Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C. spoke about Growing Healthy Churches at a one-day conference at Duke Street Church, Richmond-upon-Thames. His final session focused on the importance of Raising up Godly Leaders. Mark has kindly allowed 9:38 to summarise his advice on identifying, training and growing godly leaders. As Mark explained, these are not an exposition of the biblical qualifications for eldership but wisdom on how church leaders can cultivate people who are already showing the kind of qualities set out in the Pastoral Epistles.
The Spirit gives two overlapping lists of qualifications for eldership (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1) to help us understand that neither list is exhaustive. Elders should be men who are following Christ and following him well. It would be wise to seek those who are reading their Bibles regularly and who have natural gifts of leadership. Moreover, make sure they desire the role; it is a “noble task” and not an easy role to graft someone in to. It is legitimate to plant the idea, initiate conversations and then pray for God to form that desire but at the end of the day they must be “willingly conscripted.”
We must be opportunistic – when we see people doing ministry we should harness that for the benefit of the church.
We must actively look for those whom God is raising up around us since it is first and foremost the Lord’s work. We must be opportunistic – when we see people doing ministry we should harness that for the benefit of the church. This is part of recognising God’s sovereignty and Christ’s gifts to his church. It is not our job to “make” leaders in settings where there are none, instead we should pray. Good looking requires spending time with people, creating small events where people can exercise leadership. It is wise to use the congregation to help you see; encourage them to “positively gossip” about those who are exercising pastoral leadership.
We should be willing to believe the best about someone rather than wait for them to prove themselves. In other words, don’t be too conservative! Give people something to “spend” (i.e. ministry to get on with) to see how they do.
4. Personal time
Mark 3:14 records in broad, simple terms that Jesus chose twelve men “so that they might be with him.” Following Jesus’ example means being available to people, not building walls around yourself so that you’re kept from the congregation. So allow people to have lunch with you, take people along as you go on an errand, even invite someone to do some sermon prep with you.
The church must not be an echo chamber for our own teaching but for the teaching of the word of God.
Be generous in giving young men opportunities to teach – the logic of 2 Tim 2:2 requires this. Keep quiet lists of those we are trying to give such opportunities to. Create a culture in your church where people are not surprised the senior pastor is not teaching. Be aware of the variety of settings in which someone can teach – Sunday school, small groups, leading services, scripture reading, saying prayers, working with youth etc. The church must not be an echo chamber for our own teaching but for the teaching of the word of God.
Many Proverbs encourage giving godly criticism (e.g. 12:12, 14:25, 16:13, 23:23, 24:26). It is good to think out loud with others, to explain why we’re doing things. Give godly encouragement and model receiving godly criticism and encouragement as well.
Those we wish to train as leaders must be at home with authority. It is good for churches when men rightly exercise authority. Potential leaders need to see, in a culture that is suspicious of it, that authority is good and life giving (cf. 2 Sam 23:3-4). We don’t want people in leadership who have a tendency to abuse authority or who have a “thinness” and a defensiveness about their own leadership.
Potential leaders cannot simply be in agreement with the gospel (or the church’s statement of faith) but must also be able to understand and explain it to others and to do so with clarity. Those who have this gift should be encouraged.
…rejoice in the leadership of others rather than feel threatened by it
We want an open atmosphere that is pro-humility and against envy, where the fear of God and not man is cultivated, where we rejoice in the leadership of others rather than feel threatened by it. Pastors with strong gifts which they don’t use wisely may discourage others who would be perfectly good pastors from entering the ministry. We need to be tenderhearted but also thick skinned, cultivating humility that will allow more leaders to be raised up in our churches.