The objective of this series is to give you a better understanding of what the bible has to say about the Church? Why? Because there are different views of the church among people today, it’s our responsibility to constantly remind and point you to the scripture and allow you to frame your understanding of the church on the basis of the scripture and not from man-made ideas and notions.
In this series, so far, we’ve covered ….
What is Church?
- A church is not a building or a place but people
- People who’ve come to realize the truth about life which is …
- We were created by God in his image & likeness to worship, serve and glorify him.
- But instead, we rebelled and sinned against him and became enemies of God.
- But God, being a loving Father, to restore us back to himself sent his son Jesus to live the obedience life we were supposed to live and take the penalty of our sins upon himself and die on the cross in our place.
- Now, by repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus we are reunited with our loving God and hence permitted to spend eternity in heaven with him.
- We also believe that by trusting in Jesus and continually walking in repentance and faith our lives on earth are also radically changed and transformed by the grace of God.
- A believer in Christ affirms his/her faith in Christ by participating in the Baptism of water and partaking in the Lord’s supper along with other believers of Christ.
- People who’ve come to realize the truth about life which is …
- What is a healthy church?
- A place where the whole counsel of the scripture is rightly preached
- A place where all the elements of the church, the Sunday gathering, the house meets, bible study, and every other activity are centred around the Gospel. By the Gospel, I mean centred around the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
To summarize so far, I want to read out a quote by one of the early Church leader, John Calvin who said
“Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists”
Today, we will look deeper and learn what the bible has to say about leadership in Church.
Why is it important for you to know this?
It is important to know so that every believer in Christ becomes more discerning, vigilant, and wise in choosing to submit under the right Godly authority, the way God designed it for our spiritual maturity.
Our primary passage for today will be 1 Timothy 3:1-7 where we will look closely at the qualifications of an Elder as prescribed in the bible, but I will also touch on other aspects of church leadership that are important and in the end, will also make some bold statements regarding church leadership.
Therefore, I request you to pay close attention, make notes if necessary and think of questions you might want to ask us regarding this subject. We will be glad to answer them.
To ‘Become a Leader’ is a very common desire most people have, whether in business, politics or within a corporate setting. And we have lots and lots of materials and resources available to help you become a leader.
To some becoming a leader would mean having authority over others or the power to accomplish whatever goals they want and desire by using people or earning respect from others or wanting to be treated honourably in the society etc.
But is that what church leadership also means? the answer is ‘no’
The first thing we do learn is that the bible has exactly the opposite view of what a leader should be as compared to what the world prescribes. And our greatest example and inspiration is Jesus himself.
The term prescribed in the bible for true Christian leadership is “Servant Leadership”. Here’s what we learn from the teachings of Christ, which he lived out for us to set an example.
A leadership motivated by love
John 13:1 – “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Jesus’ love was undeserved, unending, unconditional and unselfish. It was not the worthiness or the merits of the disciples that drove Jesus to serve them. He wasn’t expressing gratitude, but grace. Love made him serve his disciples. Think about it: Jesus even washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray him and have him killed the next day.
Not an insecure position
John 13:3 – Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
Jesus knew who he was, and he was secure enough to get down on the floor and wash his disciples’ feet. He didn’t have to prove anything. In fact, he had nothing to prove, nothing to lose and nothing to hide.
“The insecure are into titles. The secure are into towels.”
Jesus’ security enabled him to both stoop and stretch.
Not to be served by others but to serve others
John 13:4-5 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Jesus didn’t wait for someone. He saw a need and met it. No one else had volunteered for the foot-washing job that night — so Jesus made use of that opportunity to show us what serving means. He started something that he hoped would be passed down from those twelve disciples to others (see John 13:12–15). It will be done by leaders who are willing to pioneer an act of humility and sacrifice.
Live a blessed life as we serve others
John 13:16-17 – 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Jesus reminded them they were blessed if they obeyed him in this lifestyle. The greatest blessing follows those who step out by faith and do the opposite of what the world is doing. God blesses those who “go countercultural” and serve people with no thought of getting something in return from them. The return comes in the form of God’s blessing.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, Church leadership is position given by God to certain men to emulate Jesus and lead his people into spiritual maturity, ultimately pointing their hearts to Christ.
Church leadership is not a position to impose authority over others. Rather the authority of church leaders is only within the purview of the right teaching of the scripture that is displayed through right living in accordance with the scripture. This means any authority imposed on others outside the purview of the scripture which is based on worldly ideas and principles is an ungodly one.
It is exactly the opposite of what the world teaches us.
What we see in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is the list of qualifications that an Elder needs to have that emulate the leadership of Christ.
- Elders Must Desire and Pursue Service (v. 1) – As Christ willingly gave himself to save and redeem a sinful generation and restore them back to the Father, an Elder is expected to willingly desire and pursue service. Not out of compulsion on selfish gain but genuinely desiring to serve others.
- Elders Must Be Above Reproach (v. 2) – ‘Above reproach’ means blameless – As Jesus lived a life of integrity and obedience to his Father in heaven, an Elder is expected to walk in integrity and truthfulness in the eyes of others watching them.
- Elders Must Be Faithful to Their Wives (v. 2) – As Christ is faithful to his bride, the Church, an Elder is expected to be faithful to his earthly wife emulating Christ’s faithfulness to us.
- Elders Must Be Temperate (v. 2) – As Christ maintained and continues to maintain his cool with us after all that we do against him, an Elder is also expected to maintain his cool as best he can in dealing with others. ********
- Elders Must Be Self-controlled (v. 2) – As Christ maintained self-control while he was tempted by the devil in the desert, an Elder is expected to maintain his self-control in resisting the devil so that he can be effective in his service to God and people.
