Scripture is clear concerning the Lord’s qualifications for church leaders (Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; and James 3:1-2). Unfortunately, our me-centered society that places too much emphasis on tolerance has made many churches turn a blind-eye to Scripture’s standards. Consider five reasons why God places expectations on church leaders.
When leaders live up to the expectations of Scripture, their holy lives do a lot to support the ministry of the church. As the office of deacon was first established, the good reputation of the deacons was a powerful force in supporting the apostle’s work (Acts 6:4). In today’s church similar support is needed. I can think of occasions in which I have sought to be a witness for Christ to an outsider, only to have the person mention a church leader who had a bad testimony! Mark it down — blameless leaders are important!
Qualifications for church leaders and teachers are also important because of the way in which they compel people to pursue personal growth. I have often heard testimony from Sunday School teachers and ministry leaders concerning the way in which their respective roles have prompted them towards greater Christian maturity. James hinted towards this dynamic in his letter (James 3:1-2). Scripture’s requirement of leaders serves as a powerful catalyst for personal growth.
The Glory of God
Requirements for church leaders are also necessary because of the reputation of our Lord. When Moses struck the rock in anger, the Lord rejected him from leading the people of God into Canaan. The Lord’s punishment may seem a bit severe, but consider His rationale. He said, “Because you did not trust me to demonstrate my holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them” (Numbers 20:12). God wants leaders to live a cut above the rest so that they will shine His glory for all to see.
God also holds church leaders to a high standard because they are an example for other believers. Interestingly the qualification list for pastors and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 doesn’t contain exceptionally lofty standards. I once did a word study on each qualification in Paul’s list. In doing so, I learned that each qualification is a desired trait for every believer. God simply makes such expectations a requirement for leaders because He knows this — if leaders don’t embrace God’s desired virtues, followers never will. Church leaders should be an example for the church (1 Timothy 4:12).
Witness in the Community
Jesus told His earliest disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13). When the church and its leaders have morals and values that aren’t much different than those belonging to the world, it loses its power and its punch. Its preaching and its teaching becomes hollow and empty. For this reason, God holds preachers, teachers, and deacons to a high standard. Hypocritical and corrupt leaders give the church a black eye in the community.
Dr. Patrick Latham