Maybe it should go without saying that Jesus himself is to form everything we do in the church. Nevertheless, it needs to be said because one bad apple in a church leadership position can spoil the whole bushel of leaders. This is why character formation is at the core of being a church leader – because the elder’s ministry of oversight, shepherding, and discernment of God’s will comes from the inner resources of knowing Christ; and a deacon’s ministry of outreach and service comes from a close walk of faith with Jesus. In a very real sense, elders and deacons are to manifest or reveal Jesus to the congregation. It is a high calling. In the New Testament text, 1 Timothy 3, Paul gave to the Church seven requirements of Christian morality and seven requirements of a daily walk for leaders. These fourteen requirements are the basis for those who serve the church so that the responsibility of the church’s mission might be kept on track of bringing people to Jesus. These requirements for leaders arise first and foremost from their experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The first set of seven has to do with morality. A church leader is to 1) have a good reputation; 2) be completely faithful and devoted in the marriage relationship (by the way, this doesn’t mean that a church leader must be married, because then even Jesus wouldn’t qualify as a church leader); 3) be clear-minded or even-keeled (consistent); 4) self-controlled (not trying to control others); 5) possessing moral courage, that is, specifically to speak truth with grace and not take the coward’s way of complaining; 6) a friend of strangers (hospitality quite literally means love of the stranger); and, 7) able to impart instruction to others, or, in other words, able to communicate truth in such a way that helps people and builds them up and does not tear them down in the Christian life. These seven requirements are possible because the leader has witnessed Jesus personally working in his or her life.
The second set of seven has to do with the conduct of the person in everyday life. A church leader is to: 1) not be a drunk; 2) not given to being angry and constantly carrying a chip on his shoulder about something he doesn’t like (respectable); 3) gentle; 4) not always picking a fight about something; 5) not thinking about the all-mighty dollar in every decision; 6) having a caring approach to family that results in loving relationships with kids, because after all, rules without relationship will lead to rebellion not only in the family but in the church, as well; and 7) the leader must not be a beginner in the faith, but have some proven maturity in order to handle the job well so that those on the outside of the church may see that there is something wonderfully different about the way things are handled and done among those who profess Jesus Christ.
In addition to this, we have seven related requirements for deacons: 1) dignified in every kind of relation (worthy of respect); 2) not double-tongued, saying one thing to one person and something different to another (sincere); 3) practicing moderation when it comes to drinking; 4) not greedy; 5) keeping very close to faith in Christ with a pure heart; 6) able to handle the eyes of everybody in the church on them when they serve without falling apart; and 7) also holding to the vows of marriage faithfully and nurturing kids well.
God calls and sets apart individuals for his service so that he might reveal and manifest his presence among his people. Jesus Christ wants his church to be built up through faithful service. A few final observations: notice that nowhere in this passage or in the New Testament is there found that it is the main requirement of a church leader to listen to complaints and whining. The ancient Israelites took quite a beating from God for being a community of grumblers. Philippians 2:14 flatly says Do everything without complaining or arguing. Neither will you find that the church operates just like an American form of democracy. Instead of church leaders being representatives of the people to do their will, church leaders are rather representatives of God to the people so that God’s will is done in all things. So, then, prayer is a major work for elders; and, outreach a major work of deacons because this work is primarily the work of God and only secondarily the work of people.
So, in selecting church leaders, churches have a biblical imperative to not just arm-twist anyone who will respond, but choose men and women of God whom are people of high integrity, on the path of spiritual maturity and pursuing Jesus Christ. May God be glorified, Jesus followed, and the Spirit unleashed.