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.

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