Our God is a communicating God. His revelation to us today is a sure word; it is the Bible. He is also a God of love who always acts to work good for His people. If you are a leader among God’s people you are called to represent this God to His people. In our lives as elders, people should see that we are people who communicate well and therein show our love for the people in the church.
So many churches degenerate into confusion as a result of bad communication. Often this takes the form of no communication; people refuse to interact. As a general rule we should be labouring as leaders so that people are interacting well in the church which we shepherd. We need to set an example with this.
We should respond to enquiries and requests for information promptly and courteously. We should seek to not confuse anyone or mess anyone around. If we have various communication platforms such as email, messenger etc., we should make sure that they are regularly checked so that we do not miss anything.
Failure to communicate in a healthy way leads to frustration among the people. They wonder why there has been no response. They are perhaps left to fester on an issue or wonder if they have done anything wrong. Through these means Satan can come in among the people of God and cause disruption.
With a little good organisation, care and attention we can make sure that we do allow the devil any inroads into the fellowship of God’s people.
In Ephesians 4:25-27 we read these words. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Here is a passage which most certainly has direct application to how we communicate together.
So fellow elders let us set a good example here. Let us be diligent in engaging with communicating with the people in our care whether that be personally or through the various electronic channels that we have nowadays.
People need to be ruled. When we choose to rule ourselves we inevitably lead ourselves astray because of our heart’s bias towards sin. We need a leader. The question then is who is that leader to be? There are two key figures in the Old Testament who God raised up to forward His purpose to have a people for Himself. The first is Abraham in who the people are formed and given a place to live (see Gen. 12:1-7). The second is David in whom the people find a ruler to lead them.
Interestingly we read in 1 Kings 8:16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ The leader whom God has set Himself to bring forward to lead His people was David. The Davidic Covenant which is adumbrated in 2 Samuel 7:1-17 is the cohering of God’s determination to give a ruler to His people.
David, although being the king Israel needed, is not the ultimate King. The ultimate King is our Lord Jesus who comes of Davids line and brings together in Himself everything which the Davidic covenant promised.
In essence in our Lord Jesus we find true and perfect leadership. It is shepherd king leadership. This is essentially what David was; he is the shepherd who becomes king. Interestingly, he was a shepherd before he became king. In our Lord Jesus we see the messianic One who is ruler of his people as “The Shepherd King”. This King is everything we need in a ruler; a leader who cares perfectly. Shepherds in Eastern lands lead from the front of course, and they lead their people into green pastures. Our leader, Jesus, is the true brave leader who provides us with the greenest of pastures for our souls.
This all leads us into what true leadership is meant to be. In all realms and particularly among God’s people, it is always shepherd-king leadership. As with David rulers are called to be shepherds before they are kings. There needs to be that caring tendency in their character which prevents them from abusive dominance. Diotrophes was a leader, but not a shepherd leader and He created a mess. John says: I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3 John 9-10)
In our homes and churches we need leaders formed after the likeness of David, but most particularly after the likeness of our Lord Jesus.
I attended the FIEC Leaders Conference at Torquay last week; 11th to 13th November. Here are some thoughts:
- Probably the best conference of this ilk that I have been to.
- Venue is very good. Added bonus of having swimming available which I availed myself of on each of the three days.
- Music was very good; led by Colin Webster and Phil Moore. The group gave every impression that they were worshippers themselves; rather than just being leaders in worship.
- I had the happy providence of sitting next to Colin Smith (one of the main speakers) and his wife, at the first session. He was so very warm and humble. Humility is a much undervalued grace. I have written about that here.
- The preaching from Colin Smith, John Stevens and Andy Prime was all high quality with much encouragement and edification in the four sessions they did between them.
- Colin Smith opening up the issue of prophet, priest and king as the motifs for shepherd leadership was really great.
- Ray Evans did a session on leadership stuff which was filled with much gold. Surely, he is a great gift to the church with the thinking he has distilled and practised on the issue of leadership. Get listening to him or reading his books if you want to be helped into godly church leadership.
- A seminar on Emotional Intelligence by Tom Fenning was very helpful. Similarly, Liam Garvie from Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh speaking small groups was a great help.
- Many great conversations with different ones. Thankful to the ones who were happy to stop and talk. Good conversations over the meals as well.
- At lunch on the last day I became aware that Paul Whalley (see here) who I was at school with, was there. Sorry I was not able to chat with him some more.
