The men we stick behind the pulpit of our church, place at the bottom of our bulletin, and stick int he pastors office reveal a lot about our hearts. I firmly believe that God has called local church members to wield the keys of the kingdom by overseeing member care and appointing elders and deacons. Quite often, we appoint men to church leadership because they share our worldview. We see this phenomenon take place 1 Samuel 8. The people of Israel want a king like all the nations. They want that king who is tall, handsome, and powerful because they have rejected the leadership of God. As God tells Samuel they,
They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. – 1 Sam. 8:7b
In 1 Samuel 10:1-14, we meet this worldly king. He is defined by three characteristics.
First despite his claim to be a nobody in verse 21, Saul is actually a somebody. His father, Kish, was a wealthy, military champion. The word used for wealth and prestige in verse 1 is the same word used to describe Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:51 and to describe David’s body guard in 2 Samuel 20:7. Saul comes from good stock. And to top it all off, Saul is also tall and handsome. Saul was not some buck-tooth, country boy struggling to get by with tobacco juice dripping down his check. He was strong, well dressed, and has access to a nice estate. He was the ancient world’s version of JFK; he was the ideal of what secular king should be.
Sadly, churches often appoint men to serve as deacons and elders who closely resemble Saul. Bobby is appointed to serve as the chairman of the deacons because he ran the local gas station and earned a nice nest egg. Phil is elected to be an elder because he is the fifth Philip in a long line of Philips. His great ganddaddy Philip was one of the founding members after all. And, Hank is appointed to be the youth pastor because he is good looking, smooth, and relational. We often gravitate towards the pretty, the popular, and the wealthy.
While a good family name, money, and good looks are not inherently evil, they also are the worst qualifications for spiritual leadership. Remember Jesus, “had not form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him (Isa. 53:2).” True leadership consists not in good looks but in humble service.
Second, worldly leaders have noticeable flaws. We are not exactly sure why Saul struggles to find his father’s missing donkeys, but he does. Saul appears to lack vision. He wants to go home and his servant has to reason Saul into going to see prophet. In short, popular, wealthy, good looking, worldly leaders can struggle at life. They promise to come to this event and don’t make it. They promise to complete a project but only get half of it done. They promise that they will teach for you and then bail at the last minute because they had to stay up late watching March Madness. Worldly leaders look good but struggle to execute.
And lastly, wordy leaders have little knowledge of God. Notice, that Saul has no idea who Samuel is or what he true worship looks like. Saul thinks he needs to pay Samuel for some kind of psychic-like service. Again, we are not sure what sources Saul was pulling from when he created his theology. But we are sure that he was not drawing from the law of God. His approach to Samuel lacks biblical insight. Many in the church share Saul’s familiarity with the things of God. They know the Bible exists, but they don’t know much about what the Bible says. They can’t tell you the gospel. They can’t help you think through parenting, finances, or marriage from a biblical point of view. And if they were honest, they couldn’t verbalize their testimony.
Such men should not be appointed to serve as elders and deacons. 1 Timothy 3:2 clear states that elders must be able to teach. And 1 Timothy 3:9 states that even deacons “must hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience.” Men ready to lead the church are men who know the gospel well. Craig Hamilton noted,
The degree to which your leadership is built on, shaped by, conforms to, and is accountable to God’s word is the degree to which your leadership will be Christ-honoring and kingdom-building – regardless of how successful it looks at the time. Having Scripture as the basis and foundation of your leadership isn’t enough. Everything you build on that foundation must also be informed by Scripture and line up with it. We cut out and ignore any secular wisdom that contradicts the Bible. It’s a process that requires us to be discerning and gospel-focused.
If we appoint biblically illiterate men to positions of leadership, we will ultimately undermine the gospel and our church’s health. Sure we may thrive for a time but eventually that feeding program for the poor will become a Sunday night program for the senior adult ladies. Gospel service will die, gospel proclamation will die, and attendance will dry up.
Friend who will be your next pastor or deacon? Are you in the love with the world or are in love with the Lord? Are you voting for that guy because he has connections, money, good looks, and charisma or because he is faithful, loving, and promoting the gospel? What will your next deacons or pastor say about your heart?