What makes a true leader in the church?  The criteria for authentic leaders are plain and obvious in the New Testament and are drawn from 1Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5. Read these texts to verify this summary is accurate. 

  1. A good reputation in the community….people who have seen him in the real world, watched him do his job, take care of his responsibilities, pay his bills, etc… knows if he’s authentic. You act great inside the church but better not be a stinker with outsiders.

  2. Hospitable…this means the love of strangers. An elder/pastor opens his life, home and table to all kinds of people all kinds of times as a lifestyle. Aloof, private people are welcome in the church, just not as leaders. Discipleship flourishes around a kitchen table. 

  3. Respectable…A leader carries himself with dignity, confidence and decorum. He is the kind of guy that  people honor because of his life and character.

  4. Is self-controlled….his life is one of discipline and balance. An emotional guy who can’t control his reactions or moods is a loose cannon in the church. 

  5. Does not pick fights….People can push your buttons. You are not allowed to push back even if a smack upside the head appears to be the only thing that can make a point. The theme of self-control continues here. You are a person of composure, not the Machine Gun Preacher.

  6. Doesn’t habituate alcoholic beverages. You are not the guy making lots of trips to the open bar at the wedding reception or the one who needs the fortitude from booze. This is the self-control thing again.

  7. Is not flirty or given to sexual temptation. This guy is a one woman man and he treats women with honor and decorum. He safeguards himself from sexual temptation by cultivating a great life with his wife and avoiding compromising situations and what he allows his eyes to see. 

  8. He can teach people how to live for God. This includes a command of the scriptures, combined with life experience and the capacity to challenge people to make right choices and embrace Biblical truth. This requires moxie especially when dealing with knuckleheads, and yes there are knuckleheads. 

  9. Not in it for the money. Most leaders are volunteers, some are bi-vocational and some are modestly supported financially. You will rarely be paid what you are worth. Get used to it. Jesus didn’t nor will you. Besides some well-heeled prosperity preachers you will live a life of sacrifice and your salary will often represent your community’s median income. 

  10. Manages his household well and knows how to manage life, finances, relationships and children. Leaders teach us how to live  the whole of life to the glory of God and that is a whole lot more than Bible teaching. Exegeting the Greek is good, exegeting life is better.  Pastors must be more than hapless scholastics they should model wisdom and excellence in other areas of life. 

  11.  Sincere. A leader functions with clear motives and is honest about his failings. You can trust him.

  12.  Not Quarrelsome. A leader focuses on the positives and minimizes differences when possible. Change flows through building trusting relationships that are the channel for truth and transformation. A patient, secure leader takes the long view, minimizing confrontations and conflicts to a few urgent instances.  An elder on occasion will become embattled with words providentially those times will be few.

  13.  Not a dictator, but operates with a generous, approachable collegial spirit. Elders are not to rule alone but as part of a team. The CEO model is antithetical to a robust elder-led church. The church is to be countercultural. 

  14.  Not a recent convert. Leadership development is a crockpot and not a microwave. There are predictable outcomes in promoting talented engaging persons before they are of proven character. Empowerment and opportunity are only effective when a person is secure, humble and teachable. Prideful newer leaders will envy and seek the positions and influence of older more established leaders. Such leaders have an unrealistic assessment of themselves. When given enough rope, prematurely placed leaders will hang themselves and barely notice when they are climbing the gallows of their own making. Sadly such leaders take people with them.

  15.  Loves doctrine. Yep you heard me right. An elder must be able to navigate Biblical truth, know the theological landscape and be articulate about the categories of theology. Knowledge is not an enemy of love, humility or spirituality but instead safeguards the church from error and emphasis. 

  16.  They are overseers. The term bishop in 1 Titus 1 is a transliteration of episcopos, one who over-sees.  A leader looks out for others for protection and care. Leaders are not preeminently showmen and public speakers but responsible servant leaders who keep a look out over the flock. 

  17. They are elders. Presbuteros means old man. Think of the quintessential village elder who is the wise go-to-guy who sagely settles disputes, who maintains order and community values.. Leaders of the church should rarely be young. Zeal is commendable but it is not the same as knowledge, life experience and stability. Young emerging leaders should be understudies for a very long time, encourage initiative tethered to supervision with patient character and skill development. 

  18.  Called by the church. In each case leaders are not self appointed but are homegrown and authenticated in the local church and finally accredited by dully constituted church leaders. The entrepreneurial approach to launching into ministry has less to do with the Holy Spirit and more in line with the spirit of the age with its autonomy, subjectivity, individualism and resistance to authority.


About The Author 

Joseph Horevay became a Christ follower in 1972 in the Jesus Movement. He soon entered youth ministry, Christian broadcasting and later church planting and pastoral ministry. First ordained in 1982 he has participated in missions work, church planting and leadership development on four continents. Joseph and his lovely wife Renee are co-founders of NEO House Church Network, a network of micro-churches affiliated with the Christian & Missionary Alliance.They actively focus on the emergence of the “Church of the city” as an expression of John 17 and developing a sustainable indigenous missions presence in Nepal. Joseph is the father of four and a grandfather to seven.