Looking For Leaders
1 Samuel 16:7
I want to begin with a few quick stories this morning. Cleveland Stroud had coached the Blue Collar Bulldogs for 18 years before his basketball team made it to the state championship. Stroud recalls that "it was the perfect night" when they won. "A night you dream of." He was carried around the gym on the shoulders of his triumphant players and their proud parents. The local paper put his picture on the front page. But the excitement was short-lived.
Two months after the championship, during a routine grade check, Stroud discovered that one player was academically ineligible. The player had only played 45 seconds during the regional qualifying tournament. Stroud says, "I thought it was all ruined. I went through a phase where I was really depressed." He struggled with what to do next. Yet, his commitment to integrity led him to the right decision. "Winning is the most important thing for any coach," he says. "But your principles have to be higher than your goals." He reported the error to the league and the Bulldogs forfeited their trophy. When the team lamented their loss in the locker room, he told them, "You’ve got to do what is honest, what is right, and what the rules say. People forget the scores of basketball games, but they don’t ever forget what you are made of."
Story #2: A missionary in Africa had become lost in the African Jungle. In a clearing he found a little hut and asked the man if he could help him get back to the city. The man said he could. "All right," said the missionary, "show me the way." The man said, "Walk," so they walked and hacked their way through unmarked jungle for more than an hour. The missionary got worried. "Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?" The man said, “In this place there is no path. I am the path."
I hope that those stories, and others I’ll tell you over the next few weeks, give you a glimpse of the importance of leadership. Our church is entering into a season of great opportunity as we consider appointing some new men to our eldership. It is impossible to overstate the significance of this season of searching for additional leaders. Our future service to God and this community depends upon our humble attention to God's guidance. And this search offers us an opportunity to talk about leadership in general and to study in particular what the Bible teaches us about leadership in the church.
The basis for our sermon this morning comes from 1 Samuel 16. In this text we see that Israel needs a new leader. The prophet Samuel is on his way to Bethlehem to meet and anoint one of Jesse's seven sons to be king. Let’s start in in verse 6. (Read verses 6 - 13)
There are two important lessons for us in this text.
First, when they are looking for leadership, God's people need God's perspective.
Samuel thought Jesse's oldest son, Eliab, was the right man for the job. God disagreed. Each time a different son of Jesse stood before him, Samuel thought, "Surely, this is the man." Yet each time God disagreed. Not until David, the youngest son, stood before Samuel did God say, "He is the one." The text tells us why in verse 7. "Do not consider how handsome or tall he is. I have not chosen him. I do not look at the things people look at. Man looks at how someone appears on the outside. But I look at what is in the heart."
Unlike the qualifications we look for when we choose teams on the playground or in the gymnasium God looks for something completely different.
God looks at character not appearance. The text tells us that God doesn’t see as we do but God looks right through our pretense to see our heart. That should both inspire and frighten us. It should inspire us when we feel that we are judged by others according to our abilities or our appearance to remember that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And it should frighten those of us who have survived by pretense when we know that our inside doesn’t match what we claim to be.
God also chooses certain people for certain tasks because God values the will not ability. God isn’t interested in how much you can accomplish or in how talented you are; what God’s most interested in is whether you’re willing to do whatever it takes to serve Him. For a moment think back at some of the greatest leaders in Jewish history; Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and David. Which of these men would you have selected if your were God?
Abraham, sure he was from an affluent family but we have no clue about his relationship with Jehovah. As a matter of fact Joshua says in in Joshua 24 that Abraham’s father worshiped other gods. But when God calls him, Abraham follows.
Moses had been raised in the house of Pharaoh and had the education and skill to lead God’s people. But when God calls him in Exodus 3, we see that for the last 40 years Moses had left all that behind to shepherd his father in law’s sheep. Even though we see a little uncertainty on Moses’ part God uses him because he answered the call of God.
And what about Gideon who claimed that, “My family group is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least important member of my family." or David, who was the youngest of seven boys and destined for a life in the pasture with the sheep. All of these men did phenomenal things in God’s kingdom because they were willing to answer His call.
The truth is, God delights in taking those who have the will, but lack the ability in and of themselves, and using them to bring about the miraculous. We need to understand that God sees possibilities when we cannot because we confuse appearance with reality.
We live in a community that places a high importance on appearance. Unfortunately we often miss what really counts because we don’t take the time to look beyond the beauty or lack of that is skin deep.
Thankfully, we serve a God who sees possibility in us when everyone around us tells us we can’t! If we are going to appoint the kind of leaders we need, we need God's perspective. I urge you to pray every day, several times a day, and ask God to give us His insight and guidance.
Second, this story teaches us that no one can lead God's people without God's spirit.
Verse 13 says that "From that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power." The very next verse says, "Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul." Without God's Holy Spirit, no one can lead God's people. In Acts 13:20 - 22, Paul helps us understand why the Spirit of God in the heart of a leader is so important. (Read text: Begin with "After this ... ").
