Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. (New International Version)
For the Church everywhere, Jesus Christ is to form and inform everything we do – including leadership.
This is why character formation is at the core of being an elder and a deacon in Christ’s Church – 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, who desires to work through those individuals.
Church leaders are to be the light of Jesus to their congregations. It is a high calling. The Apostle Paul gave to the Church seven requirements of Christian morality and seven requirements of a daily walk for leaders. Together, these fourteen requirements are the basis for Christian leaders so that the responsibility of the Church’s mission might be kept on track of bringing people to Jesus and bringing those who know Jesus to know him better.
The first set of seven requirements have to do with the morals of the person. A church leader is to:
1) Be trustworthy. Have a good reputation in both the church and the world
2) Be devoted in the marriage relationship (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, even-keeled, and consistent
4) Be self-controlled (and not controlling others)
5) Be brave, possessing moral courage, through speaking truth with grace and not being a complainer
6) Be a friend of strangers through practicing hospitality
7) Be an able teacher, gently and carefully instructing others in a way that builds them up and does not tear them down
The second set of seven requirements have to do with the ethical conduct of the person in everyday life. A church leader is to:
1) Be sober and not a drunkard, conducting oneself in all moderation
2) Be respectable and not given to anger outbursts and constantly carrying a chip on their shoulder about something
3) Be gentle with everyone and in all situations
4) Be cordial and foster healthy relations, and not always picking a fight about something
5) Be generous and not thinking about the all-mighty dollar in every decision
6) Be caring in the family and give rules with relationship, so as to curb rebellion in a child
7) Be mature and not a novice in the faith so that those outside the church can see 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) Be dignified in every kind of relation, a person worthy of respect
2) Be sincere and not double-tongued, saying one thing to one person and something different to another
3) Be moderate in all things, especially when it comes to drink
4) Be benevolent and altruistic, and not greedy for either stuff or attention
5) Be holy and pure, keeping very close to faith in Christ with a good heart
6) Be a servant who is able to handle attention without falling apart
7) Be faithful, keeping promises and vows, especially in marriage and with family
God calls and sets apart individuals for service so that the Divine presence might be manifested among the people. Jesus Christ wants the church to be built up through faithful service. Notice what today’s New Testament lesson does not say about church leaders:
- Be a listener to complaints.
Do everything without complaining or arguing (Philippians 2:14, ERV)
- Be a representative of the people. Nowhere in Scripture do we find church leaders are supposed to operate like an American form of democracy. Instead of 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.
Guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. (Acts 20:28, NLT)
- Be ingenious. Church leaders are not called to be the smartest, most creative, and best idea people in the room. They are to be servants, leading others in prayer, outreach, and acts of mercy.
I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way. (1 Peter 5:1-3, MSG)
These requirements of Holy Scripture are not just for leaders; they are to be sought after by every member of God’s holy Church. We are all together to aspire to the highest of ideals of Christ in the way we operate in the church and in the world.
Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another (Romans 13:8). Godly leaders help us to maintain that biblical mandate.
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21, NIV)