The ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are not titles that one can assume – they are functions in the body of Christ.
Church leader, you cannot demand commitment or submission; in fact it is foolish to do so. People expect a certain standard from you – meet that standard and you will have their allegiance. Don’t and you will have all sorts of trouble on your hands – your congregation is not so much at fault as you are, so cast the log out of your eye first.
In order for you, dear leader in the church (be it pastor or elder or bishop or any of the ministry positions) to be respected, you do not need to be perfect, as a minimum the following characteristics must be visible in your life –
1. You must be fully submitted to Jesus Christ. Paul calls himself a slave or bondservant of Christ/God (Phil 1:1, Titus 1:1). A leader who has no other allegiance but to Christ, is a leader that will be looked up to. He has no other aim but to please Christ. That is a leader people want. If people see that your affection is divided, and that you place other matters such as self or family above Christ, they will not respect you. We have had enough of preachers building their own kingdoms and placing self and family above Christ, handing over ministries to their children and lording it over the flock. We need leaders who are fully submitted to Christ, period.
2. You must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Paul exhorts each and every one to be filled with the Holy Spirit in Eph 5:18. How much more should you endeavour to be filled with the Spirit. A man who walks in the Spirit will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The Spirit will lead you to make the right decisions. We do not need an orator or a philosopher or a person who just spews words, empty words and more words; we need a man filled with the Spirit. In the early church, people who served tables had to be full of the Holy Spirit. We want to hear God, not you.
3. You must live in accordance to the Word (must be seen to be honourable). When Paul was taking a monetary gift from the Corinthian church to send it to Jerusalem, he was careful to guard against any criticism for the way he handled the money. In 2 Cor 8:21 (NLT), he says “We are careful to be honourable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honourable.” It is not enough to be honourable before the Lord but to be seen to be honourable by everyone. In the same way, you must live before the Lord in accordance with His word and must also be seen to living in this manner.
4. God must attest to your ministry. Acts 2:22 (NLT) says ” People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders and signs through him, as you well know.” Your ministry must be endorsed by God through miracles, wonders and signs and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We have had enough of words, we need to see and experience God’s power. The people of Israel said to Joshua in Joshua 1:17 “Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses.” They wanted to see evidence that God was with Joshua and endorsed him.
When people see these qualities in you, they will gladly submit to your leadership and work with you to build the kingdom of God. So, the next time you are tempted to point a finger at your congregation, I would suggest that you look at yourself first. You may be the reason why you find yourself in trouble in the first place. If you cannot demonstrate these characteristics, I suggest that you take a break and seek God until He meets with you. Then you could provide the leadership that both God and the church are looking for.
Note – I have worked at a secular job and led a church for several years. I am currently involved in holding a secular job in Kuala Lumpur while equipping the saints through preaching, teaching and writing. God has opened doors for ministry in the Philippines since November 2014, so I travel there to minister to the churches and the pastors.