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Archive for the 'Church Leadership' Category

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Church Leadership

Session 12:

What can God do with a leadership team

that is totally committed to Him?

Welcome to the final session in this series on Church Leadership. I trust they have all been a blessing to you and helpful as you continue on in your walk with God. I want to end on a positive note and look at what God can do when leadership teams are totally committed to Him and united in their service for the Boss – the Head of the Church.

In the book, The Trellis and the Vine (Marshall and Payne (Matthias Media 2009) – ISBN: 978 1 921441 58 5), the writers compare the work of planting, watering, fertilising and tending the vine to that of Christian ministry. ‘The basic work’, they continue, ‘of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit, and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel’.

However, they also acknowledge the essential need to tend and maintain some sort of framework to help the vine grow. The authors put it this way: ‘as the ministry grows, the trellis also needs attention. Management, finances, infrastructure, organisation, and governance – these all become more important and more complex as the vine grows.’ The book provides a balanced perspective on these two sometimes competing demands on leaders.

Let us be encouraged to keep in mind our ultimate goal – to see men, women and children won to faith in Christ. But at the same time, let’s not forget to tend, repair, watch over and maintain the trellis, or the vine will have nothing to grow on.

Today, in our churches, are we achieving this ultimate goal? Are we, on a regular basis, seeing people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel?

Do those of you who are leaders have a vision of what God, by the power of His Spirit and in the Name of Jesus can achieve in His church in your community?

A Senior Pastor asked his leadership team three questions when they were considering the impact of future growth:

  1. Can you see it?

  2. Do you want it?

  3. Are you prepared to do everything it takes to achieve it?

Powerful questions! Do we have such a vision from the Head of the Church that we are gripped by the prospect of many coming to faith in Christ, that we will go to any lengths to make sure it happens? Of vital importance is that the vision is from God – a “God idea” not just a “good idea”. More than once we read in Acts that, after the church had prayed about a particular matter, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Incidentally, when was the last time, after you have prayed, “the place where [you] were meeting was shaken. And [you] were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31)?

God gave dominion to the human race and He is longing for us, through redemption and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, to enter once again into that creation purpose. Jesus promises that the power of the Holy Spirit will result in our words having the same authority and wisdom as His own. Just think for a moment of what such a vision means to Jesus. He sees us - His own Body in the future exercising all of this and doing it to a greater extent than He could possibly do in His own human body. So after His resurrection, Jesus commissions the disciples. The promise of Jesus is: 'Your proclamation will be validated by signs and wonders that accompany it.' So those who refuse to believe will have no excuse. They will be condemned. (This raises questions about the nature of our own gospel proclamation in these days – but we don’t have time to discuss that now).

Like the early disciples we are called to go to the ends of the earth and for us, seeing the suffering that there is throughout the world, it is even more imperative than for them, that we should go to the ends of the earth and proclaim the good news of Jesus. Only then will the end come and our Lord return.

We have been placed on this earth to fulfil the destiny that God has for us, that we should exercise His authority and through the exercise of that authority, through His praise and worship and His power in our lives, we should bring down the powers of darkness and see satan's kingdom finally destroyed and the Lord's return set in train.

All this is ours! If that does not produce a 'Wow!' in your spirit then there must be something wrong with you. “Rejoice little flock. It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” – Jesus said (Luke 12:32).

Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3: 14 – 21)

I can do more that repeat that prayer for you and the churches where you serve.


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Church Leadership

Session 11:

What happens when it all goes wrong?

Welcome to session 11 – probably the most difficult of all to deal with. Sadly, there are, all too often, times when things go wrong in church and I want us to think about some of those today. This is never going to be a comprehensive treatise on these matters – but I hope it will be helpful to those leaders going through difficult times and for those in churches where leaders are causing problems.

There are two main areas that I want to consider – those where the leader has served to the best of his ability but things have not worked out or illness has been a part of the situation – and those where the leader has not acted in a way that befits their office and thus damaged their calling and brought the Name of Christ into disrepute.

I have taken some “case studies” that I have been involved with to illustrate some areas where things have not turned out well – either for the individual or the church concerned.

The Minister was struggling. His sermons, while theologically sound, were more like lectures and his pastoral skills were not the best – and the numbers coming to church were shrinking rapidly. But he really believed he had been called to pastoral ministry. I was asked to talk to him and eventually he accepted that, perhaps, he had misheard his calling and ought to look for something else that would use his obvious teaching ability. In due course, he found a post as a lecturer at a university and, the last time I heard, he was doing well. The church was supportive and sent him on his way with their blessing. But this “knocked him for six” and it took a while for him to recover. If it is not working for you as a leader, seek counsel from someone you can trust and don’t be ashamed to say “I got it wrong”. God is in the restoration business!

Sometimes a church leader is good at what they do, believe they have a genuine calling to this type of ministry – but the rest of the leadership team don’t see it that way. I was asked to “referee” a dispute between the elders of a church and their pastor. Some of the elders had been in the church for a very long time and were strong characters and they persuaded the rest of the leadership team that the pastor was not “vibrant enough, nor did he have an exciting vision for the future”. In the end, I advised the pastor that it was time to go because once you have lost the trust, confidence and support of the other leaders, it will be impossible to achieve what you want to do in God. This sort of activity grieves the Holy Spirit and hinders the growth of God’s people. Incidentally, that church went through a very lean period for some years – but God used the pastor in significant ministry in other churches. The command of Jesus to “love one another” was aimed at all of us – and applies to leadership teams also. Seek God’s face always – and even more so when the course you seem to be taking looks as if it is not one that the Spirit of God would endorse.

It seems to me that stress is more prevalent than it used to be (probably because we didn’t recognise it so clearly back then – we called it a “nervous breakdown”) and “burnout” has become an accepted physical/mental/spiritual condition. Church leaders are not immune from this and I have witnessed the devastating effect that this has had – both in my ‘day job’ and those called to full-time ministry. I am not qualified to discuss the medical details – but I have found a book I have referred to earlier (Freedom to Lead – see session 9) very helpful in this area. A young man was full of enthusiasm for the children’s ministry he was involved in – he worked hard and long and seemed to thrive. He was invited to join the leadership team in his home church, even though most of his ministry was with other churches. Soon he was being asked to do more and more - eventually he succumbed to the pressure and had to come to dead stop and cease doing anything. His family and church were supportive but some others were less so – after all, he had “let them down.” Asking him why this had happened he told me that he thought that, in God, he could do anything and everything – he forgot that he was a frail human being and that he was not superman. He didn’t blame God for this – he now understands the importance of rest, good time management and having the common sense to say “no”. As fellow leaders we need to watch others on the team that they are not getting overburdened and as churches we must not expect too much of our leaders.

