Friday, April 7, 2006

leadership

Let me ask all you theologians out there to weigh in on this one if you have some time and take…
Recently, I was in a discussion about the nature of church leadership. We gravitated to the topic of qualifications of a leader. Inevitably to the classic texts used to describe these qualities, 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1. In our discussion it was suggested that people who aspire to the role of elder/overseer needed to have attained these qualities in order to serve. I had some questions…
First can anyone measure up to these standards sufficiently? Do they naturally disqualify themselves because of their own recognition of error?
Second are these only standards that elders, deacons and overseers should attain? If so what does that leave the rest of us Christians off the hook with a different or lower standard?
Third, what can we say about why Paul included these instructions? Could it be that people in leadership at the time (fairly inexperienced in their faith journey) did not live by these standards? In short was this a standardization of leadership or an identification of the existence of a higher echelon of spiritual competence or depth?
What do we make of the idea of the degrees of spirituality? Can you be more/better Christian than someone else? If so what does this say about the nature of grace? Could leadership be based on experience and aptitude rather than a judgement about spiritual prowess?

5 comments:

Incoming... said...

by the way everyone is a theologian...

Jan said...

I think this one is way out of my league!

Clinton said...

Interesting timing on this post, Dale. Our church is presently going through the process of identifying/ recognizing/ putting in place some new elders. I've been wrestling quite a bit with this whole issue for the past month or so.

1st, anyone can but not nearly everyone does. Like any other aspect of human maturity, spiritual maturity requires a disciplined lifestyle. I can know about Christian maturity, know all the distinctives of it but until I choose to discipline myself and with the help of the Holy Spirit walk in maturity I am not mature. Do they naturally disqualify themselves.... ? Some would, others might well not recognize areas in which they still need to mature and would need the body to identify those areas which need attention in their lives.

2nd, no! Spiritual maturity should be the goal for all believers. We are all admonished to get beyond the need for milk and desire the solid food of the word (Heb 5). No one is let of the hook with a lower standard. Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

3rd, the tendency often times is to place those in church leadership who have demonstrated leadership skills in the workplace or other arenas of human endeavour. When these abilities are married with the character requirements which Paul prescribes it's a winning combination. Too often, however, the demonstrated leadership skills are a more important criteria than the demonstration of Christian maturity. Paul indicates that just as an elder in a social construct, like a tribe or extended family, is a mature individual, so also it is imperative that an elder/ overseer in a church is someone who has exhibited maturity. In Timothy and Titus he writes that these character qualifications are a requirement. He writes "must be" in referring to those aspiring to this office. While we all should aspire to maturity, he says that those who aspire to eldership must be mature

Can you be more/better Christian than someone else? .... is the apple seedling any less apple tree than the apple tree bearing fruit? I would contend that it is not. Both are complete and whole apple trees, the difference is in maturity, not in essence. Is an elder who meets the requirements listed in Timothy and Titus more spiritual than a new believer? My contention is that he is not. Both of their spirituality lies in their essence as believers. They are spiritual beings in whom the Spirit of the Living God resides. Positionally and in essence they are the same. The only distinction between the two is in maturity.

Incoming... said...

i dig your take on maturity
i think unfortunately we have often interpretted these passages to mean sanctity and the achievement thereof. I think there are people who are more mature in their spiritual walk but to that does not necessarily mean that they are more sinless.
I think you raise a good point about aptitude as well. We have often elevated those people who show leadership prowess in other contexts and assume that that will transfer to efficacy in the church context. Now i want to be clear. I'm not interested in carving out a dicotomy between sacred and secular work. Instead what i am suggesting is that a good CEO doesn't usually transfer to a good church leader because the job is intrinsically different in nature. it's a fine line but...

mark said...

Hey Mr. Peanut Gallery...this fish is too big for me to handle.