Friday, 15 October 2010
This new article follows on from these previous articles:
We are living in days where false teachers and false prophets abound. Jesus said that by their fruits you will know them. Putting these words into the whole context of the passage we will see that the fruit, Jesus was referring to, was unscriptural false teaching but He was pointing out that they were wolves. What are the fruits of a wolf in sheeps clothing? Here are some traits: arrogance, pride, greediness, lies. Maybe, instead of looking at these traits it may be better (as a counter to the false) to consider what makes for a “true” leader or a “good shepherd”
This article will look at the qualifications for leadership as defined in the Bible to help you determine whether a teacher is sound or not.
Before we look at the qualities for Biblical leadership, I need to point out that these are very different from worldly leadership qualities or criteria. James says that friendship with the world is enmity with God. Paul tells us that we are not to be conformed to this world (ie the way it thinks and acts) but be transformed (in our minds and hearts) by the renewing of our minds.
In fact, we are in days of being very influenced by “new-age” thinking about leadership. For instance, many books have been written by new-age gurus about leadership skills. However, this article concentrates on revealing God’s Mind on what is required in leadership.
God is looking for spiritually qualified leaders to feed His flock. He is looking forDaniels and Jeremiahs who are standing for Him today and will remain committed to Him when everyone else has abandoned Him. He wants leaders who know the truth and stand for truth, and He seeks leaders whose hearts long for Him (Ps. 42:1-2).
Hearts that want to know Him deeper and love Him more. God is not interested in leaders who administrate well and are great teachers and preachers if there is no passion for Him! That is the message of Revelation 2:4.
Joseph is a great example of a godly leader who ran from sin and remained true to Jehovah God even when honored by a pharaoh. The great saints of old were men of holiness, men committed to God. They were not clever men who did clever things. They loved God and wanted a closer relationship with Him than they had yesterday.
God is looking for David and not his older brothers. He is looking at the hearts of men, not the outward appearances, as man does. When a man longs and seeks after God day-after-day, godly, spiritual maturity follows over time. It is the passion for God that God develops in a man. It is a passion that grows with time and turns the man back to God.
It is the mark of spiritual maturity, and the marks are evident in his walk among the
congregation. It takes years to develop, but the passion must start somewhere in his life. There is a plaque on my library wall that reads like this, It is by no means easy for a young man to become a Shepherd, and he ought not be discouraged if he cannot become one in a day or a year. An orator he can become without difficulty. A reformer he can become at once. In criticism of politics and society he can do a flourishing business the first Sunday. But a shepherd he can become only slowly, and by patiently traveling the way of the cross. - Charles Jefferson, 1860-1937
Godly maturity takes time. That is why the scriptures speak of elders. An older man is not necessarily spiritually mature. We will see shortly that spiritually mature elders are foundational to a biblically based, spirit-filled church.
THE LORD’S PERSPECTIVE
God’s ministry or “job qualifications” are outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These are actually marks of spiritual maturity. They define the type of leader God wants. These qualifications or marks of spiritual maturity were true of the Abrahams, Moseses and the Davids of our times as well as the more ordinary Stephens, Aquilas, Timothys and Marks.
God is not looking for perfect men, but men whose pattern of life evidences the marks of godly, spiritual maturity. Unfortunately, many good Christian brothers and sisters are selected for leadership for the wrong reasons. They do not evidence the marks of spiritual maturity required in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These wonderful brethren may be selected because they are wealthy, politically connected or influential in the church. They may be professionals, the social elite, charismatic, educated, church founding fathers or significant donors. But if the lives of leaders do not have the marks of spiritual maturity as outlined in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1, then the church has selected leaders whom God has rejected as leaders.
The prophet Samuel had the same problem that we have today. The Lord rejected Saul as king over Israel after he had sinned. He looked great, but God was not interested.
Consequently, Samuel went looking for a different king once again. He went to the house of Jesse and he saw Eliab and thought this was the new king for Israel (1 Samuel 16:6). But the Lord responds in verse 7,
,.. the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (NASB)
While we cannot look at the heart, the list of leadership qualifications is designed to help us determine the quality of a potential leader’s heart. Christ is not looking for men and women who can provide quality “seeker-friendly” programs, support counseling ministries, execute wonderful youth and adult programs, perform great musicals, or demonstrate excellence in property management. The world can do that. If we are honest, the church is not really needed for these things.
God wants to grow Christians who are seeking Him (1 John 2:12-14). He is looking for men who long to know and love Him.
Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises
Loving kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (NASB) Jer. 9:23 -24
Notice that Jeremiah writes that God “delights in these things.” God delights in a man’s longing and passion to know Him. Do you long for Him? Jeremiah 29:12-14 tells us how to long for Him. It occurs when we are seeking with all our hearts.
What makes the church distinct from the world is Jesus Christ. It is love for God first. It includes solid doctrine. And some of our church pastors and elders are offering milk and not solid food to the congregations. How can they really know God? Some leaders have the wrong focus and many of our churches are dying - our congregations are like their leaders (Hosea 4:6, 9).
MARKS OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY
The marks of spiritual maturity presented in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 describe patterns of behavior - life style patterns expected of the Stephens, Aquilas, Timothys and Marks. God’s leader is one who has a pattern of life which conforms to the qualifications in Timothy and Titus - not just recently, or until recently, or for the most part:
ABOVE REPROACH. The opening statement in 1 Timothy 3:2 is a summary of all the marks of maturity that follow. It simply says that the elder must be “above reproach” in all of the areas that follow. The Greek word does not mean that the elder must be free from accusations, but that after the evidence has been examined, the elder will not be found guilty of any valid accusation(s).
The elder is not beyond reproach; he is to be above reproach. In the ministry it is not possible to please everyone. Accusations will arise. One who leads will eventually come under criticism. But after the evidence is reviewed, he will be cleared. This implies that the accusation should not be allowed to tarnish his reputation.
HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE. The first qualification that a prospective elder must satisfy is that he must be a “husband of one wife.” The Greek says that the elder must be a “one woman man.” Some have said that the phrase could be reversed - “one man woman” - and mean that a prospective female elder must be the “wife of one man.” But that ignores 1 Timothy 5:9 where the qualification of a true widow is that she is a “one man woman.” Notice the order of the words. If the widow is to be a “one man woman,” then a “one woman man” refers to a male. This qualification also answers the question “Can a woman be an elder?” The answer is “No!” She can be “if she was a male from birth.”
Some of the early church fathers said that a “one woman man” implied that an elder could not have multiple wives. Others say that it means that the elder cannot be a divorced man. But it seems best to understand “one woman man” to imply that the elder is completely devoted to his wife. In fact, an elder who has never been divorced or who does not have multiple wives could have multiple mistresses, flirt with women, and be looking at pornography. But an elder who is completely devoted to his wife will be none of the above.
TEMPERATE. An elder must also be one who avoids excesses and extremes. The Greek word for the first mark of spiritual maturity actually means “no wine” or “wineless.” This word means that an elder must not be out of control. He must not be addicted to anything and must not be given to excesses. This could even exclude a man who is obese if he is addicted to food. The elder must be “balanced” in every area of life.
PRUDENT. The elder must also be swfrwna. That is, he must be well-disciplined or self-controlled. The Greek word has the idea that he wisely establishes his priorities. C. Spicq says,
“. . . the idea of a correct way of reasoning, but also a sense of moderation, a moderation or reserve that is expressed in inner equilibrium.
The emphasis is on his thinking. The idea of a “correct way of reasoning” implies that the elder is able to take facts and reach a wise conclusion.
RESPECTABLE. The next mark of spiritual maturity focuses on his conduct. The Greek word translated as “respectable” has the idea of “well-behaved, modest or respectable.” It means that the elder is well ordered in his life and is honorable. The elder is respectable.
HOSPITABLE. The next mark of spiritual maturity is that the elder must love strangers. The root Greek word filoxenos does not mean that he hosts parties or entertains people in his home. The Greek word means that he loves strangers. He may as a result have people into his home, but the emphasis is on his heart first and his actions second. The outward evidence of this mark of spiritual maturity is his treatment of new people or strangers.
ABLE TO TEACH. This qualification is greatly misunderstood today. Some have said that the root Greek word didaktikos means that the elder is able to teach. If that is true, then this is not a qualification at all because everyone is able to teach. Some have said that it means an elder must be able to teach by his life.
But everybody teaches by his life – either good or bad. Mothers and fathers teach their children by both their lives and what they say. Fathers teach the family about God with the Bible. Everybody teaches someone all the time. If the Greek word means “able to teach,” then this qualification is meaningless. It does not discriminate against anyone, because everyone qualifies.
We all teach by our lives and our words. If everyone qualifies, then this criteria for
selecting elders is meaningless and can be ignored. Clearly, the Greek word means something more. The question we need to ask is, “What kind of teaching does didaktikos refer to?”
First, the Greek word occurs only one other place in the New Testament - 2 Tim. 2:24. In that passage, Timothy is encouraged to do a number of things, including didaktikos. These are encouragements, but the verse does not help us understand the meaning of the word.
