Friday, July 27, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt 11

Biblical Qualifications of Elders (Continued)

“ 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 3:3-7, NASB)

Verse 3 continues with the qualifications of elders with “not addicted to wine”. Not only must an elder not be given to drunkenness, but he should not even be seen as a drinker. He needs to be careful where and with whom he associates with. If he is a man who frequents bars he can easily be accused of being a drinker. His thinking must never be distorted by alcohol, and must lead a lifestyle that is distinctly different from that of the world. His life should set an example for others, inspiring them to lead a life of holiness.

He should also not be “pugnacious”, meaning that he should not be constantly ready to fight and engage in physical violence. He should be “gentle” and “peaceable”, which means that he should be gracious and not desire to hold grudges, not quick to fight and avoids disharmony. He should also be “free from the love of money”. His motivation should come from a love for God and the people under his care. The opposite trait, covetousness, is a character displayed by false teachers, not those who are genuinely committed to God. Being peaceable and gentle does not mean that there are not occasions where elders should not be tough. There are times when the elder must be tough on false teachers and take action against the spread of false teaching. (Titus 1:10-13; 2:15) He must also confront other sinning elders. (1Timothy 5:20) He must at times be confrontational and authoritative. But there must be balance and the elder must also maintain an attitude of warmth and compassion.

It is important that the elder demonstrate leadership in his own household. If his leadership cannot be modeled there, it certainly will not be demonstrated in the church. It includes everything that would be associated with his household. His children must be respectful, under control and display a reverence for God. And this should be carried out in such a manner that those observing his home life could say that it is managed excellently. And this is where the issue of divorce can come into play. If a man is divorced, it illustrates a major flaw in his spiritual leadership. It is obvious that the home was not managed well. And even if there were biblical grounds for a divorce, there would need to be a long period of time elapsed to demonstrate strong family leadership. This may not seem fair in the case of a biblically permitted divorce, but remember, the overriding principle for qualified elders is that they be blameless. There must not be anything that could be used against them that would incur blame. If a man cannot take care of his home, he certainly will not be able to take care of the church.

The last qualification is that he is not to be “a new convert”. The danger here is that his pride would be a stumbling block. Pride caused Satan to fall. (Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezekiel 28:13-15) I have observed that in some churches, there seems to be too much eagerness to promote men to positions of leadership who simply are not ready for it. This is tragic and sets him up for a fall and also in the long run hinders the church. There needs to be a great deal of consideration of the qualifications of the man. And it takes time to build leaders. There is definitely a maturing process that must take place before they are fit for spiritual leadership. (1 Timothy 5:22) He must also have an excellent reputation with those outside the church. Remember the key issue is that the elder must be blameless.

Well this post marks the end of the series on Biblical Church Leadership. Leadership is extremely important in the church and the men who are chosen to lead the church can affect the spiritual health of the congregation in a positive or detrimental way. If you want to read an excellent resource on this subject, I recommend Alexander Strauch’s book, “Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership”. Another excellent resource is the 9marks website.

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