The devastation that sexual immorality causes to the leader him/herself, to their families, to the church where they lead and to the wider Christian community is enormous– but it is not the only reason why leaders do not maintain the standards expected of them.

Sexuality is a powerful force and, when not confined to the marital state, can be devastating, damaging and ‘reputation-killing’. Much has been written about this and I don’t have time to say very much here – but leaders must be always on their guard against this temptation.

Then there other addictions that damage the people of God, including leaders, such as gambling, pornography, substance abuse etc.

When discovered, or confessed, there must be an acceptance that that leader has “disqualified” him/herself from office and must stand down immediately. With true repentance, counselling and prayer, such a one can be restored to fruitful ministry after a period on the sidelines. Paul said: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1).

Let me repeat what I said in session 3: “Most of the saints of old got it wrong from time to time – Abraham lied about Sarah, Noah got drunk, Moses lost his temper, David committed adultery, Elijah was suicidal, Jonah ran away, Thomas doubted, Peter denied Jesus, Paul persecuted Christians – need I go on? The amazing thing is that God forgave them as they repented and He continued to use them. All of us, as leaders, are constantly in need of the grace of God as we battle with sin and failure. Praise Him – He is the God of the second (and third and fourth and fifth etc etc) chance as we submit to Him.”

I’m conscious that this has been all too brief and there is so much to be said – but all of us must remain on our guard against the wiles of the devil. Keep short accounts with God, seek help from those you trust and maintain regular devotional times.

Today, I’m going to leave you with a prayer (based on Psalm 31) that I used when I and my family went through a very difficult time.

  • O LORD, we trust in You – may we never be disgraced.
  • Save us because You do what is right. Listen to us and save us quickly.
  • You are our rock of protection – a strong fortress to protect us. For the honour of Your Name, lead us and guide us.
  • Set us free from the trap that has been set for us because You are our protection. We give you our lives. Save us, LORD - You are the God of truth.
  • We trust only in the LORD. We will be glad and rejoice in Your love, because You see our suffering and You know our troubles. You have not handed us over to our enemies but have set us in a safe place.
  • LORD, have mercy, because we are finding life tough - our eyes are weak from so much crying and we are weary from grief. Our life seems to be full of sadness and our days are spent in crying. Our troubles are sapping our strength – provide strength to our bodies.
  • We trust You and we affirm that You are our God. Our lives are in Your hands. Save us from our enemies and from those who are chasing us. Silence their lying lips. Show Your kindness to us – we are Your servants. Save us because of Your love. LORD, we call to You - so do not let us be disgraced.
  • How great is Your goodness that You have stored up for us because we fear You - protect us by Your presence from what people plan against us and shelter us from evil words.
  • Praise the LORD! His love to us was wonderful when we were being attacked. In our distress, we said: "God cannot see us!" But You heard our prayer when we cried out to You for help.
  • We love the LORD, because we belong to Him. The LORD protects us because we truly believe. We put our hope in the LORD and we will be strong and brave.
  • Amen


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Church Leadership

Session 10:

“What are the marks of a good leader?”
Or
“Is (s)he a leader worth following?”

We look today at the marks of a good leader. Put another way, what leaders are worth following?

In trying to answer this question, there is the danger of describing “Superman” or “Wonderwoman” – so I will hopefully keep to a few practical points that will help leaders to grow and those being led to follow wholeheartedly. And, as we have said in previous sessions, some leaders are gifted in certain ways and some in others – so, just because a leader is an exceptional teacher and preacher, (s)he may not excel in pastoral ministry or children’s work.

Added to that, we are all fallible human beings and get things wrong from time to time – I’ll look at this in more detail next time.

The first thing we need to emphasise is that those who lead in Church must be, to be effective, men and women of God. And what does that mean? Put simply, I would take it to describe those who have a clear and solid understanding of what the Bible teaches, who give time to prayer and who know the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit. Add to that God’s appropriate gifting and an ability to inspire others to be good disciples of Jesus.

There needs to a personal commitment to fulfilling the vision God has put in their hearts – and an ability to communicate that vision to the leadership team and the rest of the Church. Proverbs 29:18 reminds us that: “Where there is no vision, the people perish KJV).”

Eric Delve talks about the four principal roles of leadership: Exploring, Modelling, Adventuring and Empowering. The first two of these roles focus primarily upon the growth in integrity of the private person. The second two have to do with the public face of leadership, finding direction and team-building.

He says:
“We need leaders today who are exploring the wide territories of the promises of God; the dramatic landscape of His covenant purpose through the centuries. We need people who are prepared to live in the big picture and convey the glory of what they see to others.”

“Modelling gives a tangible example of what others ought to expect out of their lives. We all need inspiration but, at times, it's too far removed from 'nuts and bolts' living. Everyone needs someone to be like. That someone is you.”

“Adventure is always about risk. It has been said: ‘Faith is spelt RISK’, but I think faith is spelt OBEDIENCE. Here's a question that scares me. "What are you involved in that is so frightening it is doomed to failure unless God intervenes?’ You're on a great adventure. Stop living with burdens or fear and start to ride the waves with excitement and enthusiasm!!”

“The enabler – or the empowerer - has a far better and greater vision than his or her own life and ministry. They see far beyond these things to the eternal purposes of God. They live with a heavenly perspective and they live for a heavenly reward. The greatest test of leadership is the ability to pass on a legacy to the next generation and rejoice when they surpass you! That's especially tough when you've trained them, introduced them, but it is the great test of leadership.”

Years ago we had a visiting preacher at the church we attended at the time – an older man and influential in his denomination and one whose counsel I greatly appreciated. He talked about Jacob and his experience at the Jabbok (Genesis 32: 22 - 32) and reminded us that, unless we have wrestled with God and prevailed, we will not be all that we could be for Him. He likened the wrestling with struggling with life, not having it easy, as well as the “wrestling in prayer” that Paul talks about (Colossians 4:12). His closing comment was “never trust a leader without a limp”. In other words, unless we have been “through the mill” a few times, we cannot understand what others are facing and therefore cannot lead them well.

