I’ve been in some form of church leadership consistently ever since the year 2000. Whether it was interim leadership, part-time or full-time leadership, one thing I’ve found out is regardless of how we classify the position, all leadership is full time. Leadership, period, is a full-time engagement because you can’t point to any part of your life and say:
I can let my guard down here.
I can relax my standards in this area.
I can afford to be indulgent with this.
It’s true that all Christians should be vigilant and on guard at all times. But those people in leadership chose to go a step further by singling themselves out for public scrutiny more than others. This is why James singles out teachers (who are leaders) so directly:
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1
For a moment, consider this from a different perspective. Usually this warning is viewed in light of Divine judgment, because one day God will judge every believer and reward them based on what they did (or didn’t) do with the gifts and talents they received in this life. That’s a correct interpretation. But seldom do we consider what that means in this life.
In this life leaders are judged more harshly. Whether by the court of public opinion, or by loved ones, or by the churches that they try to lead, or all of the above, judgment is always harsher on the ones who lay their lives on the line to lead others. Judgments that we would scarcely cast at anyone else are brought against church leaders.
Should they have that big of a home?
Do they really need that much salary?
Are their children dressing modestly?
When is the last time you heard someone ask questions like that to someone who owns their own business? When’s the last time you heard someone ask these kinds of questions to public school teachers? I know there are always exceptions to the rule, but generally church leaders are under this kind of scrutiny constantly. And there are leadership positions in the world that command a certain level of scrutiny as well. But let me keep it on church leaders for the moment.
The Bible never says those judgments are unfair. In fact, 1 Timothy 3 details a lengthy list of qualifications for Elders and Deacons in the church. But if you read through those qualifiers, hopefully you’ll agree that 95% of them are things we would expect from all believers. Which brings me to the point of this article.
The spirit and intent of much of the judgment dished out to church leaders is where things go south. Should church leadership be held accountable? The Bible says, unambiguously, yes! If you aspire to lead within the church, get ready for a new level of scrutiny on your life. Healthy churches hold their leadership accountable to the qualifiers found in the Bible. Take that a step further, the leadership teams within each local church should be holding each other accountable to these qualifiers as well.
Unhealthy churches, and I would add unhealthy individual Christians, probe into the lives of the leadership because they’re looking for fault. They use accountability as a form of control instead of a way to love. If you’re in a church where the leadership is constantly brought into question and the reigns are always being pulled back, your church might be unhealthy. If you’re a person who uses accountability as a means of control, you’re an unhealthy Christian.
Real accountability is an act of love. The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to make their leaders’ jobs a joy and not a burden.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17
Leaders ought to know that harsh judgment is coming. It’ll happen. The Bible says so. But harsh, unjust judgment should never come from within the Church. The spirit and intent of accountability makes all the difference. Are you trying to build up your leaders with humbleness and a spirit of gentleness? Or are you trying to control their ministry through harsh judgments and inquisitions that hurt them personally? Like the author of Hebrews said, “that would be of no advantage to you.”
If your leaders thrive, you can thrive. If they are built up, you will be built up. The whole Church will benefit when her leaders are valued, appreciated, and built up in their faith. Today, what can you do (or stop doing) that would start encouraging and building up your leaders?
I’m grateful to be a part of a Church that does this really well. I haven’t written this to passively tattle on New Harmony. Not even close. I’m writing this for my brothers and sisters who serve, but are under appreciated or maybe even persecuted by their own flock. Love your pastors and leaders, Church, and do so graciously. Make their ministries a joy.