A Church Leader

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Titus 1:5-9

A henpecked husband went to a psychologist to learn to assert himself. The psychologist told him, “You do not have to accept your wife’s bullying,” he said. “You need to go home right now and let her know that you’re your own boss.” The husband was encouraged to take the doctor’s advice. He went home and slammed the door on his way in. He shook his fist in his wife’s face, and shouted, “From now on you’ll do what I say, woman! Go get my supper, then go upstairs and lay out my clothes. After I eat, I’m going out with the boys. You can stay here where you belong. By the way, do you know who is going to tie my tie for me?” “I sure do,” said his wife calmly, “the undertaker.”

A mother and her small daughter were walking past the house in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln once lived. The lights were burning inside, making the home seem warm and inviting. They paused for a few minutes as the mother told the girl what a great President Mr. Lincoln had been and how the whole nation mourned when he died. The youngster listened with rapt attention. Then, noticing the glow coming from the windows, she said, “Look, Momma. When Mr. Lincoln went away, he left the lights on.” The influence of our lives continues even after we die. Notice what the writer of Hebrews said of Abel — “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Hebrews 11:4). What we do for the Lord can have a positive influence on succeeding generations.

There are many leaders in the life of the Church, some hold an office and some do not. Elders and Diaconate are to be servant leaders, not rulers or dictators. God doesn’t want His people to be used by petty, self-serving tyrants. Servant leaders have chosen a life of service on behalf of others.
Like the servant Christ, they sacrifice their time and energy for the good of others. I suppose that leadership at one time meant muscle but today it means getting along with people.

In early times books were scarce, and the aged of the tribes were the depositories of the traditions of bygone generations. The old leaders, moreover, had the most experience and were the heads of large families, over whom they exercised authority. Because old age was identified with matured wisdom, knowledge, and experience, and a reward for a virtuous and godly life, the aged were from time immemorial chosen to fill the official positions in the community. After the return from the Exile, the office rose into higher significance and fuller organization. With every synagogue there was connected a government of elders, varying in number according to the population attached to it. The rulers of the synagogue and the elders of the people were substantially one, and a certain number of those elders belonged to the Sanhedrin. Elders first came into prominence on the scattering abroad of the disciples and the withdrawing of the apostles from Jerusalem, following the death of Stephen.

The origin of the office of deacon is usually related to the events described in Acts 6:1-6. The young Christian church in Jerusalem was experiencing growing pains, and it had become increasingly difficult for the apostles to distribute charitable gifts to its needy members without neglecting their ministry of prayer and preaching. To meet this critical need, seven people were chosen by the congregation and presented to the apostles.

An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. To be blameless is to be redeemed, a Christian. They have to have only one spouse or less. If the individual has children, what type of life do they live? Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless-not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. To not be overbearing means not being a dictator. The leader must be in control of his/her temper. The leader must not be an alcoholic. The leader must work in a respectable trade. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. To be hospitable is to be kind and compassionate. The leader genuinely pursues good and not evil. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. The leader must know something of scripture and his/her relationship with God.

Elisabeth Elliot’s book “The Mark Of A Man,” has a chapter entitled “A Take-charge Man Is A Servant,” where she relates a story about her late husband Addison Leitch. “When he was dean of a small college in Pennsylvania, he learned that the walls of a certain men’s dormitory were smeared with shaving cream, peanut butter, and jelly. He went over to investigate. Of course not a soul around had any idea how it could possibly have happened. In room after room he met with surprised innocence. He had several options. He could make every man in the dormitory go to work and clean it up. He could call the custodian. There was a third option. Addison went and got a bucket and a brush and set to work himself. One by one doors opened, heads popped out, word spread of what the dean of the college was doing, and soon he was not alone in the scrub job.” “The power of servanthood. It commands respect. It does not demand it.”

During the waning years of the depression in a small Southeastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Mr. Miller’s roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used, extensively. One particular day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes, but I was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. Pondering the peas, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me. “Hello Barry, how are you today?” “H’lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas … sure look good.” “They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?” “Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’ time.” “Good. Anything I can help you with?” “No, Sir. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.” “Would you like to take some home?” “No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ’em with.” “Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?” “All I got’s my prize marble here.” “Is that right? Let me see it.” “Here ’tis. She’s a dandy.” “I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?” “Not ‘zackley… but, almost.” “Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble.” Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said: “There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one perhaps,” sometime later, I learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon our arrival at the mortuary, we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform, and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts . . . very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing–smiling and composed–by her husband’s casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes. Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket. “Those three young men, that just left, were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim ‘traded’ them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size . . . they came to pay their debt.” With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles. Moral: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our deeds.

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