Those who lead God's people need God's Spirit so that they will do what God wants them to do. As we look for leaders we need God's perspective and they need God's Spirit.
Over the next few weeks in our Bible classes and through this pulpit we are going to look at what the Bible has to say about leadership in the church. We want to see not only the qualities we should expect to find in a leader, but also see how the leadership in the church should be arranged.
Turn a page to Acts 14:21-23 Most churches today are led by a single man, usually called a pastor. The word "pastor" means shepherd, and is a good, biblical word. The typical model of church leadership today, however, is not as biblical as the word used to describe it. Let me show you what I mean. (Read text).
Paul and Barnabas didn't appoint an individual to lead the churches they established. They appointed a group. And it wasn't just this one instance in which a group of men were appointed to leadership. In Titus 1:5, Paul wrote, "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town as I directed you."
Here at Park Central we want to do everything according to scripture. Remember that first lesson from the story of Samuel searching for a new leader for Israel? We need God's perspective. Since the first century church was led by a group of men called elders or pastors, that's the way our leadership structure is arranged as well.
Park Central has two current active Pastors: Bruce Powell and Chuck Reed. Did you notice that I said two active pastors and I mentioned Bruce and Chuck??? Did you notice that my name is not in that group??? That’s because I am the vision caster, I am the pulpit guy, and that’s it. I know some pulpit guys want to be called a pastor, but I don’t think that’s what God had in mind. Our pastors, Bruce and Chuck, are the leaders of this family. Christ is the head, the Bible is the rule, the Spirit of God is the guide, but these brothers are the human authority in this body of believers.
The Bible uses three interchangeable words to describe the role these brothers are called to fill in our body. Most of the time, we call them elders. The Greek word is presbuteros. It emphasizes spiritual maturity.
A second word the Bible uses is the word "pastor." The Greek word is poimen and means shepherd.
A third word the Bible uses is "bishop." The Greek word is episkopos and means overseer.
First Peter 5:1-2 uses all three words. "To the elders (presbuteros) among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds (poimen - pastors) of Gods' flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (episkopos -- bishops) -- not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be, not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."
Each of those terms helps us understand something about who these men are supposed to be and how they are supposed to carry out their responsibilities. The word elder is clear enough. It implies a level of spiritual maturity. Elders must be spiritually mature.
The word pastor or shepherd pictures the compassionate care the elders are to give the church. Shepherds see to it that the sheep are fed, protected, and cared for when they are sick or injured. Elders must be compassionate caregivers, vigilant protectors, and responsible providers.
The word bishop or overseer suggests authority. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of not advantage to you."
God's perspective on the role of leaders in his church includes spiritual maturity, compassionate care, and biblical authority. But there are some things regarding leadership in the church that the Bible is silent about. For example, while almost every New Testament church we read about had a plurality of elders we're never told exactly how many leaders a church should appoint. All we know is that whenever a church had a pastor, it had more than one.
Today, some churches have dozens of elders. Some only a few. We currently have two active Shepherds trying to meet the needs of 167 people. And we are starting this process because they need some help, to better meet the needs of this flock. I have had several folks ask me, "How many elders are we going to appoint?" My answer to that is, we'll appoint however many elders God, through your prayers, raises up.
There are two philosophies out there about how many elders a church should have. And they can be summed up in this question: Are the elders supposed to take care of each of the sheep, or are they to see to it that the sheep are taken care of?
I think Paul answers that question in Ephesians 4:11-13(Read text).
The apostles and prophets to whom Paul refers are found right here in the Bible. We have their written testimony and teaching to guide us. Here at Park Central we have evangelists and teachers and pastors. Look at what Paul says the pastors, evangelists and teachers are supposed to do. Verse 12 says they are to "prepare God's people for works of service."
The elders are not to do the work for the church, they are to prepare the church to do the work. Passages such as Galatians 6:2 place the responsibility for bearing each other's burdens on all of us, not just a few of us. Certainly, the elders bear a special responsibility, but they don't bear all of it.
Being a leader of any kind of organization is a tough assignment. On April 12, 1945 Vice President Harry Truman was summoned to the White House. He was shown into Eleanor Roosevelt's sitting room, where she told him that President Roosevelt had died. After a moment of stunned silence Truman asked her, "Is there anything I can do for you?" She shook her head. “Is there anything we can do for you?" she said. "For you're the one in trouble now."
Being a leader of God's people is one of the most important and difficult assignments any human can ever take on. To find the right kinds of leaders, the church needs God's perspective. And to lead requires God's Spirit.
Questions To Consider
Questions to consider from the Bible Class
Why would it be important for someone to desire the office of a shepherd?
Can you desire the office for selfish reasons? How would that show itself?
What is the difference between blameless and perfection?
According to1 Peter 5, Peter was an elder. Think back on what you know about Peter, was he blameless?
Questions About Shepherding
In what ways are elders like shepherds?
Why is a relationship so important in the shepherding process?
What does it mean that a Shepherd can only lead where followed?
What calls you to trust a leader?
What causes you to distrust a leader?