In the first part of this series on the next generation of leaders, elder Russell Pfeifer asked the congregation to join the Nominating Committee and current leadership in fervent prayer and reminded us that, “primarily, officer selection is a work of the Holy Spirit and that it is to be founded on earnest prayer.”
As we pray for God to raise up new leaders, we are prompted to remember and give thanks for the men and women whom God has raised up to serve Tenth Presbyterian Church during its almost two-hundred-year-old history. God continues to bless us through their sacrificial service as we witness them teach and lead us in the knowledge of God, in worship, in stewardship, and in encouragement. Some practical examples of this would be leading Bible Studies, teaching Bible School, serving on the platform during worship services, preparing and serving communion, being stewards of our physical facilities and shepherds of our spiritual lives and growth. They serve us by encouraging and providing for us in our times of need, sickness, and isolation. They lead us in acts of mercy and fellowship, and so much more.
As we consider what the qualities of our church leaders (elders, deacons, and deaconesses) should be, it leads one to wonder what these servants have in common, and how they are different? What does the Bible have to say about the character and gifts of church leaders?
First and foremost, these men and women must share a deep love for Christ. They must desire to represent him as they build up and extend God’s kingdom. They should exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). They are diverse in personality, background, and profession, and yet they are all gifted by the Spirit (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). They are empowered by the Spirit to use their gifts in service of the church.
1 Timothy 3:1-13 provides guidance when considering leaders:
“An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money (vv. 2, 3)… not be a recent convert (v. 6)… he must be well thought of by outsiders (v. 7)…
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (vv. 8, 9).
Women likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things (v. 11).”1 Timothy 3:1-13
Elders are to be sexually accountable, temperate, and self-controlled in all things (including alcohol and irritability), gentle, and content with what they have. They must not be belligerent or argumentative. Elders are expected to show hospitality on behalf of the church and be able to teach. “An elder must have wisdom,” says John Calvin “in knowing how to apply God’s word to the profit of the people.”
Finally, an elder must not be a recent convert, but should be spiritually mature with faith deepened by spiritual hardship. He must have a good reputation with outsiders as the church exists in the world and the elders represent Christ to the world.
Deacons are to be “…men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom…” (Acts 6:3). They are to be dignified and discreet, able to maintain confidence and be trusted, self-controlled and not addicted wine, not greedy but content with what they have. (1 Timothy 3:8, 9) Deacons are to hold to the rich truths of the gospel (mystery of the faith) with a clear conscience. The office of deacon is described as, “one of sympathy and service, after the example of the Lord Jesus; it expresses also the communion of saints, especially in their helping one another in time of need.” (Book of Church Order, 9-1)
Deaconesses share the same characteristics as Deacons, plus those attributed to the women described in 1 Timothy 3:11 and are to be dignified and respectable, discreet and not gossips, self-controlled and faithful, utterly reliable and completely dependable. They should minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress.” (Book of Church Order, 9-2)
Please consider whom you might know in the congregation that exhibits these godly characteristics and is using their gifts in the church. If you see that they have the qualifications to serve as elder, deacon, or deaconess, please share the name with a member of the Nominating Committee or with one of your parish officers. If you feel called to serve, please share that with the committee for consideration. Most importantly, please pray that God will continue to raise up servants to lead at Tenth Presbyterian Church in 2024 and for many more years to come.
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