Often, churches will seek out and choose men to serve as deacons or elders merely because they have a charismatic personality, possess some leadership skills, have impressive talents, or are good at business or politics. However good those things might be, too frequently the requirements that God presents in Scripture are ignored or overlooked. The consequences, then, for bringing a person who has impressive talents or skills, but not the character traits of godly Christlikeness, the spiritual gifts, or even the right motivation has too often been to detriment of the church.
Here is a checklist that can be used as a guide for identifying whether or not an individual is truly qualified for the position and responsibility as an elder or deacon.
Does the man possess the right equipment?
That is, does he have the right gifts for the office of deacon or elder?
- The man has been obviously endowed with God-given spiritual gifts (Mk. 16:15-18; Lk. 21:15; 24:49; Acts 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 5:22; Ti. 1:7).
- The potential elder must be knowledgeable of the Scriptures, faithful to its doctrines and is able to teach, exhort-counsel from the Scriptures (1 Thess. 2:11,12; 1 Timothy; Titus 3).
- The potential elder must be gifted to lead as a servant of God (1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; 1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17).
- The potential elder or deacon is gifted to serve others (Acts 20:24f; Rom. 15:26-33).
- He must be able to share his material resources with others (Acts 4; Eph. 4:28).
- The potential officer is currently demonstrating a heart of mercy (Matt. 25; 1 Cor. 12:28)
Does the potential officer of God’s Church possess the right motivation?
- The man has expressed that he has an inward call and desire from God to serve.
- He is faithful and shows an above-average commitment to the Lord, this church, and his family.
- He is obviously responsive to the gifting and the call of the Holy Spirit in his life (Acts 20:28).
- He desires to serve in the capacity of deacon or elder (1 Tim. 3:1).
- His motives are biblical and Christ-like (1 Peter 5:1ff).
- Not only does he have the inward call of God, but God’s people in this church recognize his call as a qualified and legitimate (Acts 6; Jer. 23:32; Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4).
Does the man possess the right character?
As Kevin Reed points out, “these qualities (character qualities found in 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus and 1 Peter) focus upon the three important aspects of a man’s life: his moral behavior, his knowledge of Christian doctrine, and his family life. An elder continually will be in public view. The respect an officer receives often depends more on an example of good character than from anything else about him” (Biblical Church Government, p. 9). All godly men should have these qualities, but the man who is selected for office in Christ’s kingdom must be measured by these qualities to see if he is ready for the office (1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2; Ti, 2:7,8). Every person in Christ is called to put off the old sinful nature and put on these traits of Christ. Though no man, candidate or officer in Christ’s Church demonstrates any or all of these qualities perfectly, nevertheless it must be obvious that the officer has and demonstrates most of these qualities with consistent regularity.
Does the man measure up to what the Word of God requires for godly character (not perfectly nor completely, but obviously and substantially):
- The candidate is above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6).
- He has restrained control in his life (1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Thess. 5:6,8).
- He is a true gentle man (approachable, kind, gracious, firm yet diplomatic) (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:23-25; Matt. 11:29; Acts 24:4; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2:7; James 3:17).
- He is not pugnacious, not prone to violence (1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7; Prov. 3:30; 15:18; 17:14; 20:3; 25:8; 26:17; Phil. 2:3).
- He is not quarrelsome (1 Tim. 3:2, 3; 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:22-26; Ti. 3:9 Eccl. 10:4; Matt. 5:9; Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14; Jas. 3:17).
- He is not greedy (1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7 cp. 1 Tim. 6:5-10; Acts 20:33; 2 Tim. 3:6-7).
- He is not given easily to selfish anger (Ti. 1:7; Pro. 16:32).
- He is not over-indulgent or a drunk (1 Tim. 3:3; Ti. 1:7). The principle is that he has disciplined control over bodily appetites (Gen. 19; Prov. 20:1; 23; Eccles. 10:17; Isa. 5:11; Isa. 28:1; Luke 21:34; Rom. 13:13; Eph. 5:18).
- He is self-controlled (Ti. 1:8; Eph. 5:4; Acts 24:25; Rom. 6:12; Jas. 3:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-7; Matt. 26:41; 1 Cor. 10:12; 1 Pet. 5:8).
- He is truly humble (not self-willed) (Luke 14:10; Phil 2:3; Ti. 1:7; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5; Rom. 12:3, 10, 16).
- The candidate is holy (religiously, biblically devout, pious) (Ti. 1:8; Lev. 11:45; Luke 1:74,75; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:11).
- His persona and life demonstrate biblical hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Ti. 1:9; 1 Pet. 4:9; Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2).
- He is just (upright, righteous, impartial in dealing with people) (Ti. 1:8; Deut. 16:20; Psa. 82:3; Prov. 21:3; Isa. 56:1; Rom. 13:7; Col. 4:1).
- The man is a lover of good (has a love of virtue, good men and things) (Ti. 1:8; 1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 3:6; 4:14; 10:23; Rev. 3:3).
- He is prudent, wise (skilled at bringing God’s thoughts to bear on all matters of life) (1 Tim. 3:2; Ti. 1:8; Proverbs).
- He is respectable (well-ordered, well-arranged, decorous in behavior and speech; good manners) (1 Tim. 3:2).