Pastor Mistitt leans back in his office chair staring at the ceiling as the words from his book tumble over the cerebral cortex of his brain. “The definition of leadership is simply influence,” he whispers to himself.
“Wow, what a concept. I can use that at our next leadership meeting!”
Shelves crammed with books on leadership, Mistitt consumes all he can on the subject. Names like Schaller, Maxwell, Hybels, and Covey are repeated in the scores of volumes stuffed on his office walls. Pastor Mistitt longs to train leaders in his church but many people turn out to be disappointments. Managed church issues at the Board level often evolve into predictable arguments, shouting, division, and resignations.
Maybe the failure is where we initiate our pursuit. While many Christian writers espouse insightful perspective on the subject, it is not where we must start. Turning to the New Testament books of I Timothy and Titus, it is clear that ecclesiastical leadership begins with character. Both of Paul’s associates, Timothy and Titus were instructed to select leaders in the churches based on demonstrated integrity.
Too often, pastors and church people are impressed with secular values in the selection of Board members. A person’s accumulated seminary degrees, life-of-the party-personality, money, high visibility in the community often get priority consideration. In contrast, Scripture spotlights proven character.
By the Book
The qualifications of an Elder originate in a man’s home. His effective spiritual influence with his wife and children (I Timothy 3:4, 5) provide the undergraduate classroom for shepherding God’s people. Paul queried … “if a man does not know how to manage (govern, rule, and give direction) his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” Proper influence in the church begins with effective spiritual influence in the home.
From there, shepherd-leaders are people who put love for God and others over love for self. They are servants. People in and outside the church know these men live by the Christian values they advocate.
When a church congregation sloshes through disunity, unresolved conflict, and unclear direction, it always exposes inadequate unbiblical leadership. The spiritual climate of God’s people rises no higher than the maturity-level of the leaders. Confronting and resolving interpersonal conflict is basic to managing and protecting the flock. Church under-shepherds must address and resolve the sticky-people-issues of the congregation with spiritual maturity and integrity.
Pastor Mistitt needs to go back to the fundamentals of biblical leadership. A thorough review of Jethro’s counsel in the Old Testament will help. Then there are the leadership values Jesus instilled in His disciples to consider. The character qualities disclosed in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 cannot be overlooked. These passages indicate that leaders always effect, they always influence people and set the spiritual climate of the congregation.
A church leader is an influencer. The qualification for leadership is clearly outlined in God’s Word. These values are not necessarily based on skill, gifts, or success in the secular market. Leadership among God’s people begins with proven character. — by John McIntosh
John McIntosh is an associate pastor at the Grace Brethren Church in Simi Valley, Calif., a congregation that he led for 29 years.