On Godly Christian Leadership

I. Preface on Leadership: We believe in the Universal Church of Jesus Christ spread throughout the whole world, made up of all Christians who believe the Bible and who love the Lord Jesus Christ in truth. We moreover believe that Christ’s Church is made up of many congregations throughout the world differing in size, strength, country, ethnic background, denominational affiliation, doctrinal integrity, and spiritual maturity.

At the same time we believe that many churches that have the Christian name are no churches of Jesus Christ, but the synagogue of Satan, and apostate from the truth of the Gospel on account of their false Gospel and idolatrous practices. We believe that there are many false churches, corrupt places of worship, high places of Baal, as well as false teachers and false guides in the world that masquerade as ministers of the Gospel, that corrupt the Word of God, profane God’s worship, pervert the Gospel, and who further lead God’s people into sin and idolatry.

We also believe that because of the vast spiritual downgrade and apostasy of the church today, there are also many churches and denominations that are grossly deficient in the truth of God, that preach a compromised Gospel, that corrupt the true worship of God,, and refuse to rebuke public sin and idolatry; and are therefore spiritually useless to God’s people, for their growth and sanctification in Christ, and the godly pursuit of reformation.

To this end, we believe that there is a great need in the Church today for godly Christian leadership that is grounded on the rule of Scripture and sound Biblical doctrine; and not the prevailing winds of false doctrine, denominational hypocrisy, or the widespread practice of simony. Bad leadership, as well as superficial preaching, is a recipe for corrupt churches, wayward Christians, and apostasy.

For this reason, we hold to a strictly Biblical and Reformed view of Church leadership that is entirely opposed to the prevailing winds of false doctrine and Liberal theology in the church today.

We believe in the authority and sufficiency of Scripture to rule and direct our views and standards of ministry and church leadership, believing that the church’s compromise with false doctrine and the dummying down of Biblical standards for leadership is to profane God’s name, to defile the Church, and to bring ruin upon Christian families.

Our view of Christian leadership is grounded upon these important Scriptural truths and historical facts. Deut.18; Psalm 1; Jer.10; Mt.5:1-20, Mt.23; Acts 6; 2 Corinthians ; Gal.1; Col.2; 1 Tim.3; 2 Tim.4; 2 Peter; Titus 1; Jude.

*John Hooper said, “A minister must be full of Christ and the Word of God, and be zealous for God’s worship and sound doctrine; or he is not a true minister of Christ.”

*John Calvin said, “There are many obstacles to the work of reforming the church: sin, idolatry, false doctrine, the attachment to human traditions, a stubborn and rebellious spirit among believers, as well as the madness and confusion of false teachers.”

*Thomas Cartwright said, “As long as church offices are abused, corrupted, or sold at a price there cannot be true reformation in the church.”

II. General Statement: We believe that Jesus Christ is the sole Mediator, Prophet, Priest, and King, Savior and Head of His Church, who holds absolute sovereignty over all things, and contains within Himself, by way of eminency and supremacy, all the offices of His Church (Isa.9:6-7; Mt.16:16; Jn.1:1; Col.1:15-20; Rev.1:8). All the glorious names and titles of church office, ministry, service, and leadership are first and foremost attributed to Him as the Lord and Savior. He is the supreme Apostle, Pastor, Minister, Bishop, Preacher, Teacher, Counselor, and only Lawgiver in Zion. It belongs to His authority to rule His church by His Word and Spirit, and he does so by the ministry of chosen men that He calls and appoints for office (Isa.6; Jer.3:15-17; Mt.10:1-4; Acts 9:1-19; 1 Tim.1:12-20, 3:1-16).

The leaders whom Christ appoints to office in the Church are further empowered by Himself and gifted by His Word and Spirit with the gifts and graces necessary to accomplish their work for the glory of God and the spiritual blessing of His church and people. It is moreover the solemn duty of the church and of believers to discern and recognize those men to whom the Lord Jesus Christ has certainly called to ministry and office in the Church, and has also certainly imparted those gifts and graces for church leadership, according to the rule of Holy Scripture. The church is not to follow others who are self-appointed, self-deceived, or in any way deficient in gifts and graces, though they be appointed to office in the church by men on account of any compromise, corruption, simony, hypocrisy, flattery, prejudice, or deceit; as we believe is the case everywhere in the church today (Exo.18; 2 Tim.2:1-12; Tit.1:5-9).