Apart from the things we think of as “spiritual”, there are some things, of a more practical nature, that make for a good leader:
  • Are they good “ambassadors” for Christ and the church they lead? We saw how that was important when we looked at Timothy in session 7.
  • How do they spend their time? Do they manage their time well? A recent survey found that the average church leader has 564 meetings a year. That is 846 hours a year, the equivalent of 105 working days. Everything from the informal coffee with someone to chat about their next vocational step, through to the more formal gathering of volunteer youth leaders to dream up the programme for next term. A good idea is to keep a fairly detailed diary so that you can see where time is “leaking” and do something about it. And remember you are not a “one man band” – delegate wherever you can.
  • Good leaders will look after themselves physically, maintain a healthy lifestyle and make sure they take proper periods of rest and leave. Beware leaders who are always at everything and nothing can happen without them – a recipe for burn out. But there is the other side of the coin – church members should not expect instant availability 24/7 (some do – I’ve been on the receiving end!).
  • Financial integrity is important too, as is being consistent and persevering.


This has not been a totally inclusive list of the perfect leader – but I hope it has been helpful and a prompt to review things in your own life.


Next time we’ll look at what happens when it all goes wrong.

A prayer: “Father, please help me to be an effective leader of those you have asked me to care for. May I be filled with passion for the vision you have placed in my heart. By the power of Your Spirit and in Jesus Name. Amen.”

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Church Leadership

Session 9:

“How do I know I am called to leadership?”

Or:

“Why would I want to be a leader?”

Colin Buckland in his book Freedom to Lead says: “Calling, much like guidance, seems to be an elusive business. Most of us would wish that the writing was on the wall, but it isn't. We rely on a non-exact science, such as interpreting a Scripture passage, receiving the encouragement of others, hearing the inner voice and, for some, receiving a prophetic word.”

If you are already in a leadership role in church, how was it for you?

I know in my case I “fell into it” (as my wife describes it). My accounting skills were the driver for the other leaders of the church we were in at the time to ask me to become an Elder. I don’t think, at that time, I felt “called” – I felt more obliged to help them out! It seems to me, as I have talked to other leaders over the years, there is no simple “one size fits all” answer to this question.

That doesn’t mean to say that God does not use our faltering and unsure steps to develop the gifts He has birthed within us and to grow into the leader He wants us to be. Note I said “the gifts He has birthed within us” and “the leader He wants us to be”. We saw in an earlier session that trying to do this role without God’s gifting and the Holy Spirit’s enabling is a recipe for stress and heartache.

So – what are some of the things we should be keeping a look-out for as we contemplate if we are called to ministry?

There is no substitute for meditative reading of the Scriptures – this is still the primary way that God speaks to us today. Combine that with fervent prayer and a deliberate openness to what the Holy Spirit has to say to us and we will know in our spirit what is on God’s heart for us. And don’t think this is a “quick fix” – many wrestle with God for years before they are clearer about the way forward.

The guidance of trusted and more mature Christians is invaluable. Certainly I have benefitted from that over the years – but, at the end of the day, you must be the one making the decision, not them.

We must not discount the value of listening to good preaching – often God uses someone else’s inspired thoughts to stir something in our spirit. And the Lord can speak to us when we are in church and enjoying corporate worship and the fellowship of other Christians. As with Timothy, we can be given a prophetic word which, after careful consideration, can confirm what the Holy Spirit is already putting on our hearts.

Are you married? Now, I know there is no such office in the church as “Pastor’s spouse” or “Mrs. Elder” – but if one part of a married couple is called to serve in a leadership role and the other is not fully supportive, then this is another recipe for stress and heartache.

Our circumstances can influence us in knowing what God is calling us to. One thing that helped me to realise my gifting as a leader was the way I “took charge” of meetings or events when everybody else seemed reluctant to do so (not just in church but in the “day job” as well). Hard and difficult times can also shape us and make us more like Jesus and so more open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

Maybe I haven’t answered the question very well – but I hope that this part has been helpful and will, if nothing else, drive you delve into the Scriptures and seek God’s face for your future.


And now the second question: “Why would I want to be a leader?”

Paul, writing in his first letter to Timothy (3:1), says: “This is a trustworthy saying: ‘If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honourable position.’" (NLT).

Peter, in his first letter (5: 1 – 4), says: “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

So – its “an honourable position” and we “will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away”. Is that all there is to it? The NIV uses the term “noble task” for “honourable position” as in the NLT – and “task” is a good word for it. Believe me – it is hard work!

The hours are long and unpredictable, the pay is often non-existent or poor (that’s a subject in itself and we don’t have time for it this series), the expectations are high, the stress can reach high levels, the people grumble and complain. You know what it’s like!

Those God calls to leadership roles have the assurance that He is with them, upholding them and inspiring them as they are obedient to the calling they have received and are sensitive to the Holy Spirit. And there is no better place to be, than doing what God has called you to do in the place where He has called you.

Let me close this podcast with a quote from Hebrews 13:5-7

“God has said: ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’
So we say with confidence: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

A prayer: “Father, thank You that you go speaking to us through Your Word and by Your Spirit. Help me to respond to the promptings of Your Spirit and be an obedient bond slave. And thank You for Your ongoing Presence. In Jesus Name. Amen”.

Next time we will look at the question: “What are the marks of a good leader?” Or: “Is (s)he a leader worth following?”

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Church Leadership

Session 8:

What can we learn from Stephen – a member of the first team of deacons?

Last time we looked at Timothy as an example of an effective church leader – today I want us to consider Stephen – one of the first cohort of deacons appointed in the early church.

Please do read Acts 6 – and 7.

We see from Acts 6 that there was a complaint (no surprises there, then – after all this was church!). Thankfully, this one led to a positive outcome – would it were so in every case?

Stephen is one of seven chosen as “deacons” – or servants – but they too had to be full of the Holy Spirit. We don’t hear much more about the others (except Philip) – but they probably quietly got on with the job they were assigned to do. And there is a lesson for all of us in that – quietly serving God and His Church without becoming grumpy.

As we read about Stephen – remember his role is as a deacon (a “waiter on tables”) - one word seems to keep coming up – he was a man who was full!

1. Full of the Holy Spirit – Acts 6:3; 6:5; 7:54

This was his lifestyle – and he clearly stood out from among the other disciples – many thousands by this time. He was also noted among the seven as being full of the Holy Spirit. The impact of what was about to happen to him gave him a special anointing (7:54) as is often the case in extreme circumstances.

