A friend and I were engaged in a discussion this morning regarding the characteristics and qualities of church leaders. We came to the joint-conclusion that humility is one of the most important characteristics of any Gospel-centered minister, elder, or deacon. This might even be the first trait one should look for in searching out their ministers, elders, and deacons.
Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Listen to the words of C.S. Lewis, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
The Gospel-centered leader, as he matures, gains a greater understanding of God’s holy and perfect Law. More and more he realizes the sort of worship deserved by his holy Creator. More and more he recognizes how God demands and deserves image-bearers that love him with all their hearts, souls, mind, and strength all the time. As the leader grows in wisdom, he better sees the high and impossible nature of God’s Law. The mature leader finds Law-keeping harder and not easier as the days go by.
The Gospel-centered leader, as he matures, becomes increasingly aware of his own sinful desires, thoughts, words, and deeds. As he continues to grow in wisdom, he finds himself increasingly convinced of his inability to keep any of God’s good, perfect, and holy laws. More and more he loathes any self-righteousness in himself. More and more he sees the huge gap between God’s perfect expectations and his imperfect worship. Yes, as the man of God grows in his mastery of God’s Word, he sees more of his sin and not less. The Gospel-centered leader, he knows his fleshly nature is only sinful and wretched.
The Gospel-centered leader, as he matures, has zero-interest in comparing himself with his neighbors. From his study of Scripture, he becomes rightly convinced his neighbors are not the standard. God’s Law is the sacred mark, and he sees himself as one consistently falling far short of any and all of God’s commands. The beam in his own eye is far too large for him to worry much about the splinter in his brother’s eye. Therefore, as he becomes more “elderly,” he becomes more humble. This wiser man sees himself as the extortioner, the unjust, the adulterer, the tax collector, or the prostitute. One might even find him calling himself the “Chief of Sinners.”
The Gospel-centered leader, as he matures, repents more and more. He does so more today than he did yesterday, and he is pretty sure he will repent even more tomorrow than he is doing today. Daily, he beats his chest. Daily he cries out, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” This is then followed up by his daily preaching the Gospel to himself and enjoying fresh expressions of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Semper-reformanda is his creed. He is the one repenting most and best.
The Gospel-centered leader, as he matures, shows himself as the freest and happiest of worshipers. He has been the law-breaker who is now called the law-keeper. He has been the weary one who has found rest. He has been the vile, dirty, and naked one who now relishes in the righteous clothing of Christ. He has been the thirsty one now satisfied by Christ’s glorious wine. This man, he knows how to worship best because he has been forgiven most.
The Gospel-centered leader, as he matures, increasingly longs to see other inexcusable sinners receive undeserved, complete, and immutable forgiveness. Hear again the quote from C.S. Lewis, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” When he prays, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” he means it from his heart. He is the “spiritual one” who gently restores. He is the one quick to overlook a fault. He is the one who keeps no record of wrong. All he wants to do is shower people with grace and restore them to ministry. Like Simon Peter, he knows full-well what the Savior has done for him. Therefore he is eager to fully pass along God’s love to others. He can’t wait to pass along the undeserved grace of God to his erring brothers and sisters.
Oh friends, wouldn’t this be refreshing? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the leaders of your church were the most Gospel-centered and the most humble? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your church was led less by self-righteous Pharisees and led more by self-distrusting chest beaters?
Sure, testimony, calling, character, gifts, doctrine, and reputation matter, but what matters most is Gospel-centerdness manifesting itself in self-abasing humility.
So members, why don’t you pray for such, nominate such, and vote for such. As you find these leaders, they will be very easy to follow.
Leaders, why don’t we pray for such and practice such. It is good for us to beat our chests. It shows we are wise. It shows we are being humbled. It shows we are maturing. It shows we are really starting to understand the Gospel of God’s unfathomable grace.