By Rick Cowman
Last week we were looking at Jesus’ words to the church at Thyatira in Revelation chapter 2, and the lack of church leadership which let to their deception by a false teacher. So, perhaps it might be good to look at what God’s Word says about those individuals who would serve Him in Church leadership!
1 Timothy chapter 5, verse 22, gives us a guide for determining who should lead Christ’s church as under-shepherds. As we look at each of these qualifications, we see the underlying principle that Pastors, Elders and Deacons must be men of character — men who are mature, growing believers! The Apostle Paul goes on to say in the same letter to Timothy, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others...(NASB)” In other words, before you approve someone to serve as a church leader, let them prove themselves to be on a road toward maturity in Christ! Allowing immature believers to serve in leadership positions will bring harm to not only the church, but also to themselves. There’s nothing that will bring stress and discouragement like being in a position (secular or ministry) which you are not qualified! One of the roles of church leaders is to counsel, disciple and teach God’s Word accurately to others. And if the leaders are not able to do this, you will end up with a church full of baby Christians, never able to do the work of ministry. Remember, as the leaders go, so goes the church! We must have spiritually maturing models in leadership if the church is going to be healthy. This is why as pastors we must passionately guard the gate to leadership! I have seen the results of an open door policy for leaders. And I have personally been in a place of leadership responsibility when I wasn’t ready, and it resulted in a set back in my walk with God. We must realize we cannot lead people somewhere we’ve never been!
The church also needs leaders who are devoted to pleasing God – not men! In 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, verse 4, Paul encourages pastors, “For we speak as messengers who have been approved by God to be entrusted with the good news. Our purpose is to please God, not people! He is the One who examines the motives of our hearts (NLT).” As church leaders, we must learn to live for an audience of One – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! The church needs leaders who are humble and willing to be led by the Spirit of God as He takes the Word of God and teaches them as men of God! It is Christ’s Church, and it is Christ alone to whom we must answer to as leaders – not the whims of every individual member of His church! God has called His leaders to follow Him and lead the church in that direction.
The church Jesus is writing to in our text in Revelation didn’t have this kind of leadership. These guys were “out to lunch” in the area of spiritual maturity. They were “out in left field” when it came to spiritual, Biblical guidance of others in their care. So, how about YOUR church? If you’re serving or considering serving as an Elder or Deacon in your church, where are YOU in your walk with Jesus? Maybe you’ve been trying to please people and you’re discouraged (this will always be the result). Or perhaps you accepted a leadership position because no one else would do it, and it has you stressed out because you know you’re not at the level of maturity you should be. Or maybe you’re serving only because it gives you some kind of status or power, and your motive is to control people instead of serve them. If you fall into any of these categories, it’s time to be honest and acknowledge it – and then be part of the solution instead of the problem! Why? Because without shepherds and leaders who listen only to God, obey only God, and strive to please only God, the church is in trouble! And like the church at Thyatira, we will be led astray into the deception of sin and lose our influence in the world!
The devil’s goal is to steal, kill and destroy the work of God. And if he can influence the leaders of our churches and deceive them, then he has accomplished his goal. So, if you are in a leadership position in God’s kingdom, evaluate your life – because it’s time to lead!