SOUND WORDS, FEB. 18, 2024

SOUND WORDS, FEB. 18, 2024


A true leader of God’s people doesn’t wait for a formal appointment to begin serving. Rather, we come to recognize leaders among us as those who in the regular course of life have already been serving the congregation “without the credentials,” so to speak. We’re not talking about an autocrat, one who arrogates unto himself a position, title or authority that doesn’t belong to him — a usurper, if you please.

Remember, the primary function of leaders, whether elders, deacons, preachers, class teachers, etc. is to serve the people of God: “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28). Being a leader is not about giving orders, being “in charge” or throwing one’s weight around. That was the concept that led James and John to petition for seats of honor in the kingdom, and Jesus replied, “You do not know what you ask” (Matthew 20:20-22).

It would behoove us to keep a mental index file of those whom we observe serving the Lord in various capacities. These are the men who show up at work days (are you there to know who they are?!). You may see them at a gospel meeting (are you there to see them?!). You may bump into them at a hospital (are you there for a chance meeting with them?!). They will attend group meetings; they will frequent social occasions such as potlucks. You will not hear of them willfully choosing other activities over the opportunity to worship; they will be there when the doors are open. Leaders are those who gradually materialize in our consciousness as dependable, interested and willing participants in the daily events and experiences of the congregation. They are not reluctant servants. They don’t ask, “Do I have to go?” Rather, they are the ones who probably beat you there.

At this point we may sense a potential problem. Is our level of association with each other such that we are truly familiar with our fellow brethren? Or is our interaction so sketchy and casual that we don’t really have a clue as to the leadership traits of a given brother?

The obvious solution is to take steps to become better acquainted with others in our spiritual family, for the time will come when we will be asked to formally recognize the leaders among us. Unfortunately, other solutions have sometimes been substituted:

  1. Letting the elders pick the next elders and deacons. Human wisdom may say that since the elders should ideally be more spiritually mature than others and probably more intimately acquainted with various members, perhaps the selection should be left to them. Such reasoning is a great first step toward creating a self-perpetuating hierarchy. When searching for leaders to handle a delicate problem in the early church “the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said — seek out from among you seven men of good reputation.” (Acts 6:2-3) The people made the choice because it was the people who would have to submit to the judgments of the leaders.
  2. Abbreviated qualifications have been substituted for a comprehensive knowledge of a person; i.e., the man whose children are all baptized and faithful becomes an automatic candidate for elder. It seems so rare these days to find a man whose children are all faithful that we tend first to look at this qualification perhaps forgetting that other equally valid qualifications must also be met.

Men, what do your brethren see in you when they are looking for a leader? “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.”


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