Christianity 201

August 21, 2012

Qualities Desired for Local Church Leadership

This is part two of a two-part article begun yesterday

There are some attributes that should not be found by people in leadership.

First, they should not be confused. Sounds a bit strange, but there are a lot of people who aren’t ‘set’ or ‘fixed’ or ‘firm’ on key doctrines or matters of responsible Christian ethics. Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy:

“Some have wandered away from [a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith] and turned to meaningless talk.  They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (I Tim 1: 6,7)

Second they should not be immature. In the epistle to the Hebrews we read,

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food.” (Heb. 5:12)

The spiritual leader must desire the deeper things of God. His/her diet should be two-pound prime rib, not two-percent milk.

Third, they should not be inconsistent. Their walk must match their talk. God hates hypocrisy. To echo a verse in Revelation, He would rather we be one thing or the other, but not dabbling in spiritual things and then living an unholy life in the world. James writes,

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (Jam. 3:1)

So what kind of person is God looking for?

Each one of the above negatives implies a positive:

  • authority
  • maturity
  • consistency

The leader must also have a clear understanding of the role to which he is called.

  • There is the traditional role of Pastor or Missionary
  • There are parachurch organizations which offer the option of service that is linked to particular aspect of ministry (social service, camp ministry, pregnancy centers, counseling, inter-church youth events, Christian radio, Bible translation, medical ministries, Christian school, etc.)
  • There is the bi-vocational route which allows you to serve God while earning income as a secretary, doctor, pilot, printer, shipper, salesperson, etc.
  • Others have a role that is even less defined in a career sense, but participate actively in organizations such as The Gideons, Youth for Christ, Compassion, etc.; or are a Sunday School teacher; or give of themselves to serve on a church board or a committee of a Christian agency or mission organization.

There is also the need for certain, called Christ-followers to take their place in the community as civic or political leaders. Others are called to be creative, cultural innovators in the arts and media. There is a place for Christian engineers, administrators, professors, lawyers, designers and entrepreneurs. The qualities which bring a Christ-centeredness to this work will always be spiritual attributes, not things measured by academic laurels.

But now, we’ve saved the best for the last…

There are two things which God can use more than anything; and they both begin in the heart. With these two qualities, the weakest among us can become effective, fruitful, dynamic leaders.

The first is a compassionate heart.  The desire to lead must be cultivated in an atmosphere filled with a love both for God’s people and the unsaved. The spirit of caring should be instantly recognizable. Although the command to love is given to all disciples, the person in leadership needs a double dose.

The second is a servant’s heart. In the kingdom of God, greatness is achieved only through humility. One gets to be the president of the company only by doing the janitor’s work. Too many people are clamoring to be religious superstars without realizing that in God’s scheme of things, the last often become first, and the foolish often confound the wise.  The spiritual leaders God is most seeking — the ones he really needs — won’t be bestselling authors, recording artists or Christian television celebrities. Discard those aspirations; that’s not spiritual reality.

And if you want to go deeper on leadership, Chapter three of the first letter to Timothy is also full of a number of qualifications for leadership applicable to the New Testament church. All the requirements listed would make good criteria for selecting spiritual leadership.

Going back to yesterday’s post, I certainly don’t want to leave the conclusion that Bible colleges and seminaries are not helpful. For many, it’s a good place to begin, for the spiritual attributes one needs will only be found through intense study of God’s Word.

However, it just might be that there is someone reading this who has never studied theology, philosophy, Biblical Greek or Hebrew; yet you know as you sit comfortably in church week after week that God has a major task for you if you will only submit your availability to Him. You know what it is to experience a restlessness that doesn’t want to settle until you answer that strong feeling that you need to be doing something more. I hope you are encouraged to step up; starting in your local assembly or spiritual community.

There may also be someone reading this who is already in a recognizable position in Christian leadership, but you know deep down that lately you’re merely “playing Church.” It’s become routine; you play your part flawlessly by rote. It’s not too late. Ask God to give you a heart full of compassion that can be poured out in humble service: A compassionate, servant’s heart. That determination will direct you to the actual shape a renewed ministry role will take in your life.

Finally, a word to the young (and young in the faith). Don’t wait. Paul’s first letter to Timothy offers good advice to tomorrow’s Christian leaders:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.  (I Tim: 5:4)