Someday I am going to write out a new set of questions for our church to ask pastoral candidates. I want to include one question on the list that will determine, more than any other, their fitness for leadership in the church.
It is a question the Lord Jesus raised for His disciples, but we no longer hear it asked. (It would be a good exercise in self control to stop reading at this point and review the list of questions you ask the man who wants to be pastor.)
Finished? Well, what did you come up with? Let me guess. You ask about his doctrinal soundness. And you ask about his educational qualifications. And you have a question or two about his experience in ministry. And you ask how many he has won to Christ, and how he goes about it. You want to know how he disciples his converts. And you want to know about his family, and about the people he fellowships with, and about his convictions, and which Bible he uses, and what he believes about separation from sin. And, if you are wise, you ask him if he has any skeletons in his closet. Good, good. Those are questions we SHOULD ask. But, if those are the ONLY questions, we are dropping the ball on the one yard line. We are failing to ask the one question we should ask, we are failing our people, and we may be sealing the fate of our churches.
A TEST FOR THE DISCIPLES
On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus was approached by James and John, accompanied by their mother. This semi-private conversation had a specific purpose. They came seeking the highest places of leadership in Jesus' kingdom. If He would be King, then they would be Prime Minister and President. In His reply He questioned the level of their commitment, but he asked none of our questions. We assume from this, not that they are unimportant, but that He already knew the answers and was satisfied with them. James and John, forever the impetuous Sons of Thunder, caused quite a stir among the disciples by their request. So the Lord Jesus presented the twelve with a test. And it is this test that should be turned into a question for men who would enter the ministry. Let us read the words of our Saviour, " But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:25-28)
Jesus tested their fitness for leadership by their willingness to be the servants of those they would lead. No servanthood? No position of leadership among His disciples! He used two familiar words to describe the nature of their service, "diakonos" and "doulos." The disciples knew that "diakonos" refers to an errand boy or a waiter, whose work involves the most menial of tasks. They would have known that "doulos" was the common word for a bondslave, a life long voluntary servant, one who had surrendered all his rights in order to serve his master. And, if this was not enough, He pointed out to them that He had set the example for them, and that His service for others would reach its highest point in His death for sinners.
THE QUESTION THAT MUST BE ASKED
The Lord's test for the disciples raises the question we ought to ask to all who "desire the office of a bishop." Recognising that we ought to ask this question is only half the job. Wording the question is the hard part. How can we present the importance of being a servant so that a candidate really gets the point? (I would like to know your thoughts on this!!!)
Here are a few suggestions:
1. We would like to have your comments on Matt. 20:25-28, and how these verses apply to men who desire to hold places of leadership in our churches.
2. Do you feel that there are jobs in the church which are beneath your dignity?
3. May we have your permission to ask your present pastor about your service for others?
4. Do you presently do any charitable work for needy people where you live? If so, what?
5. If you were asked to be our part time pastor, would you be willing to work at a labouring job, and do it cheerfully?
WHY SERVICE IS SO IMPORTANT
Over the years, I have discovered several reasons why it is so important to be a servant of those we would lead.
1. First, Jesus said so. That, in itself, is reason enough. If an aspiring pastor bucks at this (or any other) word from Christ, it is doubtful whether he will obey any other instruction the Lord gives. Service is a vital way of showing that I am under authority to Christ, and that I am following His example. He asked his hearers, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Luke 6:46
2. Service of others is one of the courses we must pass in the school of humility. And humility is the key to grace (James 4:6). Jeremiah speaks of this in Lamentations 3:27, 28 when he writes, "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him."
3. Service is an early expression of love for others, according to Galatians 5:13b, "by love serve one another." It is a great truth, that if you will tell me who you serve, I will tell you who you love. My people only know that I love them when I serve them.
4. Service to others is such a rare commodity in our self centred world, that it is often the key that unlocks a sinner's heart to the gospel. Whenever I have opportunity to tie a little boy's shoe, or wipe his nose for him, I may be saying more in that simple act than by what I preach in my sermon.
5. Service to others is often the match that lights a fire in a backslidden Christian's heart. Many a time have I seen a visitor come to our church and begin a lifetime of service for Christ because they saw one of our people being a servant to someone else.
ARE THERE EXAMPLES OF LEADERS IN THE BIBLE WHO WERE FIRST SERVANTS?
It is a question that should not have to be asked, but the answer is a resounding "YES!!!" Jesus was a servant first before He was King! Paul plied his trade of tent-making to provide for the needs of his fellowlabourers. Elisha's reputation was that he poured water on the hands of Elijah. Moses and David herded sheep before they led God's people. Joshua was Moses' servant before he was Israel's general. The list goes on and on, so that the pages of history, both sacred and secular, are filled with the accounts of men who served before they led. In fact, their lives became so filled with service that their leadership was, to them, no more than an extension of their servitude.
Pastor Bob was called to a church in Ohio about thirty five years ago. He is an inspiration to me. If I could attend his church I would. The last time I saw him he shared with me two forms of service he had implemented in his church. First, he handed over to one of his associates the Wednesday night Adult Bible study and prayer time so that he could pastor the children in the church. He led a meeting just for them, and spent precious hours of Bible Study with little kids. And second, he and his staff asked the church if they could take on the church cleaning. They explained that, since they were already there at the church five days a week, they would like to divide up the church cleaning among them, and they would like the money that was saved to be sent to their missionaries. When Bro. Bob told me this I was touched by his servant spirit, and the fact that he had imparted it to his staff members. But I have to tell you that I gained an entirely new understanding of what it means to be a servant when he told me (very quietly and confidentially) that it was his turn that week to clean the toilets everyday. I think he had been reading Matthew 20:25-28.
Somehow we need to get back to the simple truth,
Magnitude depends on Servitude!
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Publisher of Bible Study Materials