As we explore leadership in the church, it is important for us to consider broadly what God is doing in and through the church. We often talk of vision statements and mission statements. I have a pastor friend who sets up that conversation well when he captures the essence of God’s vision and mission. My friend says that God’s vision as recorded in Scripture is: “I will be their God and they will be my people.” (see Ex. 6:7; Jer 31:33, 32:38; 2 Cor 6:16; Rev 21:3) He then goes on to say that if this is God’s vision statement, then God’s mission statement as to how he will accomplish that vision is contained in Matthew 28:18-20:
“And Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
So the church was instituted by Christ and will serve as his bride for all of eternity. The issue of leadership in the church, both of who shall serve and of how they should serve, ought then to be subject to the authority of the Word of God. Yet how often does the church take a more worldly attitude towards church leadership? So often, churches will appoint people who are successful in business, or who hold prominent positions in the community as her leadership. These are not, in and of themselves, bad things, but they do not qualify someone for leadership in Jesus’ church.
Jesus has in fact given us guidance/commands in his word as to the nature and qualifications of leadership. Listed below is a sampling of the Biblical outline for leadership in the church. It is by no means a complete listing of the Biblical texts on leadership, but they will give a representative sampling. I encourage you to read through these passages.
Exodus 18:15-26 - God spoke through Moses’ father-in-law Jethro to give him guidance as to his leadership of the Israelite people. In this passage, Jethro essentially tells Moses, “You are wearing your self out. Appoint leaders/elders over the people.” This is an OT outline for the elders we find in the NT church.
Acts 14:23 - Paul and Barnabus are on their first missionary journey planting churches, and as they plant churches, they appoint elders in each of the churches to lead them.
Acts 6:1-6 - In this passage, we have the choosing of the Seven. These men were the first deacons. The mention here of waiting on tables is not meant to be derogatory. The deacon is not a lesser office. It is a different office with a different gift set. These men have servant hearts and servant callings. The passage also makes clear that the office of deacon is a spiritual office. These men were to be men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom. The passage goes on to say that these men were ordained for their office, signifying spiritual oversight, though broadly speaking the office of the elder is one of shepherding and the office of deacon is one of mercy.
Philippians 1:1 - As Paul writes to the church in Philippi, he addresses the letter to the overseers (elders) and the deacons. This is just an example of the two offices existing within the church.
1 Timothy 3:1-6 - This passage describes the Biblical qualifications of the elder. Please note that Titus 1:5-9 also includes these qualifications.
1 Timothy 3:7-20 - This passage describes the Biblical qualifications of the deacon.
Hebrews 13:17ff - This passage speaks to the seriousness of the office and is one that ought to be on our hearts and minds as we consider leadership in the church. It tells us that the leaders in the church will one day be called to give an account before God as to our stewardship of the church. The elders will be called to give an account before God as to their care for the souls entrusted to their shepherding care.
Friends, please know that the officers of Christ Church have been called by God to this service, and we take very seriously this calling placed on our lives. I plead with you to pray for us, for our leadership, and for our families. I also plead with you to pray that the Lord would continue to provide men, whom he has called, to lead his church.
This is a highly abbreviated teaching on leadership in the church, but I want to close with a few summary statements from the PCA Book of Church Order which outline the qualifications and duties of elders and deacons. Thank you for taking a few moments to read through and consider how God has provided for the leadership of his church.
Summary of Qualifications:
8-2. He that fills this office should possess a competency of human learning and be blameless in life, sound in the faith and apt to teach. He should exhibit a sobriety and holiness of life becoming the Gospel. He should rule his own house well and should have a good report of them that are outside the Church.
Summary of Duties:
8-3. It belongs to those in the office of elder, both severally and jointly, to watch diligently over the flock committed to his charge, that no corruption of doctrine or of morals enter therein. They must exercise government and discipline, and take oversight not only of the spiritual interests of the particular church, but also the Church generally when called thereunto. They should visit the people at their homes, especially the sick. They should instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourner, nourish and guard the children of the Church. They should set a worthy example to the flock entrusted to their care by their zeal to evangelize the unconverted and make disciples. All those duties which private Christians are bound to discharge by the law of love are especially incumbent upon them by divine vocation, and are to be discharged as official duties. They should pray with and for the people, being careful and diligent in seeking the fruit of the preached Word among the flock.
Summary of Qualifications:
9-3. To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment.
Summary of Duties:
9-2. It is the duty of the deacons to minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress. It is their duty also to develop the grace of liberality in the members of the church, to devise effective methods of collecting the gifts of the people, and to distribute these gifts among the objects to which they are contributed. They shall have the care of the property of the congregation, both real and personal, and shall keep in proper repair the church edifice and other buildings belonging to the congregation. In matters of special importance affecting the property of the church, they cannot take final action without the approval of the Session and consent of the congregation.
In the discharge of their duties the deacons are under the supervision and authority of the Session. In a church in which it is impossible for any reason to secure deacons, the duties of the office shall devolve upon the ruling elders.