Thursday, July 19, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership - Pt 10

Biblical Qualifications of Elders (Continued)

"2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, "

The candidate for elder must display a “hospitable” attitude toward others, displaying a welcoming and generous spirit. The Greek is composed of two words that essentially mean to love or show affection to strangers. In the early church, believers had to depend on each other’s hospitality for their survival. This included helping other believers who were strangers who perhaps needed to flee their homes in another town due to persecution. I can’t help but wonder, in our society that stresses individualism where self-sufficiency is highly prized, if it does not make this concept more difficult for people in the church to truly grasp today. Christians who are heavily persecuted in other countries probably have a greater appreciation for this.

The next trait is “able to teach”. The elder must be skilful in his teaching ability. This is extremely important, since this will be one of his primary duties. This is more than merely being able to teach, but more importantly, the content of their teaching. There are those who can teach, but they are teaching the wrong things. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us that that leadership must be proven skilful handlers of God’s Truth. Elders are to be able to lead the church in matters of doctrine and practice, and unless he is able to handle the Word of God with precision and accuracy, he will be unable to accomplish this task and is unqualified to lead. Furthermore, any who display a sloppy careless attitude toward Scripture should not considered for eldership and any who are already in leadership displaying this trait should be dismissed. Sad to say, this is seldom taken into account in evangelicalism at large. Much of the problem lies in the fact that churches do not understand the Scriptural mandate for church leadership, so they follow the world’s standard, not God’s. Too many leaders are chosen simply because they display considerable charisma and can garner a wide following. Just because people are following someone does not mean they are fit for biblical leadership.

Let’s take a brief look at 2Timothy 2:15.

"15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV)

I quoted that passage from the NKJV, because I think it captures the meaning with a little more sharpness. The phrase “rightly dividing the word of truth” literally means to cut it straight, and it denotes the precision and accuracy that God demands in the handling of His Word. It is unfortunate that a large majority of evangelicalism places little emphasis on this important quality. Instead, the emphasis seems to be on the eloquence of speech and mere communication skills. This is not to say that strong communication skills are not important, but that the content of what is said is even more important. Scripture, in references to leadership in the church, places great emphasis on the accurate handling of God’s Word. Let’s look at another passage, 1Timothy 5:17.

“ 17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”(1 Timothy 5:17, NASB)

Elders who serve with a greater commitment and strive for excellence are to be held in high esteem, and deserve to be paid more generously. In particular, those who work the hardest and seem to be more prominent should be acknowledged with greater honor. What is implied in this text is that there are elders who are particularly driven to work harder at studying Scripture for preaching and teaching. The phrase “work hard” literally means to labor to the point of exhaustion. This further underscores the premium Scripture places on the importance of preaching and teaching by the elders in the church. Preaching involves the open proclamation of biblical truth, with the intention of exhorting and admonishing the congregation to take heed to God’s Word. Teaching emphasizes instruction in doctrine and is essential to protect the flock against heresy. Preaching and teaching are essential to the health of the church. And this desperately needs to be emphasized, especially in the current climate in the evangelical church.

Paul also exhorted Timothy to “preach the word”, whether it was popular or not. This was to be done regardless of what people wanted.

" 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2, NASB)

I hope to finish up this series in part 11. Hopefully I will be posting it early next week. It is a little difficult right now to post with any great frequency. There are too many things going on, especially during the summer months.

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