Spiritual qualifications for leadership
Church elders must be 'men of the message': that was Paul's clear instruction to Titus as he set about his task of ordering the fast growing church in Crete. Firstly, they must believe the gospel personally, be known as people who base their own lives on the salvation of Jesus Christ, and be in submission to Him. They were not free to change the message, even though parts of the gospel would be a personal challenge to every leader. The 'apostolic gospel' (the way to come to Christ and live in Him as taught by Paul and the other Apostles), was personally authorised by Jesus: it was not a 'primitive theology' from which more comfortable and culturally acceptable versions could be derived.
The elders' primary spiritual task was to build up the faith of their congregation by preaching, teaching and explaining the Lordship of Christ. If they could not do that, they should not be appointed to the role. Elders should expound the truth to those who were eager to learn, and also patiently explain the way of Christ to people who opposed the teaching: if they refused to listen, they should be rebuked. That is what that the Lord Jesus intended when He first commissioned the Apostles to 'make disciples'.
We need to hear this verse again today. When people want the gospel to be diluted or changed to suit social preferences, the elders must be strongly courageous to proclaim the truth and strongly courageous to denounce error. It is not a popular or easy life! When people wrongly see the church as a community where they can gather support for their opinions, the supremacy of Christ must be reasserted. When the church is more concerned to please its members or appease external pressure, than make disciples of Christ - the elders have failed in their duty. The greatest danger to the church is weak leadership which fails to hold to the apostolic gospel: the greatest hope for the church is in the message faithfully taught by leaders who are committed to Christ. So pray for your leaders; and if you are one of them make sure that your first priority is to live and teach the same message that the Apostle Paul taught.
© Dr Paul Adams