Qualified Leadership in the Church
God desires his church to advance in its mission and advancing require leaders that push it forward. There must be leaders that can get the job done. So what are the qualification for church leadership? For any position you are trying to find a person for there has to be a qualification a fit for the job.
You might think he should have a massive social media presence, that he is capable of leading a large corporation, that he has business savvy. Or you might think he should be a warrior in prayer and has raised the dead through his petitions. You might think he should have a great stage presence and can wow people with his orations. Or you might think he plays basketball, has a nice beard and dashing good looks, they are not what the Bible places as qualifications of leaders. The qualifications the Bible gives are much more basic and simple, perhaps essential to the passing on of the faith.
Today’s passages lays out what qualified church leaders look like and what they are to do and be like. I hope it informs how we raise up leaders. I hope focusing on this topic will inform how we vote on elder. I hope we would all be praying for leaders who fit this. I also hope it sharpens all of us in our walk with God. Notice that all the requirements here are requirements for all Christians. We are all to be doing this. We all are to be pursuing these. Don’t sit back and think I’m not an elder therefore I don’t need to hear this. I want all of us to take a step forward in our pursuit of God.
Take a step forward. Pick one area, one characteristic, that you need to grow in and focus on that over the next few weeks/months. We grow more by focusing on one area than by focusing on fifty, and often that one area overflows into the other 50.
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.
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.
The Word of the Lord.
Here are six things this passage tells us about leadership in the church.
1. The purpose of leaders:
This passage begins with the qualification of the episkopos, that is an overseer. The word bishop comes from here. In the New Testament a group of words is used for the office of church leaders, and they all seem to highlight different aspects of the same office. You have overseer that highlights the leadership side, they should be overseeing and leading aspects of church life. They are watching over and acting as guardians for the church (Jesus is the overseer of our souls 1 Pet 2:25). Pastor, shepherd the flock of God that is among you, (1Pe 5:2 ESV), that highlights the care side, elder that highlights the character side. Leaders are to oversee, shepherd and care for the church.
These names, pastor, overseer, elder, are synonymous in the New Testament. They refer to the same office and are therefore interchangeable. Don’t get upset or shocked if you hear an elder say he is a pastor, or a pastor say he is an elder. Pastor and elder are the terms we have used at Bridgeway and will continue to use.
But the point of this is that elders are leading in the church. They are pastoring people. They are overseeing ministry, watching over and caring for the people of God and the ministry of the church. They are connected to people and helping them grow. They are involved in the activity of the church and are leading in that activity.
The leaders of the church are setting an example in doing God calls his people to do. They desire to honor God. Leaders set an example for others.
Henry Blackaby said “Spiritual leadership is moving people to God’s agenda.” Spiritual leaders, elders are moving people to God’s agenda through what they do and through their example. A leader in the church should be moving others closer to God.
2. The Desire for Leadership
1 Tim 3:1 “he desires a noble task.” There should be a desire for the role. There should be a desire to lead God’s people, a yearning for something. The word desire means to stretch out for something. There is a godly ambition to cultivate! It is a good desire.
Leadership starts with a desire to lead others. If he does not desire to lead God’s people then he should not do it. It is a good thing to desire this. In fact all of us should desire to lead others to the Lord. If you are a Christian you should desire to serve others. We should have a yearning to influence others, perhaps its influencing through pastoring people at church, perhaps it’s desiring to lead people by leading a company. Yearn to influence .
Aspiring to lead the church is a good work, a noble task. It is also a difficult task. Some think Paul quotes an ancient proverb that duskola ta kala, “difficult according to the good” or those things which are excellent are also arduous and difficult.
Don’t ever make me choose between attributes of a leader. I want them all. But if I could pick the most important it would be a strong desire, a yearning, for the Lord, because I think the desire, the passion for God will lead to the others, but if there is no passion the others will never be cultivated, never aimed in the right direction, never done with the right disposition that says to others this is how to serve God. Indifference is one of the most deadening attitudes in the church. We have to avoid that.