- Elders Must Be Respectable (v. 2) – As Jesus was loved and respected by those who followed him, an Elder is expected to earn respect from others so that he is taken seriously.
- Elders Must Be Hospitable (v. 2) – As Jesus showed hospitality to everyone who came to him, whether the thousands who came to him hungry or individuals who approached him for healing or support, an Elder is expected to emulate the same kind of hospitality with others.
- Elders Must Be Able to Teach (v. 2) – As Jesus preached and communicated the message of the Kingdom to the dying world with clarity, an Elder is expected to have the skill to teach and train others in godliness.
- Elders Must Not Be Drunkards (v. 3) – Even though Jesus hung out with sinners and was known to be a wine drinker, he never let any kind of intoxication shift his focus from pursuing his calling, an Elder is expected to not get drunk or intoxicated to the point where he has lost complete control over his mind and body.
- Elders Must Not Be Violent (v. 3) – As Christ never pursued violence as his strategy to compact his enemies, and instead rebuked Peter for using his knife when the Roman soldiers came to capture him, an Elder is expected to be non-violent in his approach to anybody who opposes him.
- Elders Must Not Be Quarrelsome (v. 3) – As Christ always valued relationships over winning arguments and never came across as quarrelsome, an Elder is expected to refrain from quarrelling and becoming argumentative, but rather value relationships.
- Elders Must Not Be Lovers of Money (v. 3) – As Christ valued heavenly possessions over earthy possessions and even taught us to do so, an Elder is expected to desire for true possessions that make our soul richer in Christ.
- Elders Must Manage Their Households Well (v. 4-5) – As Christ set an example by faithfully serving this earthly family as a carpenters son for 30 years and managed his affairs in a God-honoring manner, an Elder is expected to manage his household with sincerity, proving and taking take of his wife and children and leading their hearts to Christ.
- Elders Must Be Mature (v. 6) – As Christ displayed maturity in handling the ups and downs of his life, the one that comes to my mind is the way he responded to his heavenly Father in the garden on Gethsemane, even when the experience of carrying the sin of the whole world upon himself became excruciatingly painful, he said to his Father “May your will be done”, an Elder is expected to emulate maturity in times of pain, suffering and turmoils. ********
- Elders Must Have a Good Reputation among the Lost (v. 7) – As Christ won the hearts of many and continues to do so even today, whether Christians or non-Christians by maintaining a good reputation of his character, an Elder is expected to emulate Christ and have a good reputation among others.
Are women called to pursue Eldership positions?
No, because clearly, this is how God designed it to be, every quality mentioned here suggests that it’s men who are called for this role.
Does that mean Women have no role to play in the church?
No, apart from the role of an Elder, women can contribute in every other manner, whether it’s leading worship, or GC, or DNA, or speaking at an event or a seminar.
Keeping in mind that the primary authority and responsibility to teach from the Word of God is reserved for men.
1 Timothy 2
12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
Does that mean women are less Godly?
No, absolutely not. It’s just the way God designed it to be for whatever reason. We just obey Him.
In fact, according to me, I think God has a special place for women in his heart.
I have no shame to say that according to me Jane is more godly than me. I tell Jane, she’s a special child of God, and the perks I enjoy in life is all because I take care of his special child.
Are these qualities only for an Elder?
No, they are qualities every follower of Christ needs to pursue.
Are these qualities easy to pursue?
No, just as it’s challenging for you to pursue it is challenging even for an Elder to pursue, but the expectation from an Elder is to excel in them and set an example for others to follow.
Therefore, God has given his means of grace to help us walk in obedience and godliness, even for an Elder. Primarily, his Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins, and help and guide us. but also the gift of fellowship.
We have to remember that an Elder is an under-shepherd to the main Shepherd, therefore he needs the same kind of care, encouragement, corrections, disciplinary actions, and guidance as every other believer.
Therefore, what we see in the scripture as a healthy structure for a church is not one man having all the authority and say, but ‘Plurality of Elders’.
“The Bible clearly models a plurality of elders in each local church. Though it never suggests a specific number of elders for a particular congregation, the New Testament refers to ‘elders’ in the plural in local churches (e.g., Acts 14:23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; Titus 1:5; James 5:14). When you read through Acts and the Epistles, there is always more than one elder being talked about.”
Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Acts 16:4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.
Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—
9 marks –
- Biblical accountability. Godly fellow elders are a great means for holding the pastor accountable to live, teach, and lead faithfully. In addition, sharing authority among a number of men can keep one man from wrongly lording it over the congregation
- Wisdom. There is more wisdom to be found in a multitude of counsellors (Prov. 11:14; 24:6).
- Balance. No one man has all the gifts that are necessary to build up the church. Having a plurality of elders serves the church by bringing men with different gifts into the church’s leadership who can complement the pastor’s strengths.
- Burden sharing. Caring for the whole church is a burden God does not intend one man to bear alone. Even the most faithful, gifted pastor needs help from other godly men in order to pay careful attention to himself and to all the flock (Acts 20:28).
- Sets an example for the church. Having a plurality of elders demonstrates that the work of ministry is not reserved for a select few. Rather, it provides an example of maturity for every man, particularly when some of the elders are men who work ordinary jobs and are not paid by the church.
Coming to the application.
Firstly, I want us to appreciate God’s gift of leaders to us. Recognize that their position is by the appointment of the Lord and is under His direction.
the goal of spiritual leadership is that people come to know God and to glorify him in all that they do. Spiritual leadership is aimed not so much at directing people as it is at changing people.
The spiritual gift of leadership is given by God to men and women to help the church to grow and thrive. God has given the gift of leadership not to exalt men but to glorify Himself when believers use His gifts to do His will.