Can you think of any greater privilege than to be called to be a leader in the church of Jesus Christ? The church is his Body, his Bride, the Temple of his Spirit, his Flock, his Army, and his Family. Can you think of any greater responsibility than leading his church? This is why God’s Word has laid before us such challenging requirements for Christian leadership. The standards are rightly high, not only for the sake of the church’s vitality but also for the sake of the leader’s vitality.
The chief biblical texts that develop the requirements of leaders are 1 Timothy 3:1-13, 2 Timothy 2:1-13, Titus 1:5-9, Acts 6:1-6, and Exodus 18:21-22. The qualifications spelled out in these passages can be summarized in four words: Commitment, Conviction, Competency, and Character.
Are the would-be leaders clearly committed to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Is there a passion to know him in all his fullness? While passion is expressed differently by different personality types, there must be evidence of a fire to know and obey the Crucified and Risen One.
Do the would-be leaders have biblically informed convictions-about who God is, who humans are, the meaning of history, the nature of the church, and especially the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Are they learning what it means to be transformed by the renewal of the mind (Rom. 12:2), to “think Christianly” about every dimension of their recreation? For this reason, Paul warns against being too quick to call recent converts to leadership; commitment and conviction take time to deepen.
Do the would-be leaders know how to make their way through the Scriptures? Can they help others find their way around the sacred pages (Tim. 2:15)? Have the would-be leaders been entrusted with appropriate gifts of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:11-12, 1 Cor. 12:12-31, Rom. 12:3-8)? Do they have a working understanding of the gifts, and can they help others discern and deploy those entrusted to them? Do they have the necessary relational skills for this position? Do their relationships manifest the integrity and love of Jesus, especially in their marriage and with their children (2 Tim. 3:5)? The Kingdom of God, after all, is about righteousness, that is, right relationship.
Are the would-be leaders taking on the character of Jesus? Someone has astutely observed, “It’s not a matter of perfection, but direction.” Are we moving toward greater and greater Christ likeness? The lists of leadership requirements are finally about character. Is there self-control, hospitality, gentleness (control of anger), quest for holiness, temperance? Is there evidence of dying to the love of money, to manipulation, to always having it one’s own way? Are they faithful to their spouse (“husband of one wife”)?
It should be noted that the injunction in 1 Timothy 3:4 that requires a leader to “see that his children obey him with proper respect” is not a demand for perfection. Children can choose to disobey even the best parents (see Luke 15). Paul’s concern is that leadership give their best energies and time to training their children. And “above reproach”? The point is that we should seek to be all the Master calls us to be. It means being above condemnation as we confess and repent of our sins and failures and seek, by grace, to grow. The biblical qualifications of a leader are commitment, conviction, competency, and character. The greatest of these is character.1
By: Darrell W. Johnson
- James D. Berkley, “Leadership Handbook of Management and Administration” published by: Baker Books, Grand Rapids 2002 pg.16-17 ↩