Monday, May 28, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt 8

Biblical Qualifications of Elders

Now that we have covered the biblical structure of church leadership, which consists of a qualified team of elders that are called to lead the church, we will look at the biblical qualifications of an elder or “pastor”.

The qualifications of the men selected for eldership is extremely important and cannot be emphasized enough. To appoint the wrong man to this type of position will ultimately spell disaster for the church. As Strauch points out:

“The most common mistake made by churches that are eager to implement eldership is to appoint biblically unqualified men. Because there is always a need for more shepherds, it is tempting to allow unqualified, unprepared men to assume leadership in the church. This is, however, a time-proven formula for failure. A biblical eldership requires biblically qualified elders.” [1]

We need to keep the following crucial points in mind:

  • Eldership is not to be treated as an honorary position in the church, open to those who are merely faithful in church attendance, or who are advanced in years.

  • Elders are not to be chosen based on good friendships, wealthy people who give generously, or those who exhibit a great deal of charisma.

  • Elder positions can be filled by anyone exhibiting the biblical requirements; NOT just seminary graduates. [1]

Paul gave Timothy a specific list of qualifications that all elders must meet in 1 Timothy 3. This not merely a wish list, but a must have.

“1It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7, NASB)

Notice in this list of qualifications, many of the personal character qualities are listed before “able to teach”. It is not that teaching ability is any less important of course. In fact, if a man is unable to teach, he is automatically disqualified for pastoral leadership. But equally important is the personal integrity of the man being selected to serve in the capacity of leadership. To falter in any one of these areas automatically disqualifies a man from pastoral leadership.

So why are these character qualities important? Because he is to be an example to the congregation, and the possession of these character qualities makes the doctrine that is taught attractive to those who hear. Titus chapter 2 provides the reason that a Christian’s conduct is important, since it will “adorn the doctrine of God”.

“9Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”
(Titus 2:9-10, NASB)

This of course is for all Christians, but it is vitally important that the leadership possess sound character, because they are doing far more than just teaching rote doctrine; they are providing an example to the congregation. (1 Peter 5:3) The term “adorn” means to make attractive, and our conduct should attract people to the Gospel.

Our actions speak volumes. Titus 2:7-8 tells us that our good conduct will leave our opponents with nothing that they can say against us. Our behavior is ultimately important, because if our actions do not line up with our words, it really renders meaningless whatever doctrine we supposedly believe.

It is interesting that when Paul introduces doctrine in his writing, he always backed it up with the “why”. In other words, he introduced the doctrine, then he explained that in light of that doctrine, this is the way we should conduct our lives. Look at the book of Romans. The first half outlines doctrine, and the remainder is the practical outworking of our faith, how it should effect how we live.

The lifestyle and personal character is foundationally important to the leadership of the church, since the pastoral leadership is to lead by example. And the congregation is to follow the example. These are not merely qualifications that only eldership team should possess, but the congregation should strive to achieve these character qualities as well.

I will expand on these qualifications in a future post.

1. Alexander Strauch, "Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership", p. 68.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Slow Blogging

My posting may continue to be quite slow for awhile in fact, I may decide to take a complete break for awhile at some point here. There are just too many things going on right now. I am currently taking a class on church history and unfortunately, it looks like my wife and I are going to be faced with the daunting task of looking for a new church home. It is unfortunate, but it does not seem likely that the type of reform that needs to take place in our church in terms of implementing a more biblical approach to ministry are ever going to take place. Back in December, I wrote that our church was going to be in the process for filling the vacancy for senior pastor that was left as a result of the dismissal of our senior pastor. There seemed to be the realization that we did not have a biblical model for church leadership. There also seemed to be the keen awareness that the church had adopted some very spiritually unhealthy practices in carrying out the ministry of the church.

But unfortunately, other than coming to the realization that there needs to be leadership comprised of a team of elders, it does not seem that the remaining pastoral staff is willing to allow the remaining necessary changes to take place. These would be changes that would lead to a spiritually healthy church. Things such as more in-depth teaching just do not seem to be part of the agenda. And there seems to be a continuing influx of postmodernism, despite warnings given to the leadership concerning the dangers of the emerging church.

It is not so much that there is rank heresy currently being taught, although it is inevitably going to creep in. In fact, I am wary of many of the beliefs of some of the people. I believe that it is only a matter of time before heresy begins to pervade the church. But it is currently more of the error of omission; things that should be taught, but simply are not. And it is continuing to have a very adverse effect on the maturity of the congregation, contributing to the unhealthy spiritual condition.

I was hoping that there were going to be some major changes that would turn things around, but it appears that the remaining leadership is not open to these changes. Unfortunately, I think that it is time to go, and that saddens me. This is not what I had hoped for, but I am trusting that the Lord will lead us to something better.

Monday, May 14, 2007

9Marks Interview – Feminism in the Church

Here is a great interview with Randy Stinson, Russell Moore and C.J. Mahaney concerning the biblical role of men and women in the church and family at 9Marks. This is no trivial matter, but it is an important subject that needs to be addressed more often in our churches. Even in churches that are essentially complementarian, lack of frequent teaching on this subject will eventually allow for a feminist viewpoint to subtly creep into the church. Especially since there is an attempt to obliterate gender role distinctions not only by society in general, but even by those who identify themselves as evangelicals.