2. Full of wisdom – Acts 6:3
He knew the promise of God recorded for us in James 1:5 – and sought the Lord for the wisdom he needed to do what he was doing. As we see from Acts 7, he understood his roots and how that was important for the God’s people and was able to set his message in context. We need to have the wisdom required to make the message of the gospel relevant today – and that means understanding our origins and the truths of the Old Testament as well as the New.
We live in an era of instant accessibility to information. We also live in an era of complexity. Whilst it may be tempting to rely on education, the internet, intelligence or experience, we need God’s wisdom. Different from information, different from knowledge, wisdom is God’s and accessed through humble prayer and openness to his ways.

3. Full of faith – Acts 6:5
Without faith we cannot please God - Jesus is the Author and Finisher (or perfecter) of faith (Hebrews 12:1ff.). It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is about turning belief into action – faith is a “doing” word. He was full of faith!

4. Full of God’s grace – Acts 6:8
Grace is a Divine attribute – often linked with compassion (e.g. Exodus 34:6 and Numbers 6:25). Jesus was described as being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Paul began most of his letters with the salutation “Grace and peace from God the Father”.
In Stephen’s case it was probably describing a compassionate kind, thoughtful man – one who was showing evidence of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). He would have also understood the impact of God’s grace in his own life – he knew forgiveness and cleansing and the freedom in Christ which is ours through grace.

5. Full of God’s power – Acts 6:8
“Power corrupts – absolute power corrupts absolutely” But not in the case of one who recognises that the source of his power is God and who uses that power under His authority.. Through this power Stephen did great wonders and miraculous sings among the people (6:8) – and he was only a deacon – a “waiter on tables”!

6. Full of courage – 7:51 ff.
He was not afraid to tell the spiritual leaders of the nation “where it was at”. The nations need such a prophetic voice today! His immense courage was evidence of his faith (Hebrews 11: 32 – 40) – and he received the highest reward possible – being welcomed into the presence of God. We may not need to face what Stephen did, but let us be courageous in sharing our faith wherever we find ourselves.
As I thought about Stephen’s “fullness”, my mind went to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians as recorded in his letter to them (Ephesians 1:15 22):
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.
That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills everything in every way.”


As we come to end of this session, it is worth recapping on what we’ve looked at so far.
  • We saw that Jesus is the Head of the Church – so He is in charge.
  • We have looked at some of the expressions used in the New Testament for leaders in churches.
  • We have considered four leaders from the Old Testament – Moses, Daniel, Joseph and Nehemiah – and two from the New Testament – Timothy and Stephen.
  • We have considered the ‘code of conduct’ for both elders and deacons as set out in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus.

In our final four sessions I want to seek to answer the following questions:

  • "How do I know I am called to leadership?” or: “Why would I want to be a leader?”
  • “What are the marks of a good leader?” or: “Is (s)he a leader worth following?
  • What happens when it all goes wrong?
  • What can God do with a leadership team that is totally committed to Him?


A prayer: “Thank you, Jesus, for the example of Stephen. Fill me again with Your Spirit so that I can be what You want me to be. Amen”

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Church Leadership

Session 7:

“What can we learn from Timothy – a New Testament Church leader?

Today I want to look at Timothy (whose name means “honouring God” or “precious to God”) and see what lessons we can learn from what we know about him and the counsel and support he received from his “father in the faith”, the Apostle Paul. Here are just a few high points about his life that we learn from the New Testament:

  • Timothy was a teenager when he met Paul. His family lived in Lystra so he was a Galatian. His father was a Greek man; we know nothing of his faith. But Timothy’s mother and grandmother were faithful Jewish women who taught the Old Testament scriptures to their son/grandson (Acts 16:1; 2 Timothy 1:5).
  • In Lystra, during Paul’s second missionary journey, he learned that Timothy had an exceptional reputation among the local Christians (Acts 16:1-2);
  • Because he came from a mixed racial background, in which his mother was Jewish and his father was Greek, his familiarity with the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures made him an ideal travelling companion for Paul.


The life of Timothy gives us many examples that we can use both in our personal lives and as leaders.

Timothy was a team player: He joined Paul and Silas in telling Jesus’ followers what the apostles and other leaders in Jerusalem had decided at the recent conference (Acts 15:19-20; 16:4). These apostles urged their fellow Christians to follow these instructions. As a result of the witness of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, the churches grew stronger in their faith. Each day, more people came to faith in Jesus (Acts 16:5).

Timothy was set apart by prophesy: Paul reminded him of this is 1 Timothy 1:18 and 4:14 and urged him not to neglect the gift he had been given.

It took time, in distinctive ministry environments, for Timothy to mature and become an effective Christian leader. Similarly, our path to maturity and increasing ministry effectiveness does not take place all at once. Instead, the process of spiritual growth occurs in differing circumstances involving numerous people, often over many years.

Timothy served the Church in an unselfish manner. In our contemporary, “celebrity culture”, there is the temptation to make ourselves the centre of our ministry endeavours. We must conscientiously resist this trap, remembering that the proclamation of the gospel and the building up of believers are intended to bring glory to God – not to make a name for ourselves.

Paul encouraged Timothy to remain faithful to his pastoral call and duties. The Holy Spirit has called us to a life of devoted Christian service, which must include looking after to our own spiritual needs, as well as being attentive to the concerns of Jesus’ followers around us. It is a lifelong responsibility that requires our active involvement.

Timothy was effective in ministry because he remained committed to the gospel. If we fail to uphold the historic teachings of Christianity, we undermine the effectiveness of the Gospel.

Timothy was accountable to God for his actions. The Lord holds us responsible for what we think, say, and do. This should serve as an incentive for us to be faithful stewards of the time, talents, and treasures the Lord has entrusted to our care.

God’s power and love in Timothy’s life enabled him to be fearless in Christian service. The Lord promises to be with us as we are courageous in sharing the good news with others. The Holy Spirit can give us the insight and energy we need to be effective witnesses for Jesus.

Timothy refused to become side tracked by dead-end philosophical issues.
We also must not allow ourselves to be distracted by pointless matters that consume the attention of false teachers and time wasters. Our God-given mandate is to herald the gospel, encourage those who are struggling, and confront those in the Church who need a “prod” from time to time. The Holy Spirit can empower us to remain calm and patient as we shoulder our important, but often difficult, leadership responsibilities.

Towards the end of his first letter to Timothy, Paul urges Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and towards the end of his second letter, he tells Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul was not asking Timothy to do anything he was not prepared to do – what a testimony to an incredible “spiritual father”.