III. Solemn Admonition:  We believe it is a great evil upon the church for men, as it is today, to be ordained to church office by churches and/or denominations who do not have the necessary gifts and graces for ministry or leadership in the church; whether it be on account of these men’s false doctrine, spiritual immaturity, weakness of faith or conviction, lack of faithfulness to God’s worship, deficiency of knowledge and/or practical godliness, or a general incompetence in their service or leadership. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” When the church approves of ministers that are unsound and unfaithful, people are led into patterns of sin and idolatry, as well as under God’s judgment. It is for this reason that there are so many broken marriages and unbelieving rebellious youth in and among Evangelical and Reformed churches today. Jesus warned the disciples “The blind will lead the blind, and they will both fall into the ditch.”

To be sure, those men who have served Christ faithfully over many years in the Church, but have succumbed in God’s providence to sickness, injury, or temptation; and as a result can no longer serve in their office, should be cared for properly in Christian love, though not remain as active officers of the church.

We believe that the Church today has not only far too many appointed offices, ordained by their respective churches and denominations for selfish and ungodly reasons, but that many of them also serve in direct disobedience to God and His word, as they lack the spiritual qualifications of true Biblical leadership.

We believe that it is the solemn duty of Christians, of churches, of church officers, and of denominations to repent of this grievous sin and rebellion against God that has contributed today to the vast spiritual downgrade and apostasy of the Church, and to uphold the authority of Scripture by following faithful pastors and godly leaders who know Scripture and sound doctrine, are faithful to God’s worship, and live godly lives in following Jesus Christ and in taking up the cross as examples to the flock and for God’s glory.

*John Wycliffe said, “The pastoral office must be amended and reformed by the word of Christ or nothing else in the Church or in its members can or ever will be.”

*John Knox said, “For the church to be reformed by the word of God, pastors must themselves be reformed and committed to the Word of God in opposition to idolatry, false doctrine, and the foolish whims of misguided people.”

IV. Biblical Doctrine: A careful and honest study of Scripture with regard to the required qualifications for church leadership (pastors, elders, and deacons) attests to this truth and the general apostasy of churches and denominations today and their disobedience to God and His holy Word. Exo.18; 1 Tim.3; 2 Tim.4; Tit.1:5-7.

It is the evil of our day, just as it was in the Roman Catholic Middle Ages, when false doctrine and apostasy abounded, to multiply officers in the church so as to flatter men who are not so called to serve as ministers or church officers, in order to gain advantage over them and the people. This is the sin of simony, and it produces widespread apostasy and division in the church, the profanation of the Gospel, the negligence and defilement of God’s holy worship, widespread idolatry and false religion, the downgrade of church office, the ruin of Christian families, as well as apostasy from the truth of the Gospel; as it will be also visited in providence and eternity by God’s judgment.

It should be clear from the Scriptures that church office is a high and holy calling that is limited to a very few men, chosen by God as well as called and equipped by His grace to serve Christ under the cross and in obedience to God’s commandments in the defense of the Faith. In the New Testament therefore the Early Church in Jerusalem (in Acts 1-9) which had nearly 25,000 members at the beginning (for several years) had only 12 apostles acting as ministers of the Word, a double number of elders, and also only 7 deacons who were appointed for the work of serving tables so that the apostles could give themselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer. 25,000 members; 12 pastors; approximately 25 elders; and 7 deacons! That is the pattern of Scripture! And that is the pattern of godly Christian leadership. What Evangelical and Reformed churches do today in multiplying church officers who are not equipped is a great evil in the sight of God and destructive to the Church and the lives of believers.

The Protestant Reformation and the Puritan Revolution that followed were governed by this same strictly Biblical pattern of Church leadership where church office was strictly limited to those who actually fit the Biblical qualifications. It was for this very reason that the Reformers so sharply rebuked and denounced the religious hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church and their clerical priesthood which was rife with false doctrine, superstitious practices, and moral depravity.

