The biblical ways of speaking of elders say much. They are “elders” – men of maturity and judgment. They are “overseers” – men who watch over the people of God and who encourage our walk with God. They are “shepherds” – men who have a heart for God, for His church and for the souls they oversee. In any selection process for leaders in the church, prayerful and careful attention should be given to New Testament passages like Acts 11:28-30; 14:23; 20:17-38; Ephesians 4:11-12; Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3 and 5:17; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.
Recognizing spiritual leadership is important. Here are eight practical questions to ask any would be elder (or for current elders to ask themselves too).
- Do you humbly desire to be a spiritual leader? (1 Tim. 3:1). Surely, there is a price to be paid in terms of time, toil and energy in such service. This important work is a stewardship (Titus 1:7) that is demanding and entails great responsibility. It’s not to be a matter of pride, politics or power plays, but genuine and humble desire to honor God’s will for His church. The issue here is that of godly desire and motivation.
- How long have you been a Christian and how much have you grown? (1 Tim. 3:2, 6-7). One of the qualifications for elders is that they so know God’s word they are able to instruct in healthy teaching and to effectively rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). This individual has not simply coasted throughout their life spiritually. There has been real growth and development in this person’s life. Knowledge is in his head and heart! The issue here is that of maturity and judgment.
- Do you have a great marriage? (1 Tim. 3:2). Are you a “one-woman man?” A man who does not seek to truly honor God in his marriage is a man who cannot honorably serve as an elder. When a man is sincerely devoted to loving his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25), it says much about his character. It says a great deal about his ability to deal with the ups and downs in the circumstances of life. The issue here is that of commitment and faithfulness (fidelity).
- Do your children positively respond to your leadership? (1 Tim. 3:4-5). How one manages his home ought to give some indication of how they might oversee the people of God. It has well been said that the light that shines brightest for Jesus shines brightest at home. When a man’s family knows him to truly be a man of God, when they have no question about his genuineness of character and have real respect for the wisdom of his judgment, it speaks volumes. The top priority of every Christian husband and dad is to see their marriage and family as a sacred trust that they are to help get home to God. A man who believes and practices that wife and family are “ours for a while, so they can be His (God’s) forever” is the kind of man God can mightily bless and use! The principle here is that of leadership and example.
Thank God for godly leaders! May our gracious Lord give us more such men to lead His people in days to come. (More next week)—Mike Vestal