Leaders of the church must be men who are competent. Competency to lead, to manage, and to make good decisions for the church. There are many other necessary areas of competency; however, there are three in particular which Paul references that we will address.
First, the shepherd must be competent in the area of truth, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching” (Titus 1:9). God gave certain core doctrines to His apostles, who in turn gave them to the church orally and in written form. From the very beginning of the church to the present-day, there have been those who seek to change God’s word. Paul says the elder is to be competent in the truth in order to exhort the brethren, but to also refute the false teachers.
Second, the shepherd must be competent in the area of teaching that truth (1 Timothy 3:2). Teaching in the form of refuting false doctrine. Teaching in the form of encouraging others to live more like Christ. There are several ways in which this teaching can manifest itself. It could be in a Bible class setting, from the pulpit, one-on-one study, in written form, in living a Christian life, in small groups, etc.
Third the shepherd must be competent in the area of courage and protecting the flock (Acts 20). In speaking to the elders in Ephesus, Paul told them to “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, … I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30).
When it comes to developing leaders in the area of truth and biblical knowledge, there are many ways to go about it. What is undeniable is the need for it. The New Testament is full of warnings and exhortations about false teachers and knowing the truth. Jesus said, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). He also said that knowing the truth is what sets a person free from sin (John 8:32). Paul prophesied multiple times about men who would fall away from the truth (1 Timothy 4:1ff.; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Geiger and Peck reference Noel Tichey, who in his book The Leadership Engine, says that to develop someone, a leader must: “(1) Take direct responsibility for the development of other leaders and (2) have teachable points they can articulate to others. Which is another reason why the Church should excel in leadership development, we have a faith that has been delivered once and for all the saints (Jude 3). We have a core set of beliefs that originated with Him, and not with us. ‘He gave us anew birth by the message of truth’ (James 1:18), and He matures us through His truth. Unlike organizations that must develop their own core doctrine – their own core beliefs that likely shift and turn with each change in leadership – Jesus has given ours to us. His truth is timeless and transformational” (165). What a true, but unfortunately non-implemented concept.
Sadly, many church leaderships have ignored that timeless truth and allowed it to shift along with the times. This has been true over the last 2,000 years because of a lack of acceptance in the authority of Scripture. Paul said the elder was to hold fast the faithful word which was “in accordance with the teaching.” Such teaching was that of the Apostles, who were guided by the Holy Spirit. In speaking to His disciples of the impending crucifixion, resurrection, and eventual ascension, Jesus told them that He would send them the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). This “Spirit of truth” would testify of Jesus and would guide the apostles “into all truth” (John 15:26; 16:13). Jesus would go on to pray saying, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those who believe on Me through their word, that they mall be one…” (John 17:20-21).