We could not leave this brief look at Timothy without commenting on his age – he was a still a young man when he was at Ephesus (“Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young” – I Timothy 4:12). Paul urged him to “flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22). He goes on to expect him to live right – read these two verses again in their context. Age is no barrier to service for God – we can’t say we are too young or too old.

Years ago, I picked up a leaflet at a church on the Channel Island of Guernsey. Among other things, it included the following:

Abraham was middle-aged and well-heeled
when God called him to leave all he knew behind
Samuel was called by God to be a prophet
when he was still a child.
Mary was called as a young woman
to be a mother - with a difference
And over the twenty centuries of the Christian church,
God has continued to call young and old,
rich and poor, to follow Christ in specific ways.
He’s still doing it today - If we’re listening.


A prayer: Father, thank You for the example of Timothy – may we serve You well, whatever our age, experience (or lack of it) and, for those who are older, may we continue to run the race effectively.
Amen

Next time we will look at Stephen – an amazing example of a deacon.


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Church Leadership

Session 5:

What does the New Testament tell us about what characteristics we should expect from a church leader”

Part 2

We continue today to look at the characteristics we should expect from church leaders. Last time we focussed on elders (or bishops) – today we will look at deacons.

We come across the concept of deacons first in the New Testament in Acts 6 when seven men were chosen to fulfil some of the practical aspects of church leadership, leaving the apostles free to “give [their] attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). These seven were to be those who were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul sets a standard for deacons which is similar to that for elders with a few variances (there is no ‘apt to teach’ for example). Again it is about being ‘worthy of respect’, which implies a bearing and lifestyle that is recognised by those inside and outside the church to be exemplary.

Paul includes women here (3:11) – some translations have ‘their wives’ which suggests that a deacon’s wife has to be tested against the criteria set down here (they speak prudently with control, do not drink to excess and are trustworthy). This seems a bit odd on the basis that there is no such test for elders’ wives which one would have expected. Probably a better understanding is that both men and women were eligible for the role – but that is confused by verse 12 (the ‘one woman man’ requirement) because there is no requirement for the deaconess to be a ‘one man woman’. Some sections of the Christian church bar women from all leadership roles – and some embrace them at all levels – and the debate between the two has caused much heartache and still goes on in many parts of the Church.

Timothy’s own leadership of the church depends on maintaining ‘faith and a good conscience’ (1:19) – but even for deacons, whose tasks were probably must less high profile and practical – these are equally vital qualities. The Christian faith is a ‘mystery’ (v.9 – some translations have ‘deep truths’) – not in our English sense that it is something hard to understand – but rather as a secret, available only to those who are let in on it. Deacons are those who have discovered for themselves the secret of God’s grace through Christ – and now hold it fast as the basis of their life and teaching. The ‘clear conscience’ (3:9) is as important as the grasp of the truth ‘by faith’.

Just as elders must be mature Christians, so also deacons must be tested before their ministry is approved. The testing Paul refers to here is probably on the job training with other church leaders – and, as they seem to be doing well, they will be given further responsibility. And, just as the role of elder is a ‘noble task’ – so good service as a deacon brings ‘good standing’ and ‘great boldness in the faith’ (3:12). Jesus taught that those who wish to be first among His disciples must be servant of all (Mark 9:35) – and that scale of values is reflected here. Honour is to be found not by aiming for high profile positions but by doing a good job in the role to which you have been called.

My own experience in my early days in church leadership (now over 45 years ago) supports Paul’s promise in the latter part of verse 13. During that time my own faith grew stronger and I was assured of what I believed – almost imperceptibly. Faithful service always brings its rewards.

Paul’s instructions to Timothy about the selection of leaders is full of good sense and assures, if followed, that the church is in good, safe hands. History, including recent history, records many examples of inappropriate leadership that damages the credibility of the gospel to outsiders. I want to answer the question: “What happens when it goes wrong?” in a future session.

But let all of us take note of the standards set for Christian living. We all – not just those in leadership - have a duty to live our lives in such a way as to honour God and not damage the witness of the church and hinder the proclamation of the gospel. This is not about “look how pious they are” – but rather “look at the quality of their lives – I want to live like that” and so commend the gospel and the change that the grace of God can bring in people’s lives.

It is only by the grace of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit that leaders can function well. But to be able to serve faithfully and in an exemplary manner they need our prayers and for us to recognise that they are not perfect and are still growing in that grace. The Preacher to the Hebrews puts it in better words than I can (Hebrews 13: 7-18):

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden – for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way”



Next time I want to take two examples from the New Testament – Timothy as a leader and Stephen as a deacon – and see what we can learn from them.

A prayer: “Father, thank you for the truths of Your Word and thank you for those who teach us those truths. And thank you for those who service in our church in practical ways – may they “have great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. In Jesus Name. Amen.”


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Church Leadership

Session 5:

What does the New Testament tell us about what characteristics we should expect from a church leader”

Part 1

Over the next couple of sessions we are going to look at what the New Testament teaches about the characteristics leaders in Church should exhibit. We will draw particularly on what Paul has to say to Timothy and Titus in the letters he addressed to them and which forms the general guidance for recognising and appointing leaders today.

If a church were to place an advert in a local newspaper or a well-known Christian magazine inviting applications for a leader in a church, what would be the job description and what would the person specification include? Would we see “able to lead worship” in there? What about “having a heart for evangelism”? And then there is “able to work with young people” and perhaps “good administrator” – and so the list could go on – with the hope that “superman” (or “superwoman”) – the person that can do everything - will apply. While these things may be important, Paul’s emphasis is on the character of the leader – what they are rather than what they can do. The focal point for both elders and deacons is the person’s reputation among believers and unbelievers – one that is based on proven moral character and maturity. Duties are hardly mentioned.

You might like to pause this podcast and read 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5–9.

The ‘code of conduct’ for elders as set out in 1 Timothy 3 is all about character and needs little explanation. As a former elder and church leader I have to admit that they are quite daunting and – without God’s grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit they would be impossible to achieve. People will judge the church by its leaders and they must maintain a good reputation among those outside the body of believers – so that the witness of the church is not damaged and that the devil has nothing to use to entrap them. But let us, too, remember what we looked at in session 3 - we serve a God of outrageous grace and, with repentance, there is forgiveness and a way back for those who have sadly failed to meet the standard set out here.

I’ll turn to Paul’s instructions to Titus (which virtually mirror those to Timothy) to look at the leaders domestic sphere, their lifestyle and their ability to teach the Christian doctrine.

