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Tuesday, 30 October 2018

What does Jesus Christ expect of Church Leaders?

Again, very different
Everything about the Gospel is different from religion and everything about the way church is to be run is different from the way the world is run. And everything that Jesus Christ is looking for in a church leader is different from the criteria used by companies, political parties and organisations.

1. He must be a man
First of all, a church leader (I am thinking of overall church leadership, not specific leadership of say a children's ministry or a woman's ministry) must be a man. There is no hint in the New Testament that God's creation order, man first and woman second (nothing to do with hierarchy, everything to do with order) is done away with by the gospel. Men and women are equally made in the image of God. They are equal partners in salvation. They both are called to serve Christ, but just as in marriage where the husband is the head of the wife, so in the church men and men alone must be pastors and elders.

2. He must fit the criteria of Scripture
In Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 there are around 21 qualities required of these men elders. All of them with the exception of one are about character. He must be a godly man. Jesus Christ does not expect leaders to be clever, educated, wealthy or succssful in the eyes of the world.

3. He must lead his family and his wife
One of the qualities is his ability to lead his own home. The logic is that if he cannot lead in the smaller sphere, how will he be able to lead in the large sphere?

Leading his wife lovingly is central to his domestic leadership. Most men, in the history of the world, from the moment of Genesis 3 onwards have been led by their wives. I have known men who are about as He-Man as Tarzan in the outside world, but who cower before their wife in the private of their own homes.

So it is right for the congregation to consider the elder's wife. Is she led by her husband? Does she support the church? Serve faithfully in the church? Is she happy in the church?

4. He must be a strong man
The characteristics required by Christ amount up to a strong man who knows and loves God and is not easily led astray by false teachers and false leaders who will one day threaten every church. Christian strong men are also gentle men, loving men, sensitive men, caring men. By "strong" we are not thinking "Putin-strong", but caring, sensitive and prayerful and gentle men. 

5. He must know truth well enough to spot heretics and encourage the sheep
An elder does not need to be a top-theologian (whatever one of those is). Only one of the 21 qualities is about his knowledge ("able to teach"). When we talk about knowing truth, the very last thing we mean is academic truth. The knowledge of God is very different from the knowledge of geography/astronomy/etc. It's experiential and personal and life-transforming, not encyclopedic. One day a sheep will come to him with a personal problem - the shepherd must be able to lead them in the ways of God.

6. He must be a supporter of the existing leaders and ethos of the church
It would be foolish to appoint a man who was hostile to the present shepherds who have been appointed by the Holy Spirit. If he is unsupportive outside of the leadership team, he is likely to be contentious inside. Does this man support the direction of the church? The DNA, the ethos? If not, two cannot walk together, since they disagree.

7. He must be a worker, not a shirker
No-one respects a lazy leader. And there is no such thing in the church as an executive elder, a button-pusher; someone who wants the authority, wants to make decisions, but does not want to dirty his hands in the grime and dirt and blood of ministry.

All in all an elder, a shepherd, a pastor is a strong and godly man, who cannot be led astray, either by his wife, or by false leaders who like foxes probe the chicken-coop regularly for weaknesses.

May God raise up such men in perilous days.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

The Church is (very) different from the World

Image result for worldliness
"Worldliness" is an old-fashioned word, but a Biblical and healthy one. Worldliness can be simply loving the present world.  The apostle John says "love not the world, neither the things in the world" (1 John 2:15). Demas went astray because he "loved this present world." 

But worldliness can also be the way Christian churches "ape the world" in the way they go about their business.

Here are four ways we can "do church" in a worldly way.....

(1) We can be worldly in the way we choose leaders
It is tempting for churches to choose their leaders because they are rich, educated or influential in the eyes of the world. Jesus deliberately chose Twelve Zeros as his disciples - despised fishermen, dodgy tax collectors, zealots and the like: and these men turned the world upside down. When the apostles were looking for men who could administrate gifts to poor widows, they passed by the good folks with degrees in administration and chose men filled with faith, the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6). When elders are to be appointed by Titus, nothing is said of their wealth, education or worldy success - those things matter not one jot in the Kingdom of Christ. Godliness is everything (Titus 1).

(2) We can be worldly in the way we run our church finances
A worldly church will only step out into some new venture, if there are sufficient funds - and more than sufficient -  in the bank. God may be calling a church to great steps of faith, but they shrink back if it means spending more money than they now have. No missionary work would ever have been accomplished in the history of the world on that basis: missionaries are in the constant business of stepping out without any human resources and depending instead on God alone - the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

Influenced by the "insure everything that moves" culture we live in, we are prepared to take no personal or collective risks of faith. 

(3) We can be worldly in the way we run our church meetings
"Going Through the Chair!"
In my past, I have been to one too many "church" meeting that was run just like secular business meetings or share-holders meetings. Hardly a prayer or Scripture, just loud voices, vying for attention, trying to influence, deliberately sowing seeds of strife and division. And while the wannabees vie for control, the precious humble true sheep are stumbled. There is simply no comparison between the spiritually minded, prayerful, united, Gospel-centred, rejoicing, meetings we find in the New Testament book of Acts (Chapter 15 for example) and the business meetings of the world with all their worldly names ("Annual General Business Meeting") and daft procedures ("going through the chair!").

(4) We can be worldly in the way we train
The church is encouraged to equip God's people for works of service (Ephesians 4). How do we do this? We ape the world and institutionalise people in "Bible Colleges." This teaching environment, poached from the academy, is contrary to the Scriptures. The only proper Biblical method of  training is to take someone with potential on an apprenticeship-style journey, and allow them to learn and work alongside someone who has done evangelism/preaching/teaching/pastoring before. The Jesus and Paul method is the right method - and it is always in the immediate setting of a local church - not the impersonal environment and atmosphere of a distant college. 

In these and in many other ways, worldliness seeps into the church, ties the hands of godly workers and grieves and hinders the work of the Holy Spirit.

We need constantly to be reviewing the way we "do church" and led by the Spirit and the Word we must constantly throw out first worldly thinking and then throw out worldly procedures.