7 Biblical Qualifications of Church Leaders: Where is Your Gap?
Our team at The Unstuck Group was on the ground working with church leaders from 38 different churches this past month. We help churches wrestle with several common core issues, but leadership development always seems to be near the top of the list.
The pressing need for leaders really isn’t a surprise for me. It was actually Jesus who first said,
“The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Matthew 9:37-38, NLT)
If the workers are few, it stands to reason that the leaders who mentor and coach the workers will also be few. So the first step for increasing the number of leaders in any church should certainly be to pray.
But what are we praying for? How do we know if someone has the potential to lead in a church?
It’s true. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. This morning I went into my files to find the following document because our team at Granger Community Church was asking this very question…more than 15 years ago. Goodness. Where did all that time go?
We were asking the question because we were wrestling with this key question:
Who is qualified to lead in our church? Knowing this answer would help us determine who was ready to lead now. It would also help us know who had the potential to lead in the future. In those cases, we’d also have a framework for coaching these potential leaders.
To frame up our conversation, I did some study to see what Scripture had to say on this topic. Here’s a summary of the qualifications I discovered. As you’ll notice, there are seven of them and they all begin with “C,” so it must be Biblical. 🙂
1 – Is the person Committed to Jesus?
(1 Timothy 3:6, 1 Timothy 5:22, 1 Samuel 13:14)
- Is the individual a fully-devoted follower of Christ?
- Do they pursue Jesus passionately?
- Are they recent converts or have they had time to prove their faith is true?
2 – Does the person’s Character honor Christ?
(1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9)
- Does the individual have a solid character?
- For example, do they possess self-control? Are they gentle, hospitable, upright, holy, and disciplined?
3 – Does their Conduct reflect full devotion to Jesus?
(1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9)
- Are his or her actions reflective of someone who is fully-devoted to Christ?
- For example, is their marriage solid? Are they a good parent to their children? Are they quarrelsome and overbearing? Do they have a quick temper?
4 – Do they have a good Comprehension of God’s Word?
(Titus 1:9, Colossians 1:28-29)
- Does the individual have a good knowledge of God’s Word to defend the Christian faith and encourage people to take steps in spiritual maturity?
- Could the person identify false doctrine?
- Note that 1 Timothy 5:17 suggests that not all elders are preachers and teachers.
5 – Does the person have the Capacity for the role?
(Acts 20:28, Hebrews 13:17)
- Does the person reflect a concern for the spiritual well-being of the entire church, “all the flock”, or just ministries or sub-ministries within the church?
- Is there an appreciation for the responsibility and accountability God has given the individual to watch over the entire church?
6 – Does the person model Compassion for others?
(Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2, Ezekiel 34)
- Does the person reflect a concern for helping lost people find Jesus?
- Does their heart beat fast when discussing ministry opportunities to reach people who haven’t heard about Christ?
7 – Is the person really Called?
(1 Peter 5:2, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1)
- Does the individual consider this to be an appointment from God or from men?
- Is there a clear sense that this is God’s calling? Is it God’s will?
This list, though not comprehensive, gives us a picture of what God has in mind for Biblical leadership. As you can see, leaders are held to a higher standard. Not all Christ-followers are qualified to lead. And not all potential leaders are qualified to lead now. For some, it may take time to close a gap.
- Where there’s a gap in commitment, it may take time for spiritual formation to occur.
- Where there’s a gap in character, it may take time for redemption to take hold.
- Where there’s a gap in conduct, it may take time for appropriate repentance and restoration.
- Where there’s a gap in comprehension, it may take time for wisdom and understanding to develop.
- Where there’s a gap in capacity, it may take time for coaching and mentoring to expand perspective.
- Where there’s a gap in compassion, it may take time for Kingdom perspective to expand.
- Where there’s a gap in calling, it may take time for God to speak.
Leadership development takes time. But the thing to remember is that every potential leader also needs a coach. I’ve never seen commitment, character, conduct, comprehension, capacity, compassion and calling develop in a vacuum. In other words, we should pray for God to send leaders, but we should also be more intentional about identifying potential leaders and then investing time relationally to close these seven gaps.
Some of you saw the title of this article and the question became very personal. Where is my gap? Some of you saw the title of this article and the question became corporate. Where is our gap? In either case, I hope you’ll wrestle with that question and acknowledge it will take both prayer and a relationship with a mentor to close whatever gap you identified.