However, help is found from Philo, who reveals that the word means “skillful in teaching.” Other significant authors agree, including W. F. Arndt, John Calvin, Colin Brown et al, Danker and Bauer , and Thayer.
Other well known authors and scholars say that the word means, “one qualified to teach” “not merely given to teaching, but able and skilled in it” “skill in teaching” , “both the willingness and the skill and ability to teach”, “highly skilled teacher”, “skilled teacher”, and “skillful in teaching.” Didaktikos means more than an ability to teach. It means that the prospective elder is a skilled teacher. He is a recognized teacher in the church.
HOLDS AND ABLE TO REFUTE. While 1 Timothy talks about the ability to teach, Titus 1 adds that the elder must be a faithful man, that is, he “holds fast to the Word” and he is “able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” This means that the elder believes that the Word of God is truth, and that he has a solid grasp of scripture. His knowledge of the Bible is in his head. He has learned from the pages of scripture how to defend the doctrines of the faith. These qualifications are extremely important, since this is one of his two responsibilities as an elder.
NOT PUGNACIOUS. This is the first in a series of marks of spiritual maturity that are absolutely necessary for a group of elders to work together and make decisions. The Greek phrase, me plhkthn, literally means that the elder is not given to physical violence. The foundational issue is that the elder does not insist on having his own way.
GENTLE. The Greek word translated as “gentle” is epiekh and it literally means forbearing, gentle, and yields his rights.” It has a sense of gentleness and grace, but the key thought is that he is willing to yield his rights. These last two marks of spiritual maturity go together. The elder must not insist on having his own way; in fact, he must be willing to yield his rights. He has an eternal focus. This does not mean
that he never speaks up and on occasions may not be able to support a decision, but the pattern of his life is that he yields his rights..
NOT ARROGANT. This Greek word means that he encourages others at his own expense. He does not promote himself. He does not seek his own honor. Instead, he gives honor to others.
UNCONTENTIOUS. The Greek word is amacon. It literally means “not argumentative, non-verbal violence, or peaceable.” It has the idea that this elder does not always express his opinion about everything and every topic. It is common among leaders to find several individuals that have an opinion about everything that comes up. Such a one is usually an arguer or debater. He usually feels strongly about the topics and wants to influence the decision. He usually wants to be the “king of many mountains.”
But this qualification does not preclude an elder from taking firm positions on issues. He seeks unity of purpose and mind. The Apostle Paul gives us direction when he writes,
. . . make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. (NASB) Phil. 2:2
The goal is to have one mind, and to be intent on one purpose. That does not mean that the “one mind” is one of the elders. Together as a group they are to seek the direction of the Lord. The same thought is repeated in Romans 12:16.
NOT QUICK TEMPERED. The elder must not be quick tempered either. He must be longsuffering and slow to anger. He seeks to bring others along, yet he is justly angry over sin. This last group of five marks of maturity are essential for a group of elders to work together. The goal is to shepherd the flock of God. The goal is not personal honor, my wishes, or my goals. The goal is to oversee the Lord’s flock and to shepherd them as a good shepherd.
FREE FROM THE LOVE OF MONEY. This qualification means that the elder is not a lover of money. His focus in not on money. His life is not centered on money. If it were, he would have a difficult time in the ministry making financial decisions, especially when it comes to trusting the Lord to supply the needs of a ministry and the church.
NOT FOND OF SORDID GAIN. This mark of spiritual maturity means that the elder is honest in his job, in his financial dealing at the church, and with the government.
When we take both of these last two marks of spiritual maturity, we have a picture of an elder whose heart is not focused on money. He is wonderfully grateful to God for His financial supply and is just as eager to give it away because He (God) is the source of all that he has. A man once said that “I am a steward and not an owner.”
MANAGES HIS HOUSE WELL. This mark of spiritual maturity is required for the second area of responsibility that an elder has. It addresses the issue of shepherding. Here is the verse,
He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity . . . (NASB) 1 Tim. 3:4
The Greek word translated as “manages” is proistamenon. It has the same root that “ruling” comes from in 1 Timothy 5;17. In 1 Tim. 5:17 we saw that the elder must be a caring and loving shepherd. He was also to lead the flock by his godly spiritual character. That is the same idea here. The elder must have demonstrated his ability to shepherd the church by having shepherded his family first. There is more to this requirement than just organizational stuff . It looks at the man’s heart for his family.
CHILDREN UNDER CONTROL. This qualification asks the question, “Are his children in submission?” An additional question should be “Do his children respect him?” The next qualification illustrates this principle.
