What Does it Take to be a Leader in the Church? – Part 3

What do all businesses, schools, non-profits, and churches have in common? They all have leaders. Leaders are important. They are the ones who determine the vision and set the direction for the future. As well they are the ones who make sure everyone is equipped to play their part in the organization. Without leaders, organizations flail. They meander around until they disappear. So leaders, especially good leaders are important.

This is especially true in the church. The last thing God wants is for a church just to meander around until it dies off. He wants His church to accomplish His mission. And He provides leaders to do that.

But God doesn’t just provide any old leader. He provides men who meet certain qualifications and desire certain things. What are those desires? What are those qualifications? What does it take to be a leader in the church?

A Leader in the Church Must Meet the God-Given Qualifications of an Overseer

The qualifications I specifically have in mind are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. There are other lists, but we will limit it to this list today.

I say that these are God-given because Paul wrote this list under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The fact that they were given by God to the church through Paul is significant. It tells us that they aren’t negotiable.

While every church is going to have different needs, these should be the primary qualifications a church looks for in their overseers. Good business skills, a charismatic personality may be desirable, but those skills don’t show up on this list. So we need to be careful not to hold things outside of the list God gives us as primary importance. If a person meets the qualities on this list, they will be a good overseer, who serves the church well. He may not have the exact personality you want or do everything like you think he should, but he’s going to be a good overseer.

What are the qualifications of an overseer?

I think the easiest way to look at this list is to break it down into three categories which I’m labeling as  — Inner Life, Outer Life, and Family Life. This breakdown isn’t original to me, I got it from another pastor, so I want to give credit where credit is due. With that being said, let’s start with:

Inner Life

(1) Sober-minded — That simple means that this person is able to think clearly. Their decisions aren’t influenced by passion, lust, emotion, or personal gain. They are thinking about and allowing God’s Word to guide them.

(2) Self-Controlled — He is to be in control of himself, not given to anger, personal ambition, or his passions.

(3) Respectable — A person who is respectable is someone whose behavior matches their profession. Their not a hypocrite. They do what they say. Their outer life matches their inner life.

(4) Not to be a recent convert

Paul says,

“He must not be a recent convert, [and then he gives us his reason why when he says] or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1 Ti 3:6)

This is not to suggest that time necessarily guarantees maturity. Many people who claim the name of Christ remain spiritually immature for a lifetime. Now, of course, that’s not something we should aspire to. The writer to the Hebrews reprimanded his readers for their continual immaturity (Heb. 5:11–14). Nevertheless, the point is time doesn’t necessarily guarantee maturity, but those new to the faith will not have had the necessary time to come to possess the spiritual maturity that is required of an overseer.

Outer Life

(5) Above reproach — This doesn’t mean an overseer is perfect, instead, it means that no one can bring a legitimate charge of wrongdoing against them. While they still sin, they deal with it quickly and in a healthy way — repenting and seeking reconciliation.

(6) Hospitable — This doesn’t mean that they have to have someone over to their house every Sunday after church. It’s certainly good to have people over, but that’s not a necessary thing. Instead, it means that they are open to strangers. They are a friend to sinners. They desire to care for those in need.

(7) Able to teach — This doesn’t mean that everyone who is an overseer is going to be an amazing preacher. What it means is that they know the Bible well enough to be able to tell and teach others about Jesus and the gospel. They understand the basic doctrines and flow of Scripture, and they are able to teach others those things.

(8) Not a drunkard — This doesn’t mean that a pastor can’t drink. Instead, it means that he is not given to much wine. He is not dependent on it. It is not something he needs.

In some sense, this can apply to things other than drink. It can apply to drugs, possessions, and sex. All of these things are things we can become dependent on. Things that we run to when there are problems in our life, rather than running to Christ.

You see, an overseer, a pastor, should be one who runs to Christ instead of these things. Christ should be the One who gets him through and the One who provides him with rest, joy, and peace. And, in reality, that shouldn’t just be so for a pastor, it should be so for all of us. You see, the reason a pastor should have these qualifications is so he can lead, guide, encourage, and motivate others to have them as well. Which means that this list shouldn’t just be something we file away for our next pastoral search. Instead, it should be a list that is front and center in all our lives because we all should aspire to possess these qualities.

