Thursday, August 11, 2011

Church Leadership Requirements - part 1

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, August 7, 2011

1 Peter 5:1-4, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

In the flyleaf of one of my Bibles, I have written a summary of what my father-in-law shared with me a long time ago about church leadership.

As we begin a month-long look at this subject, in preparation for our church elections, I would like to relay some of these gems my father-in-law gave to me all those years ago. I trust that these insights into church leadership will help and inspire those of us who lead, but also that they will guide and instruct those who are led, both as they vote in the coming election, and as they pray for those who lead.

What does it mean, what is required to lead in God's church? Any more there ways of answering those questions, and many definitions of church leadership. But, because the church is a Divine-institution, not the creation of man, but of God, because Jesus calls it His church and refers to Himself as its Builder and declares that it is founded on the world-changing fact that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, because all of these things are true about the church, it is imperative that we go not so much to the thoughts and ideas of men for help in understanding what it means to be a church leader, but that we come back to this Book, God's Book, for guidance and instruction.

The nature of church ministry, the nature of church leadership – shepherding, feeding God's flock, setting an example to the sheep, testifying to the saving work of Jesus Christ, DEMANDS that we understand it NOT from a worldly point of view, but from a Biblical point of view. No where is that fact seen more clearly than in the first nugget of truth about church leadership that my father-in-law shared with me. See if you don't agree. What does it mean, what is required to lead in God's church? Listen, it may not top a lot of people's lists, but if we are going to be people of the Book, it will, it should, it MUST top our list! What does it mean, what is required to lead in the church? At the top of the list, to lead in the church, a man must be converted. He must himself be truly born again.

I know, I know, that Peter denied Jesus three times, though he steadfastly claimed that he would never do so, that he would DIE before doing so. I know... And, yes, I know, I know, that Andrew, James, John, Philip and all the rest fled into the darkness when Jesus was arrested, leaving Him alone just like He said they would. And, I know, I know, Thomas, the doubter, he stuck to his guns, and said, 'Unless I see the nail prints in His hands and feet, and can put my fingers into His side, I won't believe He's alive!' I know...

But, listen, can you imagine, just try to do so for a minute, what kind of church we would have if Jesus would have left it in the hands of Judas Iscariot?! What's the difference? I mean, Peter denied our Savior, three times he denied Him, and James and John and Philip and Andrew and the others they left Jesus to fend for Himself, ran off and left Him so as o save their own necks! And, Thomas – does the term skeptic seem appropriate?

But, listen, where was Thomas one week later? John chapter twenty tells us that that night Jesus appeared in the midst of His disciples, this time Thomas was there, and he got to see Jesus' wounds, got to touch Him, got to hug Him. And, what did he do? He fell on his knees and cried, “My Lord, and my God!” But where was Judas?!

And, as for James and John, Philip and Andrew and the rest, just who was it that stood up to declare to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost that 'this same Jesus, whom you have crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ'? Read Acts chapter two and you'll see. It wasn't Judas! It was them!

And, then there's ol' Peter, we remember him, he's famous, or maybe we should say, in-famous, for the 'cock-a-doodle-do' incident, right? But, listen, do we also remember that it was Peter - who two times – boldly declared to the very same Sanhedrin that declared Jesus guilty, “I cannot BUT speak about the things I have seen and heard, I must obey God rather than men!” That was Peter, but where was Judas?

What was the first gem regarding church leadership that we must wrap our arms around? To lead the church, a man must – he absolutely HAS TO BE converted! Born again! When it comes to failure, there IS no difference between Judas and all the others. But, listen, when it comes to conversion there is! They sinned, they failed, they doubted, but they repented! And were saved! Judas didn't! That's the difference, and that's why Jesus used them to establish His church!

So what? That's church history, right? Yes, it is. But listen, if we want to be God's instruments in His work, today, listen, it must also be church reality, church PRESENT! Before you cast that ballot in a few weeks, fellows before we say 'yes' to invitations to fill positions of leadership, this must be our burning issue, our number one question! Is he converted? Can I see the evidence, the 'fruit' in his life? Am I truly 'born again'? Is my life an illustration of a Judas-like faker or of someone ready to bow the knee and exclaim, 'Jesus, you are alive! You are my Lord and God'?

