To qualify for some of the longer distant races, you needed to qualify with a stipulated time for a specified distance. As an example, when I was running the Comrades Marathon, your qualification time needed to be no more than 4 ½ hours for a standard marathon (42.2 kilometers). The reason behind this is that if you can’t do a standard marathon within 4 ½ hours you will not make the 11 hour cut off for the Comrades Marathon (90 kilometers). It makes sense!
To be a Christian Leader in God’s Church, there are certain qualifications that need to be met. Far too often our Churches do not have suitably qualified men for leadership. By this I mean … they do not have Biblical requirements.
In the early days of my second ministry, I used the “invitation system” when preaching the Gospel. I would not do what I used to do now a days, however let me tell you a story about what happened once. I preached the Gospel and invited people who felt they were not Christian to raise their hands so that I could pray for them without mentioning their names. The idea was to follow up with them after the service. Of the people who raised their hands was a man who was on the Church Council. Here we had a Church Leader, leading God’s people, who was not at that time trusting in Jesus for salvation.
Once in speaking with a Sunday School Teacher where our eldest son attended, she said she did not believe there is a devil, a hell or such a thing as sin. Goodness! She was teaching our son as a Sunday School Leader and did not subscribe to basic Biblical Christianity!
So what are the qualifications of a leader in the Church?
1) There are different levels of leadership in the Church. In Acts we have seen “deacons” elected and appointed. We have been dealing with “elders”, for this is the leadership Paul and Barnabas appointed in the Churches at Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. There are other offices not directly mentioned and we have added offices ourselves such as the one I mentioned … Sunday School Teacher for children.
2) The first qualification for any Church Office or Leadership position is the New Birth. Spiritually dead people are outside the Kingdom. Such a person in leadership could easily become a “wolf” out to damage God’s Church. Salvation and a clear understanding of what it means to be Christian is not negotiable. Even though Nicodemus was a leader of Israel, seated in the Sanhedrin, his soul was dead. Jesus pointed this out to him, saying:
Jn 3:3 “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
This language was startling to Nicodemus because of his age, leadership and most likely marriage.
Jn 3:4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Our Lord, expecting such a response, says to him:
Jn 3:5 “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
Left without qualification, this would be hard to grasp so Jesus adds:
Jn 3:6 “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
When we are born as a human we are physically alive but spiritually dead. We are alive to our human parents but dead to the Heavenly Parent. This means we have a relationship with the parents of the flesh but not with the Parent of the Soul! In fact we are enemies of the Heavenly Parent. Our sinful disposition with a natural bent towards rebellion distances us from God. Nothing we do can rectify this sad environment. We need to be made spiritually alive and the only way is through faith and dependence on Jesus’ sacrificial, substitutionary death at Calvary’s Cross. We receive Jesus as Lord and Savior through believing who He is and what He did, accepting our personal need leading to confession of sin, repentance and surrendering to His Kingship. This is the first step to qualify as a spiritual leader in God’s Church.
3) The second is growing in faith, grace and love. Paul makes an astounding statement in Galatians … he writes under inspiration:
Gal 5:24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Those born again need to progress to being circumcised from the past life of sin! He explains what he means as follows:
Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
This is not an exhausted list of sins. Here he provokes us to think about what sin in its raw shape looks like saying if engaged in these, we are not part of God’s Kingdom and will not inherit the Kingdom! Stop and ask yourself how many Church Leaders, be they pastors, elders or deacons (including Children and Youth Leaders), do you know who dress themselves with the acts of the sinful nature? How can such a person lead God’s people? Sadly there are many. Because of secular influence or financial contributions, some are nominated and elected to Church Boards and teaching environments … yet because of not being in the Kingdom, they tolerate sin because they themselves sin and are not converted to Jesus. What type of Church is built? The other side of verse 24 is the fruit of the Spirit. Again this is not an exhaustive list. It is to provoke us to dress ourselves with all the goodness God the Holy Spirit provides to all seeking Christlikeness!
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
As you quickly realize, none of these “fruits” are possible without being born again! They are spiritual fruits, meaning that without the spiritual dimension and the workings of the Holy Spirit, anyone of these “fruits” will be nothing more than imitation. We have started to deal with the qualifications of a leader in the Church. We have considered that he must be born again and he must dress himself with the fruits of the Spirit.
Our Father, as we nominate and elect men into leadership positions, guide us by Your Spirit to know and understand the spiritual heartbeat of those we want to lead us. May they be the ones You want to lead us. Amen.