timothy to be a leader in challenging times: First, hanging on to scriptural truth. Second, living it, being an example. And third, Paul wants Timothy to raise up others, to empower others in leadership. Paul talks about how Timothy is to not only teach the truth but entrust it to those who can be good stewards of the truth. So there is a delegating and an empowering leadership that’s part of what Timothy needs to do.
Part of what we get in this treasure of 1 and 2 Timothy are some amazing passages about God. And I’ll close by reading one of them that comes from the end of the first letter in which Paul speaks about God “who is the blessed and only sovereign, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. It is he alone who has immortality and who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” Amen indeed.