There is a great lack of true biblical gospel order among many churches in this world. When Christ walked this earth, ?there was? a strife among [His disciples], which of them should be accounted the greatest.? (Luke 22:24) In Matthew?s account of this incident, we find that Jesus corrected them by saying, ?Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.? (Matthew 20:25-28)
In Christ?s church there is no room for men ruling over men, yet this wickedness is practiced in most churches of today. The disciples wanted to rule over others, and this unholy ambition finally bore fruit in the papacy. The pope took to himself the place of God, and set himself up to rule over men. Paul prophesied that someone would come ?who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.? (2 Thessalonians 2:4) This spirit of rulership is practiced by many church leaders of today. Even though few have gone as far as the papacy in usurping God?s authority, it is the very same spirit being manifested: the spirit of Satan. Jesus rebuked this spirit whenever He noticed it.
Jesus said, ?Be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.? (Matthew 23:8-12)
Sadly, many people in the church are perfectly happy to have men ruling over them, and even encourage this wickedness among their leaders. This happened in Paul?s day, but he did not let it go unrebuked. He wrote, ?Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.? (1 Corinthians 1:12-15) Paul recognized the danger of men looking to other men to rule over them, and he rebuked this spirit as being from the carnal, sinful nature; from Satan himself. Notice also that Paul rebuked the attitude of separation or denominationalism. We are not to be followers of Luther, or Wesley, or any man or woman; we are to be followers of Christ. That is what it means to be a Christian.
Paul found it necessary to rebuke this denominational mentality when he wrote, ?For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.? (1 Corinthians 3:3-7)
Paul called people to look to God for direction and guidance, not to men. He said, ?Let God be true, but every man a liar.? (Romans 3:4) He said that the Bereans were noble because ?they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.? (Acts 17:11) It is a noble trait to receive the word with an open mind, and study the Bible diligently to see if those things are so. Too many people blindly follow their leaders, trusting them to lead them into the kingdom but, when this happens, all Satan has to do is deceive one person, and many will follow that person to destruction. God has warned us, ?For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.? (Isaiah 9:16) This is very serious, and if we do not heed this warning, we may very well be destroyed with the rest of the wicked. Jesus said, ?If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.? (Matthew 15:14)
This brings up the grave importance for leaders of God?s people to be faithful and true to their calling. Too many are only interested in benefitting themselves with little to no regard for the people whom God has entrusted them to teach. Jesus referred to these men as hirelings who do not care for the sheep. (John 10:13) Paul warned about this type of minister when he gave counsel regarding elders. He said that an elder must not be ?given to filthy lucre? (literally: greedy for gain or money).
Paul gave much counsel regarding the character of one who is to be an elder or leader of God’s people. God’s people need good leadership and counsel, that is why Paul told Timothy, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” (Titus 1:5) There need to be elders in every city, and in every congregation. God has ordained that there be godly leaders in His church. Paul wrote that Christ “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11, 12) These leaders are needed by the church, yet, if they do not meet the requirements of the Bible, then they are more of a curse to the church than a blessing. That is why it is so important for God to use the people in the church to choose good and faithful elders and church leaders. That’s right, God uses the people in the congregation to choose their own leaders. Too often, the church people think that it is not their duty to choose elders and pastors, and leave it up to others to make that decision for them. This ought not to be.
The apostles laid down a principle in this matter. They said to the people of the church, ?Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.? (Acts 6:3) The apostles recognized that the people in the church were the best able to choose their own leaders. They are the ones who know who is best suited for the job. Paul wrote, ?We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.? (1 Thessalonians 5:12) The leaders of any particular congregation must be well known by that congregation. They must have a good reputation, and be recognized by the congregation as men who are filled with the Holy Spirit; men of integrity and honesty. Unfortunately, in many congregations, the congregation does not have a say in who is to be their pastor. Some committee outside the congregation makes that decision for them, and if the congregation does not like who has been chosen to be their pastor, there is not much they can do about it. Friends, this is a very sad state of affairs, and completely contrary to the Word of God. It creates situations that are very unhealthy for the church, and it must be avoided.
The Bible gives strict guidelines for an elder or pastor. When the congregation chooses an elder or a pastor, they need to examine each of the requirements, and seek the Lord earnestly before making a decision. God chooses leaders in His church, yet He uses you, the people of the church, the congregation because, of all people, you are best suited to know if these requirements are true about the men who are chosen to labor among you. You do not have the right to make these decisions for another congregation. You, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can only make these decisions for yourselves, and let other congregations make these decisions for themselves. Please read Acts 13:1-4, where God used His Spirit to instruct the people of the church to send out missionaries.
Please notice each of the following guidelines; each of which must be true about any possible candidate for a leadership position in the church. (These are taken from Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Timothy 3:2-7, unless otherwise noted.)
- Husband of one wife
- Having faithful children who are not unruly or riotous
- Not selfwilled (not doing his own will, but doing the will of God and of the congregation)
- Not soon angry
- Not given to wine
- Not a striker (not a contentious or quarrelsome person)
- Not greedy of gain or money
- A lover of hospitality
- A lover of good men
- Sober (of a sound mind)
- Temperate (self controlled)
- Holding fast the faithful Word of God
- Able by sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers
- Of good behaviour
- Given to hospitality
- Apt to teach (literally: teachable and able to teach others)
- Not a brawler (not someone who cannot be reasoned with, who is invincible)
- Not covetous
- One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity
- Not a novice (not young and inexperienced in the faith)
- Not proud
- He must have a good report of them which are without (he must be respected and liked by people outside the congregation, by his neighbors and acquaintances)
- Must not be seeking to rule others (Matthew 20:25-28)
- Must not be someone who thinks of himself higher than others (Matthew 23:8-12; Philippians 2:3)
- Must be a servant to the people (Matthew 23:8-12)
- Must care for the people (John 10:13)
- Must not be a hireling who is only in it for the money (John 10:13)
- Must be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3)
As a congregation, you must seriously consider each of these requirements, and know if a man meets all of them before he is chosen to be your pastor or elder. Anyone who is seeking to be an elder or pastor must ask himself if he meets these requirements. If not he must meet these requirements or realize that God has not called him to be a leader.
God said, ?Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.? (Jeremiah 23:1-4)
God has a wonderful plan for His church. He is going to take away the evil leadership, and give his people shepherds who will feed them and help them. Praise God for His mighty work that He is doing among His people. Let us cooperate with Him and work according to His plan, so that we can have true, biblical gospel order.