This is true in the business world. In the home. In government. In sports. And also in the Lord’s church.
Our reading today is about leaders in the church. It lists what is commonly called the qualifications of elders. They’re better characterized as qualities. Too often we look at this text as a mere checklist, applied superficially, instead of a description of the spiritual attributes required for God’s leaders.
The qualities from this text and its companion passage in Titus 1 can be divided into six categories.
1. Good reputation
A “good name” is something to be desired and pursued by all Christians, but is absolutely essential for a spiritual leader. Some of the qualities listed involve being blameless. Having a good testimony among the non-Christian community. Known as being hospitable. And not being violent, quarrelsome, greedy, or dishonest.
Leaders with a good reputation open doors of opportunity, create confidence and facilitate open communication.
Habits are important and powerful. Ron Gilbert was right, “First we form habits, then they form us.” Good leaders have developed habits that others have failed to master. In fact, the difference in success and failure in any leadership can often we traced to the habits of the leader.
God’s spiritual leaders are sober. Temperate. Not prone to anger. Not self-willed. And not addicted to intoxicants of any kind.
Character speaks to what one is. Inward qualities that are observable. Gentle. Holy. Just. A life that is well ordered and respectable. He’s a man of unquestionable integrity. D. L. Moody once said that “character is what a man is in the dark.”
Godly character sets this man apart from the crowd. It creates trust. Promotes high standards. Provides staying power during crises. And extends his influence.
4. Family Life
The physical family is a training ground for a man’s growth and development in learning to lead and influence the church family.
J.B. Meyers was right when he wrote, “A man’s ability to manage his family will indicate to a certain degree his ability to shepherd the flock of God. Most parents will readily admit that one often needs the wisdom of Solomon to handle family problems. A man who is emotionally stable, spiritually mature and wise will provide adequate leadership in the home.”
Being “able to teach” is just one specific aspect of leadership ability. The entire concept of shepherding, equipping (as taught in Eph. 4:11-16), and “convincing and exhorting those opposed to sound doctrine,” further demonstrate leadership skills.
Inherent in the words “bishop” and “shepherd” is the need for relational skills and the ability to effectively lead.
The above qualities all imply the idea of experience. Also, the three Greek words, translated into six English words, speak to a spiritually experienced man.
This text uses the word “bishop,” which can also be translated “overseer.” It speaks to the nature of the work. To superintend. To see that things are done right. To take the oversight (1 Pet. 5:2).
Often we use the word “elder,” which is also rendered “presbyter.” When the apostle Paul established churches on his missionary tours, he returned and “appointed elders in every church” (Ax 14:23). This word refers to “one advanced in life.” It suggests maturity and spiritual experience.
The word “pastor,” is often used today to refer to the preacher, but the New Testament uses it to define these leaders, who may or may not be preachers. It’s also translated Shepherd. Literally, the word refers to feeding and tending flocks. But is used metaphorically to describe the spiritual duties elders have in watching for the souls in their charge. Of providing protection. Spiritual sustenance. And guidance. (I Pet 5:1-2; Eph. 4:11; Ax. 20:28).
This post is a mere “CliffsNotes” from 30 pages of my class notes on this topic. Hopefully, it will stimulate further study and reflection for those wishing to develop and grow in spiritual leadership.
In summary, a thoughtful and thorough examination of God’s leaders reveals a man who has a heart for God. A heart for the Word of God. And a heart for the people of God.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman