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.

Location, Location, Location: 3 Words Churches Should Avoid

location“Location, Location, Location!” The phrase has morphed from a real-estate maxim to a local church maxim. Increasingly churches believe that the pastoral candidate’s location and social-economical upbringing determine his ability to lead their church. Those potential pastors that share the southern congregation’s affinity for Alabama football are placed in the keep pile. Those who grew up eating clam chowder on the New England coast are stuck in the do not call pile. And if the outsider pastor some how sneaks into the church office and manages to place his name on the desk,  church members reserve the right to disagree with and to discount the Pastor’s leadership because he is not “really one of us.”

On the flip side of things, Pastors are quick to pursue churches that are located close to their old stomping grounds. I recently heard one pastor jokingly note that most men will boldly follow the Lord’s call, provided God keeps them within a 200 mile radius of their mother-in-law. Sadly, the joke is not too far from the truth.

3 Considerations:

First, I definitely applaud men for wanting to maintain extended-family relationships. The man who ministers close to home is inherently just as godly as the man cutting his way through the amazon jungles. There is no coloration between risk, hard conditions, distance and godliness.

Second, I affirm that Scripture’s emphasis on raising up local leaders. Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in the churches in Crete. Paul too regularly raised up men to led local churches (Ti 1:5; Acts 14:23). I applauded my former church, The Bible Church of Little Rock for modeling these Scriptures. The Senior Pastor BCLR , Tim Senn served as my youth pastor a few decades ago. And the current Youth Pastor of BCLR is one of my fellow youth group alums. Churches should be in the leadership development business.

Third, I understand that moving a family of 8 from California to Maine or from Colorado to Mississippi can be cost prohibitive for many small churches. Some churches will have to limit their search range geographically because God has providentially limited their resources.

Back to the Question:

But the overarching question still remains: Is location and the pastor’s  familiarity with a churches culture a right and meaningful measure of one’s pastoral ability? Does a pastor have to live, breathe, and know his people’s cultural idiosyncrasies to be an effective minister of the Word?

The answer is a resounding, “No!” To be an effective pastor, a man must be a godly expositor, a man devoted to both obeying and teaching the Word. A quick examination of the Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 reveals that the effective pastor is the one who is above reproach, sober-minded, self-controlled, hospitable, gentle, upright, holy, disciplined, the husband of one wife, able to teach, and manage his family well. He is not a drunkard, quarrelsome, a lover of money, violent, arrogant, quick-tempered, or a recent convert to Christianity. Notice Paul mentions nothing about the man’s origin or cultural identity.

Paul cares little about where the elder comes from because effective ministry does not depend on cultural awareness but upon gospel awareness. Paul tells Timothy in 1 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.

To know people and to know how to minister to people, Pastors need to be overly familiar not with the culture but with the Word. The Scriptures contains all that the pastor needs to reach, encourage, and admonish others. The Bible address every heart attitude in every location. D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones smashes the assumption that time and place matter when he writes:

But man himself has not changed…look at the major social problems confronting us today, and you will find all of them in the Bible; theft, robbery, violence, jealousy, envy, infidelity, divorce, separation, perversions, all these things, are in the Bible.

The problems facing small town America in 2018 are the same problems that New York City faces in 2018, and that Abraham faced thousands of years ago. To understand people and how to minister to them and to know how to bring truth to bear on their lives effectively comes, one needs to learn the Scriptures. The most qualified pastor is not the one who grew up within earshot of the church, but the one who loves God, obeys God, and teaches others about God.

Because God is sufficient for all our problems, men raised in Boston can faithfully lead churches in Alabama. Georgians can lead churches in California. Nevadans can pastor churches in France. And Koreans can effectively pastor churches in Mexico. Because the Gospel is the power of salvation, men no longer have to fear and should never limit their ministry to cultural boundaries. Location means little. God means everything.

Location, Location, Location should never be the cry of the gospel-centered church. Her cry should be HOLY, HOLY, HOLY! Do you agree?


5 Ways To Pray For Your Church

Nothing in ministry happens by chance. God works. He builds his church. If we want to see our church grow, we must be humbly dependent on God. We must pray. Below, I our 5 great ways to pray for our church and ministries.

1. Pray For Unity:

Friends, unity is supernatural. Churches are made up of people like you and like me. old man prayingI.e, Churches are made up of sinners. This means that every day we worship together, we teach Sunday school, and lead a bible study there is an opportunity for conflict. “Did you see what she was wearing; why didn’t Bob talk to me; do you think is upset about my Facebook post; how dare you correct my child?” It’s easy to let these thoughts fester. It’s easy to get offended and then to have fights in the church. It’s easy to destroy God’s house from within. This is why so much of the new testament is focused on relationships, on loving one another. We have to work at it. Notice what Paul says in Philippians 1:27

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

When the gospel takes hold of our lives it should produce unity and peace. Pray for God to work. Pray for God to give us humble hearts that are quick to ask for forgiveness and that are quick to defer to others. Pray for God to give us unity.

2. Pray For your Pastor and leaders:

Hebrews 13:18 says, “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all thing.” Paul regularly asked for prayer. We need to pray for our leaders’ holiness, for their relationships with their families and for them to have opportunity to reach the lost.

3. Pray for Wisdom:

Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” To fully understand the word of the God, we have to apply it to our lives. Sure, we can understand the Bible on our by going to school and getting a degree. We can know what it says. But we can’t live it out on our own. We need the help of the Holy Spirit. We can’t be changed by ourselves. Pray for God to open our eyes to his word. To fully understand it and to apply it, we need God’s help.

4. Pray For Salvation:

John 6:63 says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” If we want to see someone “get saved,” then we need to invite God to work. We can’t save anybody. I don’t care how cool your games were, how fun your lock-ins are, or how techy your service will be. We will save no one. Rather, we need to apply to the God from whom nothing is impossible.

5. Pray For God To Work:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” (Eph. 3:20). The reason I get stressed when kids’ ministry workers quit, when events flop, and when new programs take forever to launch is that I miss this truth. I often think it’s up to me. For a ministry to grow, I have to be smart, creative, and cool. But that’s not the case. God’s working. He can do way more than we expect. God is not a little idol in a closet somewhere. He is the ruler of the universe. He moves planets and starts. And he can do more than all our tiny brains could ever imagine. I can’t tell you how many times God has provided, blessed events, and grown new programs simply through prayer. Time and time again, God has gone ahead of my phone calls and has already begun drawing people to teach, lead and serve.  Let’s pray to the God of the universe. And then let’s expect him to work.