1 Peter 5:1-5, 12-14 – Humble Leadership

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble….”

With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.

She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (NIV)

Humility is the consummate virtue of the believer in Jesus. Apart from humility there is only a lack of authenticity and integrity. With humility there is a recognition of our need for God’s grace, guidance, and peace. Humility opens to us the wide vistas of God’s love and mercy. 

A humble spirit:

  • Makes leadership both possible and bearable (God is in control, not us). 
  • Helps relieve the anxious worries that wash over us (God cares for us).
  • Enables us to resist evil and remain strong in faith (God protects us).
  • Fortifies us to remain steady through suffering (God comforts us).

Genuine spiritual humility places us securely in the merciful arms of God. Furthermore, humility and meekness are what this old fallen world needs, as well, and to which we must reinforce in all our church leadership appointments, national and local political elections, and work staff hires. An abundance of smarts and grit cannot compensate for a lack of humility. God is always in control, and so, syncing our lives with divine providence and care will enable us to be better off.

Yet, humility is one of the hardest virtues to practice because it requires that we willingly put aside pride, ego, and personal agendas to embrace God’s agenda:

God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven! (Matthew 5:3, CEV)

Jesus said, “The truth is, you must change your thinking and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter God’s kingdom. (Matthew 18:3, ERV)

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3, CEB)

To be a humble leader means to have the intention, focus, and action of seeking God’s will and way in everything. Then, to have the courage to lead others in God’s direction despite resistance and opposition from those who want to follow a different path.

Therefore, our task as spiritual leaders is to pursue hard after God’s direction rather than relying solely upon our base instincts, pragmatic desires, and personal views. Humility provides us a radical openness to God. A meek and gentle spirit enables us to develop an ever-deepening awareness of where God is leading. The Lord is up to something and has plans for our world, our locales, and our faith communities.

We also need to recognize that not everyone is open to God. If our focus is primarily on molding a group of people to be what we want them to be, then we may have become closed to what God wants. This closed spirit comes out in a couple of different ways:

  1. Maintaining tradition at all costs. Living with uncertainty and ambiguity is too much for some leaders, so they stick close to the status quo. Like Abraham, however, we are called to move and change without always knowing where we are going. (Genesis 12:1-5)
  • Getting rid of tradition like there is no tomorrow. To get what they want some leaders focus solely on their own needs and desires without considering those they are called to lead. Like Timothy, we are to hold onto the great deposit of doctrine and heritage given to us and not always be looking for the next new thing to turn things around. (1 Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:13-14)

Humility-based leadership continually consults the divine will and others’ wisdom in a concerted effort to be collaboratively open to God. A humble spirit enables and empowers leaders:

  • To lead from a position of faith, not fear.
  • To seek divine help and resources through a posture of listening. 
  • To practice love in all things to all persons.
  • To make prayer and discernment the foundation of planning.
  • To read Holy Scripture as if life depended on it.
  • To consult and collaborate with others who are like-minded.
  • To honor and respect tradition while holding it with open hands, not closed fists.

If we cultivate a humble attitude and a deep openness to God, along with a determined readiness to move people lovingly and graciously in God’s direction, then amazing things can happen. Let our prayer together be this: 

I am yours, wise God, no matter where you call me to go, what you call me to do, and how you call me to be.  I will seek your will and way as I lead others to do the same through Jesus Christ our Lord in the power and guidance of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Titus 1:1-9

            Paul wrote his letter to Titus so that some solid competent virtuous leaders might be appointed to guide the church on the island of Crete (located in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Greece).  There was no ambiguity with Paul about this.  He laid it out clearly:  “Church officials are in charge of God’s work, and so they must also have a good reputation.  They must not be bossy, quick-tempered, heavy drinkers, bullies, or dishonest in business.  Instead, they must be friendly to strangers and enjoy doing good things.  They must also be sensible, fair, pure, and self-controlled.  They must stick to the true message they were taught, so that their good teaching can help others and correct everyone who opposes it.”
 
            There is no reason to think that Paul thought of this as the ideal leader, as if no one could really be this way.  Paul also did not think about this instruction as a strategy for getting apathetic people off their butts and into some form of service.  No, Paul meant what he said.  He knew that compromising on the character of leadership would erode and destroy the church.
 
            The selection of church leaders is important because just one bad belly-aching non-virtuous apple can upset the entire apple cart.  Good people provide good teaching.  People with a selfish agenda find ways to subvert sound instruction to get what they want.  All of us in the Body of Christ are to be wise to it all through the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.  This is yet another reason to immerse ourselves in the Bible so that we will lead with the confidence of knowing God.
 

 

            Holy God, you insist on holiness in your people, especially in leadership.  Help all your churches everywhere to raise competent leaders with character so that the work of making disciples will responsibly go forward with joy and effectiveness.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.

Hebrews 13:7-21

            I once rode a horse named “Old Glue” because he stuck to the ground like glue.  It took a furious amount of kicking to get that old horse to move at all.  I think about Old Glue every time I look at the final chapter of Hebrews.  It feels like the author is firing off exhortation after exhortation trying to kick some life into a group of people who have lost their enthusiasm for Jesus. 
 
            Don’t forget about your spiritual leaders; don’t be fooled by any strange teachings; share in the disgrace of Christ; keep offering praise to God in the name of Jesus; don’t forget to help others and be benevolent; and, obey your leaders and do what they say.  All these exhortations come kicking one after the other in a short amount of space.  The reason why we ought to pay attention to them is that we were bought at the price of Christ’s blood.  God has redeemed us with the ultimate price.
 
            We need to work at becoming holy and serving in genuine Christian love as if this was the last day of our lives.  We are to run like wild stallions for Jesus, instead of being stuck to the ground like Old Glue.  There is no advantage to only moving when there is something in it for “me.”  There is no benefit in just griping and complaining instead of trotting along for the Savior. 
 

 

            As the author says:  “May Jesus help you do what pleases God.  To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever!  Amen.”

Choosing Capable Leaders

 
 
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.