Christian Leadership Development Series
What is a Christian Leader? The New Testament has some established guidelines for choosing leaders and if we don’t have these standards in place first we undermine our entire leadership culture. The other side of leadership, which is many times neglected, is developing skillsets that enable a leader to mentor and equip others for the work of the ministry. If these two thought processes are in place it provides a foundation for success that brings out the very best in all those involved.
I see many churches that hold their leaders to a high standard of character and behavior but they have very low standards when choosing a leader. It is not fair to put a person in a place of leadership that requires strong character when their character has not yet been developed. I see it all the time. A person is chosen for a position of leadership simply because of availability or an obvious gifting, or even worse, people are placed in positions of leadership because of their financial contributions to the ministry with no consideration of character or maturity. It is a recipe for disappointment and disaster.
Here are a few questions to consider before choosing leaders:
- Is the individual a devoted follower of Christ?
- Have they proven themselves faithful or are they recent converts?
- Do they pursue Jesus passionately and have an obvious intimate relationship with God?
- Do they have a robust prayer life?
- Does the individual have a good knowledge of God’s Word?
- Are they able to encourage people to take steps to spiritual maturity?
- Do they possess self-control?
- Are they gentle, hospitable, upright, holy, and disciplined?
- Is their life an example to the flock?
If you look at this list and fall under conviction, it’s ok. Maybe this applies to you or a person you have placed in a leadership role and you realize you have missed the mark. Don’t fret. Correction is a part of leadership, receiving it and giving it. We will address these questions in light of scripture in the following lessons and will also give you an action plan to correct any mistakes of the past and rebuild a leadership team.
The goal of this series is to help ministries create a culture of excellence in leadership and mentoring that glorifies God and equips people and ministries to succeed.
Qualifications For Leadership
I’m so thankful that God took out the guesswork in qualifying church leaders. The Bible lays out some very specific guidelines for choosing leaders and these guidelines are the foundation for leadership, mentoring, and ministry success. Understand that this is God’s prescribed method of choosing leaders. It is His way of determining who is, and is not qualified to lead. Being mindful of this and honoring this process inspires faith, produces strength, promotes success, prevents problems, and establishes structure and boundaries. If we adopt any other method of vetting leaders we subvert God’s plan and bring a reproach on Christ. I know that may sound harsh, but it is the harsh reality that we are faced with.
Let’s start with qualifications for Deacons and Elders and define their roles in the church. The roles of Deacons and Elders encompass all of the qualified leader positions in the church. All others should be in a position of being groomed and mentored for these offices.
Elders are the spiritual leaders of the church. They serve as pastors, associate pastors and teachers they provide general oversight on organizational, financial, and spiritual matters. Elders can be 5 fold ministry gifts that have matured in their gifting and have proven themselves faithful in ministry, serving under the authority of other leaders. Elders are not limited to 5-fold ministry gifts but should live a life in such submission to Christ that they can readily embody the expression of the 5-fold ministry at any given moment They understand that Christ is the embodiment of the 5-fold ministry and if Christ chooses to move through them as a Prophet, an Evangelist, or any other gift they yield to that expression.
Leaders don’t find their identity in the office that they occupy, but in Christ alone. In other words, Pastor, or Teacher in not who I am, it is how I serve. A seasoned Elder will wake up every day and be willing to serve others in whatever capacity God chooses.
An Elder understands that they exist to love and serve others, that their life is not their own and selfishness is never an option.
The biblical requirements of deacons are very similar to that of elders, but there is a clear distinction between the offices. The role of a deacon may include a variety of services and differs from denomination to denomination. In general deacons function as servants, ministering to the body in practical ways. They may serve as a lead usher, oversee the benevolence outreach, lead a home group, or lead the hospitality department.
No matter how they serve, scripture is clear that office of a deacon is a rewarding and honorable calling in the church and a necessary role for elders to function in their office. The ministry of deacons is vital to the success of the elders, it frees them up to focus on prayer, studying God’s Word, and pastoral care. It is a great example of how one body part depends on the other. Deacons are Elders in training.
Leadership requirements for Elders:
Titus 1:5-9 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
1Timothy 3:1-7 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Leadership requirements for Deacons:
1 Timothy 3:8-13 8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
These scriptures are not overly complicated, in fact they are very straight forward and leave no room for misinterpretation. I believe God made it simple for us so we wouldn’t mess it up. If we deviate from these simple guidelines and place an unqualified elder or deacon in a leadership role we have created a recipe for disaster.
Placing an unqualified leader in one of these roles devalues the office in the eyes of the flock as well as the other leaders. These offices should be held in high esteem and the people in them should be honorable, above reproach, and worthy of respect. This creates structure and boundaries with the body of Christ that are clearly defined and easily understood. It shows people that there is a defined structure of authority that is from God and sends a clear message that the leadership are here for their benefit.
Question: What is one thing you could change right now to make you a more effective leader?
Question: Do you hold your leadership team to a higher standard than what you are living yourself?
Question: How much time do you spend with the Lord in prayer daily?
Question: Do you spend as much time in prayer waiting and listening as you do talking?