Last week we looked briefly at the idea of spiritual oversight in the church and I was wondering how we are really doing in that very important area of doing church. I want to keep exploring that with you in this weeks’ post (and of course really wrestle with it!!) What are the avenues for encouraging spiritual oversight in your church? Certainly in the church today we see the importance of that happening in small groups… but then one might ask how are your leaders of those groups prepared to be spiritual overseers (maybe spiritual parents)?
Church & Leaders… how are we doing?
I remember growing up as a young man in the church my wife and I had joined shortly after being married and it didn’t take long at that church to be noticed and start to get involved in both small groups and then the council (elders and deacons) of that church. At one point I was approached by someone from the council and told that my name had been chosen to be considered for the elder role at the church. Now I was a pretty young man (which I don’t think age has to take a man out of the running for particular office) and felt very unsure of my qualifications fitting what was needed for that office at that time and actually turned it down to rather be considered again for the deacon office, which I felt was a better fit for me at that time. It made me wonder though about our process for filling this important office of spiritual oversight… that is men and women who could not only assess the spiritual temperature of the church and folks in the church, but also encourage the movement forward of that.
Now in my life as a Christ follower (being a little further down the road) this is an area that stokes me because I love to see people come into their own as far as their leadership capabilities and putting them out there to be used by God in His kingdom. But it is also an area of much contention, misunderstanding, and failed approaches to either lose the potential leadership of the church or keep it under thumb and squelch that potential. Like so many things in life is seems hard to find a middle ground where the pendulum hits that middle spot and seems to have the highest potential effect.
You may wonder what in the world I mean by that? I have seen the placement of church leaders simply be the grabbing of a warm body and filling a spot. Along with that too often the oversight of that “leader” was pretty much a hands off approach, after they were in. Too often I remember folks would leave those positions with an overwhelming feeling of it being a failure and almost assured that they would not want to go there again. Maybe if your church is big enough and has a big pool of unsuspecting leaders you can get away with that for a certain amount of time. However, it doesn’t bode well to get these folks plugged in to something else. Now I don’t want to discourage things like people trying leadership in different areas of ministry at a church to hone in on more specifically how God has made them and wants to use their uniqueness in the kingdom. But I do wonder how we are doing in creating win/win situations for those desiring to lead.
The flipside here, of course, is an approach that makes it so hard to get into a leadership position, because of such high standards that only a small percentage of people would ever qualify. This approach severely limits the opportunity of growth for this part of the kingdom because so few can come alongside that particular church and be involved in leading and teaching others. This one most often seems to fall into the area of leading adults.
Now often we use the passage from I Timothy 3 (in regards to qualifications of overseers and deacons) as we look at leaders in the church (and it is a great passage to help us see and encourage leadership!!). This passage can be used for many of those teaching and leading roles and certainly within the roles of deacon and elder. It certainly is important to have expectations for those who will take on the role of spiritual oversight and other various leadership opportunities in the church. However, even in the use of this… we can see the splitting of hairs like what we look at as far as some of these like… is a person managing their household…. What does it really mean to have one spouse… and how does divorce fall into that conversation. In using these types of passages where is the line of understanding drawn say between being above reproach and perfect? Also, what is the work of leadership in developing leadership in our areas of ministries opposed to thinking we can just cherry pick finished works of leaders in our congregations? Let’s continue to wrestle with this one… because, well it seems kind of important!!
I Timothy 3
“2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”