BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church
I always have mixed feelings when I watch congressional confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee or a nominee for the President’s cabinet. On the one hand, I am appalled by the sometimes unscrupulous attempts to bring down the nominees by means of slander and innuendo. On the other hand, it is not necessarily a bad thing that our leaders and policy-makers are subjected to rigorous evaluation and character-testing.
True, there are very few of us who could stand up to a multi-million dollar probe by political operatives and journalists into all of our dark, skeleton-filled closets. And there is no doubt that the motivations of the vast majority of those doing and funding the investigations are wrong. However, it is appropriate for us to be aware of the past crimes, indiscretions, and inappropriate comments of those who would presume to lead us. Then, instead of attacking the potential leader, we should discern his or her attitude and actions regarding the wrong-doing or wrong-thinking. Unlike the world, we must use Biblical standards to judge what they’ve said and done, and then determine whether they have given evidence of repentance.
The Bible insists that we keep the bar very high in regards to the standards for leadership. This is even more crucial within the Church. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer [elder], he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach…He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.” James says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1). Of the fifteen characteristics given for church leaders in 1 Timothy and Titus, thirteen of them pertain to the person’s character; only two are related to their skills. The honor of Christ and the purity of His church is at stake – we must choose and evaluate our leaders carefully.
While keeping the standards high, Christians must also recognize that we who lead are still sinners and works-in-progress. When you believe that a leader has failed to meet the Biblical standards due to sin or mistakes, you can make a couple of common mistakes – you can just ignore the failures, thereby effectively lowering the standards; or you can take the more popular route and run to all your friends and loved ones to gossip about it. I plead with you, for the sake of Christ and His church, to do what the Lord would have you do: take your concerns to the leader himself. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” You will probably be surprised by how open that leader will be to your input, and you may just find out that your perceptions are not entirely accurate. The “big picture” is usually much more complex than we think that it is!
Finally, please pray for those who lead you. If congregations prayed for their leaders as often as they criticized them, the Church would be a much more powerful force in the world. Christ “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13) As the leaders go, so goes the Church!