Churches Don’t Make Pastors, Deacons, or Teachers; They Find Them

Churches often crumble into ruin because their members engage in king-making. Though some evangelicals show up at the polls every 4 years, their greatest power rests not in the public square but underneath the steeple spire. Here with the help of Jesus, church members elevate men and women to positions of authority, granting them the power to determine church policy, remove members, and allocate funds. With fifteen minutes, a clerk, and a few votes by acclamation, churches can turn just about anyone into an evangelical power broker. Churches appoint elders, deacons, and ministry leaders. They make evangelical kings, if you will.

Why Things Go Wrong

Though common, such thinking runs counter to teaching of Scripture. The Church is the Lord’s; it is not the congregation’s nor the denomination’s property. In Mathew 18:16b, Jesus proclaims, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus, the head of the church, builds the church. Faithful church leaders acknowledge his authority, teaching and following the commands of Jesus as found in the Scriptures. Most churches nominally agree with this description.

But when deciding who to elect or who to appoint to the church office, the churches often attempt to transform ordinary members into extraordinary leaders. When the church family needs a willing or somewhat willing candidate, it sends the guy through a 6-week elder class or it lays hands on the soul, hoping that the wisdom of the other deacons will rub off on him. In so doing, the congregation often places men into leadership whose greatest qualifications consist of popularity, money, or a lengthy tenure on the church role. Sunday school classes also fall victim to such thinking. Such appointments prove dangerous as they give men and women the keys to the church who lack the character to exercise that authority responsibly.

God has a much better plan.  

God’s Work

In Micah 6:4, the prophet reminds the Israelites that God had appointed, “Moses, Aron, and Miriam,” to lead his people. The God who created the church provides each local church with the leaders it needs. Ephesians 4:11-12 declares

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

No congregation should create elders and deacons or Sunday School teachers. Rather it should find them.

The process of creating church officers more closely remembers a search for Waldo than political election campaign or pickup game of kickball. Churches need to find the elders, deacons, and ministry leaders that God has divinely placed in the middle of the church family. As Richard Baxter noted in 1658 “God gives the qualifications which he requires…all that the church has to do…is discern and determine which are the men God has…qualified.” God gives us a divine description of who to look for. Paul tells Titus to appoint men who are “above reproach (Titus 1:6).” Those called to be elders should be above the charges of drunkenness, poor stewardship, greed, violence, exemplifying hospitality goodness, self-control, holiness, uprightness, and discipline (7-8). The elder qualified man must also be able to teach well. Similar qualifications are given for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. God also blesses the church with godly older women who are gifted to “teach what is good (Titus 2:3-4).”

The church does not make men and women above reproach or gift them the Holy Spirit. Instead, the local church vets and examines men to see to see if they are qualified to be deacons and elders. It also looks at the character of women to discern if they should serve the church teaching the younger women in their midst. Then when the church finds a man or women who has been serving faithfully, they recognize the service that exists and appoint that person to the appropriate leadership role. In short, the church does not make a man an elder. It bestows the title and privileges of eldership upon the man who is already serving as an elder, counseling, teaching, and serving the churcn. When the men circle the stage to lay hands on their brother, they are not transferring the Holy Spirit to him. They are recognizing that the Holy Spirit is in him and has prepared him to serve the church.

The church does not make kings. It discovers servants who have already been appointed by God to serve.

Don’t Trust Your Intuition: The Art of Picking Biblical Leaders

intuitionChristians are really bad at picking spiritual leaders. The inability of Christian’s to find the right guys and gals to lead their church is nothing new.

When Samuel goes to Bethlehem to find a godly king to replace king Saul, Samuel chooses the wrong guy. He is prepared to cover Eliab in oil, thinking, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him (1 Sam 16:7).” If Samuel is left to his own judgement, the world would have never gotten king David.

God intervenes and tells Samuel quote, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God wants the insignificant son, David, who is hanging-out with the sheep instead of chilling with the high society types. God favors those who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and their neighbor as themselves.

Sadly, the evangelical church struggles to find and appoint such people to leadership. We tend to look on the outward appearance and stature of those around us. We gravitate towards those with big personalities. We call men to pastor because they have the voice of Billy Graham and can make us laugh. We appoint men to serve as elders because they are relational and can carry on a good conversation with just about anyone. And, we ask the lady to head up our women’s group because she is charming and just has a way with words. If someone looks the part of a pastor, elder, deacon, or lady’s Bible teacher, we are often quick to anoint them as such. After all, he or she is so attractive and nice. Surely, we cannot do better?

We can; we must. Outward giftings do not make a person a spiritual leader. Good looks and charisma also do not disqualify someone from ministry. David was one gifted, handsome, and stately dude (1 Sam. 16:12,18). But God is not ultimately impressed with a man’s presence in the pulpit. He is impressed with what the man does in his living room when the wife and kids are at the store.  Similarly, God is not ultimately impressed with a woman’s ability to tweet pithy statements that cause us to chuckle. God is impressed with the thoughts that flow through her head after her husband and kids have gone to sleep. The great pastor D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones noted,

What a man does with his own solitude is what ultimately counts. The things that are within, which we hide from the outside world because we are ashamed of them, these proclaim finally what we really are.

God sees men and women when they stow away from the world. He knows who we really are. He values the righteous, men and women of character.

Sadly, we lack insights into the souls of our future leaders. But like Samuel we have access to the thoughts of God which will guide us to right people. In Titus 1:6-9, God describes what he is looking for in a leader. Those who aspire to be a pastor, an elder, or a teacher should be:

Above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Notice Paul says nothing about their ability to make people laugh, their skills in conversation, or their capacity to charm the crowd. God is not concerned about personality, looks, and national platforms. He is concerned about character. When we judge men and women to see whether or not they are spiritual leaders, we should hold them to the above biblical standard. We should exam the potential leader’s life to see if he is prone to anger, greed or other vices. We should ask the potential leader and if applicable his spouse hard questions that will reveal his heart. Christians should never assume that good looks equal good character. Rather, Christians who love God and seek to promote holiness should probe, test, and question the person sitting in the interview chair. And then, they should pray asking God to give them divine insights into what they just saw and heard. Discerning whether or not a potential leader is a saint or a fool is hard work.

Today, many of our churches are dying because they shun that hard work, choosing leaders like Samuel chose Eliab. The churches hire men because they sound like Adrian Rogers and install women women because they look like Lottie Moon. Yet, they never stop to ponder whether or not those new leaders possess the character of Adrian Rogers and Lottie Moon.

Christians frequently do not ask the hard questions because they we believe that they have the skills of perception or that special gifting of intuition needed to discern good and bad character.

But they do not. And you do not. We are all sinners. And our perceptions and intuitions are easily deceived because they are clouded by sin. Consequently, we are prone to settle for looks and charisma that fall far short of the Biblical definition of character. Samuel could not discern the will of God by relying on his flesh. Can we do better? I think not. Do not trust your intuition. Trust the Bible.

Do you know how to find a good leader, a person of character?