I am willing to bet that your church is currently striving to engage culture, and the ever-changing tides which propel it. In many senses, this is completely understandable, and even wise. All the same, I have come to the conclusion that this race can never be won, by our own visions and accords. I have gathered that many of the shortcomings of todayís churches are strongly due to a lack of biblical guidance. Lets disregard our surroundings for a moment and reflect on those whom God requires to model leadership.
In examination of todayís leadership, I propose an about face, so to speak. Instead of a continual evaluation of church audiences, I believe the perseverance of the saints is strikingly proportional to the commitment of their shepherds. To be specific, I am speaking of todayís eldership. When we reference elders, we are quick to think of financially successful, strategic planners who discuss how to keep people around. Blinded by tradition, we may have gotten off course in this area of clergy. Let me explain. Many of todayís Christian conferences and literature are rightly aimed at the next generation ďselling out.Ē Yet, we tend to neglect who must first claim this lifestyle, and how. For our churches to be worthily unleashed in a fallen world, they need to be raised up by overseers who personally mimic wisdom, truth, and most importantly, righteous priority. Change comes from the top down, and it is time to reevaluate this ladder accordingly.
First, we should plainly define a shepherdís attributions. Lets revisit a few of Godís non-negotiables for overseers:
1) Elders must be living examples for the flock (1 Peter 5:3). In other words, we must admire their lifestyles, as active portrayals of Christís. Elders are not simply likeable and successful; they are examples of Christ.
2) Elders must maintain Godís Word as supreme. This is proven in their required ability to teach (Titus 1:9). This stipulation aims at the act of teaching, not simply the ability to do so. After all, who wouldnít want to hear from the strongest and wisest?
3) Elders must be overseers of the flock (Acts 20:28). Elders provide oversight at the cellular level. As shepherds, they know their sheep. No formula or sermon will suffice for this depth of personal involvement.
4) Elders must be above reproach, and model godliness (1 Peter 5:3). For an elder to model godliness, he must do the work as described of his position. Only then is he, by definition, Godís shepherd.
5) There must be a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23). No more flying solo. God instituted a plurality of elders, that they may sharpen one another, combine skill sets, and tend to the entire flock. Leadership designed around a single personality, other than Christ, can blind us to the many benefits of being made in Godís multifaceted image.
We can plainly see that these essentials cannot be fulfilled predominately from a boardroom. Shepherds protect our brothers and sisters from believing in any other gospel, while providing the necessary means to persevere in lifeís challenges. Our respect and admiration for our Savior and Chief Shepherd was modeled in both His tutorial and servant nature. If we are to thrive, as designed by the Lord, then our shepherds must be qualified and activeÖ biblically! The New Testament qualifications for leadership are a vital part of Godís Holy Word. His ways and standards, unlike manís, never evolve. They were never meant to deteriorate over time (James 1:17), or be clouded by consumerism. Therefore, they need not be manipulated. They certainly should not be disregarded.
We can plainly observe that the world is now dead set on morally ďevolving,Ē and many are choosing selective theology over the divinity of Godís complete plan. In no way should these shifts ever prompt us to return to the drawing boards, to rethink Godís design for leadership. Leaning heavily on formulas, performances, or our venues is a twisted endeavor, when measured in light of our Savior. Instead, lets invest in restoring our congregations with humble submission to the qualifications and activities of Godís leaders.
Within Godís design, we can rest assured that regardless of numbers, trends, pressures, or tradition, God rewards faithfulness to His sustaining Word, which stands as our greatest means of sanctification (John 17:17). Churches will not fail under the called, qualified, and Scripturally fueled. Remember, God wants us to prosper, according to our role, in His plan (Romans 10:17). It is time to get out of our boardrooms and be God-honoring, in this highest of manís callings.