By Gary D. Moyer
It’s a scenario we all wish was rarer. You’re having a hard time filling your leadership positions in one of your churches. Everyone wants to help, but not lead. Few are willing to take you up on your offer to train them. Everyone is praying for leadership. Then, it seems that God just may be answering your prayer. You start hearing from your members about a person who's been attending your church who is definitely leadership material. You discover that this person is charismatic and certainly appears to be a committed Adventist. People are drawn to this person, who appears to be a natural leader. Your members ask for this person to be put into a leadership position, which happens.
Unfortunately, it’s not long before you start hearing that this new leader has been overzealous in upholding the law, majoring on minors. And unfortunately, often people who major on minors have a major problem in their own lives that they are ignoring. As a result, legalism is replacing love, and sheep are being sacrificed. Your people may have thought they heard a shepherd’s voice when this person preached or taught, but now it appears this may be a wolf in sheep’s garb, and the flock is scattering.
Sometimes, it seems the Devil answers our prayers for leadership. He knows that it’s fairly quick and easy to put someone into a leadership position, especially when there’s a void. He watches for those opportunities. However, it is anything but quick and easy to remove that leader later, and try to reclaim the families that were wounded and fled the flock.
How can we prevent the above scenario? While there is no 100 % fool-proof way to prevent this, there are some precautions we can take to protect God’s precious flock. Here are just a few helpful hints:
- Before approving someone who has been wowing your flock, to transfer in from another church, call that person’s pastor and ask questions. What has been his church’s experience with this person? How long has he been a member there? Were there any problems?
- Spend time with and train your elders regularly. I know, you have a lot to do, and perhaps multiple churches, but time invested in your leadership will pay you back many times over. When you have a tight relationship with elders you can trust, they will know how to watch over the flock. You’ll have confidence to ask for and act on their counsel.
- Spend time visiting with the person ahead of time. You or a trusted elder needs to visit this person in their home and ask questions about their family, church leadership experience, and their dreams and concerns for God’s church. The more they talk, the more you’ll learn about them.
- Carefully, prayerfully assess the person’s qualifications. Don’t allow urgency to rule your decisions. You’re better off covering that leadership position yourself for a while, rather than having to mop up later. In addition to the customary biblical qualifications for leadership (such as for elders in1 Timothy 3), ask, “Does this person possess the fruit of the Spirit outlined in Galatians 5?”
Remember, God’s church is the apple of His eye, and He has GREAT plans for your church. – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11. Yes, the Devil has plans also, but “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world” – 1 John 4:4.
I believe that when we diligently seek God in prayer, and commit ourselves to working diligently with the wisdom God has made available to us, He will bless our efforts and His church.
Gary Moyer is vice president for administration in the Carolina Conference