“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” 1 Timothy 3:1
I’ve been teaching on leadership in the local church and working through Paul’s first letter to his apprentice Timothy. Chapter three really stirred me up. Paul begins saying, “This is a faithful saying.” It’s the equivalent to Jesus saying in the Gospels “Truly, truly or Verily, verily.” When Jesus said those words He was saying, “Hey! Pay attention! This is important!” That is what Paul is doing here as well. Then he says, “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.”
The word “desire” really jumped out at me in this passage. It appears twice in my translation, but it is actually two different words in the Greek. The first word translated “desire” literally means “to stretch oneself” or “to reach out for.” The image is that of a child reaching out for his mom or dad. The second word translated desire means “to set your heart upon.” It has to do with the inward emotions and this word is also translated “covet” or “lust after.” So the Bible says, it is a good thing to "stretch yourself" and "set your heart" on a place of service for the Lord.
In the tradition I have grown up in, those who served the Lord were those who received a specific calling to serve. It’s still part of our tradition – you ask people about doing things in the church and you may get the response – “I haven’t been called to do that.” That is a legit response and we shouldn’t force people into positions they are not qualified for nor passionate about. But it is also a response that is often abused. The next question to ask is, “What have you been called to do?” and the answer may be, “I don’t know?” It seems it’s easier to identify what we’re not called to do than it is to identify what we’re called to do.