There are many definitions of leadership, however Alex Montoya skillfully summarizes them all by observing that “all the definitions of leading have one thing in common: the leader is one who leads others to the accomplishment of a common goal. If no one follows, he is obviously not a leader, regardless of what titles and degrees may precede or follow his name” (Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, John F. MacArthur Jr. and The Masters Seminary Faculty, Word: Dallas, 1995, p. 283). Chuck Swindoll writes, “At the risk of oversimplifying . . . it’s the word influence” (Leadership, Chuck Swindoll, Word: Waco, 1985, p. 19). The Bible uses a variety of terms to describe the unique dimensions of a leader in the local church. Terms such as elder/overseer/bishop/shepherd are all synonymous terms which describe biblical leadership and supply fuller meanings and applications to the definition of a godly leader.
The characteristics, qualifications and goals of a godly leader are preserved in God’s Word. An elder is a “spiritual” leader in the local church. He is a man who aspires to the “office of overseer” (1 Timothy 3:1). He is a man of God charged with a mandate and required to embody in his person the ideals of the faith he proclaims. He is to practice what he preaches. Montoya says, “The New Testament tells the Christian leader what kind of man he ought to be (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-8). To be a leader, one needs to be aware that he must first measure up to these traits as a qualification to enter into the office of pastor (elder), and then he must maintain these qualities in his life if he is to stay in the pastoral ministry . . . . The same applies to the office of deacon” (Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, p. 286). It is important that every godly leader first understand what God would have him be, before he takes steps toward what God would have him do.
Godly leadership in the local church is of inestimable value. Montoya writes further, “The entire history of God’s dealings with His people is actually God’s involvement with a particular person whom He used to accomplish His will.” He continues: “The New Testament spells out in clear terms that God had a designated leadership for His church. The apostles were the first designated leaders appointed by Christ and ordained with the authority to lead and make judgments among the people (Matthew 10:1-42; 18:18-20) as well as to serve as the very foundation of His blessed church (Ephesians 2:20). The establishment of the church and the office of elder and deacon surfaced as spiritual leadership to lead the congregations. The eldership by its very nature is leadership. Elder implies age and experience – essential ingredients for those assigned to lead congregations (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5). The elder was also an “overseer,” one assigned the task of watching over the congregation (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1; Titus 1:5-6)” (Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry; p. 284).
Yet as vital as godly leadership is in the eyes of God, it is often difficult to find men who exhibit this kind of leadership. There are many that will pursue the perceived benefits of leadership. There are many that will bask in the shallow glory that is occasionally associated with leadership, but it is only a superficial salve for their souls. Yet they will neither weather the criticism that comes with it, nor take the time to consistently serve others in obscurity as a faithful shepherd who cares for his sheep. Nevertheless, godly leadership is not optional; it is essential.
Consequently, The Bible Church of Little Rock places high priority on both training and selecting godly men who are tasked with biblical leadership. We believe the Bible provides a recognizable standard for local church leadership, and displays a wise method of discipleship of its leaders which is indispensable to the ongoing health of the body.
Godly leadership does not “just happen” in the local church. It must be cultivated. It must be deliberately developed. As a result, we must have a plan. What do we plan to do? We believe it is vital to both equip men and provide opportunity for hands-on discipleship training. The multi-year equipping and discipleship training process will generally include the study of systematic theology, an in-depth understanding of the characteristics and qualifications of an elder, training in hermeneutics and homiletics, and instruction in “shepherding the flock of God among us” (1 Peter 5:1-5). This training plan, however, is not intended to exclude a man who has had comparable training and experience in a prior ministry from pursuing a leadership role at The Bible Church of Little Rock. In order to cultivate this kind of valued leadership with the appropriate knowledge and skill at The Bible Church of Little Rock, it is our goal to offer regularly scheduled equipping venues and “hands-on” training for potential future elders, as well as provide on-going teaching opportunities for all current elders.
Many questions surface that correspond to the topic of leadership. Some common questions are:
Can women serve in the role of an elder? It is the position of The Bible Church of Little Rock that the Bible clearly describes distinct gender roles, reserving the leadership role in the local church for men. Scripture describes women and men as fully equal in personhood, and spirituality, but unique in their roles (see 1 Timothy 2:9-15; Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 11:3-11). These differences are something to be enjoyed, explored more fully, and developed throughout life – not eradicated or hated. (For further study on the biblical roles of men and women, please see Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Crossway: Wheaton, 1991).
What if a man has been divorced? It is unlikely, yet not impossible for any man who has had a divorce in his past, whether pre-Christian or post-Christian, to be able to serve as an elder/deacon. For further insight regarding the position of The Bible Church of Little Rock, please reference the Divorce and Remarriage Philosophy of Ministry document.
How would you describe the difference between the role of an elder and the role of a deacon? The most obvious difference between the elder’s and the deacon’s role is that the elder is “apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9). The elder’s primary emphasis is the ministry of the Word and prayer. This occurs while providing for the spiritual needs of the local church and “shepherding the flock of God among us” (1 Peter 5:1-5). The role of the deacon is to help the elders attend to the people’s many practical needs (Acts 6:1-6). Deacons are the church’s ministers of mercy. The Board of Deacons is responsible for the care of all matters pertaining to the physical properties and the finances of the church, subject to the oversight of the elders. They are also responsible for such temporal duties as ushering at church services, caring for the needs of the church’s widows and orphans, and administering the benevolence fund.
See also, Functional Duties of an Elder.