Qualities of a Good Church Leader
“Pastor Impregnates Girlfriend, Dumps Her”; “Prophet Causes Couple to Divorce”; “Pastor Says He Is Worth Millions”; “Prophet Convinces Congregation to Eat Grass”; “Pastor Supports Homosexuality”; “Prophet Performs Miracle Abortion”; “Pastor Embezzles Church Funds”; “Bishop Marries 9 Wives”;
These are the sort of news headlines and scandals that continue to increase regarding church leaders around the world. It is the sort of news that brings shame and disgrace to true Christians and most importantly, these kind of stories and scandals about church leaders disgrace the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. When church leaders are ruled by a sinful and hypocritical nature, it may also prevent unbelievers from receiving true knowledge regarding the word of God because of the hypocritical behavior that unbelievers may witness from various so-called church leaders.
So what are the qualities of a true church leader? What does the Bible say about the characteristics of a church leader?
Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Timothy 3:2-7 mentions the requirements or qualities of a good church leader.
Whether that leader is a pastor, an elder, a deacon, a teacher, choir member etc, God desires that leaders be above reproach and that they lead an exemplary life that glorifies God and reflects the virtues of what it really means to be part of the kingdom of God.
Therefore according to scripture, the qualities of a good church leader are as follows:
1. A Church Leader Must Be Above Reproach. (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6)
The word “reproach” is defined as: disgrace or shame eg (he brought reproach upon his family).
Therefore a church leader must not bring disgrace or shame to the church or to God by his/her sinful or hypocritical behavior.
2. A Church Leader Must Be The Husband of One Wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6)
A church leader must only have one spouse. A church leader cannot be polygamous. He/she must be devoted and faithful to his/her spouse. Therefore adultery or sexual immorality of any kind is forbidden and it is grounds for disqualifying a person from church leadership.
3. A Church Leader Must Be a Good Manager of His Own Household (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:6)
A church leader must be able to manage and lead his own home before he/she can lead a church. According to scripture, a church leader’s children must be submissive and not unruly. Paul clearly states “for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5).
4. A Church Leader Must Be Sober-Minded & Self-Controlled (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
To be sober-minded means to be rational; sensible; to have a sound / clean mind. A good church leader should not be prone to irrational thoughts and behavior. A church leader must show good mental and emotional balance. He/she must be disciplined and self-controlled and these qualities are part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
5. A Church Leader Must Not Be Arrogant or Quick Tempered (Titus 1:7)
A good church leader must be humble. Church leaders should not boast about themselves nor should they think themselves to be more important than others. Humility is a fruit and characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Therefore a good church leader is led by the Holy Spirit and as such reflects the nature of God in his/her behavior.
6. A Church Leader Must Be Hospitable & Able to Teach (1 Timothy 3:2)
A good church leader is friendly and welcoming to visitors, guests or strangers. A good church leader is approachable and does not distance him/herself from those whom he/she leads.
A good church leader must also be a good teacher. He should teach not only with words but also by actions.
7. A Church Leader Must Not Be a Drunkard, Nor Violent, Nor Quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:3)
God does not accept it when a church leader is influenced or intoxicated by alcohol. The Lord does not accept drunkenness from His followers. Church leaders must not be addicted to any type of substance that negatively influences one’s mental, emotional and spiritual state.
God also expects that church leaders promote peace and not violence. The gospel promotes love and not hate. Therefore church leaders through their sermons and teachings should never promote violence or hatred between people.
8. A Church Leader Must Not Be Greedy For Gain Nor A Lover of Money (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)
The preaching of the false doctrine that is called the “prosperity gospel” and other false teachings by the Word of Faith movement has enriched many church leaders and given them celebrity status. The wealth of such preachers has been amassed through the monetary contributions and “seeding” from many of their unsuspecting followers who through deception and false doctrines blindly give their money to leaders who only seek to enrich themselves because of greed.
9. A Church Leader Must Be A Lover of Good, Upright & Holy (Titus 1:8)
A church leader’s morals, virtues and values must originate from God. Such values, morals and virtues must also be founded upon the word of God and it is through God’s word that we can also differentiate between what is good and what is evil. Therefore a church leader must live his/her life according to the sound teaching of God’s word.
It has become a worrying factor for example, when various church leaders are now supporting homosexuality yet God’s word teaches us to hate sin but to love what is good.
Church leaders are expected to walk in integrity and holiness and to promote by example a lifestyle that is pleasing to God and is in obedience to His word.
10. A Church Leader Must Not Be A Recent Convert (1 Timothy 3:6)
Getting a recent convert to become a church leader can be likened to getting a new born child to become a parent. The process of life just doesn’t work that way.
Just like a child must develop from childhood to adulthood, a recent convert is still spiritually immature and therefore needs guidance and teaching until a time when they are spiritually mature.
A recent convert therefore cannot be spiritually equipped or mature to fulfill or deal with leadership challenges. Also, for a recent convert, the taste of power and authority over others may corrupt the mind or influence negatively.
11. A Church Leader Must Teach Sound Doctrine & Rebuke Those Who Contradict It (Titus 1:9)
A good church leader does not sit on the fence on various life issues. Rather a good church leader must boldly teach the truth and rebuke those who contradict the truth. For example, a growing number of church leaders prefer to sit on the fence on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and sex. They prefer to be popular with people by preaching what people want to hear instead of preaching the truth of God’s word. The truth is sometimes painful to hear and it is not always accepted with open arms – however, according to scripture, the truth will set us free.
12. A Church Leader Must Have a Good Testimony and Well Thought Of (1 Timothy 3:7)
It is obviously impossible for a church leader to be liked / loved by everyone. Any person who lives according to God’s word and seeks to teach His word correctly will ultimately have a good testimony from those who are like-minded and seek the truth and who genuinely desire to live a godly life in Christ.
Therefore in a world were cult leaders, false teachers and false prophets are on the increase, it is very important that we exercise spiritual discernment and understand what the word of God says about the type of leaders that we should follow. The Bible warns us about false teachers and about the rise of false prophets (Matthew 24:24).
Therefore we are warned not to follow hypocritical or deceptive church leaders as such people are spiritually abusive and dangerous to our relationship with God. Ultimately God is our Leader and what God says in His word is more important than any earthly leader.
(see article: 12 Characteristics of a Cult Leader)