Some of the qualities given for being an elder or a deacon apply to other leadership positions in religious organizations. As Howell notes, Paul believed that people who were going to be elders in the church must be up for good works. They must have a faith that is about more than just believing, but rather, also about getting out there and doing. A leader who could qualify under Paul’s criteria would be a person who was active in his leadership of the church and who could lead by example when other people need to understand the importance of taking action.

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One of the most important criterion mentioned by Howell is the idea that deacons and elders must be proven. They were not to be novices. The idea was that wisdom is gained through experience, and taking on a person who was novice was too big of a risk for an organization to take. Instead, any person who wanted to fill that position must have a record of service in the church and outside of it so that they could be judged on the merits of what they have done in the past. While this might seem like something that would work for every position in a religious organization, it should not be. There are many leadership positions within a host of religious organizations that could be held by people who are relatively new to the practice. Importantly, just because a person is new does not necessarily mean that person is unfit for the job. God called a number of new people to ministry, including in roles of leadership. Likewise, new blood is sometimes good in organizations, as it can reinvigorate the congregation and give the organization some legitimacy with younger people. This is the kind of requirement that could keep the church from having a long-term mindset of sustainable growth if applied to all positions of leadership.

  • Howell, Don N., Jr. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.