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?

Why Leaders Are A Window Into Our Souls

Pastor-heartThe 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?

The One Thing Leaders Can Learn From Joshua

Joshua-leaderJoshua was quite the leader. Joshua is known for his amazing courage, for his ingenuity in conquering Jericho, and for his famous farewell charge. While these are all important moments in Joshua life that helped define him as a leader, they were not ‘the’ defining moment of his leadership career. The defining moment, that brief period during which people final saw him as, “the guy,” happened in Joshua chapter 4.

The author of the sacred Scripture reports,

And when all the people had finished passing over, the ark of the Lord and the priests passed over before the people. The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh passed over armed before the people of Israel, as Moses had told them. About 40,000 ready for War passed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho. On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life. (Joshua 4:11-14).

The moment at which signified that the torch had passed from Moses happened as the people of Israel crossed the Jordan River. The forty years of wandering in the wilderness was at an end. Moses had died. The era of promise and new leadership had begun.

But the people of Israel still faced a massive problem. Before they could claim their promise land and start capturing cities, they needed to cross the Jordan River. According to text, the Israelites hit the Jordan sometime during the months of March and April, flood season. Joshua 3:15 says “now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest.” The Jordan River which could reach lows of four feet was probably running around thirteen deep.

Thankfully, God had a plan. He told Joshua to line up all the people as Moses had done. Once in order, the priests carried the ark of the covenant into the Jordan River. As the priests walked into the river, the waters would stop, allowing the people of Israel to walk on dry land (Joshua 3). Once all the people were on dry land and a man from each tribe has taken a stone from the dry river bed, the priest would walk out of the river and the flow of water would resume (Joshua 3-4).

Joshua relayed the message to the people. They listened to Joshua, obeyed the Lord, and the miraculous happened.  Joshua 4:14-17 reads,

 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

Joshua is the guy!

Ironically Joshua’s defining leadership moment in the eyes of his supporters had nothing to do with him. He did not walk into the water first. He did not slam a stick into the ground, he did not offer great sacrifices, he did nothing heroic. He simply relayed the Word of God to the people of God.

Joshua was a great leader because he obeyed God. If we hope to be great leaders with must do the same. Great, godly leaders are not the ones who perform heroic feats. Great leaders are not the men who can payoff a million dollar church loan in a month, great leaders are not women who grow their children’s ministry from 5 kids to 500 kids, and great leaders are not the person who can create the next great program. Great leaders are those who obey God.

And great leader desire to obey God because they know that God gives the increase. Notice that Joshua grows in the estimation of his people because “the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel. (Joshua 4:14).God choose Joshua. God told Joshua how to lead. And God made Joshua great.

Friends (and my own dear heart) do not miss this. Greatness is bestowed by God on some of his children.  We cannot win people over by getting a picture published in the newspaper. We cannot gain greatness by creating a massive social media platform. We cannot work our way to greatness by starting new program after new program.

The ability to create a great ministry legacy does not reside with us. God gives the increase. God exalts us. God grows our ministry from 5-5000. God does it. Not us.

To be great godly, leaders we need to simply obey God and share his word with others. God told Joshua

This Book of the Law shall not depart form your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you maybe careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and the you will have good success.  – Joshua 1-8.

Paul said it this way in I Timothy 4:16

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Great leaders are humble men and women who seek to obey God and to tell others to obey God. Good leadership is never anything less and definitely is nothing more.

Brothers and Sisters are you leading like Joshua?