This past Sunday within Cornerstone International, we officially appointed two new leaders within our local church. An absolutely exciting time and opportunity in moving forward in all that God has for us. For me, it is quite clear that the leaders in the local church are recognised by mainly two names:
1) Elders (also known as overseers). They are called to be the shepherds, or pastors, and teachers of the local flock. Jesus is the great shepherd and overseer of the whole flock (1 Peter 2:25), and so the elders-overseers of the local flock are called to shepherd the local flock. Some Scriptures to consider are Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5-9.
2) Deacons. There is no ‘formal definition’ from Scripture, per se, but deacons are basically leading servants. As the body of Christ, we are all called to serve and wash feet. But, specifically, deacons are some of the leading servants within the local church who also provide support to the elders. Some Scriptures to consider are Acts 6:1-7; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
To be honest, I believe that many local churches lack proper leadership from a biblical standpoint. There is a major deficiency, which leads to the same in the lives of the sheep.
What I mean is that many leaders of churches are more like CEO’s and business managers. But biblical leaders are first and foremost shepherds. Now, of course, there are specific people gifted in shepherding ministry. Yes, shepherd (or pastor) is not a title. Nope! It is a gift for ministry, which means a gift for serving the sheep. But too many people are appointed into leadership, especially ‘pastoral leadership’, and don’t function as shepherds. That is far from the cry of the Good Shepherd.
So that might be the biggest defect in church leadership – leaders being appointed that don’t know much about shepherding the flock. And people toting around the title ‘pastor’, but think their main function is to preach powerful messages and think vision.
Listen, I’m not saying we all know this stuff and are perfect at it. I have realised just how much I don’t know as a younger leader of 30. So I’m not trying to say we can reach a point of being perfected in leading. But I’m talking about people who have been in church leadership for decades who don’t know anything about God’s shepherding heart. Rather they lead by dictatorship and manipulation. Or some that might be younger like myself and don’t realise they are being called to care for others first and foremost.
I’m also not against powerful preaching and vision. I look to God for such in my own life and ministry. I’m not even against considering business principles in helping us lead. But that’s not where we start. My preaching is less than 1% of my week. In the end, I don’t believe sheep will follow the vision of someone who is not a shepherd at heart. And business will only get someone so far, even if the mega-church down the street suggest otherwise.
I also am concerned when the elders of churches function in some kind of ‘board’ methodology. Remember, the elders are the shepherds of the church. Someone might specifically have a strong pastoral gift. But the elders are called to care for the sheep.
Yet, in many cases, you have elders who handle the finances, make decisions, sign official documents, but they never get involved in caring for the sheep. Such people are not elders. And such people either need to change or step down from such a role in the local church.
I am more of a teacher-pastor than a pastor-teacher. That’s ok. But if I am not looking to care for and shepherd, then I am falling short of God’s call on my life as an elder-overseer-shepherd-teacher. And you know what? I do fail. And I am so glad when the Good Shepherd reminds me of who is the best shepherd. It certainly is not me. And I revel in the reality that His power is going to be made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I was reminded of that this weekend as we prepared to appoint new leaders.
It was a powerful gathering this past Sunday, recognising two deacons to stand with me. I hope in the near future to appoint elders with me and other deacons. But we are also not going to be hasty in laying on hands, as Paul reminds us (1 Timothy 5:22). But God will open doors as I allow Him to shepherd through me.
On Sunday, Ian Rawley, who is part of the apostolic team working with the Lifelink churches in varying nations, came to remind us of the message we are all stewards of and I then charged these two new deacons from Acts 6:1-7. Serving will lead to an expansion of the kingdom – see the result in Acts 6:7.
I am encouraged of what God is doing in our midst. And now I ask that He continue to help us equip more leaders in our midst.
You can listen to Sunday’s message and charge at our podcast.
If you would like, you can also download this PDF document with more of my thoughts on church leadership: Church Leadership