What are the qualifications of an elder?
God is looking for spiritually qualified leaders to feed His flock. He is looking for men like Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Josiah, Daniel, the Apostle John, and Paul who are seeking and longing to know God. He wants leaders who know the truth and stand for truth and He seeks leaders who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Joseph is a great example of a godly leader who ran from sin and remained true to Jehovah God even when honored by a pharaoh. The great saints of old were men of holiness, and men who longed to know God. They were not just clever men who did clever things. They loved God and were faithful to Him. God is looking for “David,” not his older brothers. He is looking at the hearts of men, not the outward appearances as men do. This type of leader is essential for a biblically based church.
The Wrong Focus
God’s ministry or “job qualifications” are outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. They define the type of leader God wants. These qualifications are true of the Abrahams, Moseses and Davids of our times as well as the more ordinary Stephens, Aquilas, Troases and Marks. Unfortunately, many good Christian brothers and sisters are selected for leadership, but they fail the standards required in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These wonderful brethren may be selected because they are wealthy, politically connected or influential in the church. They may be professionals, the social elite, charismatic, educated, church founding fathers or significant givers. But if the lives of these leaders do not meet the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, then the church has selected leaders whom God has rejected. The prophet Samuel had the same problem that we have today. The Lord rejected Saul as king over Israel after he had sinned. Consequently, Samuel went looking for a king. He went to the house of Jesse; and when he saw Eliab, he thought Eliab was the new king for Israel (1 Samuel 16:6). But the Lord responds in verse 7,
. . . the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB)
While we cannot look at the heart, the list of leadership qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are designed to help us determine the quality of a potential leader’s heart. Christ is not looking for men and women who can support counseling ministries, execute wonderful youth and adult programs, perform great musicals, or demonstrate excellence in property management. The world can do that! If we are honest, the church is not really needed for that. There is nothing wrong with these activities, but the point we must not miss is that God wants to grow Christians. What makes the church different from the world is Jesus Christ. It is a group of sin forgiven men and women. It is love for God first and love for the holy ones or saints, second. It should offer solid doctrine. Some of our church leaders are offering milk, and not biblically solid food to their people. Some leaders have the wrong focus, and many of our churches are dying – our congregations are like their leaders.
Qualifications of Leaders
The qualifications presented in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 describe patterns of behavior – life style patterns expected of the Stephens, Aquilas, Troases and Marks. God’s leader is one who has a pattern of life which conforms to the qualifications in Timothy and Titus- not just recently, or until just recently, or for the most part. God is not impressed when leaders are selected and the qualifications have been watered down or the qualifications has been applied incorrectly. For example, it is sometimes reasoned that the early church selected immature believers as elders. Some say the Holy Spirit did not or could not start a church with converts who had a qualified pattern of life which had been demonstrated in the community. But it is more likely the Holy Spirit was performing individual works of grace in the early church such as was evidenced in the life of Stephen in Acts 6:3 and Acts 7. One must be careful not to start explaining away and deleting the full impact of portions of God’s Word.
The question which must be asked is to what absolute standard are the qualifications to be applied? The answer is given in the text. Acts 6 supports the concept of selecting the best from among those who meet the qualifications. The apostles had asked the people to evaluate their men and then recommend only seven. Did more than seven men qualify? The answer appears to be “yes,” but the people recommended only seven from among the best. The qualifications in Timothy and Titus are minimal criteria. Only the best should be selected as elders. How many? As many as are required and do qualify. These elders should some day become fathers in the faith (1 John 2:12-14). They should be increasingly having victory over sin. They should be seeking daily to know the Father of Lights by knowing His word.
The qualifications reflect the elder’s life style in the church, at home, in business and in the neighborhood. Leadership is the key to the spiritual life of those in the church.They are the reason the church grows or decays!
Suggested Links:Who are the elders? Are they pastors?
Recovering the Pattern of Church Leadership
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