Leaders… they just might be “everything”


Leaders… they just might be “everything”

I’ve been the pastor at Cornerstone EFC in Rochester, MN for over 8 years now. There are many things for which I can give thanks to the Lord: wonderful people who love the Lord, absence of divisions and factions of any kind whatsoever, no worship wars, a growing awareness and invovlement in the effort to see the Gospel taken to the unreached parts of the world… the list can go on.

However, one of the gifts from God I really am most thankful for as a pastor is my leadership. I had a discussion with Tom Mouw, the North Central District of the EFCA’s superintendent this past week. During that time, one of the topics was leadership, the quality of leadership and the level of troubles within a church. After so many hours involved in helping churches resolve conflicts, he’s found that one of the first things he’ll look for is whether 1 Timothy 3 has been violated in the choice of leaders for that church. He has yet to see one of the compromised, dysfunctional, chronically sick churches keeping 1 Timothy 3 and still having the problems they are having. In other words, have godly leaders, spiritually qualified leaders, leaders with Christ-like character and you’re far more likely to avoid major problems.

For this, I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: Cornerstone has been blessed by seeking to follow 1 Timothy 3 in its selection and maintenance of its Elders and Deacons. We’ve not always seen eye to eye on every issue we’ve dealt with over eight years; but because we love our Lord, each other and the unity of the Spirit He’s given us, we’ll either work out the disagreements or agree to love each other more than the individual issues we’re working with.

This hasn’t always been the case in churches where I’ve served. One church had a system of electing a church chairman (not a elder or a deacon, but a chairman; I’ve wondered about this practice… nothing particularly biblical about it, is there?). This man could serve for a term of 2-3 years, I don’t recall right now. After serving for this term, he needed to, according to by-laws, step down for at least one year. This church had the practice of allowing the vice-chairman to step into the chair’s position for the one year necessary to then allow the previous chairman to return to his position. If either of these men (and I’m not doubting their salvation, their sincerity or desire to serve) had been qualified according to Scripture, this church might have avoided many of its problems (some of which are still lingering today).

Another church served had by-laws that called for a nomination committee to provide a list of candidates for available positions. Problem:
1) the by-laws required multiple names per position; in other words, this was a run-off type of election, forcing the committee to provide competition for each position
2) the by-laws also negated almost any work the nominating committee did by allowing “from the floor nominations” from the congregation without any approval from the committee or other church leadership
3) the nominating committee would read 1 Timothy 3 each year when they first met, then promptly say, “No one can actually meet these qualifications, so let’s see who we have available for service.”
Is it any wonder that this church still has on-going difficulties and has had a pastor turnover rate of one pastor for every four years or less?

But here, at Cornerstone, God has been exceedingly gracious. He’s given us wise leaders, godly leaders who were not only qualified when they became elders or deacons, but have continued to grow into these positions. There are many benefits of this process, not least of which is the wonderful absence of major conflict. One is the tremendous confidence I have as the pastor of this church, knowing that the elders/deacons will consider all things well and with prayer. Another is the great level of trust the congregation gives to these men. When you have men who seek the Lord in their decisions, who show their care for the people, who are committed to the Word of God, the people of God trust them and follow them willingly.

Oh, how I wish more and more churches would follow 1 Timothy 3 in their selection of leaders. Oh how I pray that God will continue to bless us, keep us humble, grant us His grace and lead us onward. And may He continue to bring us men who prove themselves through serving and then become well-qualified leaders.

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