- Often I find these type of events pretty intimidating. I say this because you seem to be surrounded by so many people doing impressive things for the kingdom. I found it less intimidating this time I feel.
- Trevor Archer, the London Director, gave me some time to catch up with and assess my situation at Feltham which was helpful.
- Adrian Reynolds did most of the introducing. I think I prefer it when different ones of the main FIEC hierarchy do the leading. Although Adrian is pretty slick at doing it.
- The interview on the Tuesday evening when Andy Paterson interviewed Mark Dever did not really work. Both are great men, but it did not seem to flow or gel. Would have been better use of the time to have had either of them preaching. Interviews can be great and really helpful, but this one was not so (although there were snippets of great value).
- The main conference ended in a bit of a confusing way because post conference seminars were scheduled, but not mentioned at the end by Adrian, So rather than being left with a great sense of what had been preached by Andy Prime, I was left wondering what was going to happen next.
- So great to see so many under forties there; encouraging for the future and vitality of the church in the UK. The fact that there were around 950 there was pretty amazing as well.
We read theses words at the end of Esther concerning Mordecai: he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people (Esther 10:3b).
Let us consider some of the attributes of this man which made him such a great leader:
- In the believing community multitudes warmed to Mordecai. It does not say all warmed to him, but a vast majority did. True elders among God’s people can never expect universal acclamation. However, if he is not popular with the majority of the church then questions need to be asked as regards to the suitability of a man to be a leader.
- He was not seeking a position for himself, but seeking to use whatever position he had for the benefit of others. Those who are seeking to gain postilion for self-seeking gain should not be elders among God’s people.
- He was looking out for the welfare of God’s people. he wanted the best for them; he cared for them. Mordecai expended his energies in order that God’s people would prosper in the Lord’s ways.
- He spoke peace to God’s people. He was not set for harshness or division, but for harmony and peaceableness among God’s people. We must notice that this was for all the people even those it was not so easy to love. Speaking peace does not exclude speaking firmly, but it does prohibit nastiness.
In all these things we see shadows of our great true leader; our Lord Jesus. The ultimate One to seek the welfare of His people; the One above all others who speaks peace to all His people. The One who with overwhelming sacrificial love came to bless his people.
In the listing of the qualifications for elders we read he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil (1 Tim. 3:7). It is important that an elder has a good reputation among outsiders.
In view of this, I suggest, that it is a good practice, when considering someone for eldership, to do some investigation among outsiders who have awareness of the prospective elder. One good thing to do is to contact their employer and find out what that person’s view is of their charachter.
In doing this we are exercising due diligence to make sure that we are only recognising those as elders who fit the requirements of scripture.
We need to remember that leadership is a significant role on the church and that leadership effects the health of the church “big time”. God has given us the pro-forma for elders in scripture and we should make sure that we get those as elders who are aligned therewith.
To a greater or lesser extent all of us come to junctures in our lives when we have to take on responsibility. That may be in the family, in the workplace, in the community, in the church or wherever. Alas, many of us drift into these situation with little thought or preparation.
Joshua was faced with taking on responsibility as leaders of the nation of Israel. Moses, in Deuteronomy 31:7-13 being aware of this focuses on toe things which will be necessary for Him to have if He is to effectively carry out his responsibility.
The Right Attitude. Joshua is called to Be strong and courageous (v7b). With responsibility come challenges, struggles, opposition and difficulties. If we do not set ourselves to persevere through these then we will soon go the way of the snowflake in a heatwave. We will soon disappear from the scene of our responsibility. We may still have the office thereof, but we will cease to function effectively.
So we need those of courage in all different realms. Elders of churches need to be displayers of this.
The Right Dependence. We are not just to be those of courage in a stoic kind of way. We are those of courage because we have a God who we can depend upon in all the struggles of life. Moses tells Joshua It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed (v8). Such a God is worthy of our trust. To survive and prosper in any position of responsibility we need to trust in Him.
The Right Guide. Having commissioned Joshua, Moses in vv9-13 delivers the Word of the Lord to the priests and the elders of Israel. They are to have custody of the law and make sure it is read every seven years. Implicit in this is that all the people including Joshua will have the Word of God to guide them. Jesus must lead according to the Word that all the people know. Otherwise His leadership will be of no account and should be rejected.
So fellow leaders, have courage, depend on the Lord and follow His Word. Then you will be a blessing in your sphere of responsibility.