Pastoral Exhortation

The Call to Church Leadership

Written by Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy Sunday, 26 April 2015

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God has always called upon leaders to guide His people. In 1 Samuel 13:14, we read, “The LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people.” God told Ezekiel, “I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30).

Church Leadership is a Calling from the Lord

When it comes to who should be appointed to church leadership, let it not be taken lightly that only those whom God has called to the office should be appointed. Appointment to the offices of Pastor, Elder and Deacon is not to be based on mere human ability, seniority, social status, wealth or suchlike. Church leadership is not an honorary position conferred to reward people. It ought to be filled by men who are prepared by God through His calling.

All the offices of the church must be filled with people who are called by the Lord. We often associate “calling” with pastors, missionaries and other fulltime workers of the church. Yet, how about elders and deacons? Scripture is clear that God also calls men to these offices; only those who are sure of God’s appointment should enter these offices. The candidates for Church Session must be sure that they are called by the Lord to serve Him in these roles.

Paul had this to say to the Ephesian church leaders who came to meet him in Miletus: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God. . .” (Acts 20:28). Paul’s advice was that all leaders must firstly take care of themselves as they were “made overseers” by the Holy Spirit.

It is, therefore, important that those who come to leadership must know with certainty that leadership is God’s appointment for them. No one is to enter these offices of the church because of human persuasion or appointment. Though men can be instrumental in God’s hand in directing people to leadership, each candidate must nonetheless be sure in his heart that God has called him to serve in the church leadership.

One’s Calling must be Confirmed by God’s Word

How can a man know whether God wants him to serve as a leader? The first and foremost sign from the Lord comes by means of His Word. If a man has all the Scriptural qualifications listed out in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5, he is certainly eligible for church leadership. If he lacks any one of them, he is certainly not eligible.

When the apostle Paul commissioned Titus to appoint church leaders in Crete, he was not allowed to choose leaders based on his own human wisdom and judgement. Instead, Paul gave Titus a list of spiritual qualifications that he should look for in the lives of those whom he would ordain as elders. If anyone lacked a single one of those qualifications, Titus could not have considered him as God’s choice for leadership. Likewise, Paul also instructed Timothy that he should abide by the guidelines set by the Holy Spirit in His Word for the appointment of elders and deacons in his pastorate.

So, let us consider these qualities prescribed by the Scriptures to determine who should be the leaders of the church. Let us not unwisely or unwittingly encourage anyone who does not meet these qualities for leadership. It is a sin to appoint anyone against that which is prescribed by the Lord. Neither should anyone take up leadership if he himself is not assured of God’s calling through the Scriptures.

One’s Calling must be Confirmed by Prayer

Secondly, one must receive peace and assurance within himself to serve the Lord by waiting upon God in prayer. Proverbs 3:5-6 promises, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thine ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

We also see in Acts, how the early church spent time in prayer and fasting to seek God’s leading in the appointment of brethren for various roles in the ministry. Luke wrote about how the Holy Spirit led the church in Antioch in appointing men for the work. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Earnest praying of the church is also pertinent in knowing God’s choice of suitable men for the leadership.

One’s Calling must be Confirmed by the Family

This is necessary, especially for the married believers. Apart from the personal spiritual qualifications, Scripture also insists that the candidates should have a godly family which is submissive to his leadership. A married candidate must have a godly and submissive wife and obedient children. Scripture clearly states, “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). So, if one’s children are unbelieving and rebellious, we cannot consider him for church leadership. Three times (twice in 1 Timothy 3, and once in Titus 1), the apostle Paul has unambiguously delineated that those who will be appointed to rule the church must be those who rule their household by raising up submissive children. A troubled and disunited family will inevitably be a hindrance to a man’s service in the church.

One’s Calling must be Confirmed by the Church

In Acts 6:3, in the appointment of men to serve at the tables (very likely as deacons), the apostles asked the congregation, saying “look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” The candidate for Church Session must have the recognition of the church. The members of the church must indicate their acceptance of the candidate’s spiritual ability to rule the church.

At this time, it must also be said that the congregation as a whole must be prayerful and also faithful to God and His word while casting their votes. No member of the church should cast his/her vote based on selfdetermined criteria. The church must prayerfully and joyfully elect and support those who are called and prepared to be leaders according to God’s will.