The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership, and humility is a key characteristic.
Resisting the Proud
Grace is like water…it always seeks the lowest point, and never runs uphill to the high and mighty. Grace also flows toward humility, so God “gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). The Apostle Peter tells us to “be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5). Peter may have been quoting Proverbs 3:34b which says it is “to the humble he gives favor.” To emphasize the importance of humility, Peter says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Pet 5:6). Since God resists the proud, we should humble ourselves and acknowledge that whatever we have comes from God, since we have nothing to brag about (1 Cor 4:7). Either we will humble ourselves or God will do it for us. Moses was no weakling, yet he was called the meekest man on earth, but that certainly doesn’t mean the weakest!
Called to the Ministry?
How do you know if you’re called to the ministry? In the Old Testament, God spoke out of heaven or sent angels to deliver His call, while in the New Testament, this call would often come from Jesus Christ. In our day, I believe this calling comes from the Holy Spirit which compels a man to preach. He is miserable doing anything but that. There is nothing wrong with someone desiring this calling. The Apostle Paul said, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim 3:1). Paul never had an air of superiority because he said, “Yet when I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am obligated to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16)! It was certainly not Paul’s idea to become a preacher of the gospel. God told him that “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Save for the work of the Holy Spirit, Paul would have been the last man on earth to go from destroying the church to building the church, and who at that time or in their right mind would have tried to share the gospel with Saul!?
The disciples couldn’t resist preaching the gospel, telling the council that “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Jeremiah the Prophet resisted this call, telling God he was only a youth, but Jeremiah had no choice in the matter, saying, “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jer 20:9). Others in your church or people you know might confirm this calling in your life, and a church may actually do the calling, but it is the Holy Spirit which is leading this process…not man. The Bible teaches that God “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” (Eph 4:11) to the church and this was “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). One of the main points is that “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor 12:18), not as we have chosen.
Character and Leadership
I like where Biographer C.W. Hall quoted Salvation Army Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle who said, “The final estimate of men shows that history cares not for the rank or title a man has borne, or the office he has held, but only the quality of his deeds and the character of his mind and heart” (Samuel Logan Brengle [New York: The Salvation Army, 1933], p. 274). One pastor in a prison that I serve and preach in has a pastor that is bringing down the whole church on his own. He seems to think he needs to lead the Bible study, read the announcements, lead the board meetings, and lead Sunday school. This man has too much control and has refused to share some of these duties with others in church leadership. Slowly but surely, this church is losing membership because they see the pastor as being more of a dictator than a servant, which a pastor is called to be. The greatness of the pastor is not related to how many things he leads, but by how many opportunities he gives others to serve. There is no room for someone being in the ministry for the money, job security, or prestige. Those are recipes for spiritual disaster. If the pastor is not ready to work in the face of great discouragement, little or no pay, being on call 24/7, and face opposition even within his own church, then he is not ready for the calling. It may be one of the reasons that Paul doesn’t want new converts placed as elders. The term elder refers to their age and spiritual maturity, while the word bishop or overseer refers to their office. It’s good to desire the office of an overseer or bishop (pastor), but this desire is not enough to sustain him through the gauntlet of his weekly ministry.
The word elders could be thought of as “olders” or more mature believers. This conflicts with many churches that have new Christians who are already ordained as elders. Paul knew it was not a good idea to have a new convert be ordained an elder…pride, being the main risk. Paul was concerned that “he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Tim 3:6). Because they are a church leader, elders must be more spiritually than others, and he must be able to man teach the Word. Paul charged the Ephesian elders to carefully guard what was given them (Acts 20:17-38), but God also wanted the membership to submit to its leadership. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb 13:17). The elders were also instructed to provide a godly example as they shepherded the flock (1 Pet 5:1-4).
For any man who is called by God into the ministry, there must of necessity be a strong or powerful internal passion that is so strong that it motivates him to endure the times when it seems overwhelming. His desire to minister will be so strong that he doesn’t have any other option but to preach. It is an all-consuming passion, and he pursues this task as if nothing else matters, but without humility, he will struggle daily because God has always resisted the proud and only given His grace to the humble (James 4:6).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is an ordained Pastor of the Brethren Church and is also a writer at Christian Quotes and the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Christian Crier or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.