It is vitally important that qualified men of God lead the people of God to greater growth, spiritual health and Christlikeness – all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Without any doubt, people will be in heaven due to the love, leadership and lives of faithful elders. It has been my blessing and privilege to serve under 67 different men as shepherds in various congregations throughout 35 plus years of full-time preaching. Elders are godly men of maturity and judgment (elders) who oversee local churches (overseers / bishops) with the skilled hearts and hands of shepherds (pastors / shepherds).
Based upon the passages in the New Testament that mention these men and that speak of their qualifications (cf. Acts 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4), it is important that we be able to recognize true spiritual leadership. Here are 4 more very crucial and practical questions for every would be elder (or for current elders to keep in mind too).
5. Do You Consistently Display Godly Self Discipline? (1 Timothy 3:2). Words like temperate, prudent, sober-minded and self-controlled describe this qualification. It is a must that shepherds first be sheep who love, honor and obey the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). A man proves himself to be capable of spiritual leadership who first has brought himself under control – under control of God and His word. It is impossible to be a good elder in the church without first having learned much from Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18).
6. Do You Handle Life’s Circumstances in a God-Glorifying Way? (3:2). Faithful shepherds live their lives in a respectable, well-arranged manner. Loving, serving and honoring God are preeminent! Their entire lives revolve around these principles. They do not quickly lose sight of what is primary and eternal. While not sinless, these are men who sincerely are devoted to displaying God’s glory in every aspect and circumstance (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-19).
7. How Do You Relate and Respond to Others? (3:2-3). Are you hospitable? Do you really enjoy sharing your home, your blessings and your life in Christ? Are you “apt to teach?” Have you learned well from the Master Teacher and are you capable of teaching others? Are you capable of convicting those steeped in error? (Titus 1:9). Are you known for your gentleness and integrity of heart? Would those who work with you and who know you best attest to your godly character?
8. Do You Possess Bad Habits That Can Undermine Your Leadership and Hurt the Church? An elder must not be arrogant and puffed up. He must not have an inclination to contentiousness or violence. He must not be a lover of money or suffer from “stuffitis” (Luke 12:15). He is not to be “given to wine” or to any substance that might cloud or impede his thinking and judgment. Good shepherds have the best interests of the church of our Lord at heart.
While these questions are not intended to be exhaustive, they are given with the hope and prayer that they will prove helpful to Christians everywhere. May God give us more biblically qualified men who to shepherd His people!—Mike Vestal