  • Domestic: The husband of but one wife’ literally means “a one woman man” and this statement has provoked discussion in churches for many years – which we don’t have time to go into now. The main issue here is about faithfulness in marriage – how we conduct ourselves in our private life spills over into how we conduct ourselves in church life. Unfaithfulness in marriage is not a good advert for a church leader who will be emphasising to their flock the need for faithfulness to God and obedience to His commands.

Then Paul turns to the children of the elders – they, too, must be believers who behave well. This has caused considerable anxiety to many (including me) who are in positions of leadership in the church but one or more of their children at this time are not walking with God. The clue, I believe (I hope – otherwise I will shut off the microphone and stop now!), is in the next verse – where the overseer is described in most translations as “God’s steward” – which suggests that the elders’ responsibility for their children’s faithfulness and behaviour is restricted to the time when they are part of their household.

  • Lifestyle: Paul considers the lifestyle of the elder in both the negative and positive aspects. Tendencies toward overbearing behaviour and anger are indications of unfitness for working as part of a team – such people do not listen to the views of others but rather force their wills on then, causing disunity. Arguments and quarrels were in fact characteristic of false teachers – so they have no place in the lifestyle of the leaders of the church of God. Drunkenness and violence are indications of a lack of self-control – so such people are in no way fitted for looking after the church. The ‘dishonest gain’ prohibition is in direct contrast to the reason the false teachers do what they do – faithfulness in financial matters is necessary if the leader is to be ‘blameless’.

Then Paul turns to the positive aspects of the bishop (or elder) – first hospitable (remember, at the time Paul wrote, this was often about sacrificial sharing where fellow Christians may be forced from home and work because of their faith – today we have largely devalued it to “entertaining”), then a lover of the good (for a definition see Philippians 4:8), self-controlled (part of the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:23), upright and holy (uprightness describing behaviour in relation to others and holy in relation to God) and disciplined (a true disciple who lives a balanced and ordered life before God and others).

  • Ministry: Good leadership involves “word” as well as character. The people chosen for the task of bishop / elder / overseer must have a sound understanding of Christian doctrine – the apostolic teaching both in its theological and ethical dimensions. Only such a person will be able to instruct others with sound doctrine and will have the confidence and intellectual ammunition with which to resist the currents of false teaching which were a serious problem for Titus on Crete, for Timothy in Ephesus and for us today..

Paul reminds Timothy that elders should display some Christian maturity – ‘not a recent convert’ (3:6). There is something attractive about the enthusiasm and commitment of many a new convert and it may seem a good idea to harness these qualities into the leadership of the church. But experience shows that too much responsibility too soon can go to a person’s head – and if that happens, the devil will be delighted.

The importance and urgency of the church’s evangelistic mission require that its leaders be of the highest calibre. They must be those whose leadership skills and purity of lifestyle instill confidence in Christians and draw respect from outsiders to the faith. While the standard set is high Paul is not proposing perfection or appointing those not needing to grow any more – otherwise no one would qualify. Rather Paul was looking for those in whom the Holy Spirit was evidently and actively at work (but not yet finished) in the whole of life. Next time we will look at the ‘code of conduct’ for deacons.

A prayer:
“Father, we thank you for those that lead us in Church. Keep them close to You in all aspects of their life and bless them abundantly. Amen.”

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Church Leadership

Session 4:

What does the Old Testament teach us about leadership?”

Part 2


Last time we looked as Moses and Daniel as examples of leaders from the Old Testament – today we’ll consider two more – Nehemiah and Joseph.

I mentioned last time about my management training course in which Nehemiah was the case-study. At the time I was thrilled by the use of the Bible in such a context, but I have to admit having forgotten most of what the teacher said – so I don’t know if I became a better manager as a result. But it did lead me to a deeper study of Nehemiah and his exploits.

We find him in Susa – one of the principal cities of the Babylonian and Persian empires and where we also find Daniel and Esther – as a “cupbearer to the king” (chapter 1:11). He was an exile from Jerusalem and having heard of the state of his home city, he determined to do something about it. We don’t have time to go into the whole story – but you can read it in Nehemiah. We focus on some of the lessons we can learn from him:

  • Although he wanted to get on with things – he prayed and sought God first (1:4 – 11)
  • He planned carefully and got as much help as he could (2: 6 – 9)
  • He assessed the situation before he did anything or told anyone what was in his heart (2: 11 – 16)
  • Then he told the leaders and the people what his plans were and sought their support (2: 17 – 20)
  • He gave the glory to God for the success he expected (2: 20) and for the result (6:16)
  • He mobilised the people at all levels (chapter 3) – and they “worked with all their heart” (4:6).
  • He did not ignore opposition – but dealt with it prayerfully and practically (4: 4 & 5 and 13 – 21)
  • Having done the practical job of rebuilding the wall, he turned, with Ezra, to the spiritual needs of the people (chapters 8 and 9)
  • He dedicated what he had done to the Lord and gave Him the glory (12: 27 – 47)
  • His last recorded words were: “Remember me with favour, O my God” (13:31).



Now let’s think about Joseph – his story fills most of the last part of Genesis. We don’t have time today to go into the details of his life and I assume most of you will know the major elements of his story. So, some summarised lessons from the one who began as an arrogant “Daddy’s boy”, became a slave, spent time in jail but eventually became Prime Minister of Egypt:

  • Even as an arrogant teenager, God was speaking to Him through the dreams he was having. Sometimes if God plants a dream or vision in our spirits, it is better to keep it to ourselves until it begins to come to fruition.
  • The brothers’ action was inexcusable – but it was all part of God’s plan. Sometimes things happen to us – or are done to us by others – that are part of God’s purposes for us, but we can’t recognise that until years later.
  • The Lord was with Joseph – and his employer prospered (Genesis 39:5). Does our employer (or those we serve) prosper because of our faithfulness to God, our integrity etc?
  • He resisted a very real temptation – he ran from it – a real lesson for us. Even when falsely accused – he refused to justify himself (but he was a slave and had no “voice” – remember we said in session 2 that we are Christ’s bond slaves).
  • Twice we are told that the Lord was with Joseph in the prison (39: 21 & 23) – and even the prison “prospered” because Joseph was there. We don’t know how long he was in prison – but we must not let today’s circumstances rob us of what we know of God and His word – He will bring to pass His purposes even if we haven’t got a clue how or when.
  • Even in the prison – falsely accused and reckoning he might never get out – he was concerned for others– “Why are your faces sad today?” We must not let our own difficulties stop us from caring for others and showing them the love of God.
  • Joseph acknowledges that it is God who gives the answers (41:16). We are not here to make a name for ourselves – but to bring glory to God.
  • Joseph didn’t just interpret the dream – he offered a solution to the problem.
  • Pharaoh saw that the Spirit of God was in Joseph (41:37). Do those around us – those we work with, our employer, those we serve etc see God in us?
  • God has his people in high office (41:41 – 44) – don’t be afraid of that if God calls you to it – do the job well and give God the glory
  • The brothers bow before Joseph – and that dream is fulfilled – it took at least 20 years. God will do what He says He will do. Joseph puts his brothers to the test to see if they had learned anything over those years – sometimes we take a very long time to learn the ways of God.


