If we look in Scripture, as well as at the definitions used by many Evangelical denominations, we find a description of church leader (ie. Elder) to include a number of attributes and their outworking in certain responsibilities. Although there may be others, all definitions seem to include teaching, preaching, spiritual shepherd, visitation, and holder of some level of local church accountability. These roles may be defined in many ways, but they center on the role of spiritual leader and teacher for the local assembly. What we do not find in the definition is any hint of attributes involving business acumen, organizational strategist, long time member, financial contributor or similar. Those are attributes recognized in the world, while the attributes of a church leader stem from Biblical acumen, knowledge and application, not that of the world.
These leadership attributes (and therefor qualifications) focus clearly on both the spiritual health and biblical enhancement of the local assembly through example, preaching, teaching and exemplary Biblical fellowship, and on the sharing of the Gospel with the unsaved (whether directly or through equipping).
To move a bit further down the church hierarchy to Deacons, we find the practical expression of the tone set by the Elders. That means that the environment that allows the teaching, support and preaching of the Elders becomes the practical responsibility of the Deacons. To draw an analogy, the Elders likely teach or preach most effectively in a heated room, and the Deacons service the furnace to facilitate that heat. A trivial example, but it makes the point.
In this model we have the Elders setting the vision for the assembly, drawing that vision (one would presume) from Scriptural models and their explicit implications.Â In many modern churches, following a congregational decision framework, the assembly then approves these visions. However, it is common for this to be little more than a rubber stamping at a church meeting that in effect takes place after the fact. Nonetheless, the vision as set by the Elders normally becomes the official focus for implementation largely as presented.
In this process of setting priorities and subsequent goals for the assembly it would seem safe to assume that the vision would be Biblical in tone, and follow Biblical paradigms in the propagation (both in the congregation and outside it) of both the Word of the Lord and the Gospel message. As such, any other priorities would be assumed to flow from this, as side effect from success in these so to speak. For example, in concentrating upon preaching the word and spreading the Gospel with clarity and truth inside and outside the assembly, the congregation might by the Grace of our Lord alone experience growth, and consequently even need of a larger facility. That growth and its consequences, however, are a result of the performing the work of the Lord, not the primary focus the vision. They are by the Grace of God and not by the process of men.
With this in mind, what do we sometimes observe in reality? Unfortunately, it may be an apparent reversal of the paradigm as demonstrated in the Scripture.
Today, the first vision statement heard could be something like “We envision a congregation of 900-1000 people”, assuming the current one is quite a bit smaller. Or “We envision this place filled to capacity by the end of the year.” Now, dreaming of a great congregation is not bad in itself, but what is wrong here? You got it (I hope). The cart is before the horse. No talk of learning and propagating theological or Biblical truth. No talk of equipping all for evangelism, and of going forth for the Lord and His Kingdom. No talk of expending resources distributing the Word of God without condition. Just vision of growth. Maybe couched with words about using it for the Lord, but with growth first. To put it bluntly – GROWTH IS NOT A BIBLICAL GOAL ITSELF! It is perfectly legitimate if you are a department store, with shareholders. This is wrong, wrong, wrong thinking!