What does God require of a church leader?

What does God require of a church leader?

(The original post was written in May 2012 and can be seen here: The Required Character of a Church Leader)

There were certain qualifications given to the godly leader in the Old Testament. He had to possess the credentials of godly character (Ex. 18:21; Deut. 1:13). He had to have a spiritual disposition and enablement from the Lord and he had to possess an authorized call or election to the office. In the New Testament, God required His offices (deacon and elder) be filled by male believer-priests who manifested the right equipment (Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:11, 28; Eph. 4:11f), the right motivation (Phil 2:13; 1 Tim. 3:1) and the right qualities (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Ti. 1:5-9).


The Leader Needs the Right Equipment 

That is, they have the right gifts for the job. God endows these men with certain gifts and gives the men to His church (Mk. 16:15-18; Lk. 21:15; 24:49; Acts 1:8; 1 Tim. 5:22; 3:1-7; Ti. 1:7). He must be gifted and able to exhort (1 Thess. 2:11,12), lead (1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; 1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17), serve (Acts 20:24f; Rom. 15:26-33), share his resources with others (Acts 4; Eph. 4:28), and show mercy (Matt. 25; 1 Cor. 12:28).


The Leader Must Have the Right Motivation 

What we mean is that he has the inward call from God. He is responsive to the gifting and the Holy Spirit's call in his life (Acts 20:28), and hence he desires (1 Tim. 3:1) the office. His motives are biblical and Christ-like (1 Peter 5:1ff). Not only does one have the inward call of God, but the community of God must recognize his call as a qualified and legitimate call (Acts 6). He cannot merely assume because he may be gifted and has that inner motive that he can assume the office of elder. He must also be properly called of God through the means of God’s church (Jer. 23:32; Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4).

The Leader Must Have the Right Character

What are the Right Qualities or Character of a Godly Leader?

As Kevin Reed points out, “these qualities focus upon the three important aspects of a man’s life: his moral behavior, his knowledge of Christian doctrine, and his family life. An elder continually will be in public view. The respect an officer receives often depends more on an example of good character than from anything else about him” (Biblical Church Government, p. 9). All godly men should have these qualities but the man who is selected for the office of elder must be measured by these qualities to see if he is ready for the office (1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2; Ti, 2:7,8).

Here are some essential characteristics of a good, natural leader:

1.     Courage
2.    Decisive
3.    Discipline
4.    Executive ability
5.    Friendship
6.    Humility
7.    Humor
8.    Inspirational ability
9.    Patience
10.   Righteous anger
11.    Vision
12.    Wisdom


The specific Biblical characteristics of a godly leader are:

(Check and see if these also apply to you?)

Above Reproach (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6)

To be above reproach means, "not to be laid hold of; nothing is open to rebuke." Here is the reference to the general character or the sum total of those godly virtues. It means you are not open to censure and possess obvious integrity, in accord with the Biblical requirement for leadership.

Restrained Control (1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Thess. 5:6,8)

You are temperate. There is a sobriety of life where you are free from excesses and not inebriated with the issues of life. It has the idea of being self-controlled through the work of the Spirit of God (Gal. 5; Phil. 2:13) and by godly wisdom.  It does not carry with it the idea of a strictly disciplined person, but rather one who is disciplined and properly flexible in the use and application of all things for the glory of God.

1. Restrained control in that you are gentle. 

Read: 2 Samuel 22:36; Psalm 18:35; 1 Timothy 3:2,3

The idea of gentleness, a very important quality in a godly leader, is that of being patient, mild, reasonable, full of grace and graciousness.  This comes to light in not defending or insisting on one’s own ways. Gentleness sees people as sensitive beings; it deals with people where they are. The gentle man shows carefulness in choosing words and expressions so as not to offend unnecessarily (Gal. 6:1).  He reflects care, affection, and good-will toward others (Eph. 4:2). He is not abrupt or critical in his communications. It is a quality the godly leader is to pursue (1 Tim. 6:11).  In short, he exercises the fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:23; Phil. 4:5). Here are some characteristic ways one is biblically gentle:

(1) A true gentle person, like Jesus Christ.

Approachable (his personality has no sharp edges; after all, you cannot hug a porcupine).
•    Firm but diplomatic even when correcting opponents (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:23-25).
•    Kind and gracious like Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:29; Acts 24:4; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2:7).
•    his wisdom is a biblical wisdom exercised in gentleness (James 3:17).

(2) Gentle in that you are not pugnacious (1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7).

