A dear friend shared the following article with me recently. It especially hit home as I have been pondering the interesting and sometimes serious relationship between congregational leadership and their followers. It has occurred to me that in my desire to be a part of a believing community, there lies the huge potential of finding myself following leaders that aren't quite as 'above reproach' as I would like. It is an impossibility to be under perfect human leadership, as we all know, but is it possible to evaluate a leader or team of leaders prior to committing completely? According to the following, it may be.
First, let's review a couple of Scriptures that speak directly to the qualifications of an elder, or overseer.
1) 1 Timothy 3:1-7 "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." (ESV)
2) Titus 1:6-9 "...if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 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." (ESV)
Now that we have those ideals well in mind, let's take a look at this article that delineates some traits that are unbecoming a leader:
In general, a church should not affirm any man as an elder who does not meet the biblical qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Here are several warning flags which a church should heed:
1. A contrary spirit. If you say “black,” he’ll say “white.” An elder must build unity, not stir up division.
2. A lack of spiritual fruit. If a man is not already shepherding the flock he won’t begin do so just because you give him a title. An elder should be a man who is already hard at work building up the body.
3. An unsupportive wife. Eldering done well is a demanding task. It takes time to teach and disciple and exercise hospitality. Is the man’s wife happy to further her husband’s ministry even when that requires a considerable sacrifice on her part? If not, it would be unwise to appoint this man as an elder.
4. A record of broken relationships behind him.
5. A “me” focus. Every time he opens his mouth, whether in a Sunday school classroom or at a restaurant table, he seems to have his own interest in mind and not everyone else’s. An elder must be a man who’s always looking out for the good of the body.
6. An inability to encourage others.
7. An inability to show compassion and tenderness. A man may be rigorously strong and biblical, but if he can’t be tender and compassionate he’ll make a poor shepherd.
8. A tendency to exaggerate and embellish. An elder should be a man whose word is utterly trustworthy.
9. A tendency to prize creativity and innovation over biblical faithfulness. This is not to say that creativity and innovation are bad things, but they must always be servants to faithfulness to God’s Word.
10. An inability to admit he’s wrong.
11. An inability to submit to other leaders.
12. A refusal to be inconvenienced or make sacrifices in order to serve others.
13. A feeling of entitlement to the office.
(taken from 9 Marks, a website devoted
to discussing healthy congregations)
to discussing healthy congregations)
All this leads me to another question; what if one or more of the leadership team exhibits one or more of the behaviors listed above? A valid question. I might suggest that if the leadership team of a congregation has the reputation of never agreeing and/or there is one distancing themselves from the rest of the team due to disagreements in decisions or halacha, there may be some cause for concern.
I would like to think that I am an intelligent enough person to be able to spot the warning signs prior to jumping in with both feet. Unfortunately, I realize that some of these things wouldn't be apparent until knowing a leader on a more personal level, especially if the leader was less than honest about his motives. But perhaps just keeping these things in mind will be helpful when deciding whether or not to put myself under the teaching and shepherding of a leader who will then require my loyal respect and submission to their leading and authority.
A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.