Summary: Talk 2 in a series from Titus. The importance and characteristics of church elders.
Mark McCrindle is social researcher from the University of NSW who is interested in the changing face of our country. Recently he sampled 5,000 people for their views on leadership (report 16 September 2010). Who is the leader you most admire in history? Winston Churchill was on top with 8.2% of the vote which is a lot considering any person in history could be chosen. Churchill was closely followed by Gandhi and Martin Luther King (both on 6%), next is Jesus with 5.1% of the vote, and not too far behind was Nelson Mandela with 4.8%.
More than two-thirds of the respondents preferred to a leader who is relational rather than authoritarian. In order of preference, research shows that we want leaders who are (1) honest, reliable and confidential, (2) who are inspiring and energetic, and (3) who are consultative and approachable. A quarter of Australians say they would prefer a male leader (24.9%), compared to 10.7% who prefer a female leader. Almost half those surveyed didn’t care if their leader was younger or older than themselves (46.2%). What is clear, though, is that Australians don’t like the traditional models of authoritative leadership. As Groucho Marx once said, ‘Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men—the other 999 follow women’.
So what model of leadership does God like? What are the important qualities for a Christian leader? What is the character of the leader that God admires?
God has a history of appointing leaders. Consider Moses. The Israelites are oppressed in Egypt and the promises made to Abraham seem in tatters. So God organises Moses to meet him at Mt Sinai. ‘And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain”’ (Exod 3:9–12).
A leader is a person who takes people from one place to another place. Moses is called by God to take the Israelites out of Egypt, across the desert to Mt Sinai, then across more desert to the Promised Land. At first Moses resists his calling, yet God delivers Israel through the faithfulness of his reluctant leader. But when Moses publicly dishonours God, God is swift to act (Num 20:1–12). Although the winging and wining Israelites were constantly dishonouring God, yet it was incumbent upon God’s leader to model a righteous life. His failure to do so meant that Moses did not enter the Promised Land.
Yet such is character of Moses that he utters these words in Numbers 27:15, ‘”May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd”’ (Num 27:15–17). With his leadership coming to an end, Moses prays that the Lord’s people will not be like a sheep without a shepherd. There is no immediate answer to this prayer. The history of Israel is one of rebellious people and failed leadership.
What is God’s response to failed leadership? Ezekiel 34. “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally’ (Ezek 34:2–4).
God’s response is the promise of a new shepherd. Ezek 34:24, ‘I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd’. It is only when we get to Jesus do we find a King who shepherds the people of God with integrity and justice, with honesty and truth. ‘I am the good shepherd’, Jesus says, ‘I know my sheep and my sheep know me’ (John 10:14). ‘I am the good shepherd’, Jesus says, ‘The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep’ (John 10:11). Here is the shepherd who will lead his people out of captivity into a new land. Here is a shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Here is the shepherd who will model righteousness to his people. Here is a shepherd who will not fail!