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Pastoral Exhortation - Series of 2011

Qualifications Of Church Leaders

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God's directive concerning the character of those who aspire to serve in the offices of the church is given in Titus 1:6-9: "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Titus 1:6-9; cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7).

These biblical qualities are to be found in their lives before their appointment to the offices of the church. Though there will be men in the church who may think of themselves as fit to be leaders, and ready to take responsibilities, they must be examined over a period of time by the leaders and the church. And upon examination (which would require the evaluation and approval of both the leaders and members of the congregation), if they are found equipped with those biblical qualities, they must be appointed to the leadership position.

Below is a brief study of the biblical qualities of church leaders.

Blameless

Twice this word appears in Titus 1:6-9 (vv. 6, 7). Living above reproach must be the consistent characteristic of a leader. "Blameless" cannot refer to sinless perfection because no man is without sin. However, it speaks of a consistent life of spiritual maturity. Its synonym in 1 Timothy 3:2 emphasizes that "nothing in the person would cause an opponent to make a damaging charge against him, thus the person is irreproachable or unassailable" (Strauch, Eldership, 171). There must be a commitment to moral and spiritual reputation. Holiness and submission to God's Word should characterize the leader, and he must be free from damaging and offensive behaviour and lifestyle.

In verse 7, Paul said, "For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God." A leader or an elder is God's steward and therefore, the overseer of God's household. He is entrusted with God's household. God's interests in the church are his main concern and he acts accordingly. He needs to be morally and spiritually fit to fulfil God's demands for His invaluable possession. His duty is to set an example for those who are called to be saints.

"What the churches of Jesus Christ need in the way of leadership is men of deep inner spiritual and moral character. The best systems, laws, and constitutions are impotent without men who are just, devout, lovers of what is good, sensible, self-controlled, forbearing, free from love of money, uncontentious and faithful keepers of God's Word. These are precisely the qualities that God requires of those who lead His people" (Eldership, 173).

Sexual morality

The first virtue of a leader that spells out what it means for him to be a blameless person is that he be "the husband of one wife" (v. 7). It literally means one-wife husband, or one-woman man. Paul is not forbidding one from marrying if his wife dies. Rather, he is speaking of the sexual purity of a leader. The leader should not be a flirtatious, a promiscuous or an adulterous man.

The phrase therefore implies loyalty and faithfulness to his wife. It prohibits divorce, adultery, polygamy, etc. The leader must be a faithful spouse. As one writer said, "Marriage is the most probing test of a man's character and beliefs." This thought is consistent with what Paul said in 1 Timothy 3:5, "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"

The task of building godly marriages and strong families in the church necessitates a good marriage history in a church leader's life. In these days of increasing sexual immoralities, this quality of being committed to the sanctity of marriage and keeping oneself from sexual sin are to be highly stressed.

Good family leadership

The Apostle Paul mentioned the third main spiritual quality as "having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly" (Titus 1:6).

In 1 Thessalonians 2:11, the Apostle Paul described his leadership ministry with these words "we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children". A leader's role is much like a father's role in the house. Since the leader is to be a loving parent to the family of God (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15), there is no better place to prove his spiritual leadership than in his own family. In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Paul wrote, "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"

Firstly, he must have "faithful children". The word "faithful" (pistos) is also rendered as "believing" elsewhere (cf. 1 Timothy 5:16; 6:2). Some argue that the word does not require the children to be believers but only trustworthy, dutiful and responsible children. Whereas some others say that the word demands the children to be "believers". I personally think that it is rather impossible to guarantee the biblical requirements of a leader's children without they being believers.

 

Pastoral Exhortation