What to look for in spiritual leaders

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

After the people of Judah spent 70 years in exile, they were allowed to return to their land with a charge to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. One of the early leaders who went for this task was Ezra a “priest and scribe, an expert in matters of the Lord’s commands and statutes for Israel” (Ezra 7:11).

God used Ezra in many ways as a leader among his people. From Ezra’s life, we find an example of what we should look for in spiritual leaders, especially those who serve in God’s church.

Ezra 7:10 states: “Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

Ezra was a man devoted to loving God and loving the word of God, which would then lead him to love others and urge them to love God. Spiritual leaders should be people of godly character who have a reputation for knowing and obeying God through the Bible.

The consistent message of Scripture is that good leaders are those of good character who love God and his word. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul wrote about the qualifications for elders/pastors and deacons. In both lists, he majored on character. He also pointed to spiritual maturity–a person who knows God well and seeks to obey his commands. So, elders were “not to be new converts” and deacons were to hold “the mystery of the faith with a clear conscious” (3:6, 9).

Often, due to influence from business practices, we gravitate toward leaders who show great talent and ability or exciting personalities. While those can be helps to spiritual leaders, above all we are to look for faithfulness, maturity, and a love for God.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Pray for Those in Authority

As we get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, the birthday of our nation, let us remember the Bible’s admonition to pray for our leaders. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul wrote:

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Though the “authority” in our nation is meant to lie with the voters and the ballot box, we elect leaders to represent us. Therefore, we pray for our president, representatives, senators, governors, mayors, etc. This is true regardless of their political affiliation and views. As followers of Jesus, our political leaders should have our prayers.

Here are some things to pray, based on the book of Proverbs:

1. Pray our leaders would be men and women of strong moral character. Proverbs 29:2&4 state: “When the righteous flourish, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, people groan… By justice a king brings stability to a land; but a person who demands ‘contributions’ demolishes it.”

2. Pray that our leaders would show true concern for the poor, needy, and oppressed in the land. Proverbs 29:7&14 state: “The righteous person knows the rights of the poor, but the wicked one does not understand these concerns… A king who judges the poor with fairness–his throne will be established forever.”

3. Pray that our leaders would humbly desire to grow in knowledge and truth. Proverbs 28:16 & 29:12 state: “A leader who lacks understanding is very oppressive, but one who hates dishonest profit prolongs his life… If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials will be wicked.”

4. Pray that our leaders would be men and women who genuinely love and value others. Proverbs 20:28 & 29:8 state: “Loyalty and faithfulness guard a king; through loyalty he maintains his throne… Mockers inflame a city but the wise turn away anger.”

5. Finally, pray that our leaders would learn to fear (revere and respect) God, and especially that they would hear the Gospel, trust in Jesus, and follow his ways. Proverbs 1:7 states: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

All scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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The Greatest Leadership Quality

“Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.” – Joshua to Israel’s leaders, Joshua 23:11

Toward the end of the book bearing his name, Joshua, now “old and well advanced in years,” summoned the leaders of Israel together and gave them both a promise and a warning. The promise: Much of the land had already been taken, and if the people remained faithful to God, then he would drive out the rest of the inhabitants. The warning: If the people turned from God then he would not drive out the inhabitants and would even expel Israel from the land.

In the midst of this, Joshua gave the leaders the charge to be courageous and faithful, as God had charged him, and also to be “very careful to love the Lord your God.”

This same line, taken from Moses, was later given as an answer by Jesus to the question, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Following this command is, therefore, something we all should do, but it is especially the number one attribute we should look for in leaders.

As you move from Joshua into Judges, you see that Israel’s faithfulness did not last long. This failure seemed to stem from a lack of God-loving leadership to guide the people well.

So often today, we want to treat the church as a business, the pastors as functional CEOs and the deacons as a Board of Directors. We highlight communication and administration skills and matters of personality as the highest priorities. This is not to say that leaders and potential leaders should not seek to grow in these things, but at the core of their being must be a deep love for God above all else.

It is better to have an unpolished leader who deeply loves Jesus than to have a grand executive whose love for God is spotty at best. Only with their own growing love for God will leaders be able to help others grow to love God more.

New posts in this devotional series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Judge Righteously (a daily proverb)

This is the last post in our January 2017 series looking at a verse or two from a different chapter of Proverbs each day.

Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. ~Proverbs 31:9

Often when we hear “Proverbs 31,” we think of the profile of an excellent wife / godly woman. And rightly we should, as that poem to end Proverbs takes up two-thirds of the chapter. However, before we read about the excellent woman, we find nine verses of advice from a king named Lemuel that he learned from his mother.

Her wisdom comes in the form of moral and ethical commands to encourage her son to rule well. These commands include sexual faithfulness, sobriety, and caring for the needy.

Verses 8 and 9, especially, speak to a king using his power to help the needy in the world. In most circumstances, people in need lack a voice. They need help—someone to come alongside them and to stand up for them. Whose voice is more powerful in the land than the king (or, whoever holds the greatest seat of political power)?

It is easy for any of us to fall to the temptation of favoring those who help or benefit us in some way. We are tempted to give preference to those who can give back and we overlook those who cannot. The old saying comes to bear: “What have you done for me lately?”

A king who “judges righteously” will not be persuaded by money, esteem, or power; just as God judges righteously and cannot be purchased, bribed, or influenced by another. He will genuinely care for the poor and needy in his land.

But we should not limit this advice only to those in power. We each have our own spheres of influence. We might not have a national voice like a king or president, but we have our towns, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. In these places, are we more interested in gaining favors and being served by others, or are we more willing to favor the needy and serve others like Jesus served us (John 13)? Our sphere may well be miniscule compared to a nation, but we are still able to “defend the rights of the poor and needy” around us.


A Righteous Rule (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. ~Proverbs 29:2

Character matters.

Whenever the Bible speaks to good leadership, whether in the home, at the church, or over the nation, the number one thing it points to is character. People with good character breed positive influences, good directions, and beneficial policies. People with corrupt character tend to yield corrupt influence and act more in line of self-betterment than the betterment of those around them.

Righteous character ultimately flows from Christ. There are none righteous, in themselves, as Paul wrote in Romans 3:10. But if we belong to Jesus by faith, then his righteousness becomes ours (2 Corinthians 5:21). Trusting in Jesus, we gain the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit influences us for the better as we yield ourselves to his work in our lives.

Paul wrote in Galatians 5 that the deeds of the flesh, or the fruit of the sin within us, are things like sexual immorality, idolatry, anger and strife, backbiting, and similar other attitudes and activities. But the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

At home and in the church, these are the defining traits that we should seek in our leaders and as leaders. More so than looking for vision and business acumen. In our nation, such traits are the ones we should seek for in leaders we support with our votes, not men and women who epitomize corruption at home and in politics.

After all, righteous leaders bring joy in the land, but wicked leaders cause the people to groan.


The Joy of the City (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness. By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown. ~Proverbs 11:10-11

Character matters. That is one of the big lessons we find again and again in the Bible. For God’s people, the number one qualification for leadership isn’t charisma, education, vision, or skill, but character. This is true in the home, the church, the city, and the nation.

Throughout the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, we see a repeated pattern. When the unrighteous are in power or bend the ear of the king, the people and the land suffers. When the righteous are in power or have the ear of the king, the people and the land prosper.

In his proverb, Solomon related this truth to cities. The wicked ultimately care most about themselves. They will make false promises, manipulate, lie, and use in order to exalt self and maintain their prominence. The righteous care about things like justice, love of neighbor, and the plight of the poor, the orphaned, the widow, and the sojourners. The righteous seek not to exalt self but to bring about the best situation for others.

This is what God calls his people to. As Jesus said: We are to love God and love neighbor. Ultimately, we cannot do one without the other.

So, if we have found new life in Christ, we should heed his call to love. We might not all have the power or influence of a king or a president, but we can be a positive force in the lives of those living next door to us. The more we love others, the greater benefit our communities receive, and that brings joy to our communities.


Sunday 01.08.17 (the church and her leadership)

This Sunday we’ll start a 4-week series in the book of Titus called “The Church and…” This week, we’ll take a look at Titus 1:1-16, “The Church and Her Leadership.” Then on Sunday evening, we’ll begin a new Bible study on the attributes of God, followed by our quarterly business meeting. We hope to see you there!

@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm The Attributes of God: God’s Self-Existence
@7pm Business Meeting

Sermon Notes
The Church and Her Leadership ~ Titus 1:1-16

  • The purpose of church leaders: Oversee the spiritual growth of God’s people (1:1-4)
  • With this purpose in mind:
    • We appoint leaders who are men of good character (1:5-8)
    • We appoint leaders who are devoted to God’s word (1:9)
    • We reject ungodly leaders who twist the gospel (1:10-16)