Church Leadership Qualifications: Biblical or Pragmatic?


When it comes to leadership positions in the church we often get ourselves into unnecessarily sticky situations because we put practical considerations – who is available, who is most talented, who is willing, etc. – above biblical qualifications.
When we fill a position of leadership or responsibility at church we first go to Scripture to find out if the person we’re considering for the position is biblically qualified to hold it. Practical considerations come second. A few examples:


An elder or deacon just died and the church needs someone to replace him. The first place you go is 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and you start by weeding out the men who don’t fit those qualifications. It doesn’t matter how willing they are or how great of a job they would do or what kind of connections they have or how much money they could bring into the church, they have to meet the biblical qualifications first.


Your church is located near a neighborhood full of Chinese immigrants, most of whom don’t speak English. Someone comes up with the commendable, Great Commission-honoring idea to start a Bible study to reach out to the men and women of this community. The only person in your church who speaks Chinese is a woman, so she’s the natural choice to teach the class, right?

Wrong. We start with the biblical qualifications for teachers, and one of them (1 Timothy 2:12) is that women are not to teach men. She could certainly teach (assuming she is able to teach – language alone doesn’t make someone a good teacher) a women’s class, or a male could teach the class in English and she could translate, or a man could take the time to learn Chinese before the church begins offering the class, or if there is a Chinese man in the class who is able to teach, he could teach the men and she could teach the women. But the woman doesn’t teach a co-ed class herself because Scripture forbids this.


A young couple starts attending your church. After a few months, they step up and say they’d like to sing on the worship team. They’ve both got great voices and would radically improve the quality of the music on Sunday mornings. As you chat with them about joining the team, you find out they’re living together (unmarried). They’re both well aware that this is sin, but disagree with what the Bible says about adultery and fornication and have no intention of repenting, marrying, or moving out. Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 are quite clear that people who continue in rebellion after being called to repent are not even to be members of the church, let alone lead in worship.

Remember that the practical way is not always God’s way. Remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). Remember that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12). Remember when Saul did what was good in his own eyes instead of obeying God’s word (1 Samuel 15). Remember what happened to Nadab and Abihu when they conducted worship their own way instead of God’s way (Leviticus 10:1-6).

Obeying God’s word is not always easy, practical, or convenient, but it is always best, biblical, and blessed.

Idolatry, Sunday School, Worship

Worship Gone Wrong, Worship Gone Right ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 2-16-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 7 ~ Feb. 9-15
Exodus 30-Leviticus 10
Worship Gone Wrong ~ Worship Gone Right

Think about the last time you were invited over to someone’s house for dinner or a visit. Even if it was your closest friend’s house, did you go into her kitchen and start rearranging her cabinets so the dishes would be the way you like them? Refold her towels into thirds instead of halves? Insist on fried chicken when she had planned baked? Would you like it if your closest friend came to your house and started doing things like that?

What’s your favorite flower? Mine is pink roses, and my husband knows this very well. Would it have been loving for my husband to give me a cactus for Valentine’s Day—even though he knows I can’t stand them –because that’s the plant he likes best?

We all have a certain way we like things done at our own homes for certain reasons. We have all been given gifts that make us feel loved and cherished (and some gifts that haven’t). God is no different. When we come into His house to worship Him, we abide by His “house rules” out of love and respect for Him. We are to offer Him the worship He desires, not because it makes us happy or comfortable, but because that’s what makes Him “feel loved.”

This week’s reading was all about worship. Worship done the right way – God’s way, and worship done the wrong way – man’s way.

Worship Gone Wrong: Man’s Way (Exodus 32)

32:1-2: Worship goes wrong when we take our focus off God.
Moses didn’t bring them out of Egypt, God did. But the people’s focus was only on the temporal and tangible. They hounded Aaron to give them a god they could see and worship their own way rather than an invisible God whose ways were holy and different from theirs. They were not thinking about what God wanted but what they wanted.

