Tomorrow's Shepherd's Today - Character
Leaders must possess a high level of character if they want others to follow. This is especially true of the man who is to lead and shepherd God’s people. A leader’s character will determine whether or not others find him credible. It has been said that, “All the programs to develop leaders, all the courses and classes, all the books and tapes, all the blogs and websites offering tips and techniques are meaningless unless the people who are supposed to follow believe in the person who’s supposed to lead… credibility is the foundation of leadership” (Kouzes and Posner 15). God knows this, and there are four specific qualities connected with the character of the elder mentioned by Paul which we will discuss.
First, the shepherd of God’s flock is to possess a character that is the opposite of quarrelsome. Paul says that he must not be, “pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable” (1 Timothy 3:3). Because an elder is leading real people, with real problems, and real emotions, it is vital that he not have a tendency to be one who finds himself in and enjoys conflict. Furthermore, he will also be shepherding alongside other men in a position of authority; thus, if any of those men are prone to argue and quarrel, problems can arise quickly. There can be times when, “conflict consumes so much of the group’s attention and energy that little is left over to accomplish the group’s mission” (Leas 98). The mission of the elders and the church is too important to have it derailed because of conflict. Having classes and training on conflict resolution can help prepare the young men to deal with such scenarios. Discussing areas in their life in which they experience conflict,and how they have handled it, along with potential future strife in the church, can help teach them and bring to light areas of needed improvement.
Second, the shepherd is to be “respectable” (1 Timothy 3:2). He should be one who respects others; their feelings, thoughts, opinions, concerns, problems, etc. One way to develop this quality is to get the young men involved in serving others, visiting others, as well as talking and interacting with others. Perhaps while these actions are taking place, there could be selected individuals (one of the older men) who could evaluate and record the interaction and discuss it as a group or individually later. Audio or video recording would be another option, with time after to sit down and process the account. Focus can also be given to being respectable in their home environment. For those who are younger, being respectable to their parents and siblings. For those who are older, being respectable in their workplace, school, and marriage.
Third, the shepherd is to have the kind of character which is “loving what is good, … just, devout” (Titus 1:8). All Christians are called to be holy and separate from the rest of the world. The elder, while imperfect, is to be the example of holiness, goodness, and dedication to God and His work. So many in the world, and sadly even in the church at times, love that which is the opposite of good. An overseer must love what is good. He must be just in his own character, but also towards others. There will be many situations that arise for elders to make decisions, cast judgments, and perhaps even instill discipline, and it is important not to treat some one way and others another. If God’s people are going to be dedicated to growing spiritually, to serving God and serving others, to being people of the word, they will look to the elders to lead the way. Training in these areas can come from the older men spending time with the younger doing things that are “good.” By removing unholy music, movies, friends, and more from their lives and creating opportunities for wholesome activities, growth and preparation in this area can occur. Central North does well in this area by having many activities in which the youth/young adults spend time together.
Fourth, the shepherd is to not be “overbearing, not fond of sordid gain” (Titus 1:7). There is much responsibility and even power that comes with being an overseer in the church. If one has the wrong motives, if he is in it for the gain of power, prestige, money, or anything else that might come with having authority, all sorts of issues will arise and the people will not be led the way they should. It is easy to fall into the category of being “overbearing.” Elders do have authority in the church. However, to successfully lead, they must recognize that they are shepherding God’s people for the purpose of helping bring them to an eternal relationship with God. One important factor to remember, according to The Arbinger Institute, is that they are people and not objects, and this involves getting oneself out of their own personal “box” (43). Training in this area could be done in two ways. First, perhaps each quarter have three of the young men be involved in the counting of the contribution. This could be rotated over the three year period. When people handle money that is not theirs, they find out how they will react to it. Furthermore, during the same time frame opportunities could be created to get the young men involved in making needed purchases for the church. Second, divide the group into three groups of four. For the length of one year, in four-month segments, with the help/oversight of one of the older men, have one group in charge of the education, one over worship, and one over the youth. Each group could rotate every four months, to ensure gaining experience overseeing each area. This will allow them to gain exposure in being in charge and leading people.