There are five biblical texts which look at the qualifications for a position of leadership in the church. They are Exodus 18:21-22, Acts 6:1-6, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, 2 Timothy 2:1-13, and Titus 1:5-9.
Let us look at each of these in turn, starting with the passage from Exodus.
21 But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.
The context of the passage in Exodus is that Moses has become worn out by judging all of the disputes between the sons of Israel. He has been trying to do it all himself and he is failing, but his father-in-law, Jethro, gives him sound advice. So, despite all the in-law jokes, sometimes the advice coming from that quarter is good. And now we consider how do we stand up against these qualifications:
Does the Bible really mean “men” or does it mean people? How do we interpret this command. If the Bible means “men”, as in the masculine part of the human race, then this will lead the church in the West into conflict with the state. Some denominations see this as people, and some are split on the issue, as the ongoing discussions over women’s ordination and elevation to the post of Bishop in the Church of England illustrates. Whichever side of the debate we come down on, we need to be certain that what we do reflects what the Lord tells us and not just what we would want to believe. The Hebrew word translated “men” in this text refers to males as opposed to females. The generic term for mankind, which would include women, is not used here, but rather, the gender specific word for men
Are the people up to the job. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. I like what the Acts 29 Organisation says about church planters: discover whether they have been called by God first, and then equip those who have been called. Capablity is about having the calling and the moral qualities necessary and not simply skills.
Trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain
Do I make claims for expenses which I have not incurred? Do I refuse to get involved in corrupt schemes to make my employer more money? Do I take items for personal use from the stationery cupboard? Do I pay back any debts on time and in full? Do we keep our promises even when they cost us time and resources?
Have them serve … the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; … That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.
Do I want to serve or to get glory for being the one “Up Front”? Can I accept delegated authority and can I delegate effectively.
I have been motivated to prepare this series by the stories that have been appearing in the British press about a clergyman who seems not to have been required to maintain Biblical standards, but I think it better to examine the positive rather than to put the boot into a denomination which has failed its people in its failure to adhere to Biblical standards for one of its clergy.