Paul’s Third Epistle to Timothy: A Satire
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the command of God and for the sake of his church. 1:2 To Timothy, my child in the faith: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
1:3 I thank God you were able to visit to me in Nicopolis, and especially for your delivery of the books and parchments I requested. 1:4 I do not want you to be deceived, my beloved, by those who have misunderstood me. 1:5 Though Scripture is breathed out by God and able to equip the believer for every good work, 1:6 much more is necessary to equip the church leader in his task. 1:7 As much as we did not receive a spirit of fear, nor did God give us a spirit of naivety. 1:8 So show yourself approved, rightly handling Scripture. 1:9 But do not make yourself ineffective through ignorance of the secular writings. 1:10 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that godliness is of some value, 1:11 but to fulfil our charge and guard the good deposit you must be devoted to church growth. 1:12 As one leader wrote, ‘I came to Rome when it was a city of stone and left it a city of marble.’ 1:13 Therefore, let no one despise you for your commitment to the secular writings. Rather set them an example in vision casting, strategic planning and ambition. 1:14 Practise these things, immerse yourself in them. 1:15 By rejecting them some have made a shipwreck of their public image and church brand.
2:1 Did not the queen of Sheba praise Solomon saying, ‘The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and your wisdom, 2:2 but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. Behold, the half was not told to me. Your wisdom and prosperity far surpass what I heard’? 2:3 In this way you too should be well thought of by outsiders. 2:4 Furthermore, the world will be able to see the household of God’s progress and relevance.
2:5 For there are many insubordinate and empty talkers. 2:6 They must be silenced because they are upsetting the ministry model and flows. 2:7 This is why I let you return to Ephesus, so that you might put what remained into order and appoint leaders. 2:8 Therefore if anyone aspires to the office of pastor’s wife, she desires a noble task. 2:9 A pastor’s wife must be married to the pastor. 2:10 She must manage the household of God well, keeping her children submissive 2:11 for those who serve well as pastor’s wives gain a good standing for themselves. 2:12 Business managers, likewise, must be tested first. If he has successfully served in the secular work place then he has proven himself called to the task. 2:13 For if someone knows how to manage well he knows how to care for God’s church. 2:14 Because the grace of God has appeared we renounce naive ways, it trains us with worldly wisdom. 2:15 So flee youthful passions and pursue what is effective. 2:16 Just as our beloved brother Richard wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, devote yourself to pragmatism.
3:1 I charge you in the presence of God: organise your teams, clarify portfolios and establish goals. 3:2 Always be sober-minded, endure naysayers, and do the work of a manager. 3:3 Watch your life, doctrine and leadership principles closely. By doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. 3:4 Let no one despise you for your pragmatic handling of people, but set the church an example in strategic planning. 3:5 Entrust what you have heard from me to capable men, who will be able to influence others also. 3:6 Do your best, therefore, to work at a higher level. 3:7 Just as the general does not get entangled in the affairs of the soldier, nor does the rancher pour out his time attending to the bleating of his sheep.
3:8 For this reason I have thought it necessary to send to you Thomas, my fellow strategist and influence leader. 3:9 I have no one else like him, who is fixated on growth and committed to streamlining church business. 3:10 Many seek to simply serve the flock. 3:11 But you know Thomas’ proven worth, how as an extroverted and dynamic leader he successfully managed numeric growth and laboured to complete what was lacking in my own vision casting while at Thessalonica. 3:12 Honour men like him.
3:13 Now to him who is able to do as much as we plan and execute, according to the strategic and managerial power within us, 3:14 to God be the glory in the church, your legacy and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Satire might be defined as humorous or ironic criticism. Its use is often frowned upon and unpopular among Christians. At least one of the reasons for this reception is that satire can tend towards ridicule and insult. This is certainly not my intention. In my opinion, satire is often dismissed because it is so effective, cutting to the quick. This was my purpose for 3 Timothy. I hope that, by parodying the pastoral epistles, readers will see how far much contemporary Christian leadership and church growth literature is from the New Testament’s vision for church ministry.
I have written extensively about this at Rekindle. Since a personal turning point in 2016 I have: considered the value of secular wisdom; challenged an emphasis on metrics; cautioned against empire building; questioned the language of “working at a higher level”; and highlighted the folly of trying to clone success. I am also busy finishing up a series of posts developing a theology of leadership from 1-2 Kings. These articles and those related to them have enjoyed varying success. But 3 Timothy has been on my mind for some time now. I trust that generous readers will look past the accusation of irreverence and permit the satire to fulfil its function.