By Richard Hayes, District Representative, Southwest
The Best Source for Leadership Selection in the Church
Leadership selection in the church, at any level of ministry, is crucial to the health and vitality of the church and its ministries. This is true, regardless of whether or not the church is rural, rural suburban or suburban. With no shortage of opinions concerning leadership selection, the best source to follow will always be the Word of God. So, if you would, muse with me on a brief journey, as we explore the selection of leaders for ministry in the church.
J. Oswald Sanders in the classic work, Spiritual Leadership, suggests that two Scriptural concepts be held in constant tension. The first concept derived from First Timothy 3:1, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”
The second concept is derived from Jeremiah 45:5a, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…” (ESV) In some instances the ambition of an individual or the ambition and perspectives of a leadership team are skewed to the point that it becomes possible for an individual to be selected for leadership out of the wrong reasons and motives. Again J. Oswald Sanders asks these potent questions, “Should it not be the office that seeks the man, rather than the man the office?” “Is it not perilous to put an ambitious man into office?” (Selections from J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership. ©1967. Moody Press. P. 9.)
In First Samuel, God rejected the leadership of King Saul. As Samuel surveyed Jesse’s sons, his eye caught Eliab. In response God marks out a godly standard for the selection of leadership at every level of life and ministry. God tells Samuel in I Samuel 16:7, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.’” (ESV)
Qualifications for Leadership Selection in the Church
Tall, dark and handsome is not a godly qualification for ministry. Too often in our cultural context one’s appearance becomes predominate over the inner person. One of my fellow District Representatives jokingly quipped that he had the perfect face for a career in radio (at least I am pretty sure he was speaking of himself and not me).
Our cultural values often play loudly when the time comes to select leaders, and we should make certain that our criteria is based upon the Scriptures and not the fleeting values of a culture spiraling away from biblical values. Rural suburban churches, any church for that matter, is not exempt from the influence and pressures of the prevailing culture in which it exists.
In reference to the highest spiritual offices in the church, mainly pastors and elders, three pertinent passages describe the character qualities of the man whom the Lord would have to lead His church, First Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 and Second Timothy 2:24-26. Each of these passages should be read, studied, and prayed each time and anytime the church seeks to elevate an individual to office.
The Goal of Leadership Selection in the Church
One wise soul penned these words, “There is perhaps no greater blessing to a local church than a plurality of godly men who have a heart for the Lord, seek His face and desire to do His will alone, leading the church with servant’s hearts that overflow with love for God’s people.” (Taken from The Identity and Function of the Senior Pastor Amidst A Church Polity Prescribing a Plurality of Elders. Doctoral Dissertation ©2004 by R.A.H. Available at the Biola Library in La Mirada, CA. and Crowell Library in Chicago, Ill.)
Leadership selection is never something to be left to chance or abdicated to those that are seeking self-advancement with ungodly ambition. Taking the time to seek the Lord and follow His Word will always produce the best and most effective results.