Not a striker; not prone to violence; not given to blows; not a fighter. You are not one who is harsh with words. You don’t lash out when hurt nor incite arguments or alienate people by your attacking manner. You don’t follow through with your hot temper. (Prov. 3:30; 15:18; 17:14; 20:3; 25:8; 26:17; Phil. 2:3)

(3) Gentle in that you are not quarrelsome (1 Tim. 3:2, 3; 2 Tim. 2:14)

Adverse to verbal fighting, quarreling, arguing. Know what, when, and how to argue rightly. No tendency to delight in outdoing others and defeating their ideas and beliefs; thus, no harsh dogmatism or a strongly offensive approach toward people. Not a contentious disputer. (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:22-26; Ti. 3:9)

On the positive side, you have a sense of peace, tranquility, and calmness. You are a peacemaker; one who is able to bring calm to a stormy situation. (Eccl. 10:4; Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14; Jas. 3:17)

2. Restrained control in that you are not greedy(1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7)

The acquisition of money or things (that which sustains or makes up life) is not seen as a high priority in your life. Your life is characterized by simplicity and humility in attitude and economic style. Heavenly priorities dominate (Matt. 6:33). Your possessions should not reflect comfort-seeking in things or in the undue accumulation of things. You have a firm conviction in resisting dishonest and shady methods for acquiring money or things. Free from the love of money. This is one of the deadly sins of a godly leader (1 Tim. 6:5-10; Acts 20:33; 2 Tim. 3:6-7).

3. Restrained control in that you are not given to selfish anger  (Ti. 1:7)

You are not prone to anger; not overly passionate. No trigger temper or character that is generally irritable. Not too easily offended, thus unapproachable and unpredictable in temper. (Pro. 16:32)

4. Restrained control in that you are not given to much wine(1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7)

This means you do not linger over wine. You are not over-indulgent or a chronic drunk.  You control the wine, it does not control you.  The principle is one of control over bodily appetites. (Gen. 19; Prov. 20:1; 23; Eccles. 10:17; Isa. 5:11; Isa. 28:1; Luke 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Eph. 5:18)

The overall character is that you are self-controlled (Ti. 1:8)

You have a mastery over self. Your passions and appetites are controlled. You are not lazy, gluttonous or given to filthy talk (Eph. 5:4). You have an ordered life, one reflecting heavenly pursuits and priorities. (Acts 24:25; Rom. 6:12; Jas. 3:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-7; Matt. 26:41; 1 Cor. 10:12; 1 Pet. 5:8)

Humility (you are not self-willed)    

This means that you are not anxious to please yourself. You are not willful, obstinate, domineering, arrogant, or narcissistic.  You do not stand hard on “everything” you believe and do not insist on your own way, ideas, or beliefs. You have a genuine interest in others and in what they say.  Being self-willed is also characteristic of one who delights much in his own appearance, performance, or status to the obvious neglect of others.  Humility is being teachable, thinking rightly about yourself. (Rom. 12:3, 10, 16), seeing yourself before the face of God.  (Luke 14:10; Phil 2:3; Ti. 1:7; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5)

Holiness (Ti. 1:8)

Religiously, biblically devout, pious.  You are consistent in carrying out the Gospel in private and public affairs of life.  You live out the Spirit-filled life of Christ. (Lev. 11:45; Luke 1:74,75; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:11)

Hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10;  Ti. 1:9; 1 Pet. 4:9)

The love of Christ in you exhibits itself by loving your neighbor as yourself. You are kind to others, even strangers.  You are also generous.  This love of your heart is expressed with the open door, demonstrating our kind, compassionate, welcoming Savior.  The biblical leader is a model and pacesetter in this. (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2)

Just (Ti. 1:8) 

This means upright, righteous.  You are impartial in dealing with people. You are able to forget personal interests when it comes to seeking the truth in situations, in inter-personal conflicts, or as an umpire over differences. You speak what is right with an ability to hear both sides and weigh the evidence honestly. (Deut. 16:20; Psa. 82:3; Prov. 21:3; Isa. 56:1; Rom. 13:7; Col. 4:1)

Lover of good (Ti. 1:8)

You have a love of virtue, good men, and good things. Your affections are attached to the Lord, to good things and godly people rather than being drawn toward worldly pleasures and gratifications.  Your concern is toward holiness, Spirit-empowered obedience to God’s Word, an anticipation of the world to come. You have a love of God’s truth rather than such things as position, fame, abilities, possessions, etc., which are soon to pass away. (1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 3:6; 4:14; 10:23; Rev. 3:3)

Prudent (1 Tim. 3:2; Ti. 1:8)  

In other words, you have a sound and self-controlled mind. You are temperate. Not controlled by impulse but by principle. You are responsible, as opposed to a feeling-oriented life. Your life reflects Biblical priorities, demonstrates sound thinking, and right decision making because you are thinking God’s thoughts about the issues of life.

Respectable (1 Tim. 3:2)

Well-ordered, well-arranged, decorous in behavior and speech. The term may refer to:  a. manners, etiquette, and personal habits;  b. the simplicity of lifestyle rather than eccentricity or extravagance; or c. a general reference to a rightly ordered life.

You have inoffensive socially acceptable manners. You are gentlemanly in your treatment of women, in your dress, hygiene, eating habits, sociability with various people. You are respectable because you respect others (men, women, young, old). You are unpretentious, modest, with an easy-going lifestyle.

Of the many things God requires for his leaders in His church, the most important thing next to a saving faith in Jesus Christ is a godly character.  Those who aspire to serve as a deacon, elder, or pastor must possess these traits substantially and obviously.

These are the essential requirements for the church leader.  How do you measure up?

The Perfect Pastor?
By D. Thomas Owsley