Spiritual Warfare and Church Leadership
… and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that we will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (I Timothy 3:6-7).
Paul concludes his list of qualifications for overseers/elders/pastors with these words, in both cases letting forth a requirement, followed by a reason for it. And in both cases the reason for the requirement involves something to do with the devil.
The profile being developed in I Timothy 3:1-8 is one of outstanding character and spiritual maturity, especially relative to the rest of the church body. In other words, the church leaders should obviously be those who are further along in the journey, who have some battle scars, who have experienced some failure and defeat and have continued in the faith. Paul does not put a number of years on it.
No new convert should ever be elevated to leadership status, to the pulpit or the speaking circuit. This happens time and again with either famous people, like athletes or celebrities that profess faith in Christ, or with the highly gifted. This is extremely dangerous according to Paul and actually unloving and unhelpful to the individual being elevated. No baby Christian should be asked to be an elder or deacon for the simple reason that this will tempt them to pride and conceit. Becoming full of himself, the new convert easily falls into the same kind of condemnation that fell upon Lucifer when he exalted himself.
Church leadership is serious business.
So, no elder can be a new convert, but with that being said, he must be a convert! Too often in church circles you can find pastors and elders who aren’t even converts to Christ, meaning they have never been convicted of their sins by God the Holy Spirit and led to repentance and personal trust in Christ as Lord of their lives and Savior from God’s wrath. Maybe they simply grew up in church and people said they would make a good pastor. Maybe they went through some prescribed denominational tradition and confirmed as a Christian without ever actually repenting of their sins and making a personal faith commitment to Christ. It happens. A lot. So while he can’t be a new convert, he must be a convert.
Then with enough time in the Lord, enough seasoning and maturing past this new phase and way of life, with enough time for this new born baby to become a young man and the young man in Christ to become a father in Christ, this man can be considered for the office of elder or pastor. Along the way, he’s had enough time to develop as well a good reputation with those outside the church. Not that he is loved by the world or blends into the world, but that the world of unbelievers hold him in high esteem as an honest, kind, godly man of integrity. He’s not standoffish and aloof so that those outside are suspicious of him and see him as prideful. Nor is he trivial and full of frivolity and goofiness that he lacks respect of others. Nor is he sanctimonious and obnoxious with his faith. Rather, the unbeliever interacts with this person and comes away saying, “that’s a good man. That’s a man of integrity.”
If he’s a cheat or bum or hypocrite and becomes a known church leader, the church takes a huge hit to its testimony in the community. The man himself falls into the reproach of the devil and the devil’s trap. He will be mocked and ridiculed and people will roll their eyes and mutter under their breath – “he’s a pastor? What a joke.” The one laughing the loudest is the devil. Another church neutralized.
Church leadership is serious business. God’s business. The sheep need qualified shepherds to care for them and protect them. This is spiritual war. The enemy is active, especially in regards to leaders. The roaring lion is hungry. Let all Christians be reminded that we are in war. Let all church members pray diligently and daily for their church leaders who are on the front lines of this war.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight