GIFTED (part five)
The seven gifts listed in Rom. 12:6-8 are: Prophecy, Service, Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leading, Mercy. Last week we looked at Encouragement and Giving. The OT word for encouragement means to strengthen. To encourage is to inspire, to lift someone’s spirits, to instill hope.
Encouragers are the ones who readily come alongside other believers to motivate, comfort, console, counsel and strengthen them. It's the ability to challenge those who are wavering in their faith or stimulate those who are lazy in the faith. We are all supposed to encourage one another but those with the gift are able to do it more naturally and effectively.
The NT word for encouragement means to comfort. Being an encourager means we sympathize and empathize; we acknowledge their sorrow, anxiety and fear as real and encourage them despite those fears. We meet them where they are and we help them to find the strength to move forward. Someone with the gift of encouragement is able to both comfort and challenge someone. They have the right mix of calmness and firmness. You can tell they love you but they're going to give it to you straight.
Giving. The gift of giving consists of generously providing resources and money to further the work of the kingdom. They have an automatic response to contribute to worthy causes. They ask, "what can I do to meet this financial or material need?" They are generous people; not just with their finances but also with their goods and time. They love to give but they're wise about how they go about it.
And you don't have to be rich to have the gift of giving; it's about the love behind the giving; not the amount. The desire to give is there regardless of your financial situation. Those who have the gift of giving also have the ability to trust that God will take care of them when they give. Those who have the gift of giving also have joy. You can give without joy because some give begrudgingly or with ulterior motives; but you can't have the gift of giving without having joy and appreciation for God's blessings.
Today we'll focus on looking into the gift of leadership.
1) What is a leader?
A leader is someone who has the ability to take charge and lead others with care and diligence. People with this gift are able to see what needs to be done and set goals and track progress. They can motivate and get people on board to accomplish the work of the ministry. They have the ability to coordinate the abilities of others to achieve common goals.
They process the questions of what's the vision, what's the unmet need and what's the aim or goal? They ask what will be hoped for from the results. They can often see the big picture. They can motivate people to use their strengths to accomplish the goals. They are willing to take chances or risks but they do so in a calculated way.
They don't like disorganization; they want things to be in order. They have a plan; they develop a target and they have a timeline. They can envision how things can come together and work out. People are drawn to them; they admire their ability to take charge and get things done.
However, one of the dangers in having this gift is they can get pushy with people. They can be too goal-oriented to where they're not very engaging on a personal level. They can be intense to the point of not exercising patience and grace.
But think of the people you know who are great leaders. They might be in the military, a coach, a boss or someone else. What qualities do you see in them that made them great leaders? Did they know how to bring everyone together and fight for the singular cause?
Did they know how to give a pep talk to get everyone on board and fired-up? Was it their ability to seem to know everything that was going on and deal with it efficiently? Was it their ability to manage the affairs of the organization? Was it the way they were able to take a fledgling team or company and turn things around?
Leaders are people who don't panic in stressful situations. They are able to manage themselves so they can be of sound mind to manage situations and people. Leaders are like a rock-steady in the storm. People look to them to know what to do next.
In order to be a good leader you must first be a good follower. Jesus talked about this principle. Two of his apostles, James and John, who were brothers, approached Jesus with their mother and inquired about obtaining the highest seats of honor in the kingdom of heaven-the ones to the left and right of Jesus.
Jesus tried to get them to understand the seriousness of what they were asking and finished by saying that it wasn't for him to decide. When the other ten apostles heard about this they weren't too happy with James and John. Jesus used this as a teachable moment.
Matt. 20:25-28, "Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
There was another time where the Apostles were arguing amongst themselves about which one was the greatest. So when the argument came to Jesus he reiterated this principle of humility. And we see Jesus didn't just teach these principles; he modeled them. "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve".
A great example of that was when he washed his disciples' feet. After he was finished he asked them if they understood what he had just done for them. He basically said that even though he was their Lord he performed the lowly task of washing their feet. So if he could serve them like this then they could follow his example.
