For the past several gracEmails, we have been considering three fundamental truths of spiritual leadership.(1) Spiritual leadership involves lowly service, not legal power. We must not confuse spiritual leadership with political position. (2) Spiritual leaders exercise grace-gifts from God, not worldly qualifications. We dare not focus on worldly achievements when choosing spiritual leaders. (3) The Bible identifies gifted people, not legal qualifications. We should not confuse technical qualifications with spiritual character.
Scripture does not provide a single, uniform list of legal qualifications for spiritual leaders. There are two New Testament passages which people often read in that fashion, written by Paul to his co-workers Timothy (1 Tim. 3:1-7) and Titus (Titus 1:5-9). When we read these passages carefully, however, we discover that they differ in several significant ways. Paul provides Timothy a description of the individual gifted for the episkopes (“oversight,” “episcopacy” or “bishopric”), the work of overseeing or watching over other believers. He gives Titus a description of the person gifted to serve as a presbyteros (“senior,” “elder” or “presbyter”). Christian scholars differ as to whether elders and bishops served in one position or two in the first century.
We also observe that these two passages contain different descriptives. Of the 30-35 traits mentioned in the two lists, only five are the same in Greek. If Paul were listing official qualifications, we would expect his lists to be identical. In addition, the descriptives Paul does give are often negative in form, almost always relative as to quality, and not able to be precisely defined. That is not the way one lists formal qualifications for an office, but it is totally consistent with an informal description of persons who are divinely gifted for the ministry of spiritual leadership.