And therefore it is our solemn conviction, in keeping with Scripture, that Evangelical and Reformed churches and denominations are in many ways ungodly and Liberal for promoting men into the ministry, or into other positions of Christian leadership who do not have the necessary qualifications. For the ministry of the Word is thereby compromised by a disobedient and ungodly generation that refuses to take heed to God’s word from true and faithful pastors who are called by Christ to promote revival and reformation by the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Jer.23:16, 21; Mt.7:15-20, 24:24; Lk.6:26; Acts 20:28-30; 1 Jn.4:1; 2 Pet.2:1-3; 2 Tim.4:3-4; Tit.1:6-16.

The Scriptural qualification for Church office are clearly set forth in Scripture for all believers, as well as those desiring church office, to learn; and for the Church as a whole to be governed by. And therefore Scripture teaches us that a man who holds office in the Church of Jesus Christ ought to be:

  1. A man of Godly Worship and Service: To glorify and enjoy God in worship is the heart of Christian leadership. It is therefore the solemn duty of church officers, (pastors, elders, and deacons), to live for the glory of God and His worship, and so convene and attend public worship on the Lord’s day (both morning and evening) in accordance with God’s word; for the maintenance of the public ministry, the preaching of the Gospel, the teaching of sound doctrine, and the administration of the Sacraments for the edifying of the body of Christ, and all to the glory of God and His worship. (Exo.20, 29:39; Lev.23; Ps.92:1-2; Jn.4:23-24; Acts 2:28-42; Eph.5:18-21; 1 Tim.3; Rev.1:9-10). This alone disqualifies the vast majority of self-appointed church officers and actually identifies most pastors today as either false guides (Jer.23:21; Ezek.13:9) or lazy and ignorant shepherds (Col.4:17; 1 Tim.5:20).
  2. A man of Godly Knowledge and Conviction: The knowledge of God and sound doctrine is the foundation of Christian leadership. It is therefore the solemn duty of all church officers (pastors, elders, and deacons) to have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and the things that become sound doctrine; to be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and truth, to be well grounded in the faith and the knowledge of Holy Scripture, the contents of the Bible, the doctrines of grace and the Reformed Confessions; to be able to defend the Christian Faith and sound doctrine against cults, false religions, and deviant forms of Christianity; and also in Christian love and out of faithfulness to Christ’s word evangelize those who are lost in sin and idolatry. (Exo.18; Isa.11:1-3; Jer.7; Mal.2:7; Romans; Galatians; Eph.1-3; Col.1-2; Hebrews; 1 Tim.3; Titus 1).
  3. A man of Godly Character and Devotion: The practice of godliness is the power of Christian leadership. It is therefore the solemn duty of all church officers (pastors, elders, and deacons) to be examples of truth and godliness, to fear God, to hate idolatry, false religion and covetousness, to delight in the Law of God and to keep God’s commandments out of love for Christ, to take up the cross, and to endeavor to please God in all things, to have a good reputation in the world as a man of God (though he may be persecuted), to have a godly wife (if he be married), and to have believing children who are in subjection to God’s word, also to be known as a man of prayer, and to hold the discipline and devotion of family worship in high esteem, and to otherwise show that he lives for the glory of God and not himself. Exo.18; Mt.16:24; Gal.5 Eph.5; Col.3; 1 John; 1 Tim.3; Titus 1; 2 Pet.2; Jude).

5. Godly Reformation: We believe that God in His great love and care for His church always provides faithful pastors and church officers for His church and people; but that in times of apostasy (like today) He blinds their minds to the truth so that they become too stubborn, self-willed, ungodly, and therefore unable to discern faithful pastors from false guides, and neither do they have the grace and faith to follow the truth. This is to their punishment and spiritual ruin (Jer.5:30; Mt.7:13-27; 15:14; 2 Cor.11:13; Gal.6:7-9; Jude).

We believe that it is the solemn duty therefore for Christians to obey God’s word and take up the cross, to forsake false guides and false places of worship, to pursuit godly reformation by attending faithful churches with faithful preaching, sound Biblical doctrine, and true worship that honors Christ’s word.

*In Mt.16 Jesus says, “Unless you deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple.”

*In Mt.7:13-15 Jesus says, “Enter at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

*In Gal.6:6-7 Paul says, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

Brett Woody, Pastor-Teacher