Having an attitude of service and humility are keys to being a good leader. A prideful leader may be able to come in and take over and get things done but they won't have a good repore with those under them. But a humble leader can come in and get the job done along with having a good relationship with those under them because he knows what it's like to be them.
He respects those who work hard and they respect him as their leader. And those workers will tend to go above and beyond because they care about him. Being a good leader is more than just managing things well; it's also about building camaraderie and managing people well.
All good leaders were once loyal followers. They learned the importance of teamwork and unity. They learned the value of hard work and dedication. They are humble enough to know that things don't get accomplished without everyone's involvement. They appreciate and acknowledge all their efforts.
He can't show favoritism lest there be jealousy and fighting. He's ready to do damage control when there's a problem. And if someone isn't pulling their weight they will address it. They find out what's wrong and try to help them and encourage them to do better.
And if it doesn't happen they will do what needs to be done to reach the goals. A leader understands his responsibilities and calculates the risks. His focus is on the mission and what's best for the whole. He'll use wisdom, tact, and a rebuke if necessary. These are the functions of a leader.
2) What are the biblical qualifications?
People who hold leadership positions in the church are Deacons and Elders who are also referred to as an Overseer (bishop). A Minister would be considered an Overseer. The Deacon is someone who has made a commitment to serve at a higher level. They don't hold a position of authority unless they are overseeing a group of servants for some reason.
But an Overseer would have authority in the church to make decisions and choose people for positions in the church as well as enact discipline when the situation calls for it. The Greek word for Overseer refers to someone who cares for, guards, supervises and helps the flock.
The bible lists the qualifications for an Elder/Overseer and Deacon. And since the Overseer is a higher office than a Deacon, all the qualifications for a Deacon must be met in the Overseer but a Deacon doesn't need to fulfill the qualifications that apply solely to the Overseer.
1st Tim. 3:1-13, "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus."
First we see that the one who has his heart set on becoming a leader in the church desires something dignified. Not that a leader is better than anyone else but when we look at the qualifications and responsibilities we see why an Overseer is a noble position to hold. To be above reproach means a leader must have integrity. Some other translations have the word blameless. This means the leader doesn't have something going on in his life that someone could rightfully accuse him of.
Most scholars take the husband of one wife to mean he can't be a polygamist, although some interpret it as meaning he cannot be someone who's been married before but that doesn't seem fair for the widower? Although I can see validation for it if you're talking about someone who's on their fourth wife.
Temperate means even-tempered; not quick to fly off the handle. Self-controlled means in all areas of life. He is not quick to sin in thought, tongue or deed. An overseer is to be respectable toward others and welcoming toward others. He must have the ability to teach and he can't be someone who gets drunk. He must be a gentle person and not given to being argumentative. Riches must not be his primary pursuit.
He needs to be able to manage his family well. As the qualifying statement reads-how could he be expected to manage the affairs of the church and gain respect when his home is unruly and his family doesn't respect him? He can't be a new Christian, lest he fall into the trap of letting the position go to his head. He must have a good reputation with outsiders. He needs to be a law-abiding citizen and be a person of good standing in the community. One must be a good Christian inside and outside the church.
And with Deacons we see that they must be sincere in their devotion to the service of the saints. They must not be people who drink too much or too often. They shouldn't acquire their money or possessions through dishonest or coercive avenues. They must hold to the right doctrines of truth with conviction. They must first be tested and evaluated to see if they meet these qualifications.
And it's not only them that need to be respectable but their wives too. They can't be gossips or out of control or untrustworthy. If they were that would make things very difficult for their husband as a leader in the church.
Titus 1:6-9 addresses the qualifications for an elder and most of them are the same as what's in 1st Timothy with the added qualifications of not being overbearing, quick tempered, loving what is good, upright and holy and disciplined. An elder must hold firmly to the truth so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
As we can see, there are many prerequisites if one is to be a leader in the church. This shows how significant these positions are and how important it is to God that not just anyone be put in them. A leader has a lot of influence.