Leadership starts with an internal desire. But it is more than that. There must be a character that follows.
3. The Character of a Leader
John Frame said, “To determine if someone knows God we do not merely give him a written exam; we examine his life.” That is what much of these qualifications get at.
In the Old Testament leaders like priests and kings were put in position because of lineage, who they were connected to, but in the New Testament church the qualification is not lineage but outward evidence of an inner allegiance to the gospel.
He is above reproach. Its that his moral life is blameless. Doesn’t mean he is perfect but it does mean that he is setting an example. There is no fault in him. There is no infamy that would lessen his authority. When you teach there has to be a life that accompanies it. How can I teach on trusting God if I am not trusting him? How can I teach on being gracious if I am manipulating others? How can I teach on giving if I am not giving?
Also, the other characteristics better qualify what it is to be above reproach. It also means that men should be removed from their office when they have done acts that bring them into reproach with the Bible, when these different characteristics are not met.
The husband of one wife. In the Greek it is literally “a one woman man.” The fact that this is listed so soon highlights God’s priority for marriage to be one man and one woman. The elder should demonstrate marital fidelity. There is faithfulness, not flirtatious or promiscuous. Eph 5:25. There should be a leading and loving of those closest to him. There should be faithfulness in it all. This is a reminder to all men of the purity, devotion, sacrifice God calls you to. Set an example in this.
sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable. He is controlled. He doesn’t give in to passions or whims, wild ideas. He is in control of himself. There is a stability and a consistency. He is respectable, conducting himself with decency and propriety.
not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. Not a striker, not a bully or pugnacious. We don’t force people into things. We don’t pressure. We teach, we set an example, we exhort, we warn with words. But no coercion and force are used.
Jerry Bridges “ A law driver insists with threats and penalties; a preacher of grace lures and incites with divine goodness and compassion shown to us; for he wants no unwilling works and reluctant services, he wants joyful and delightful service to God.”
How you do something is as important as what you do. Many people who advocate right doctrine but do it in way that is contrary to Scripture. Advocate a great idea but not the right way. Want something good but they show immaturity in how they go about. This has no place in leadership. Humility.
Hospitable: generous to guests, loving to strangers. Its showing love and interest to all those are around, to friends and new acquaintances. As you read the early church and see it gathered in people's homes this should not surprise you. With the emphasis on fellowship and gathering with people it is something every Christian should practice. We should have open doors. It’s a basic of the faith. Fellowship. Hospitality.
Kitchen tables and living rooms sofas are great places to grow a church. You get to know people. You hear their testimonies, hear what is going on in life. You find encouragement and are able to encourage them as well.
not a drunkard. To get drunk, to be out of control would be undignified and would bring reproach on him. Mentioned here and in titus for elders and a qualification for deacons. It describes a person who drinks too much. Drunkards find refuge in alcohol, not in the Lord. People who drink too much seek comfort, identity, escape in something other than God. This is out of line for God’s people, it is not to be present in elders. Those who trust in the Lord go to the Lord with their troubles. They don’t need escape. They don’t need a reason to act differently than they normally do.
It doesn’t mean that they never taste alcohol, but it does mean they do so with self control. It’s ok for an elder or pastor, or deacon to have a glass of wine. But if they give into drunkenness that disqualifies him. Christians should heed the warning given to elders. It’s not wrong to have a beer. Some people say it is wisdom to not go near it. Lets draw the line where Scripture draws the line. But if you can’t control yourself and are given to excess then you have fallen into sin and you should stay away from it. Christians do the same.