(9) Not be violent but gentle — A pastor should lead with the same gentleness that Christ does. He shouldn’t lash out at others because of their sin. Instead, he should gently guide and lead them in the truth.

(10) Not be quarrelsome — He shouldn’t be someone who is always picking a fight.

(11) Not be a lover of money — Instead he should be someone who is content with the possessions he has. Being content should allow him to lead out in generosity and faithful dependence on God.

(12) Well thought of by outsiders — This doesn’t mean that those outside the church will always agree with what he believes or says, but that they respect him.

Family Life

(13) Husband of one wife — Literally this means he is to be a one-woman man. While this verse has certainly sparked controversy over the years, I don’t believe this mean that an elder has to be someone who is married. Nor does it mean that he can’t have been divorced.

Instead what I believe Paul is getting at is the heart of the matter.

  • Is he faithful to his wife? Or are his eyes and affections always wondering?
  • Is he going to stick by her through the thick and thin? Or does he bolt out of there the moment things get tough?
  • Is his focus on his wife and her needs? Or is it somewhere else?

This is what I believe Paul is getting at with this qualification. He is getting to the heart of the matter. He is drilling down to expose this man’s character. If that is what Paul is doing, then, that is what we should do as well.

(14) Lead his household well — Since the pastor deals with people, the test of his leadership and management capabilities is noted by observing his home. His home is his first church. If leadership and spiritual oversight isn’t exercised well at home, it’s not going to be exercised well in the church.

So that is quick run through of the qualifications a leader in the church must possess if they are going to be an overseer.

Sum Up the Series

So again, what does it take to be a leader in the church?

In order to be a leader in the church a man must:

  • See himself as an overseer
  • View the office of overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task
  • He must meet the God-given qualifications of an overseer.

That’s what it takes to be a leader in the church. And that’s the type of man for which a church should be looking. Once they have those men in place, they should pray that they would continue to grow in those areas, as well as they should seek to grow in them themselves.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you as a church seeking men who meet the God-given qualifications of overseer?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: What does it take to be a leader in the church?

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What Does it Take to be a Leader in the Church? – Part 2

What do all businesses, schools, non-profits, and churches have in common? They all have leaders. Leaders are important. They are the ones who determine the vision and set the direction for the future. As well they are the ones who make sure everyone is equipped to play their part in the organization. Without leaders, organizations flail. They meander around until they disappear. So leaders, especially good leaders are important.

This is especially true in the church. The last thing God wants is for a church just to meander around until it dies off. He wants His church to accomplish His mission. And He provides leaders to do that.

But God doesn’t just provide any old leader. He provides men who meet certain qualifications and desire certain things. What are those desires? What are those qualifications? What does it take to be a leader in the church?

A Leader in the Church Must View the Office of Overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task

It’s a High Calling

While being a pastor does come with some form of compensation, the pastorate shouldn’t just be viewed as another way to pay the bills or earn some extra cash. It’s a ministry. It’s an opportunity to provide soul care, to Shepherd God’s people. It’s a high calling.

It Involves Sacrifice

If you are someone who is going to take on the task of pastoring, you have to view it as a high calling and have a passion for the task because serving the church requires sacrifice. Whether that be sacrificing time for your hobbies, the money you could make elsewhere, or emotional energy, the office of overseer requires sacrifice. If you don’t view the office as a high calling, and if you don’t have a passion for the task, then you aren’t going to provide the sacrifice necessary to care for God’s people in a way that glorifies Him.

Do Anything Else

When I was in seminary and praying about the ministry, I spoke to several people who told me, “If you can do anything else, do it.” Their reason was simple; being a pastor requires a lot of sacrifices, effort, and emotional energy. If you are pursuing the office for the novelty of it, you aren’t going to be in it for long. Being a pastor must be a calling. A position you are drawn to by the Lord. As well as it must be something He has gifted you to do.

Don’t Make it a Practice to Sacrifice Family Time

Now, if you notice, I didn’t say a pastor has to be willing to sacrifice time with his family. I want to specifically point that out because many ministers fail in this area. Family time is important and it must be guarded. Managing your household well is one of the qualifications that must be met in order to become a pastor. You can’t manage a household if you’re never there. So a pastor shouldn’t be about the business of always sacrificing time with his family. Certainly, there will be times when that is needed, but that has to be the exception and not the rule.

