Last month we introduced the idea of the need to RE-UP, or in other words, the need to renew your invitation to trusted friends and brothers to speak openly into your life. We were never meant to live the Christian life on our own. Hebrews 3:13 tells us why it is so important to RE-UP with one another: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” In other words, sin is deceitful and blinding by nature, so we need other people to lovingly point out where we have been deceived and blinded.
For church leaders this is especially important. As we begin, it’s important to define the true nature of an elder’s qualifications. Church leaders are called to be examples to their flock (1 Peter 5:3) and are required to be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). In thinking about these qualifications and others like them, it’s important that we interpret them using the lens of the gospel. When Peter says, for example, that elders should be examples to their flock, it does not mean they must never sin. But it does mean when they sin, they should be examples of repentant faith. When Paul says that elders should manage their household well, it does not mean that someone is disqualified or unworthy as an elder simply because he lost his temper at his children. But it does mean that the elder should lead his family in confession of sin and repentance when he does lose his temper. So the goal is not being a model of moral perfection, but a model of repentance; not an example in strength but an example in humility and awareness of personal sin and of grace.
Understanding the nature of these qualifications encourages leaders to invite others to speak into their lives. It encourages leaders because it means their calling is not at risk when someone sees their sin and weakness. It’s also a helpful reminder that leaders are just like the sheep they are leading, but called to a different position. The leader-sheep needs the same thing the follower-sheep needs. How will they be Christ-like examples if they don’t have someone helping them see where they aren’t living like Christ? And how can they be “above reproach” if they don’t have someone who knows their weakness and temptations and can wisely encourage them? So church leaders must RE-UP with one another regularly, renewing the invitation to others for help living as leaders.
If you are a ministry leader and have no one who truly knows you, ask yourself, “Why?” For pastors, is it a fear of job security? For elders, is it credibility among the flock? Remember, God’s qualification for an elder is not perfection, but humility born out of the gospel. Or does no one know you because you feel the need to protect your image among those you lead? There may be some wisdom there, but your sheep also may need to see a flaw or two so that they not mistake you for the Good Shepherd himself. Is it pride that keeps you from letting in your closest friends on your sin and weakness? There is no need to tell everyone everything about you, but there should be at least three people who know everything: your wife, a trusted elder, and a wise objective mentor outside of your local church.
The gospel simplifies the complexities of life. It is a simple thing to invite someone to speak openly into your life, but make no mistake, it is no easy task! It takes courage and humility, so if you have been invited, please don’t pass on the opportunity to speak the Truth with Love. This is a special gift of kingdom relationship. And when it comes time to speak, make sure your friend knows that you love them in Christ, and make sure that the invitation still stands (hence the need for the RE-UP). Also make sure your heart is in the right place – free of judgment, wanting the best for the person and for the kingdom. Above all, as you speak, remember that Truth and Love must go together, for as our brother Warren Wiersbe says, “truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.”