On November 5, 2012, Miguel Labrador posted Running for the Office of an Overseer – Church Elections?
In this post, Miguel discusses the then-upcoming elections and Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding overseers. Miguel translates:
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” 1 Timothy 3:1, ESV
“If anyone desires to stretch themselves out to the attention and care of the church, they have noble intentions.”
He then asks several questions including:
Is it wrong for a person with the desire to be an overseer to verbally declare such a desire or to make it publicly known?
I’ve been thinking about this question, a lot. Most of what I believe about church has been changing in the past year, and the idea of leadership is no exception. To be precise, it’s not my theoretical ideas of church that has changed much, it’s my practice of those ideas.
Over the past year, my approach to leadership within the church have changed as well. While I once believed that a “benevolent dictator” in the form of a Senior Pastor (the man with the vision from God) was a necessary component for the proper functioning of a church, I’m learning to just chill out about leading.
That’s why Miguel’s question been on my mind so much since November. I do want to be a leader among the church. There, I’ve said it.
At the same time I also agree with Jim Wright’s comment that “If I need to seek recognition as an elder (overseer) in the Body of Christ in order to function as an elder, then I ain’t one.” (I emphasized “seek recognition”).
Am I confused? I don’t think so. I am simply acknowledging that I have the desire to pay attention to and care for the church. I want to function as one who helps the church. I can acknowledge this before the Jesus-followers with whom I gather because, well, they probably know already. Even if they don’t, we’re open with one another about our thoughts, feelings, and desires. We still have things we keep from each other, but we’re working on that.
These people won’t let me get too far ahead of myself, either. There’s a diversity of gifts such that when (not if) I get too quiet or too loud I’m either drawn into the conversation or I’m helped to consider others.
Plus, we’ve been too busy sharing Scripture, words of encouragement, what I would call prophesy, impressions, dreams, songs, or pictures, and then making plans to try to put into practice what we’re hearing to really worry too much about titles or positions.
As we participate together, I’m starting to notice the incredible gifting of the believers around me. Because I really want to hear from God, my natural tendency to take over becomes suppressed as I realize that the Creator is speaking through someone else. Someone who would never even have a speaking role in a standard guy-up-front church service.
It’s clear to me that there is an order to our meetings. I’m not worried about lack of structure, because I think God is very structured – just in a way I don’t always grasp until I see it, or maybe some time afterward. I’m not the only one.
As a group, we are learning to notice the order and structure of what God is doing and cooperate with it. We are learning to discern when someone is being loving and helpful and when they are leaving the pasture. We’re learning to pastor (shepherd) one another.
We’re starting to enjoy noticing that someone else has a word from the Lord for us – you know that look? The one that might accompany the thumb in the Bible at the passage the Lord has just brought to their attention? Or perhaps the Scripture they read three days ago and knew God had something specific to say to the group, but didn’t know what it was until they started hearing what others were sharing?
If you’re looking at the faces of the people around the circle in which you’re sitting, it’s amazing what you’ll notice.
Another thing: people in the group encourage me to be a leader. No, not someone with a title or even authority of my own. They just encourage me to use the gifts God has given me to help the body. Of course, that’s the same thing I am encouraging them to do.
Sometimes I do prepare in advance, or think that the Lord has a teaching for me to share, but I never really know where our meetings are going. If you were a stranger visiting us – you might have a hard time figuring out who is leading. After a while, though, you might start thinking that Jesus really was in charge.
I haven’t figured out exactly what the gift of leadership entails, and honestly, that’s ok. So far I think it involves:
- Caring for others and filling in what is lacking when I notice it.
- Letting people know that yes, I think the Holy Spirit really is speaking through you.
- Helping point people toward Scripture.
- Modeling followership by submitting to different people’s visions (for example, ideas on helping other people).
My brothers and sisters know I haven’t got it figured out, they know that sometimes I get too far one way or the other, and they love me anyway. They’re helping me along.
When I look around at the faces participating with me in this adventure, I never know who will be leading me next. Maybe someday we’ll get around to identifying overseers, and maybe not.
I’m totally ok with that.