Don’t Require Your Pastor to Sacrifice Family Time

On the flip side of that, churches shouldn’t require their pastors to sacrifice family time, instead they should encourage it. Just like the pastor must view his family has his first church, the church has to view the pastor’s family as his first church too, and allow him to minister to them first.

Sum It Up

So if a man wants to be a leader in the church, he must not only see himself as an overseer, but he must also view the office of overseer as a high calling that involves sacrifice and a passion for the task.

Question for Reflection

  1. If you are an overseer, do you have a passion for the task?
  2. If you are an overseer, do you have time built in for your family?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: What does it take to be a leader in the church?

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What Does it Take to be a Leader in the Church? – Part 1

What do all businesses, schools, non-profits, and churches have in common? They all have leaders. Leaders are important. They are the ones who determine the vision and set the direction for the future. As well they are the ones who make sure everyone is equipped to play their part in the organization. Without leaders, organizations flail. They meander around until they disappear. So leaders, especially good leaders are important.

This is especially true in the church. The last thing God wants is for a church just to meander around until it dies off. He wants His church to accomplish His mission. And He provides leaders to do that.

But God doesn’t just provide any old leader. He provides men who meet certain qualifications and desire certain things. What are those desires? What are those qualifications? What does it take to be a leader in the church?

A Leader in the Church Must See Themselves as an Overseer

Overseer is not just a term I am manufacturing. It’s a term Paul uses in verse 1 when he says,

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Ti 3:1)

One of my friends from seminary contacted me no too long ago. He is not only a pastor but he is also a financial advisor. That’s what he contacted me about. He wanted to see if I would be interested in using his services.

As a financial advisor, it is his job to serve families by watching over and caring for their finances. Since I know him well and trust him, we have allowed him to do just that — oversee our financial future. In a similar way, that is what a pastor does. Except he is watching over souls instead of money.

See Themselves as an Overseer

Anyone who wants to be a leader in the church must see themselves as an overseer because that is exactly what they are doing. They are overseeing the people God has placed under their care.

Responsibilities

In that role, an overseer, a pastor, an elder, whatever you want to call them, all those names are interchangeable, is responsible for watching over the church’s doctrine, practice, people, and vision. They do that by teaching, training, equipping, discipling, protecting, leading, and comforting those in the church. That is the general job of an overseer.

If you think about it, that’s a lot for one person to do. And really, should one person do all of that?

Should a church just have one overseer?

I believe when you look at Scripture, it’s clear that it’s God’s intention for a church to have multiple men functioning as overseers. Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone who serves as an overseer is paid. Usually, there are a few who are paid. In most churches, that is typically the Lead Pastor, Music Minister, and Youth pastor. While those are usually the ones who are paid, a church should still have other men serving as overseers or elders. They would be considered non-vocational elders.

I believe there should be a plurality of elders for a couple of reasons.

(1) First, when the term elder is used in Scripture, it is often used in its plural form.

I don’t want to belabor this point too long, but I do want to prove my assertion from Scripture, let me list a few scriptures so you can see what I mean.

In Acts 14:23 we read,

“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.” (Ac 14:23)

 Moving a little further in the book of Acts to Acts 20:17 Luke writes,

“Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” (Ac 20:17)

Paul in Titus 1:5 instructs Titus to follow his example and appoint elders in every town. He writes,

“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—” (Tt 1:5)

In James 5:14, we are told that if anyone is sick they are to…

“…call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (Jas 5:14)

Furthermore, we find Timothy’s name included in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul writes,

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:” (Php 1:1)

Again, I don’t want to belabor the point too much so I will stop there. But as you can see, in each instance, a plurality of elders is mentioned, which I believe tells us that in God’s wisdom, He wants His church to consist of a plurality of elders.

(2) Second, a plurality of elders benefits the church.

It benefits the church because it spreads out the responsibility and it accounts for different gifts and individual deficiencies. Let’s face it, no one man can do everything well, but a team of men who compliment each other can. So for those reasons, I believe a plurality of elders should exist in the church.

Sum it Up

So to sum up this section, if a man wants to be a leader in the church, and a church should have multiple leaders, which should give opportunity for multiple people to function in that role, then that man must see themselves as an overseer — someone who oversees the doctrine, practice, vision, and people of the church.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe a leader in the church must see themselves as an overseer?
  2. Do you believe a plurality of elders is biblical and necessary?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: What does it take to be a leader in the church?

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