the second piece of Scripture that addresses the qualification for church leadership is Acts Chapter 6 verses 1 to 6.
1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
First a little background. There were in Judea at the time both native Jews whose mother tongue was Aramaic, but who were probably able to also speak Greek and or Latin. The Hellenistic Jews were not likely to be natives of Judea, but rather from other parts of the Roman empire, whose mother tongue was usually Greek. There was in Judaism of the time a certain amount of snobbery displayed by Hebrew Jews who felt that they were more devout and better at keeping the Law than the Hellenists. In Judaism there was tension between the two groups and little intermingling. To some extent this was carried over into the church, and to some extent the lack of social contact meant that the members of one group did not know or understand the problems being faced by individuals in the other group. And so the complaint arose.
A similar situation can arise in the church in modern times. What would the typical Sunday morning congregation think if a Goth or a Punk came to the service? I am certain some would feel uneasy because the newcomer was so different in terms of clothing and make up (for the ladies) so consider how much worse it was for the early church were there was a difficulty with language as well. I would not be surprised if some Roman Catholic congregations had had to face this with the influx of Poles seeking employment in Britain only a few years ago.
Leadership, though, is not just for those with a ministry of preaching the Word. It also includes those whose jobs are in the background, but whose work is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of the church. In my youth in the Church of Scotland, in the ceremonial entry of the minister, he was preceded by the beadle, or church officer whose main role was to ensure that the church was clean and fit for use, but he did have a public role in the service of worship. Similarly, members of a choir or music group lead the congregation in sung worship, and in the case in Acts 6, there is a leadership role in distributing material goods, in this case food, to the people in need.
Those whose ministry is the preaching of the Word ought to concentrate on that role and to delegate much of the other work they have to other people so that they can better perform what they have been called to do. I am not so certain about churches in the US, who seem to have understood this and are quicker to hire administrative help in the church, but certainly in the UK too often people who have been given an extensive theological education end up moving chairs around and writing up minutes of meetings.
Those who are to be chosen for leadership positions in the church, Acts 6 tells us, should be men who are full of the Spirit and of wisdom. They should be chosen by the general body of believers from the general body of believers and commissioned in their position by the apostles. It is worthy of note that the apostles chose the framework but the people chose the men to fill the positions and then the apostles commissioned the men, confirming the choice of the church.
This would almost certainly put a church with an attached school into direct confrontation with the UK laws on equal opportunities. “S/he only got the job because of their religious views. It’s not fair! I’m a better teacher of whatever than s/he is! I should have gotten that job!”
But if the person who complains is not a Christian, then the church school would be failing in its biblical duty if it did not appoint Christians to all teaching and management positions in the school. Are Christians in the UK willing to confront the authorities on this issue? If they are not, are they worthy of the name Christian?
There was a case recently reported on the BBC Radio news about a woman who was cohabiting with, but not married to, a man. She was dismissed from her role as a Sunday School teacher and she went to the media. Some media channels took the approach that a Sunday School teacher had to live the life she professed to believe in and some took the view that this was bigotry against cohabitees by the church. Thankfully the clergyman involved was willing to put up a robust defence of the church’s action, and the ‘news’ soon become forgotten.
If any of us are asked to fill a leadership position, that person needs to ascertain that they have necessary calling, gifting and heart for the position. The technical skills can be taught but you cannot teach calling, gifting and heart. The leadership of a church or any other Christian organisation is going to become more fraught with battles against the state apparatus as time goes by, unless there is a significant change in society. We need to remember that leadership is not solely about the church but also about society and we need to be praying for revival in our land as much as we pray for our leaders.