Family Bible Study lesson for June 20: Church Leadership : Friday, May 28, 2004
May 28 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study lesson for June 20: Church Leadership : Friday, May 28, 2004
Friday, May 28, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for June 20: Church Leadership

By Vic Ramsey
Focal Passage: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17-18; Hebrews 13:7, 17-18

It's hard to deny that a crisis in church leadership exists today. Our own association routinely has a quarter of its churches without pastors. Across our convention, approximately 1,000 pastors and staff members are either fired or forced to resign annually.

Those statistics don't count the many churches suffering from inadequate leadership. Neither do they account for the many fine ministers who fail to receive the support they need to be fruitful. For our churches to be effective, we must solve the leadership crisis facing us.

Qualifications for leaders

1 Timothy 3:1-7

The term "overseer" (or "bishop," KJV) refers to the leader of a congregation, the individual we would call the "senior pastor." Nevertheless, the qualifications that follow apply alike to staff members and volunteer leaders.

Being "above reproach" means living in such a way that accusations will not be believed. Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, captured this trait with the aphorism: "When men speak ill of thee, live so that no one will believe them."

Some hold that the phrase "husband of one wife" precludes divorced persons from leadership, while others argue this prescription refers to a ban on polygamy.

An "able teacher" refers to the intellectual ability and communication skills required to be able to explain the gospel and its implications.

In our day, the standard of excellence expected for teaching and preaching has risen dramatically. Mediocrity is no longer acceptable, if it ever was.

The phrase "not addicted to (much, KJV) wine" refers to persistent drunkenness. While Paul does not prohibit drinking per se, prudence and a concern for one's public witness may lead a minister to abstain completely.

In verses 4-5, Paul reflects on a leader's family life. Regardless of the position one takes about prior divorce, the quality of one's present marriage and parenting does reflect upon a leader's qualification for service. This doesn't mean that every "bump in the road" should disqualify someone from service, but it does mean that the home is the first and best reflection of a person's fitness for leadership responsibilities.

Last of all, Paul reminds his readers that leaders are not to be new converts. The young, chronologically and spiritually, need the seasoning of experience. Many young ministers would be well served by a mentoring relationship with an older, wiser friend in the ministry.

Support for leaders

1 Timothy 5:17-18

The work of ministerial leadership is worthy of a church's financial support. When the responsibilities require full-time attention, the church is obliged to provide sufficient financial support. This support is not something the church "gives" to its pastor; it is something the pastor earns.

Follow leaders' examples

Hebrews 13:7

The gospels, Paul's letters and the other New Testament texts, were not collected and widely distributed for several centuries. In the first century, then, how to live as a Christian was learned from the lives of the church's primary leaders. Thus, the importance of a leader setting a good example, and the importance of a church carefully observing that example and imitating their faith.

Submit to and pray for leaders

Hebrews 13:17-18

The command to "obey your leaders and submit to them" is not a warrant for dictatorial or tyrannical leadership.

Pastors would be well advised to learn what I call "Ferebee's Law," named after an older deacon in our church, now with Jesus. Mr. Ferebee told me one day that "the only thing a Baptist will do because you tell him to is stay home. Everything else, you better ask."

That said, when leaders, by virtue of their demonstrated character and ability, seek to lead a congregation, members must let them. One of the largely unacknowledged barriers to church growth is that, as a church grows, it becomes harder for lay leaders to keep track of everything going on, and it becomes more dependent on paid staff. Many church members resist this loss of power, and the church stagnates, or conflict erupts.

The most important support for leaders is prayer. Nothing helps a church's relationship with its pastor more than responding to the simple request, "pray for me."
5/28/2004 12:00:00 AM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

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