CHILDREN WELL BEHAVED. This qualification is found in Titus. Rebellious children usually imply that there is something seriously wrong in the life of the prospective elder.
CHILDREN WHO BELIEVE. This is the third qualification dealing with children. The question here is if the children of the prospective elder have faith in God. Do they believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? The Greek word for children is teknon. It was a general word for children at almost any age.
So the key question is, “Does this mean that his children must believe after they have left the home?” We are not sure. But it is clear that at least while they are in the home they should be professing a faith in Jesus. Children usually reflect the character and life of their parents, because children model mum and dad. The children are barometers of the character of an elder’s walk with Jesus. These are important marks of maturity. They are insights into the man and his life.
NOT A NEW CONVERT. The Greek word for “new convert” means that the prospective elder is not “newly planted.” That is, the elder is not a new Christian. This eliminates the new Christian from leadership. It is important to note that Jesus started his ministry at the age of thirty. Elders were typically of an older age than we find today. Yet, scripture does not mandate an age for an elder. The issue here is that he must have been a Christian for a number of years. Some practical issues that may occur later are trouble in the home and in his marriage. How could a young elder demonstrate that he is a “one woman man” and that he is a good shepherd in the home?
GOOD REPUTATION OUTSIDE. This mark of spiritual maturity clearly requires that he has a good reputation outside the home and outside the church. The world should have a high regard for this individual’s ethics and morals, even if they disagree with his views. He should be known as a Christian to the world. He should not be a secret Christian. The church does not need a leader who appears to be one thing at church and another outside.
DEVOUT. The elder must also have a holy life. This mark of spiritual maturity says that the prospective elder must have a pattern of life dedicated to holy living. He is committed to the Lord.
JUST. This final mark of spiritual maturity requires that the elder is just in his dealing with everyone, including the government. He obeys the laws of the land; and he desires justice for all, including widows, orphans, and the poor.
HEALTH OF THE CHURCH
God is not impressed when leaders are selected because the qualifications have been watered down or the application of the qualifications has been administered incorrectly. For example, it is sometimes reasoned that the early church selected immature believers as elders.
Two key issues are typically ignored with this reasoning. First, the marks of spiritual maturity in Timothy and Titus occurred after the transitional period of Acts. This implies that the qualifications are norm for the church today. Second, it is assumed the Holy Spirit did not or could not start a church with converts who did not have the marks of spiritual maturity. This ignores the fact that the Holy Spirit did a remarkable work of grace in the lives of such men as Stephen in Acts 6:3 and Acts 7.
Regardless of the circumstances in Acts, the books of Timothy and Titus are our pattern for today. The marks of spiritual maturity are meaningless if they are ignored. Many churches today wonder what has happened within the church. The answer is found in the leadership team. The problems within the church start within the leadership team. We must tread carefully when we start justifying and deleting the full impact of portions of God’s Word.
The health and life of the church rests in the spiritual examples the elders model. The problem in the church today is not the absence of innovative programs, financial giving, or dynamic preachers and teachers. The problem is in the leadership team.
The question that must be asked is, “To what absolute standard are the qualifications to be applied?” The answer is given in Acts 6. In that passage the apostles had asked the congregation to evaluate their men and recommend seven. Why seven?
Did the apostles know that only seven existed? It is more likely that there were more than seven. The church was in its infancy, yet there were men full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. There were some men with high marks of spiritual maturity. The qualifications in Timothy and Titus came many years after Acts. We should never minimize the marks of spiritual maturity given in Timothy and Titus. They are minimal criteria.
Only the best should be selected as elders. How many? As many as are qualified - not how many you need. Yet, there can be elders in the congregation who do not officially serve as elders. The marks of spiritual maturity are given in both 1 Timothy and Titus. In combination, the two passages present a picture of an eldership that meets very high standards of holiness.
These elders are fathers in the faith (1 John 2:12-14). They are increasingly having victory over sin, they really know God’s word, and they deeply know and love the Father of lights. The marks of spiritual maturity reflect the elder’s life style in the church, at home, in business and in the neighborhood.
These New Testament passages have addressed the critical areas of godly, spiritual eldership: the elder’s role, his responsibilities and the qualifications or marks of spiritual maturity. The principles have been established but the actual details for direction and the day to day decisions that must be made for the ministry are not given in detail. The principles are there but not the specifics.
What follows is a summary of some relevant points:
1) Jesus is the good shepherd of the sheep (John 10:14) and the elders need to follow His lead. Jesus is seeking a personal close relationship with us (Jer. 9:23- 24; 29:13-14) and elders are to model that example (Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:3).
