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The Biblical Qualifications for Spiritual Leadership in the Church

posted Dec 22, 2015, 12:25 PM by First Baptist


In last weeks’ article, I wrote about what the Bible says about church structure & governance. The New Testament pattern is fairly clear & consistent: independent, autonomous churches led by a group of elders (overseers), with one of the elders having primary responsibility for preaching and teaching.


The Bible also recognizes a second governing office, that being the office (or role) of deacon. In the New Testament, the deacons are subordinate to the elders and manage the day-to-day activities of the church.


In today’s article, I want to summarize the Bible’s teaching with respect to the qualifications for these two offices – elder & deacon.


The Importance of Biblically Qualified Leaders


The biblical qualifications for leadership in the local church are fairly stringent. Each year, I meet with the Nominating Committee and review the qualifications with them. I remind the committee that the pool of qualified candidates isn’t necessarily large. I also tell the committee that it’s better to have too few deacons than the wrong ones. Few things are more destructive to a church than having leaders who do not meet the biblical qualifications for leadership.


The Spiritual Gift of Leadership


Before listing the qualifications, it’s important to note that one of the gifts of the Spirit is church leadership or administration (I Cor 12:22). What this means is that certain persons in our church have been empowered by the Holy Spirit for the specific purpose of leading First Baptist. For this reason, we must be very careful about creating artificial & arbitrary barriers to their leading. God is faithful to meet our leadership needs so long as we are responsive to HIS leading.


Four Primary Qualifications


The biblical qualifications for leadership in the church are spelled out in I Timothy 3, Titus 1 and I Peter 5. Here is a summary:


1.      The overarching qualification is that a leader’s character must be “above reproach.” This means the candidate for leadership cannot be subject to criticism of their character by those inside or outside the church. “Character above reproach” is the primary qualification for leadership and the church must not bend on this.


2.      A leader’s home must be orderly and well-managed. Some homes, unfortunately, are chaotic or in disarray; the marriage is struggling and the children in the home (if applicable) are out-of-control. Those who lead such households should not serve as leaders in the church; they first need to get their home in order. After all, the church is basically a big family, requiring family leadership-type skills.


3.      A leader must be strong on the core doctrines of the faith and able to defend them. This disqualifies persons who are relatively new to the faith or shaky on the foundational tenets of Christianity. The biggest threat to the church is false teaching, so the leaders must be capable of recognizing & responding to it.


4.      A leader must exhibit a humble and gentle spirit. Those who are prideful or easily-angered cannot be entrusted with leadership. Over time, such traits will prove harmful to the church. As we learned last Sunday, humility is the most important virtue and the virtue from which all the others flow. With regard to gentleness, Billy Graham often said that church leaders cannot lose their temper. In my 18 years as a pastor, I recall losing my temper twice. Both times were damaging to relationships.


Leaders Must Be Good Followers


One additional qualification that is often over-looked is that before a person can become a leader in the church, the candidate must show him or herself to be a good follower. This probably goes to the issue of humility. Persons who are difficult to lead (i.e., do not respond well to being led) usually do not make good leaders.


I know the Nominating Committee is hard at work enlisting 6 new deacons for the coming year(s). Please pray for them. And pray God will continue to bless FBC with Godly leaders.


With appreciation,


Pastor Dan