Peter, the human author of the Scripture text we read a moment ago, alludes to all of this, when he humbly says of himself, “I am a witness of the sufferings of Christ”, “I am partaker of, a participant in Christ's glory that will be revealed...” This Is who I am, because of Calvary. Judas didn't live to see Jesus die! This is who I am because of Resurrection Day! But, Judas' body swung from a tree on that first day of the week. This is who I am because of Pentecost, but by that time Judas' coins had purchased a field called 'Akeldama' – 'field of blood' – and, by that time, the day of Pentecost, instead of standing with Peter and the others, testifying to the fact that Jesus is both Lord and Christ, Judas' lifeless body was a bloody, broken-open heap...

Because he was converted, truly born again, a witness of the suffering and a partaker of the glory to be revealed, because of all of that Peter could rightly be called an 'elder', a 'fellow elder'!

There's a second gem of truth regarding church leadership which my father-in-law shared with me, that builds on this first one, and it goes something like this: having been converted, truly born again, to lead in God's church, a man must have an AWARENESS of the needs of others! A church leader, to be Scripturally qualified, must be acutely aware of the needs of God's people, and of those God desires to call to Himself to be His people.

Speaking of my father-in-law, two months ago my family and I had the privilege of sharing in his celebration of retirement from 50+ years of work and ministry for the Lord. You should have been there, especially for the 'treasure hunt' that my father-in-law's oldest daughter, my wife, put together to spice up the occasion. In a nut shell, the treasure hunt was a fun little 'driving game', where Julia's dad drove all over Tyler picking up 'clues' pertaining to his 50 years of work. Now here's where I'm going with this little story. The first clue he retrieved was a baby chick. Strange clue, I know, unless, like him, as a 20 year-old newly-wed, and soon-to-be-first-time-father, you're in the business of raising broilers – 10,000 of them! Delivered on the very same day my wife, his first child, was born! Talk about an acute awareness of need!

Looking at a 'sea' of humanity coming His way for His healing touch, His tender compassion, His truth-filled teaching, like a brand-new chicken farmer listening to the incessant 'peeps' of all those 'cheeps', Jesus didn't smack His forehead and exclaim, 'Look what I've gotten myself into!' No! Instead, He said to those who would later carry His mantle of leadership, the Peters, the Thomases, the Philips, 'Look! Do you see the need?! The fields, they are white unto harvest!' 'Look! Do you see the need?! That 'sea' of humanity, it's not a mass of nameless, faceless flesh. No! It's My flock! Helpless and harassed, scattered and vulnerable, like sheep without a shepherd! “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers, the willing workers who really see the need, are few, very few. So pray, ask, BEG, the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest field.'

To lead in God's church, the converted man, the truly born-again man, must see the need, he must be acutely aware, as Peter puts it here, that the flock of God must be fed from the grassy green pastures of God's Word, and led to the nourishment of God's streams of living water... Peter knew it. Jesus opened his eyes to it, remember? 'Peter, do you love Me? Feed my sheep... Peter, do you love Me? Feed my sheep... Peter, do you love Me? Feed My Sheep!”

Peter knew it, Jesus opened his eyes to it. And, as Jesus' inspired instruments, speaking to born again 'fellow elders', he asks, 'Are you aware? Do you see the need?' “Feed, shepherd, the flock of God which is among you...”

What does it mean, what is required of a man, if he is to be a leader in God's church? The rest of this message I must leave for next time. But, before we close, I have to tell you one more thing. The chick, the baby chick, that my father-in-law picked up as clue #1 in the treasure hunt – what happened to it? 'Cheep' as we affectionately call him (or her?) now resides in our backyard, and is nearly full grown. But, here's the deal: I know, I know, you're wondering, 'why would anyone want a chicken in the city?' Well, like you, we like eggs and legs, and all that other tasty 'chicken stuff'. But, listen, we brought the chick home, not 10,000 of them, just one – why? To help a future church leader named Jaden learn what it means, what God's Word through Peter means, when it says, “Feed the flock of God which is among you...” We kept the chicken so that he might come to see the need! To prepare him to enter those white and ready fields, to reap the harvest God intends to bring into His garner.

What does it mean, what is required to lead in God's church?

Would you join me over the next few weeks, in looking right here, in God's Book, for the answers to those questions?

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