STUDY ONE: BIBLICAL REQUIREMENTS OF LEADERS
© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2016
The Bible obviously expects the people of God to be leaders.
We are to lead people into the knowledge of Christ.
We are to lead people to salvation through his cross.
We are to lead people deeper and deeper into God’s truth.
We are to lead people to live a life of Christian discipleship and service.
We are to lead people, with compassion, through the ups and downs of their lives.
There are specific leadership roles within the people of God, on which additional responsibilities are laid, and for which the Bible lays down specific standards. Because leadership within the church today includes roles not even mentioned in the Bible [for example ‘worship leaders’, ‘home group leaders’, ‘chaplains’, ‘Sunday school teachers’ or ‘youth group leaders’] it is reasonable and appropriate to apply to all leaders within the church the same criteria that the Bible applies to ‘elders’ and ‘deacons’. The original deacons were appointed to wait on tables, yet still had to meet high standards to qualify for appointment to that role. The first six expectations of leadership below are found in the criteria for the appointment of deacons and elders.
What are the Biblical expectations?
A. SENSITIVITY AND SUBMISSION TO THE SPIRIT OF GOD
When the apostles appointed ‘deacons’ to ‘wait on tables’ the selection criteria was ‘men … who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’ [Acts 6:3]. Just to wait on tables. They were also to be ‘from among you’ – part of the fellowship of believers. The fact that they were to be ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’ also indicates that they have a clear and long-standing reputation among the believers.
It is obvious from the recorded history of two of these, Philip [Acts 8:1b-8, 26-40] and Stephen [Acts 6:8-7:60] that these men, as well as being sensitive and submissive to the Spirit’s leading, and wise, were also capable evangelists and preachers.
B. ADHERENCE TO TRUE DOCTRINE AND THE ABILITY TO TEACH IT
As well as general commands to all believers to adhere to sound doctrine, it is a specific requirement of those in leadership roles. In fact, this requirement is the only one that occurs in each of the commonly cited lists of leadership.
How does each of these texts express the importance of leaders holding to and/or teaching sound doctrine?
C. ACCEPTABLE MORAL STANDARDS
Again, while all Christians are commanded to live sound moral lives, the Bible excludes people of questionable morals from leadership roles.
1Timothy 3:2,3: ‘an overseer [bishop, elder] must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable … not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome …’
1Timothy 3:8.9.12: ‘deacons … are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine … they must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. … A deacon must be the husband of but one wife …’
1Timothy 3:11: ‘In the same way, their wives [= ‘deaconesses’] are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.’
Titus 1:6-8: ‘An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife … an overseer … must be blameless – not over-bearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent … he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.’
1Peter 5:3: ‘being examples to the flock’
D. CLEARLY DEFINED ATTITUDE TO MONEY
Money, along with pride, power and passions, is one of the key areas that cause the downfall of leaders. The New Testament puts a boundary around the appointment of leaders, excluding those with an unhealthy or sinful attitude to money.
What do these verses teach about the correct attitude to money?
E. GOOD REPUTATION IN THE COMMUNITY
From the verses below identify the importance of the reputation of leaders in the community. Discuss why this is a prerequisite for leaders.
F. MATURITY IN THE FAITH
1Timothy includes the following prerequisite for leaders:
‘He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil’ [3:6]
‘'They must first be tested’ [3:10]
G. CONCERN FOR GOD’S PEOPLE – EXPECTATION THAT LEADERS WILL BE SHEPHERDS
Ezekiel 34 records God’s displeasure with, and opposition to, the ‘shepherds’ of Israel. We can understand ‘shepherds’ to refer to the national and spiritual leaders of the nation – the kings and the priests – in whose care the spiritual well-being of the people had been placed. The kings had failed in that they had led the nation into idolatry and all of the personal and social sins that went along with the rejection of God. The priests, and also the large majority of those who called themselves ‘prophets’ had also failed; they had gone along with the majority and with the politically acceptable agenda, rather than standing firm against the corruption of belief and practice that entrapped the nation and its people.
In a stinging and devastating indictment God expressed his rejection of these ‘shepherds’ of Israel, and promised that he himself would come and be the Shepherd. Note his strong words:
‘I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock, I will remove them from tending the flock …’ [verse10]
From the verses from Ezekiel 34 listed below identify the negative qualities and practices seen in these rejected shepherds and the opposite positive qualities and practices which God expects. Sometimes you may have to identify the logical opposite by inference.
H. CO-OPERATION FOR THE GOOD OF GOD’S PEOPLE
Ephesians 4:2-16 describes the purpose and result of Christians with a variety of spiritual gifts working together within the church. Instead of diversity causing division, diversity is here seen as God’s good plan for the church, in which a united, co-operative team of variously gifted people uses their separate gifts and abilities to bring the church to maturity and stability in the Christian faith.
In each of the sections below write out the phrases that relate to the heading.
Discuss the meaning and implications of these phrases for you as one who can lead others into maturity and stability of faith.
The responsibility to strive for unity within the church
The basis of unity within the church
Diversity within the church
The responsibility of leadership
The intended impact and end result of the co-operative ministry of a diverse leadership
I. COMMITMENT TO GOD’S TRUTH AND TO GODLINESS OF LIFE
1Timothy 4:1-16 contains part of Paul’s instructions to Timothy, whom he had left in Ephesus as the ‘pastor’ or ‘person in charge’ of the church. Anyone seeking a servant-leadership role in the church, or appointed to a servant-leadership role, would do well to study the whole of Paul’s letters to both Timothy and Titus, for they were specifically written not to Christians generally, but to these two young men who had the responsibility of leading God’s people in particularly difficult circumstances.
What does 1 Timothy 4:1-16 teach us about … [include verse numbers]
The leader’s responsibility to protect the church against false teaching?
The leader’s responsibility to set an example of a godly life?
The importance of the leader teaching and preaching the Scripture?
The leader’s use of his/her spiritual gifts?
The leader’s commitment to the Lord?
The leader’s on-going responsibility to keep a careful watch over his/her life and doctrine?