Joseph got to his leadership position by a long and difficult route – but God was with him throughout and he acted with wisdom, justice and integrity. And even though others (in this case those very close to him) would seek to thwart God’s plans for him, Joseph was confident in his God and said to his brothers: “You meant to harm me – but God intended it for good” (50:20).

A prayer: “Thank You, Lord, that no matter our circumstances You have promised to be with us. And thank You that You do keep Your promises and are fulfilling Your purposes for us.”

Next time we will look at the characteristics of church leaders as set out in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus.



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Church Leadership

Session 3: “What does the Old Testament teach us about leadership?” – Part 1

Welcome to the third in this series on Church Leadership. So far we have affirmed that Jesus is the Head of the Church and that the Church is the people not a building. We have also looked at some of the terms used in the New Testament and elsewhere, that, I hope, will help us to be clear on what we are talking about as we look in more detail at leadership in the Church.

In this session I want to start to look at a few brief examples from the Bible that will give us some clues as to how God called and gifted leaders. We’ll continue with this next time.

As I was advancing in my career, the Director of the Department I was working in decided that I would benefit from some management training. So a one day course was chosen for me and off I went to join about 100 other people from various parts of the public sector. We were in a lecture hall, with a lectern on which was a book that looked to me like a Bible. At the due time the man who was going to teach us about management introduced himself and then asked the audience: “Who has heard of Nehemiah?” A few hands went up – including mine. He then took the Bible from the lectern, held it up and said: “This is the best textbook you can get on all aspects of life – including management”. He went on to tell us that he was going to use Nehemiah as a case study. He was brilliant! We’ll take a look at Nehemiah’s leadership style next time.

Not only do we find much help from those God chose as leaders – we also see that He chose imperfect people. Most of the saints of old got it wrong from time to time – Abraham lied about Sarah, Noah got drunk, Moses lost his temper, David committed adultery, Elijah was suicidal, Jonah ran away, Thomas doubted, Peter denied Jesus, Paul persecuted Christians – need I go on? The amazing thing is that God forgave them as they repented and He continued to use them. All of us, as leaders, are constantly in need of the grace of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit as we battle with sin and failure. Praise Him – He is the God of the second (and third and fourth and fifth etc etc) chance as we submit to Him.

We don’t have time today to look at many examples – so here are just two – we’ll look at more next time:

Moses began life as a foundling and was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace at a time when his people were being sorely oppressed. He had a magnificent early training in the best educational establishments that Egypt could offer and, aged 40 years, he went out to deliver his fellow Israelites. But he got it wrong – he was 40 years too soon! He ran away and spent 40 years in the desert looking after his father-in-law’s sheep. It was then that God called him and, at 80 years old, he was able to become one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. What do we learn from this?

  • Nothing learned is ever wasted – God used his early education in Egypt to help him confront the Pharaoh of the day.
  • Attempt things for God in your own strength and you will fail.
  • Don’t despise the “wilderness experience”. Moses learned the ways of the desert through which he was to lead Israel.
  • Work with others where you can – Moses had Aaron with him, along with the elders of Israel.
  • Take advice from others – he listened to Jethro, his father-in-law, and reduced his burden by delegating to others (note, the Bible described those to whom he delegated “able men” – Genesis 18).
  • Train the one who will take your place – Joshua, while being God’s chosen man, had to learn the ropes.

Then there is Daniel. I relate to him – after all, he was a government official (that was his “day job”) but also a powerful and faithful prophet of God. He was from the Hebrew elite – but still carried off into exile by the Babylonians. Along with his three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, he refused to compromise on essential matters (eating kosher food and bowing down to graven images for example) and yet surpassed the other students in that year’s intake. You can read about it in the early chapters of the book that bears his name. God used him to interpret dreams, to guide the despotic kings who ruled over many years and to warn where necessary. The famous incident of the Den of Lions – when, incidentally, Danial was an old man, reminds us of his faithfulness over the whole of his career. This is what the first few verses of Daniel 6 have to say:

“It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

What a man! Would that all leaders – both in church and other spheres of service could be described like that.

Next time we’ll take a brief look at some more leaders from the Scriptures.

A prayer: “Thank you, Lord, that Your word pulls no punches about those you called to lead. Thank you for what we can learn from them and what it tells us about your outrageous grace – for which we thank You – in Jesus Name”


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Church Leadership

Session 2: What does it mean? Understanding the jargon


Welcome to the second of these podcasts on church leadership. Last time we asked the question: “Who is in charge?” The answer, of course, being that Jesus is the Head of the church – and therefore the Boss. In this session we are going to consider some of the terms that are used when talking about church and church leadership and attempt to be clear on what we mean as we go through this series.

Let’s start with the word “church”. We get our word “church” from the Greek "ecclesia" which literally means "assembly", "congregation", or the place where such a gathering occurs. Over the years, “church” has come to signify both a specific edifice of Christian worship (a "church"), and the overall community of the faithful (the "Church").

According to the New Testament, the earliest Christians did not build church buildings. Instead, they gathered in homes (Acts 17:5, 20:20, 1 Corinthians 16:19) or in Jewish worship places like the Temple in Jerusalem or synagogues (Acts 2:46, 19:8) – or in hired premises. It wasn’t until the 11th and 12th centuries that church buildings were erected and used for public worship and meetings of the church.

The proper use of the word “church” is when describing the body of believers who have been born again of the Spirit of God and accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. We see this expressed locally, nationally and internationally as all believers are part of the one Church.

Some “flavours” of the church retain a local leadership (with perhaps some affiliation to a national body), some have a more hierarchical structure both nationally and internationally. When we look at some aspects of leadership, we will attempt to make it clear what style of leadership we are talking about. So – church is the people, not buildings.