32:2-14: Worship goes wrong when the pastor is more interested in pleasing the people (or himself) than pleasing God.
Rather than leading the people and holding up God’s standard for them, Aaron gave in to their base desires. Contrast this with Moses who was more interested in God’s glory, His name being honored among the heathens, and His covenant promises, than Moses’ own self interest of being made a “great nation”.

32:4-6: Worship goes wrong when we paste God’s name on man made rituals.
Notice that they essentially called the golden calf “God” and claimed that worshiping it was actually worshiping God. This was not a situation in which they were inventing a new god to worship.

32:15-19: Worship goes wrong when we break God’s law (Exodus 19-20:21).
The people had heard from the very mouth of God himself, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…” Those are the first and second Commandments! They knew God’s Law and intentionally broke it. Our worship is unacceptable to God (indeed, it isn’t worship at all) when we do it while knowingly disobeying Him. (Naked church, homosexuality affirming “churches”, female pastors.)

32:25: Worship goes wrong when we give unbelievers the opportunity to mock God.
When the people “break loose” from doing things biblically with the pastor leading the way (as in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, for example), the world rightly mocks them. As a result, many unbelievers understandably take the position, “If that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want any part of it.” This is to our shame. (This is different, however, from being mocked for upholding biblical standards, such as standing against abortion or homosexuality.)

32:26-28: Worship goes wrong when people refuse to repent of their sin (Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13).
The three thousand men who refused to repent of their idol worship were the problem here, not the Levites. They were given every opportunity to repent and refused. This compounded their sin by forcing their brothers into a horrific situation of having to kill them.

Today, when church members refuse to repent of their sin, God has instructed us to put them outside the fellowship (after due process). This is painful for all involved, and puts brothers and sisters who are trying to faithfully follow God’s word in the awful position of having to confront and discipline people they may dearly love. It often causes a deep wound that necessarily hinders worship.

Worship Gone Right: God’s Way

God cares about the smallest details of how we approach Him in worship. (Exodus 30, 39)
He’s not an “anything goes” God. We see this in the detailed instructions about the construction of the ark, the tabernacle, and all its accessories, right down to the recipe for the anointing oil (30) and the little pomegranates on the hems of the priestly garments (39). (We’ll also see His instructions about worship to the church in the New Testament.) If God cares this much about the little details of worship, what are some things in our worship services and other church activities that we need to think about as to whether or not they’re pleasing to God?

God takes worship seriously, and so should His people (Exodus 32, Leviticus 10, Acts 5:1-11, 1 Corinthians 11:29-30).
The results of the golden calf incident (32), the strange fire incident (10), as well as situations in the New Testament show us that the way we worship and conduct activities in the church is no trivial matter to God. When He gives instructions about worship, He means what He says. It is just as wrong for us in the New Testament church to disregard God’s instructions about the Lord’s supper, giving offerings, qualifications for pastors/teachers, etc., as it was for Nadab and Abihu to offer “strange fire” before the Lord.

This doesn’t mean we can’t experience and express joy during worship—God wants us to! But there are also times to weep over our sin, listen intently to God’s word, and pray fervently. What are some things that show that a church/church members take worship seriously?

The men who lead God’s people have a grave responsibility to lead biblically, and God’s people have the responsibility to follow them biblically. (Exodus 32, Leviticus 10, 2 Timothy 4:1-5)
Pastors are to be faithful to God and His requirements for worship regardless of what the people clamor for. When pastors give in to the sinful desires of their people, they both endorse and give their people the opportunity to sin. So long as the pastor is standing by Scripture, we are to follow his leadership and support him.

The results of worship gone right (Leviticus 9:22-24)
When worship is done biblically, the pastor is in right relationship with God. He’s in the right position spiritually to be a blessing to God’s people. God blesses the people, they see His glory, He is pleased with their worship, His presence is with them, and it generates more worship.