by Tim Challies of Informing the Reforming
All leaders want to be successful. Success has its perks, but it also has its downside—and being highly successful can have a highly dangerous downside. A leader can become domineering and dictatorial, resulting in devastated lives, decimated churches and demise of ministries. Church leaders without sufficient accountability can fall into destructive leadership styles, immoral behavior or questionable ethical activities. Leadership can isolate and overwhelm a person with demands on their time and energy, making him easy fodder for the enemy of his soul. Burn out, fall out and space out is all too common. The worst part of all? God’s reputation takes a hit.
The solo or CEO style leadership model common in popular Christianity today may be the culprit, when it fails to mobilize and utilize the full breadth of spiritual gifting within the church. Many churches are moving toward a return to:
Leadership by a plurality of biblically qualified, pastoral elders.
Notice the key words of this statement. “Plurality” speaks of shared leadership, which includes accountability among equals. When the apostle Paul and Barnabas established churches, “they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, [and] they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23). The contrast between “elders” (plural) and “every church” (singular) suggests a leadership team in each church, with no mention of one individual appointed to having more or independent authority. Accountability would be inherent in such a team. Today, just as in the early church, accountability inherent in team leadership is needed more than ever. The beloved apostle John warns about Diotrophes, “who loves to be first among them [and] does not accept what we say” (3 John 9). Leadership in the church helps stem the Diotrophes syndrome which all leaders struggle with, the tendency to resist accountability to others.
“Biblically qualified” refers to the character traits laid out in key biblical passages (1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4, Acts 20:28). We must not water down these qualifications or descriptors to an “acceptable” level. The highest standards must be maintained at all levels of church leaders, especially among the elders. “Pastoral” captures the idea of elders who actually shepherd the people of God, not just sit as a decision-making board. Peter wrote to the elders among the scattered believers, “[S]hepherd the flock of God among you …” (1 Peter 5:2).
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