The Holiness Project – “Hard Questions for Elders
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word.
Be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear….
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (II Timothy 4: 1-5 NIV).
The Holiness Project – “Seven Hard Questions for Elders”
By now you must realize that when the Bible talks of ministry, it includes you. Perhaps you aren’t the Pastor or a teacher of the Word, but you are involved in ministry. Through your life, through your spiritual conversations, through your spiritual gifts, you have a ministry. A Life Ministry. Your discipleship is practical. And so it should be. You are already a leader, influencing others for Christ.
And it is likely that at some point your efforts will be recognized as useful in the role of an elder or deacon in the church. You are already a leader but your sphere of influence may be limited or may be outward focused. If you are being called to serve in the role of an elder or deacon in the church, it is a specific calling. We call it church leadership but that is a misnomer.
It’s true, of course, on a church-wide basis but it is also true that there are many spheres of influence and leadership both within and without the church. We do not want to fall into the trap of thinking that there is only church-wide leadership and the rest of us are simply not leaders, only disciples. That would be unbiblical thinking.
In the NT, we are all prophets, priests and kings and we must act like it. But some people are called to a church-wide leadership position because they have been recognized as spiritually mature and functioning within their limited sphere of influence as leaders already. Yes, they could have some creational leadership skills in business and the like but it is spiritual leadership that matters most here.
So, before you embark on that journey, I have a few questions for you.
Beyond the general maturity in Christ expected from all leaders, a few more questions might reveal the beliefs and values you hold on to when the going gets rough. Many other questions could be added, but these get to the essence of whether or not you are ready for spiritual warfare and have some idea of what the strategic and tactical plan of God is in the context of the church.
- What is the purpose of leadership in the church? Is the idea to simply support the Pastor in whatever he wants to do (a leader with a thousand helpers) or to help prepare the people to do the ministry? Is the role of an elder, deacon or Board member a spiritual role or an administrative one? Can administration (stewardship) be done in a spiritual manner? If so, how? What is the focus of your ministry as a leader? Is it different from your life ministry? If so, how? What makes the church special in terms of it’s role in the kingdom of God? What is the focus and purpose of the ministry of the church that you can’t find anywhere eles? Do you know how to have a spiritual conversation? Do you know what the goal of the conversation is and how to get there? How fundamental is prayer to that goal? What is your prayer life like?
2. Is it possible for a leader of the church, one who truly loves God and has good intentions, to make fundamental and dangerous mistakes in morality, life and spiritual management of the church and be blind to it? Which things are essential for every Christian (and even more so for a leader) to protect them from the ignorance, blindness and willfulness of the flesh?
- the conviction and ministry of the Holy Spirit within,
- the knowledge and ongoing application of the Word of God,
- the fellowship (and accountability) of a group of mature and wise believers,
- all of the above.
3. Do you believe that there is a spiritual battle going on for the hearts and minds of every believer (including your own) and for the church as a whole with a particular focus on the leadership? If so, what will you do about it? How do you know when you are being religious and when you are being spiritual? How do you know when you are being political and not being relational? How do you know when to enforce the rules and when to allow more freedom? Do you know what the Devil’s schemes are and what the dynamics of the spiritual battle are and what to do about them?
4. Do you believe that a leader of the church, including the Pastor, has the right to prohibit the use of a believer´s gifts in ministry within the church? Do you believe that God is building the church and that every person present is there for a reason and has gifts that are essential for building the kingdom of God? If so, what is the role of the leadership when God brings those gifted people into the church?
5. What is the purpose of church discipline? Is it to deal with difficult people by asking them to leave? Does treating someone “as a Gentile,” as Paul said, mean to evangelize them (reconcile them to God) or to shun them and throw them out of the church? Would you call the police to remove a homeless or poor man from the premises because he is bothering the people and asking for money? Do you believe that a leader of the church, including the Pastor, has the right to prohibit the presence of a believer (or non-believer) in the church for any reason or any sin whatsoever (other than temporarily because of an immediate physical threat of danger to themselves or others)?
6. When do you think it is appropriate to spiritually and publicly confront a leader, if ever? How should a leader act when he is confronted in that way? When is a rebuke spiritual and when is it an expression of the flesh? Do you know what the seven deadly sins are for spiritual leadership? Are you aware of the existence of corporate sin that you participate in actively or passively as part of the leadership of the church? Do you know what to do about it?
7. What (and who) are you willing to fight for? You can either have the status quo or the abundant life, but you can´t have both (until you arrive in heaven). What do you believe is the bottom line for the church? When will you stand up and be counted? When is being loyal to the Pastor not being loyal to Christ? When is doing the will of the Board not doing the will of the Father? How will you know the difference? Would you sacrifice the needs of the one for the sake of the many? Or would you meet the needs of the one and ignore the opinion of the many?
Finally, the overall quesion is whether it is the job of the leaders to defend the church or to defend the gospel? And no, those are not the same thing. They are supposed to be, but they´re not. Sadly. If we defend the gospel, we defend the church. If we defend the church, (most often from unsavory characters such as prophets or the least, the last, the lost and the losers) we may, in fact, be hindering the gospel. How will you know the difference?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions (or at least some of them), then why are you accepting the assignment as a leader of the church? Don’t you know that teachers (and leaders) are doubly judged – first for their own lives and secondly for the influence they have had on other people’s lives?
Send me a comment with the answers you would give. Privacy assured unless permission is given. Pray. Think. Share.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to Jesus….
Lord, I’m not sure that I want to be a leader. It’s a scary deal. But I know that all disciples are expected to grow in maturity and that positions of leadership are merely positions of ministry. I’m not sure that I know all of the answers to these questions but I am going to find out. Lead me. Guide me. Protect me from my own flesh and the flesh of others. Reveal my sin so that I can confess it. Reveal the sin of the church so that we can overcome it together. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Read more (from the Temptations of the Cross)
What followed was a miracle the likes of which none of them had ever known and Gabriel smiled for the sheer joy of it. It was so practical and so ancient a demonstration of God’s care for them that no one doubted who Jesus was. They all remembered the manna that God had provided every day for forty years while their forefathers had wandered through the desert. Here Jesus was demonstrating that he was that same God, that same caregiver. (Read more…)