Training and Nominating Church Leaders
About 2 months ago my churches Men’s Study Society began a leadership training course under the supervision of the consistory (for those of you not from a reformed church, consistory is a fancy word for the meeting of the elders of a particular congregation). On the first night of this session 38 men showed up, I was elated. On the next night only 30 showed up, but that was still good, then 22 showed up… each night we lost 8 men. I can understand a couple of men not showing – things happen, but 16? I am saddened by the apparent lack of enthusiasm, but I am happy that at least some men are interested in these things. Whether we agree that this course is actually relevant as a training tool for leadership is a topic for another discussion, my point here is that men in the church should be continually striving to “Christlikeness” and while we will never attain perfection in this life – we should be aiming for it! And what better way to strive to Christlikeness than to join with men who are further along in their walks with Christ, to discuss the things of God? I learn a lot from the men at these meetings – both older and younger than I – and I hope that I can also contribute something to the meeting. The fact that 38 men came out the first night indicates that these men are able to come, but are choosing not too. So if you are a member of my congregation please come out – or tell your hubby or son or brother or dad to go! It is well worth it! And there is coffee. 🙂
On that note – it is time, in my congregation, to nominate qualified men for the offices of elder and deacon. The last few times we held elections for office bearers there was an apparent lack of response from the congregation in nominating men for these positions. This led to the consistory indicating its disappointment in this regard. I encourage you all to take an interest in your leaders or potential leaders. After all this is the body of Christ, what happens to one member, affects us all. So take some ownership and get involved.
Let us take a quick look at what the Lord expects for leaders in the church.
Let’s begin by reading through qualifications for elders:
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.
Notice the first qualification in verse two: Overseers (elders) “must be above reproach.” In other words, elders and potential elders must have good reputations. I am not talking about perfection here because nobody is perfect. In order for man to be “qualified” in this sense he must not be living in sin or have committed any recent blatant sins. Because elders are the spiritual leaders of the church, they must be “role-models” in which the rest of us can follow.
So, as you prayerfully consider who to nominate as elder, remember these guidelines. I remind you again that nobody’s perfect, so let’s not legalistically apply these standards. However if a man is foolishly spending his money, getting drunk on the weekends, has various addictions ( I would even include smoking here but that is another discussion), cheats on his wife, neglects going to church services, if he is not active in the church etc. – he should not be considered. Likewise, if a man is nominated and is living in secret sin he had best sort these things out and fast, or decline the call.
Now let’s look at the qualifications for deacons.
In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Notice again how high God’s expectations are. While some of the phrasing is different, the only real change in terms of qualifications between deacons and elders is that elders have to be “able to teach,” while deacons do not.
Even though deacons aren’t responsible for running the church, that’s the job of elders – they are leaders in the church. The fact that the Bible only designates two official church offices (elder and deacon) does make deacons leaders in the church.
So, if you’re considering nominating a certain man to be an elder or a deacon, I encourage you to make sure he’s qualified. If he is qualified, please write a letter to the consistory recommending him.
So while you prayerfully ponder who you will nominate, seek God in prayer, and ask Him for wisdom in this process and evaluate them on the above criteria.
Side note #1: If you are unsure if a man is able to be an elder or deacon for reasons other than noted above, speak with him first, let him know that he meets the criteria and that you are considering nominating him. See if he is willing to serve in this capacity or if there is another valid reason he might not be able to. Some reasons to decline could be: that he has a chronically wife. Perhaps he works the night shift and would not be able to attend any meetings or visit the members of the congregation. EDIT* If the man does not have a valid reason to decline he should not decline the call.
Side note #2: Men if you are called, and you do meet the criteria, but don’t think you are ready… Do not fret over it. If God intends you to be a leader, you are not going to have much of a say in it…look at Jonah, or Moses, or Paul… a friend of mine told me once, “God does not called the equipped, He equips the called.”
I have my list of “nominees” ready. Do you?