Now we come to terms commonly used for leadership roles in churches:
Some churches have bishops, priests and deacons – and all these terms are used in the New Testament. Other churches have other titles for their ministers – such as apostle, elder and pastor – and these terms also occur in the New Testament. Other terms within the hierarchy of some churches – such as dean, canon, cardinal and pope – have no Scriptural basis – and various words are used to describe the typical role of priest – such as rector, vicar etc.

Incidentally, the word ”minister” simply means servant – so it is a legitimate term to use for anyone serving the church of God in whatever capacity. I was stuck in traffic on the South Circular Road in London some years ago and saw a church noticeboard which said – among other things – “Ministers: The whole congregation”. I like that.

First of all – bishops: – the Greek word can also be properly translated ‘overseers’, ‘superintendents’ or ‘elders’. At one church where I was an Elder, one of the elderly gentlemen there used to greet me with “Good morning, Bishop” – and while it sounded strange in the Pentecostal church that we were – he was right. They feature always as a group within a given church – there is no single ‘bishop’ or ‘elder’ that holds office on their own.

‘Deacons’ are distinct from elders, and again spoken of as a group consisting of local people. Their name – ‘deacon’ means ‘server’ – suggests that their function was more practical – perhaps along the lines first explored in Acts 6. We shall use Stephen, one that early group, as an example when we look in more detail at this role.

Now let’s have look at ‘priests’. In Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus (the Pastoral Epistles) the word never occurs – Hebrews is the book where it is most frequently used in the New Testament. It refers first of all to the priests of the old covenant whose role was to offer sacrifice in the tabernacle/temple. But the preacher to the Hebrews argues that the role is now finished and there is no more place for animal sacrifice or for the priests who offer it. Instead there is Jesus as the Great High Priest and all believers have access to God through Christ’s single sacrifice. The idea of a priesthood that holds office in the church is not one held forth in the New Testament – all believers have a priestly ministry (that is: speaking to God for the people). The Greek word for ‘elder’ is presbyteros from which we get our English word ‘priest’. So, as time went on, a threefold pattern of bishop, priest and deacon became the standard form.

Peter, when talking to “the shepherds of God’s flock” (1 Peter 5:1 & 2) – from where we get our title of pastor – addresses them as ‘elders’. So pastors are simply “shepherds” and lead God’s people with an emphasis on the more gentle and caring aspect of “eldering”. Incidentally, Peter here describes himself as a “fellow elder” – and he was the recognised leader of the Christian Church at that time.

The basic meaning of apostle (apostolos) is simply that of one sent on a mission. In its primary and most technical sense apostle is used in the New Testament only of the twelve, including Matthias, who replaced Judas (Acts 1:26), and of Paul, who was uniquely set apart as apostle to the Gentiles The term apostle is used in a more general sense of other men in the early church, such as Barnabas (Acts 14:4), Silas and Timothy (1 Thess. 2:6), and a few other outstanding leaders (Rom. 16:7; 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25).

We must be careful not to import our own understanding of these ‘ministry’ words back into them. We must recognise that both the words we use - and the nature of the offices they denote - have been through a long process of development. These letters were written to churches in the early stages of that development – and we must read them with a due awareness of the distance between those early days and the structures we find in most churches today.

We will look in more detail at these roles in future podcasts.

A prayer: Father, thank you for the church that I am part of – and thank You for those who lead us. May they know Your blessing as they follow You. Amen

Next week we will asking the question: “What does both the Old and New Testaments teach us about leadership?” Thank you and God bless you!


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Church Leadership

Session 1: Who is in charge?

and it’s not me – or you)

I was in our local Christian bookshop the other day and found that they had about 300 books on church leadership – and I’ve got at least 25 on my bookshelves here at home.

I’m Andrew Clarke and I am now happily retired from a career as an accountant mainly in the public sector. Early in my working life God impressed on me that I was to be a “positive Christian witness in a secular society”. So, despite having been a church elder for some time when God put this on my heart – and having been courted by some to be in “full time service” (by the way, that’s a daft expression – all of us who are born again of the Spirit of God are full time for the Master), I did as I was told and God blessed that obedience. And having risen to very senior positions in big multi-million pound organisations, I learned on the way up that the skills God was gifting me with were of real relevance both in the workplace and in church.

As far as leadership roles in church goes, I became an elder at 23 (the church needed a Treasurer and the other elders considered I was the one - and it was an Elder role in that church) and, apart from some short breaks because of moving location and other circumstances, I’ve been graced to serve in church leadership since then. I did have a period – just under 20 years – when I was the leader of small church near to where we lived at the time. But I still retained my “day job” through all of this in obedience to my calling. Incidentally, 45 years on from those early days – I’ve become a church treasurer again! And I still have a “secular” part time role with one of our local police forces.

So – I come with some experience of my own, some lessons that I’ve learned by watching others (you can take that whichever way you like!) some by reading – but most importantly, as one who has been reading and meditating on the Scriptures and listening to the Holy Spirit over many years. Having said that, I feel utterly unequal to the task and it’s only by His grace and the empowering of the Holy Spirit that we can do anything fruitful for Him.

In these twelve podcasts, I intend, with God’s help, to answer some questions about church leadership. It will not be an exhaustive study – but I trust they will be a blessing to all of you – not just those that are leaders but also those whom God is preparing for this role and for those who enjoy (I did NOT say “endure”) being led.

But before all that we need to answer the question “Who is in charge?”.
There is only one God – and it’s not me – or you!

Paul, in Colossians 1:15–20, says: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

So Jesus is the Head of the Church – that means He is the Boss!

Paul, in Ephesians 1:23-24, makes a similar assertion: “And God placed all things under his [Jesus] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

And Jesus Himself, when responding to Peter’s confession the he is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, described the coming church as “My church” (Matthew 16:18).

Paul – the pioneering Church leader – described himself at the beginning of most of the letters he wrote as a “servant (better translated as ‘bond slave’) of Jesus Christ”.

To be an effective leader in the Church of Jesus Christ we must be a slave – obedient to the Head and willing to fulfil His purposes as He reveals them to us.

So – who is in charge? Jesus is – He is the supreme One. Let us bow at His feet as humble bond

A prayer: Father God, as we begin this look at church leadership, may we recognise Jesus as Head and Lord of the church. Help us always and in everything to submit to Him as Master.

Amen.

Next time we will ask the question: “What does it mean” and try to explain the words we use when talking about the church and church leadership.

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