SELECTING THE RIGHT MEN
T. PIERCE BROWN
The most important job on earth today is being a shepherd of God’s sheep. It is said that when President Garfield was elected as President, he said that he had stepped down from the highest office. The most important thing that anyone can do in getting a particular job accomplished is to select the right men for the task. Jesus was able to do that in a way that no one else can do, for he was able to see not only what men were at the time, but what they could become through association with Him and through being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Being empowered by the Holy Spirit did not change the basic character of the Apostles. John was still as different from Peter and Paul as it is possible for a man to be and still be followers of Christ. They did not try to mold men into their image, but into the image of Christ. If each of them had founded a church that was molded in their image, there would have been at least twelve different churches!
The President of theUnited Statesdoes not have to be very smart, if he is smart enough to know which men to pick for the particular jobs they are to do. But he has to know enough about the program, the job, and the man to do that. So it is with the elders of the church today. They do not have to know how to conjugate a Greek verb, nor be effective pulpiteers. One needs to know how to “rule well his own house” and “take care of the church of God” (1 Tim. 3:5). They need to be “apt to teach” and “holding fast the faithful word — that they may be able to exhort and convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). If the elders fail to do that, properly selecting the men who are to represent the church and the Lord, both in the pulpit and in the evangelistic outreach of the church, untold damage will be done to the Cause of Christ.
This in no way suggests that if the elders do not “appoint” you to do personal evangelism, you have no right or obligation to do it. You have both the right and obligation to do everything Jesus authorized you to do whether or not anyone else does it or asks you to do it. Jesus did not authorize you to take over the pulpit, if you happen to think the preacher is not qualified as well as you, or performing as you would like. Nor are you authorized to take over the educational director’s job or the third grade teacher’s job just because you can do a better job than they can.
So, when Jesus chose men to lead others, he chose a variety, whose approach and disposition would appeal to a variety of people. Almost the only thing they had in common was their absolute loyalty to Christ. Although they were unique people, and their function, work, and responsibility can not be duplicated in the strictest sense, the principle of choosing the kind of men they were is valid and important.
When we say their function cannot be duplicated, we mean that they were eyewitnesses to the facts of the gospel. They were to lay the foundation that was solid and sure and confirm the word. The foundation would never have to be re-laid, nor the word re-confirmed. So their work and responsibility was unique and temporary. The thing that was to remain permanent and must be duplicated was the message of the gospel, not the nature and function of the men. This is the meaning of Paul in 2 Tim. 2:2 when he said, “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.”
This is an important concept for us to understand. When the elders choose the right man for the pulpit, they are not to chose a man who will just try to make other preachers, and when they choose an educational director, a man who will turn out classes of educational directors, and when they choose a “leader in personal evangelism,” they do not expect him to just turn out other “leaders in personal evangelism.” In every case, they want the man to follow Christ (in whatever area of service he may be most active) and be faithful to Christ, teaching others to do likewise. It is always the case that when a leader teaches a man to follow Christ, he is doing more than teaching the man to follow him. When Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” he did not mean, “Follow me inasmuch as (or because of the fact that) I am following Christ.” He meant, “Follow me to the extent that you see the life of Christ manifest in my mortal flesh.” The bottom line is that Jesus did not select men who would be his method of reproducing themselves in others, no matter how great they were as leaders, but he selected men who would train others to reproduce Christ in their lives.
In many congregations we have seen elders appointed who did not meet God’s ordained qualifications, but someone thought, “We need elders, so we have to do the best we can.” In one case, I know of a man who was appointed by another elder after the congregation had been asked to “look out from among themselves” those whom they thought should be appointed. Not a single person in the congregation listed this man, but the elder wanted another man to uphold his position, so selected this man. He had never taught a class, and was not even present at most services. But once his name was put forward, only the boldest would try to set forth compelling reasons why he should not be appointed, so he was. In many congregations this same basic mistake is made, even if not by one single elder.
To get a man in the eldership who does not have the full confidence of the congregation, and who has not demonstrated the qualities of humility, leadership and service required of a shepherd, is to court disaster. Once a man is “put forward” by the eldership, I have never seen, or heard of an instance in which he was not then appointed, regardless of the statement, “If anyone can find any scriptural objection to him, let it be known.” Once he is appointed, it is almost impossible to dis-appoint him, although almost invariably he will disappoint the congregation and the Lord, for often he does not know the real job of the shepherd. If he does know it, he is unwilling or unable to perform it.
After more than 50 years of observing the results of carelessness in doing the most important task on earth, it is my fervent hope that leaders and congregations everywhere will give the more earnest heed to making sure that men who meet God’s qualifications are appointed to the task. It is better to be without elders than to have those who do not meet God’s standards. The sad condition in which we find the church today is largely the responsibility of unqualified elders, who were more concerned about secondary matters than they were in properly shepherding the flock of God.