Summary: Christian leaders are servants of Christ and stewards of the gospel.

Title: Christian Leadership

Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-7

Truth: Christian leaders are servants of Christ and stewards of the gospel.

Aim: I want the church to understand the qualities needed in deacons.

Life ?: What are the marks of Christian leaders?


A deacon, who was full of himself, was teaching a boy Sunday School class. He was working hard to stress the importance of living a Christian life. With an air of arrogance he asked, “Why do people call me a Christian?” After an awkward silence one of the little guys said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”

The last Sunday of this month we will elect new deacons. You have the biblical qualifications on the bulletin insert. In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul deals with how the church is to think about its leaders. In the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians Paul is addressing divisions in the church. The church was divided over different pastors that lead the church. Paul was horrified by this worldly behavior.

In chapter 3:5 he asks, “What is Apollos? What is Paul?” He doesn’t say “who” but “what.” It is a way to denigrate himself and Apollos. In chapter 4:1 he tells them how they should think about Christian leaders. Christian leaders are servants of Christ and stewards of the gospel. These qualifications are not just for ministers. They apply to all church leaders. Those two pictures provide guidance as we select deacons for our church.

What are the marks of Christian leaders?


How is a church to view Christian leaders? He is not the church boss. The church already has a boss, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Christian leaders are servants and their Master is Jesus Christ.

My first pastorate was a country church. It had a gravel parking lot. One Sunday after church one of our good deacons, Chuck Luthi, came into the church chuckling. He said some of the kids were throwing gravel. He told them to stop throwing gravel; they were going to hit the cars. One of my daughters, the third one to be exact, about four or five years of age said, “I don’t have to. My daddy owns this place.” Well, I may be the leader but I’m certainly not the owner or boss.

There are other parts of the Bible that speak of the dignity and nobility of the office of pastor and deacon. These men deserve to receive respect from the church. Knowing the whole Bible helps people think and act appropriately toward the leaders of the church. Paul is intentional in using this picture because he is addressing the problem of divisiveness in the church. The word “servants” means literally, “under rower.” In the bottom of Roman ships slaves would man oars to row the ship. If you’ve seen the movie Ben Hur, this is what Charleton Heston did as a slave. By Paul’s day the word simply referred to a subordinate. It retained its humble connotations. We mean the same thing when we speak of an underling. A good dose of humility would resolve many of these divisive issues. The church’s leadership sets the tone and provides the model by remembering they are servants of Christ.

The Bible teaches that deacons and pastors are servants of the church. Pastors are called to serve the church through the teaching of the Word and prayer. But fundamental for all church leaders—pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers, program leaders—they are called to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. They are servants with only one Master.

This is comforting. Jesus is a much kinder and fairer master than people. Read v. 3-4.

The primary goal of the Christian leader is not to win a popularity contest with people outside or inside the church. In the final analysis, on the last day, there is only one Person that it matters that we have pleased. We live to hear Jesus say, “Well done!”

We all want to be liked. But one of the prerequisites to being a leader of any group is the willingness to make the difficult decision for the good of the group, even if you will be misunderstood and criticized. Some churches have never reached their potential or are constantly in turmoil because the deacons are more committed to being liked than serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s not even Paul’s own estimate of his ministry that is important. Paul is not forbidding self-examination. He frequently recommends self-examination. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 he says examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. In Philippians 3:12 and following he speaks of his self-examination so that he wins the prize. What he means in this text is his own evaluation of his ministry is not the most important. His conscience is clear. He is not aware of any disqualifying sin or failure in his life. But he doesn’t know everything about his heart. Many people with a clear conscience can be self-deceived or grossly ignorant of their sin. At the end of the day there is only one opinion that is significant—v. 4.

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