2) Jesus calls His under-shepherds to shepherd His flock by teaching them, caring for them, and overseeing the church (John 21:15-17; 1 Th ess. 5:14; 1 Tim 5:17).
3) Elders were selected by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). It is only the Holy Spirit who can spiritually grow a man, give him the gift of teaching, and make him a shepherd of the sheep.
4) The elders affect the life and health of the church. They are the models of spiritual maturity in the elders’ meeting, in the church, in the home, and in the world (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1).
5) Every church had a plurality of elders and deacons. There was not a single elder running the church (Acts 11:30; 14:23; Acts 15:2; 16:4; 20:17, 28; 21:18; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5, James 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1).
6) Elders shared some of the apostolic responsibilities (I Peter 5:1) but not all.
7) Elders have decision making responsibility – not rights (I Tim. 5:17). They should not be “lording it over the flock” (I Pet. 5:3) and they should not be self-willed (Titus 1:7).
8) Elders are to serve voluntarily, unselfishly, and to be models fit to be patterned after. They are not to be lazy, greedy, and popish. This is particularly true since the congregation is charged to trustfully submit to the elders (Heb. 13:7, 17).
9) Scriptural support for congregational selection of elders is weak (see discussions on Acts 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22-23; 16:4). At best, their participation is implied. The text provides far greater support for elders selecting elders. However, it is suggested that the congregation be involved in some way.
10) Whoever is involved in the selection of elders, whether it is 1) the elders or 2) the congregation, they are to select men who are qualified (I Tim. 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9) and they should give higher honor to those who rule well and labor in word and teaching
(I Tim. 5:17).
11) The Acts 6 passage states that the congregation was involved in the selection of deacons. But they did not have the final authority (see Acts 6:3 discussion).
12) Elders are to meet the qualifications of I Tim. 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9. The texts say “the overseer must be . . .” indicating a list of requirements will follow:
a) An elder must be a male (“one-woman man, I Tim. 3:2). A man is disqualified due to divorce or adultery for a period of time. His pattern of life must be established.
b) The qualifications speak of a pattern of life - marks of spiritual maturity - rather than a single occurrence, failure, or single positive act. “No man doeth good - no not one” (Rom. 3:12). If a single event disqualified a man, no one would qualify. If a single act qualifies, then everyone qualifies and the entire passage is meaningless.
c) When the requirements of “skillful in teaching” (I Tim. 3:2), “able to exhort in sound doctrine” and “he must be able to convince those who contradict” are combined it indicates the elder must be one who really knows the Word and is skillful in teaching others. This point is even more obvious when I Tim. 5:17 is added, where the elders are honored for excellence in only two areas: “laboring in word and teaching.”The elder must really know the Word. This is required for his major responsibility.
d) He must be a good shepherd/manager in the home because he will be required to shepherd the church of the Chief Shepherd (I Tim. 3:4; 1 Pet. 5:4). His children must be in submission and controlled (I Tim. 3:4). His children must believe, be submissive, and not be unruly (Titus 1:6). This mark of spiritual maturity is also essential, since it demonstrates his ability to fulfill the other major responsibility of the elder.
e) He must not be a new Christian (I Tim. 3:6). A period of evaluation should be required for all elders.
f) He must have a good reputation inside and outside the church (I Tim. 3:3, 7; Titus 1:6, 7). That is, there are no valid accusations (pattern of life or major single sin) which can be brought against him.
g) He must be an individual who exhibits a pattern of being serious, self-controlled, balanced, a mature thinker, disciplined, well-ordered in his life, and restrained in mind and flesh (I Tim 3:2-3; Titus 1:6-8).
h) He must be an individual who exhibits a pattern of love, goodness, holiness, and justice. He must be an individual who does not exhibit a pattern of physical fighting, quick-temper, self will, or a love for money. These are essential for working with people, especially other elders.
i) The ideal elder does not exist! We are all sinners. If one wants to search for grounds to disqualify any man, even minor disqualification can be found. The qualifications, however, must speak to a pattern of life. The best available men must be chosen.
13) I Peter 5:3 warns elders to not be “lording it over” the congregation.
14) The priority ministry of an elder is the Word and prayer. It is not administration. Oversight is a different function and a secondary responsibility (John 21:15-17; Acts 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:17). Yet, most elders and leaders in the church focus on the financial and organizational aspects of the church. Most pastors and lay people view laymen as organizational men - the men who run the church. Lay elders are to be involved in the ministry as shepherds and teachers. That is the ministry the Great Shepherd of the sheep has asked elders, the under-shepherds, to do