Another mega-church pastor was removed from his ministry because of notorious sin. This time it wasn’t embezzlement, or inappropriate behavior with a woman. This time, once again, the life dominating sins were pride and abuse of authority. This time, once again, we were reminded that character trumps talent. This time, once again, we learned that dynamic and talented people unbridled by the Holy Spirit are dangerous and unqualified. Unfortunately, their public disqualification tends to transcend their general sphere of influence. Abraham Lincoln observed, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
…“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Leadership is at its essence influence. A spiritual leader influences others towards God’s desired destination. Therefore, spiritual leaders encompass a much broader group than the roles of pastors, elders, and deacons. For example, parents are called to be spiritual leaders. Influence generally begins with a small sphere, but can often expand. The larger the scope of influence the greater the need to be qualified. John Adams, second President of the United States, noted, “Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”
In the local church, existing and emerging Spiritual leaders must be qualified. Every person with the title leader (or assistant leader) in his or her roles [e.g. usher leader, children’s ministry leader, youth leader, community group leader] is a spiritual leader. In the local church, the highest level of qualification relates to the office of elder (also referred to in the New Testament as bishop, pastor, overseer, and shepherd). All leaders should aspire to develop the Christ-like character that is the essence of the qualifications for the highest-level spiritual leaders.
All leaders should aspire to develop the Christ-like character that is the essence of the qualifications for the highest-level spiritual leaders.
What are some of the qualifications, and how qualified do you need to be to start leading?
What are some of the qualifications? Paul describes a snapshot of the qualifications for elders in his first letter to Timothy. The list reveals several of the qualifying character traits that spiritual leaders should seek to develop:
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil [1Tim. 3:1-7].”
The twelve  traits noted below are presumably not intended as an exhaustive list. All the qualities deal with character rather than ability, with the exception of teaching. Let’s consider the traits that we are to display as leaders, and cultivate among emerging leaders:
- Be blameless : The essence is a good reputation, not perfection, so that you don’t bring reproach to Christ, His Church, or self. Have a good reputation within the church community as well as the community outside of the church .
- Be faithful (the husband of one wife) : Leaders are faithful to Christ and faithful to their spouse. This is not an exclusion of single people leading. Similarly, those who have been divorced may not be excluded depending on the circumstances.
- Be temperate : Leaders should be sensible, and self-controlled in their behavior.
- Be sober-minded : Be wise regarding spiritual decisions and avoid foolish choices. A person of faith should be led by the Spirit not fleshly impulse.
- Be good (good-behavior) : There should be a sense of godliness and modesty to a spiritual leader’s speech and behavior.
- Be hospitable : Hospitality can be shown by willingness to open your home, and other tangible acts of love for strangers.
- Be able to teach : Spiritual leaders should be able to communicate spiritual truth and explain the Scriptures to others.
- Be sober (not given to wine) : A spiritual leader should not drink to excess nor be intoxicated.
- Be gentle (not violent) : Christ’s leaders are gentle, able to make peace, humble when criticized, and aren’t looking for a fight.
- Be content (not greedy for money) : God’s leaders are to be content and not covetous. People who are drunk on money can be just as dangerous as those who are drunk on wine.
- Be respected by family (rule his or her house well) [4-5]: Spiritual leaders should have a godly home. Their children should have a reverence for Christ and therefore be submitted to authority in the home.
- Be spiritually mature (not a novice) : A new believer, or one newly planted, should only be conferred with significant authority. The accolades and influence that flow from the authority are likely to produce pride. Pride led to Satan’s fall, and countless leaders have followed the same destructive path. It is wise to ensure a spiritual leader’s stability before conferring too much authority.
How qualified does a person need to be to get started as an emerging leader? I had been a follower of Jesus for less than six months when I was asked to teach a Bible study. That opportunity was critical to my development as a leader, and allowed for expanding influence as a spiritual leader. For more than 25 years I have been blessed to serve Christ, enjoy expanded influence, and the opportunity to develop other existing and emerging leaders. I believe that the most important test is whether the emerging leader is submitted to Christ and accountable to godly authority? As long as the leader is growing in character, and is under Christ’s authority, and remains accountable to godly leaders, than progressive influence and authority can be conferred. Like a horse, don’t hold the reins so tightly as to quench or break the spirit of a thoroughbred. Similarly, don’t completely let go of the reins and let mavericks cause damage.
…the most important test is whether the emerging leader is submitted to Christ and accountable to godly authority…
Lifework: Three tests to see how qualified you likely are:
- Pray that God would reveal any particular areas where you need to grow. Then read the list of character traits again. Share the insights with another person who can encourage accountability.
- Ask your spouse or a close friend to grade you on a scale of 1-10 on each of the 12 traits, and use the results to help you see areas where you might need to grow.
- A great test to determine whether the existing or emerging leader is submitted to Christ and accountable to godly authority is the 360-degree review. Provide the list of twelve  traits to a group of ten people that know you from various spheres of life [family, friends, work/school, church, community]. Ask them to anonymously grade you on a scale of 1-10 on each of the 12 traits. Receive the answers anonymously and use the results to help you see some areas where you might need to grow.