I am convinced that large numbers of godly lay men and women who want to be used of God exist in many New Testament Baptist churches today. Unfortunately, inefficient or nonexistent strategies in churches often hinder these people from discovering and developing their spiritual gifts and their place in ministry.
When it comes to selecting and mentoring ministry leaders, there seem to be two extremes. Some churches never train new leaders because they don’t have a vision for equipping saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11–12). Other churches are so desperate for help that there is no vetting process for serving in leadership at all.
As I have over the years had the privilege to speak in churches across our country, I have repeatedly seen bulletins and heard announcements making pleas for more Sunday school teachers and youth leaders. Such influential positions, however, should not be viewed as a “tag, you’re it” type of opportunity.
Pastors and ministry leaders should develop and execute a philosophy for mentoring those who would be in a leadership position within the church. Only after prayerfully and practically recognizing those among the congregation whom God is preparing for these types of roles should they be placed into leadership.
We know that 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 give the biblical requirements for a pastor. But Acts 6 provides additional insight into the process of selecting leaders from within a congregation. Although the direct context of this passage is selecting deacons, there is much we can learn for any areas of leadership within a church family.
Most importantly and obviously from the passage, those who serve as local church leaders should have a consistent testimony of the Christ-centered life before the whole congregation. They should already model attributes of godliness before they have opportunity to influence God’s people in a leadership role.Those who serve as local church leaders should have a consistent testimony of the Christ-centered life before the whole congregation. Click To Tweet
The apostles wisely required that these early leaders were “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.”
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:3–6)
In this short yet suggestive passage of Scripture, we can draw six definite biblical conclusions regarding the selection of servant leaders.
1. The principle of influence
The fact that these men were found among the members of the congregation indicates that the people knew them and acknowledged their faithfulness. They exerted godly influence. While the apostles were capable and had authority to delegate influence, godly influence is something the Holy Spirit of God develops only through yielded vessels.
2. The principle of credibility
These were men of honest report. They exercised integrity worthy of leadership. Their character reflected God’s character. They “fleshed-out” faithfulness. Integrity matters in ministry.Integrity matters in ministry. Click To Tweet
3. The principle of spirituality
These were men filled or controlled by God’s Spirit, daily exercising the fruit of His Spirit in their lives. One of the ways I have seen God’s grace manifest itself in the life of a Spirit-filled Christian is by enabling him to resolve in a Christ-honoring way what has the potential to be an explosive and divisive issue. A carnal Christian always makes a small problem bigger, but a spiritual Christian always makes a big problem smaller. A spiritual leader is enabled to consistently glorify Christ through his life and testimony.A carnal Christian always makes a small problem bigger, but a spiritual Christian always makes a big problem smaller. Click To Tweet
4. The principle of wisdom
The men were full of wisdom. Wisdom is vital to the life and health of the church body, and the source of that wisdom is Christ and His Word. Joshua 1:7 tells us that God called Joshua to a specific leadership task. He commanded him, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.” Likewise, Proverbs clearly shows a contrast between the simple and the wise man on multiple levels. Without wisdom, a leader will lack direction and have a tendency to major on minors and minor on majors.Without wisdom, a leader will lack direction and have a tendency to major on minors and minor on majors. Click To Tweet
5. The principle of humble service
The first deacons were men committed to the task of serving others, following after Christ, and ministering according to the direction of the apostles. The fact is that every godly leader must recognize that he is under authority as he renders service in the ministry. We must do the work God has called us to do in humility as unto the Lord. Great leaders are not as interested in fighting for a position as they are in solving problems. In many cases, their presence and examples are the solution itself.Great leaders are not as interested in fighting for a position as they are in solving problems. Click To Tweet
6. The principle of active faith
Acts 6:5 tells us that Stephen was “full of faith.” We need men and women serving in the church today who still believe that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
All six of these qualities are vital, for leadership is influence, and the influence of the human leaders in a church can be potent.
If God has given you any measure of influence in your church, you might look back over Acts 6:3–6 and over this list to evaluate if you are living by these qualities. Where do you need to grow?
And if God has placed you in the position to develop other leaders in your congregation, I would encourage you to use this list as a guide for selecting ministry leaders.
God never designed the work of the ministry to fall on the shoulders of pastors only. By His design, the pastor is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and for building up the body of Christ.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11–12)
From deacons to small group leaders to youth workers, the local church needs many leaders. So I encourage you, “look ye out among you” for emerging leaders who you can mentor.
There are two resources that our ministry has recently produced that may be a help to you in developing new leaders:
- The “How to Have a Great Mentoring Relationship” episode of the Spiritual Leadership Podcast, provides several principles God has blessed in my life as I have endeavored to mentor our ministry staff, men in our church, and various leaders in our community.
- Chapters 9–11 of the book Guided by Grace suggest a biblical process for developing leaders and building a team.