I believe that's why Jesus came down so hard on the religious leaders. They were the ones responsible for imparting biblical truth to the people. They were supposed to be men of integrity yet Jesus often highlighted that they were not. They added to the law and they didn't follow what they were teaching. Being a leader is serious.
3) It's not easy being a leader.
I'm definitely not making any excuses for the Pharisees but being a leader is not easy; there's a lot of pressure involved. They have a lot on their minds and they have to make some difficult decisions. They are the ones who hear the complaints and get the brunt of the criticism when things go wrong. So someone who goes into some form of leadership needs to understand what the position will entail.
Taking all this into consideration may have been God's purpose in moving Paul to write verses like 1st Thess. 5:12-13, "Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other."
Paul understood that the authority figures probably didn't get the respect they deserved. When a leader in the church has to scold someone it would be easy to form a negative opinion of them. But Paul wanted the people to understand that it's not easy being a leader; it's hard work.
It's very easy to not like the boss. He barks orders, comes down hard on those who are slacking off, takes things too seriously. But we need to keep in mind that when things don't get done or done right he's going to hear it from the higher ups. He has to oversee everything and he can't be buddies with people because then he will get accused of favoritism and those friends may expect favors or certain leeway.
A lot of bosses are probably lonely people. Who invites the boss out after work? Although some bosses definitely go overboard, are arrogant and may not be a very good people person, they do deserve some understanding and respect for the hard work and difficult position they're in.
Paul talked about our need to submit to earthly authority in Romans 13. And the leaders who were in place at that time in Rome were not very righteous, to say the least. The writer of Hebrews talked about submitting to spiritual authority.
Heb. 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
This could also be a good verse to apply regarding how we should respond to our earthly authority figures too. But it's clear that leaders in the church have authority. Some people act as if the Minister has no authority over them in the church. We can't force you to live a certain way; we can only counsel you to do what we believe is best.
However, if certain behaviors are exhibited inside the church or when members are living in sin the role of the leader is to address it and if necessary, take appropriate action to keep the problem from escalating. In 1st Cor. 5 Paul told the church to expel the immoral brother.
Paul had the authority to remove someone from the fellowship. And it was for a dual purpose: so that the people would see that sin wasn't condoned and so the person might come to his senses and realize he was missing out on the benefits of the Christian life and the importance of the church.
I've been a part of excommunicating someone from the church; and it's painful. It's the last thing I would want to do. But if I need to exercise that authority I will because I'm answerable to God. If I don't do what he puts on my heart to do I'm going to be held accountable.
And we see that one of the reasons to submit to spiritual authority is so that my work would be a joy, not a burden. It brings me great joy when I know someone is living in the truth. When people are serving and getting along and overcoming temptation and abstaining from sin it's rewarding for me. Not that I can take credit for it but when I teach or preach or counsel and I've helped someone to better themselves spiritually it makes my heart glad.
But when there's tension between Christians or when someone is caught-up in sin it grieves my spirit. It's hard for me to not feel responsible on some level because I'm the one who's responsible for the flock. So when things go wrong it's easy to feel like I've dropped the ball. So you can understand my joy when I know that people are walking in the Spirit.
As the Apostle John wrote in his third letter, 3rd John 1:1-4, "The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
I might not be your spiritual father figure like the Apostle John was to so many, but I can certainly understand his joy knowing his brothers and sisters in Christ were walking in the truth. He knew it was to their benefit to do so. That's my sorrow when I know there are things going on in the lives of Christians where Satan gains a foothold.
I know how much it's robbing them of the joy of life. I know they're being hindered from doing the work of the kingdom. And they deprive themselves from being able to enjoy the blessings of the faith. I have learned to give these frustrations and sorrows over to the Lord but it can still effect me.
But when someone experiences the victory over sin and when the work of the kingdom gets accomplished it is joy to my soul.