Tested character. v6 “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” Neophyte. Neo is new. Newphyte is newly planted. I heard a baseball announcer talk about a player who came up and he was crushing it, for a couple weeks. It didn’t take long for pitchers to find a hole in his swing. He couldn’t adjust and was quickly demoted. It’s easy to have a few good days, weeks, months, but it should be a lifestyle. There is a time of testing that should happen. Tested to see who he really is. I
Character is so important. Alexander Strauch, "The greatest way to inspire and influence people for God is through personal example. Character and deeds, not official position or title, is what really influences people for eternity." If you want to make a difference in others or in the world it starts with you doing those things, setting an example.
4. The Competency of a Leader
If you are going to lead people somewhere you have to be competent in moving them. If you are a general you have to know how to get your troops from point a to point b. If you are leading a church, you do the same. You must be:
Competent to Teach. In church we are promoting a message of hope, a message of forgiveness, a message of how to live your life for the one and only true God. A leader must be competent to do this. He must understand sound theology. Healthy theology. “be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.”
He also must be able to pass it on to others. There are people who can remember anything they see, they can write profound thoughts, but if they cannot teach their thoughts in helpful and encouraging manner then they should not be leaders.
Competent to Lead. It not just that the elder does the right things but that he can lead others in doing those things. The prerequisite is not that he manage a company of 1 million dollar plus budget. Its that he manage his family well. The church is more like a big family than an corporation. If you can’t lead your family then how can you presume to lead the extended family.
Lead his own household. (If he does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God's church? (1Ti 3:5). Manage means to both lead/direct and it gets at the authority that a leader has but it can also mean a leadership that protects, cares for, and nurtures.
He must do this with all dignity. Can keep kids obedient through threats, but have to do it in a respectful way. It’s not just talking louder when people don’t agree with you.
Priority of family. Pastors don’t neglect your family for your career, that’s a good word for everyone. So easy to be concerned about business and you neglect something that is more important. You can find another job but you can’t find another family. And your kids can’t find another dad. First things first. Take care of your family.
5. The Structure of Leadership
There are two offices in the church: elders and deacons. This is the most extensive teaching on church government. Everything else is based on what seems good, reasonable, orderly. Church boards, voting percentages, checks and balances are all extra biblical. They are not contra-biblical, contrary to the Bible, but they are in addition to. We are going to have prudent policies in place, and we will need to hold those a little looser.
Briefly here are differences in deacons and elders. The requirements are largely the same but elders should be able to teach. If they are not able to teach then they should not be elders.
Acts 6:1 “ It would not be right for us to give up preaching about God to wait on tables. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
iii.Best to see that deacons are appointed to specific tasks in the church. They are to do practical works but it is also important that they demonstrate the right character.
Deacons don’t have the requirement to teach. The word deacon means to server. Elders have a ruling and overseeing function and deacons a serving role. I have heard that elders are servant leaders and deacons are leading servants. Deacons don’t have the same function to oversee and to pastor others. They still help meet the practical and spiritual needs of the church.
Lastly, women play a role in deaconal work. By virtue of their qualifications it is clear they are being qualified for work. The debate is not if women play a part in diaconal work, but if these women are the wives of deacons or if they are other women in the church.
6. Reward of Leadership
1 Timothy 3:13 “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” 1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Leadership is frustrating, exhausting, laborious, but deeply rewarding. There is something about getting into the mess of church and serving that causes you to grow. You gain greater confidence in the word of God, greater confidence in his promises, greater confidence in his warnings. If you are going to keep your cool in challenging situations, be faithful in your marriage, open your home to others it will come at inconvenient times. The only reason to do it is because you are not living for the conveniences of this world but for the kingdom of God and the reward that Jesus promises to you. That hope is most essential to Christian leaders and Christians. That drives our desire, character, competency and everything else.
- What are the different titles for leaders in the church? What does each term convey about that roles and spiritual leadership in general?
- What characteristics of leaders are most important? Which are most needed in the church today? Which area do you most need to grow in?
- What moves you to lead other people into a deeper relationship with God? What are you doing to lead others spiritually?
- What are questions you can ask at lunch or at dinner to have a more spiritually significant time?