It's the Fall and while some people's thoughts turn to apple picking, and leaf raking, and football, pastors and other church leaders are thinking about the needs for church leadership in the coming new year. It's nominating committee season in most churches. Not a job most of us look forward to. Time is the new currency as they say today and that means no one thinks they have time to take on one more task. And serving on church boards and committees is not the sort of dream job most people are looking for. So the nominating committee is charged with a difficult task. How to convince people to serve on a committee they really don't want to be on when they are pressed for time to do the things they want to do. I have known desperate nominating committee members to plead with potential candidates for church committees, 'Oh it won't take much time. Just a hour or so a month, and everyone misses some meetings. I would so appreciate it if you would just fill this slot on the board for me! Thanks!"
It may have always been like this in the church even from New Testament times. The first letter from Paul to Timothy addresses Timothy's nominating committee concerns. In chapter 3, Paul lays out the qualifications Timothy should be looking for in church leaders. I find it helpful to review these every year. There is no quota for church leaders. No Scriptural number of elders or deacons a church needs to have. God gives leaders to the church and he doesn't care about how many slots we need to fill.
Church leadership is based on character and faith more than special skills or successes outside the church. The nominating committee needs to be asking who are the spiritually mature persons in our church. It's not a matter of filling slots but it is a matter of providing opportunities for those God has prepared, to lead. Every open slot may not be filled, and that is ok. It's not slots; it's service.
Paul tells Timothy that those chosen to serve must have good references from outsiders (v7). Now, there's a switch! But, I think what Paul is speaking to is the church's missional character. We are to be engaging with our wider community. We are seeking persons who serve who understand that. That we are not staffing our own spiritual club but we are building a mission outpost which wants to reach out for Christ in the place where we live. We are recruiting persons who want to serve others, outside of our own internal interests. We want to get them on board with us for that wider mission.
In v. 10, Paul mentions that the persons we are looking for to become church leaders not be new or naive Christians. They need to be tested. Church leadership is a tough job. People need to know that either by experience or training. We need to tell them up front. Here are some of the issues we are dealing with. Here are some of the conflicts. This is a job that means something. We are calling you because you have the gifts to help us move forward with God's mission but there will be obstacles. Nothing burns a Christian out more than serving on a church committee or board that he or she figured would be a piece of cake and instead finds himself or herself picking up the crumbs. Serving in the church "tests" our faith, our love, and our commitment. It is by meeting these tests that our spiritual life can grow deeper, though.
Nominating season doesn't have to be a bummer. Not if it is seen as a critical way of enabling others in the church to vitally engage in God's mission in our community.