Leadership is one of the single largest challenges of our age – perhaps of all ages. In secular life it is easy to see how lacking we are of strong, determined, selfless leaders that steer the course of our government, and business. Stall-ward strength, determination to bear solid core values has melted into self serving, selling out to the highest bidder, and conceding to malfeasance misfeasance nonfeasance. We have grown to expect that our political leaders will not lead well, or will not lead at all unless the outcome brings reward to their pocketbooks and wallets. Some companies have in recent years hit the rocks, made the headlines, and even gone out of business because the captains of industry steered their ships into the rough rocks and destruction.
Its an academic topic – Are we experiencing a “brain drain” from the region?
Its a business school push – How do we develop solid leaders with tools to lead well.
Its an issue of the church – Development and selection of leaders must be on God’s calling, not secular skill sets. The bible contains concise job descriptions (if you will) of the positions of Elder (Bishop/Overseer) and Deacons in 1 Timothy 3. Lets take a look at them:
Qualifications for Overseers (Elder) – 1 Timothy 3:1-7
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Qualifications for Deacons (Deacon) – 1 Timothy 3:8-13
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife,managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Both of these positions came at a point of growth of the church. Things were becoming too much for the early church. Structure had to be established… The flock of God needs under-shepherds… men who would watch over the very souls entrusted to them by God. The role of elder is noble, but a heavy weight of responsibility to 1. live as an example to all, and 2. to lead, teach, counsel with the sheep. The role of deacons is also an important part of the church, as workers tasked with specific jobs or roles – the origin of the position was to care for all of the widows, to ensure that everyone was treated equally, and received equal portions of the welfare.
But lets go back to elder… how is an elder selected? In my church a committee is formed to select suitable persons in the congregation. From their opinion a name is decided upon, and at the annual meeting a vote is taken, then he is prayed for.
Ultimately God will watch over the decisions, and it is my prayer that those chosen to lead meet the criteria of the scripture. Why? Why is that important? Because the very purity of the role, the power to discern and obey the Spirit of God, rests on the ability of godly men to have the courage to obey, to follow hard after God, to establish a good reputation with all people;whether they are within or outside the church, and whether or not the word of god will be upheld. These are weighty matters that speak deeply to the character and teach-ability of each of us. Lets look at the qualities of an elder:
- must be above reproach
- the husband of one wife
- able to teach**
- not a drunkard
- not violent but gentle
- not quarrelsome
- not a lover of money
- must manage his own household well
- not be a recent convert
- he must be well thought of by outsiders
The list speaks deeply to the character of the person, with one exception – able to teach is a gift or skill that is supernaturally gifted by God. Character reflects what is going on deep inside… the very wiring of a person. It speaks of discipline, ability to manage well, with love and care, not falling into the propensity to drink too much, or argue. In our time it seems very current to see that they should not be a lover of money because so much of the rest of the world runs hard after money. Self controlled and sober minded speak to the discipline. But the qualities also look to the family around the man – is their home in order with children yielded to obedience, faith, teachability? And is the wife a support for her husband? Is their marriage good?
Why such emphasis on these qualities? I pulled this from something I read years ago… i think this helps to capture the idea in a systematic and clear way:
The elders in a church set the precedent for what faithful pastoral leadership is in that
church. Therefore, elders must not only have character, which qualifies him to lead
God‘s people, but also the competency to accomplish the duties Jesus his Senior Pastor
has assigned him. The duties of the elders are many according to Scripture. Elders,
deacons, and members share the load.
Prayer and Scripture study (Acts 6:4)
Ruling/leading the church (1 Timothy 5:17)
Managing the church (1 Timothy 3:4–5)
Caring for people in the church (1 Peter 5:2–5)
Giving account to God for the church (Hebrews 13:17)
Living exemplary lives (Hebrews 13:7)
Rightly using the authority God has given them (Acts 20:28)
Teaching the Bible correctly (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2)
Preaching (1 Timothy 5:17)
Praying for the sick (James 5:13–15)
Teaching sound doctrine and refuting false teachings (Titus 1:9)
Working hard (1 Thessalonians 5:12)
Rightly using money and power (1 Peter 5:1–3)
Protecting the church from false teachers (Acts 20:17–31)
All of these are mandates of scripture, ordained by the word of God to continue the church, to advance the kingdom of Heaven. Character must line up with purpose…. to ensure faithfulness, obedience, teachability and solid leadership of God’s people.
When character does not match the church is opened for error, for mishandling of the role, or for a bad example of leadership both within and without the church.
Error is something that dates back to the garden of Eden, and that infamous temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden… The serpent put a spin on the words God spoke, cast doubt, appealed to a dark side of human character, and nobody stepped up to say different. Eve listened, not to the pure truth of what God said to her, but to the lies that fed into the story, appealing to the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Subtle disception lead to the introduction of sin into the world.
By the same token, an elder must know the word of God, and know the truth, and be able to differentiate truth from error. They must be able to clarify, correct, encourage, and foster faith based on the word of God clearly presented with no room for error.
Elders should be older in the faith… tested, tried, allowed to have developed character, faith, and discernment. It is so sad when you see a young believer put into the role of an elder because of their new found faith and zeal.. while their faith is exciting, and noticable, they have not endured challenges, developed a depth of their theology, or a depth of the ways the Lord works. Likewise they become “bate: for the enemy to pounce on, attack and disable. Young believers dont have the same level of experience or knowledge about spiritual warfare to combat the onslaught of attacks. It will come with time, but the burden of leading the church should not fall on a young believer’s shoulders.
One final thought – In the book of acts we see the choosing of a new leader done through much prayer… and examination of the character of the man in their ministry in the church, and in their world. While prayer is present, i wonder if our modern church looks first at the outward appearance, community stature, career position/ influence and make a decision to promote those who look successful in the world. I wonder if we disqualify people because they have endured challenges, reversals, great loss, or great trial. I fear that our humanity gets in the way of the plan God has for leadership. We can be so subjective, so discriminating.
Lord, the church is your work, and you privelege us to be a part of that great work. May you remain strong in our churches, leading us with all power and wisdom. May you select leaders that are strong, and faithful. Help us to be wise and discerning of your spirit, choosing the people that are your choice. Order the steps of every committee making these decisions, and give wisdom to every congregation to choose and vote wisely. And may the Lord protect each man that steps into these roles. Keep them free of critical spirits, judgements, and misuse of position. Protect their families from the attacks of the enemy for Jesus, you are the victor. The enemy is defeated. Amen