People get the leaders they deserve
By Sylvia Wilkey
(From: Vision & Duty, May 1989.
Reprinted with permission in Investigator #7, July 1989)
As the continuing saga of our Federal and State political leadership
struggles roll on, I wonder what that says to us about the Australian
people? — divided, power-hungry, dishonest, slanderous, ruthless,
disloyal. The picture is not a pleasant one. In the same way, how much
does the Christian church also get the leaders it deserves? I fear the
In a recent course of lectures we examined Paul's teaching concerning
Christian leadership in his letters to Timothy and Titus. We discovered
that the qualifications set out by Paul for Christian leaders are no
more demanding than those required for all mature believers, yet many
of us, who do not have a title of "bishop", "deacon" or elder" tend to
ignore Paul's admonitions to Christian leaders or we apply them,
without love to some older gentlemen of our acquaintance.
Who are our leaders?
Our leaders are whomever we follow — male or female, friends, parents,
pastors, teachers or popular figures. We choose whom we follow. An
election or appointment to a position does not make a leader. Most of
us would not claim to be leaders but if we take a careful look there is
usually someone following.
What Paul Says
So what does Paul say to us as we lead or follow?
Firstly he encourages us to use our unique, spiritual gifts
from God, just as Timothy was advised (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6) knowing
God's Holy Spirit is also enabling us to perform his will (2 Tim 1:14).
We each have a different mix of spiritual gifts which make us unique.
Depending on the task or situation in hand, different people will
emerge in leadership. No one person ever possesses gifts for leadership
at all times. In our churches leadership roles will change according to
the task — with children, young people, adults or senior citizens,
music, preaching, evangelism, teaching, catering, welcoming,
administering, pastoral care. That is why leadership in the New
Testament church always comes from a group, never one person. Christ is
the head of the church. Everyone else is part of his living, growing,
active body, working together for him.
Secondly our lives are to be godly,
(1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 3:17) focused on God and above reproach in dealings
with family, the church and in the community at large. (1 Tim 3:2-12)
Recent Christian leaders have brought the gospel into disrepute by
their love of money or lack of sexual self-control. We can happily
point the finger but how easy it is to lack self-control in our
thoughts, to find life too busy to be hospitable, or to join our
society in clamoring for the latest pay rise.
Paul reminds us that family and relationships are where the reality of
our Christian experience is worked out on the small scale. They need to
come under the Lordship of Christ or all our other endeavours will be
Thirdly we are to have an informed teaching ministry.
We should not be like those who "do not know what they are talking
about" (1 Tim 1:7) but should be confident in what we believe and why
we believe it (2 Tim 3:14-17).
Our teaching should be grounded firmly in God's word and not used in a
magical way to proof-text whatever we want to say. We should do our
best to be a "workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly
handles the word of truth". False teaching and futile questioning are
to be shown for what they are while not neglecting gentleness and love
(2 Tim 2:24-26).
What should we do?
Australians can be quick to cut down any "tall poppy". In a similar
way, we can do the same to those in Christian leadership. Yet if it is
true we "get the leaders we deserve",
then all of us, leaders and followers, need to repent of our thoughts,
words and actions. Then trusting in Christ's strength, using our unique
spiritual gifts and living godly lives, we must go out to live and
proclaim the message of the "Greatest Leader of All" to those who
wander away from Him and His Kingdom.