Church Planter - Character
Character should never be assumed but often is in a pastoral search. We often times don't go there because we feel that we are being intrusive or that it is "none of our business." But the stresses of church planting expose our weaknesses - especially our weaknesses in the area of character.
In the EFCA we define character as "The candidate is demonstrating godliness and integrity in his personal, married, and public life. The qualifications for biblical eldership and servant-leadership are evident and he is growing in Christlikeness. His devotional life is a vital factor in his growth."
1 Timothy 3
In 1 Timothy 3, Paul starts by affirming the desire to be an overseer in the local church. It is a good desire. But, the requirements to become an overseer and the burden of being one are high. Paul reminds us that an overseer must be above reproach. This is the starting point. Are our lives above reproach. Is who we are in public and who we are in private the same. In other ways, do we live authentic lives? Do we treat our kids differently at home than we do in public? Do we act one way when we are with one group of friends and another way when we are with another group of friends? Or are we always living for an audience of one - desiring to live a life that is pleasing to God.
Paul continues with being the husband of one wife. Now obviously he is not stating that marriage is a requirement for pastoral ministry or eldership. Instead, he is focusing on the covenental bond and reminder all the way back to Genesis that we are to leave our parents and cleave to our wife. We are to become one with her. We are to have no other loves besides her. We are to love her as Christ loves the church. She is to be cherished, loved, and supported to become the child of God that God has created her to be. We can only do that for one person and no other person, or image, should come between us. We don't have to look very far to see the pastoral leaders that have had to leave pastoral ministry because they missed the mark on this foundational issue.
Are you "sober-minded, self-controlled, and respectable"? These character traits relate to how one handles one's emotions and impulses. Do you live a thoughtful live or are you always acting on your emotions. Are you self-controlled or are you always erupting in anger? Do people see you as respectable? Do people see your public life as worthy of respect?
Are you hospitable? This is not simply putting out coffee and cookies for guests - althought that is part of it. It goes beyond that. Are you willing to open up your home for others use? Is your home a ministry base or merely a refuge from the outside world.
Are you able to teach? This is the one skill mentioned in the entire list. I believe that this is not the preaching function, but the ability to teach people and contend for the faith with a few. This could be one on one, a small group, or a larger setting.
Are you "not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money"? Paul does not say that one cannot drink here, but simply that one is not to be a drunkard. This is an area of Christian liberty in the EFCA. One that has a history of addictions is wise to abstain. Others may feel the freedom to enjoy to the glory of God. Wisdom and discernment is required by both positions. An elder cannot be a violent person. This is speaking to acts of violence - either against a person or property. It has no place in the life of a Christian - especially an elder. An elder must not be quarrelsome. Controversy and arguments simply follow some people. The role of an elder is to bring unity not division. Therefore, a quarrelsome person cannot be an elder. Finally, an elder cannot be a lover of money. It is not a bad thing to be well compensated. A well compensated person can not only provide for their family but also be a great blessing to other people. But the love of money causes all kinds of problem. We must remember that we are to be content with even the most simpilest of life styles. If we are always pursuing "just a little more" we may love money more than we think.
Do you manage your household well? Whether single or married, with or without kids, one must manage one's household well. This includes the following things in no particular order. (1) A sense of order. Is your household orderly. Are you ready for uninvited company? (2) Financially. Are your personal finances in order. Do you live within your means with a reasonable amount of debt? So many students do not think through the ramifications of taking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt to finance their education. They forget they are becoming pastors, not doctors and lawyers. (3) Children. I believe this is primarily referring to younger children. In general, are your kids respectful and honoring of you and other adults - especially in public. Our society has postponed adulthood to far. Grace must be extended to the parents with rebellious teenagers.
Are you a recent convert? I want to be cautious of putting a time period on this but we must act with great discernment in placing a person as an elder, pastor, or church planter who has not been walking with the Lord for very long.
Finally, are you well though of by oustiders? How do people in your community view you? Do you have friends outside of your church in your neighborhood. Are you trusted by others? Do people go to you in their times of need?
A Few Spiritual Disciplines
The aspiration to be an elder or church planter is a good desire. As you explore church planting it is important to have your spiritual house in order. Be transparent with your victories and defeats so that your multitude of counselors can provide you with good counsel.
A good resources for this is Peter Scazzero's Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
Do you maintain a Daily Office of regular time with the Lord? It is time with the Lord through His Word and prayer that shapes our soul.
Do you have fellowship often with other believers? Do you have a few people that know you well? That can speak into your live. That can call you out? That can encourage you along your journey.
Do you corporately worship the Lord weekly? Corporate worship is when the body of Christ is united together. It is more than just a sermon and music. It is a time to join others in praise to our God for who He is and what He has done for us?
Do you actively engage in service? Serving others is an important part of the Christian life. This should take place in both the life of your local church and in the life of your local community. You might protest that you don't have time. Make your service a part of your life. I coach youth sports for my kids. It is a simple platform that helps me to have a good reputation with outsiders.
Do you actively engage in evangelism? For many leaders in the church, this is our weekest area. We expect our people to do it but we often don't do it ourselves. Unfortanetely they have no one to follow because their leaders are failing in this area. Pray for those around you. Look for opportunities to share the Good News. Obey and share the Gospel.
I remember meeting with an elder board some time ago. We were talking about the importance of the role of elder. I asked them the simple question, "Do you want to know what your people will look like (spirtiually) in a few years?" I gave them the simple answer, "look around this room. They will follow the spiritual example set by the pastors and elders of the church."
This is the great burden of spiritual leadership in the local church. People are following our spriitual example. If we are intentional, they will be intetional. If we are passionate about time with Christ, they will become passionate about their time with God. If we are a prayerful leadership team, the church will become a prayerful church.
See also Titus 1 and Acts 6