Just by reading the Bible one can clearly see that God is the one who raises up and appoints leaders. From the leadership of God the Father within the three Persons of the Trinity (a mystery of the divine triune fellowship), to the designated headship of Adam over Eve, along with the conquests of Moses and Joshua heading towards the promised land, right through to the ascension of Christ into the heavenly realm, we see the vital role leadership has been given by God to fulfil His purposes. It is undeniable that God has chosen to use leaders to conduct His work of extending His Kingdom from this world to the next.
However the big questions surrounding church-leadership in the mind of many a church man are:
When are leaders identified and appointed?
How old should they be before taking up office? (Should they be young or just elderly?)
The answer to such questions and others like these is more simple to state than to embrace. The answer simply is: God will provide these leaders at His appointed time. They could be young or elderly, timid or brave, eloquent or stuttering and even healthy or sick. The list is long and varied and can be substantiated by looking at different biblical characters that God appointed to lead. No infirmity or weakness was and is to be considered as a hindrance when God’s blessing and favour are present.
Graciously God provided the church with two offices namely deacons and overseers / elders. The latter are involved mainly in the spiritual leadership of God’s people, whereas the former undertake to lead the administrative and practical duties of the church. Nonetheless, in both cases the spiritual wellbeing and standing of an individual is what makes them a worthy occupant of either of these two offices. It is men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom the apostles appointed to the business of the church.
It is true to say that youth brings with it much folly and it is always preferred not to have a young inexperienced leader, as such was the case when Rehoboam squandered his father Solomon’s work when he replaced him as king. Yet it was the boy Samuel who took over from the old man Eli and later anointed the young boy David to be king instead of Saul. It is also the apostle Paul who himself was called from his youth, who insists that no-one despise the young man Timothy’s youth, but instead goes on to comment on not appointing a recent convert who is spiritually immature to a position of leadership. One can go on into details and mention the lives of the naive Joseph, the ambitious Elisha and the emotional Jeremiah who were all summoned from their youth, but time would fail us to do so. Ultimately God became a baby boy in order to become a man and stunned His teachers with His brilliance as he grew in both knowledge and stature. Even the Lord Jesus was Himself a young man of 30 years when He started His public ministry.
Let us not underestimate our enemies namely sin, Satan and death, though defeated by Christ on the cross: the battle for our King and our promised land must be fought by those whom He will appoint. It is often the youths that are deployed and stationed on the enemy’s fronts during a time of war, who later go on to become the generals that are competent to wage wars. It was the young Joshua who was amongst the spies that surveyed the promised land and its inhabitants, who later succeeded Moses in order to lead the campaign of destroying and wiping out the enemies of God.
Just as in a 4x100 metre relay race when the next recipients to handle the baton can be seen from a long way off, so the same can be said of those who will occupy roles of leadership within the church. Those who are to lead are in the church already if not yet leading in it. If the church is to have and continue to have leaders they must be groomed while the day is still called today. The more experienced leaders we have the better. If youth is seen to be a weakness, then let the church be quick to recall the Lord’s words which state “when you are weak, I am strong”. It is the church that must diligently ask, seek and knock to the Lord through prayer so He can provide for her current and future needs through whatever leadership He appoints.
We are called to walk by faith, depending entirely on Him, because we never know what God intends to do next and may require of us in order to accomplish His purposes. We must be ready and trained to serve in leadership or whatever area He desires. There is no doubt that there is a dearth of leaders in the church of Jesus Christ in South Africa, both in townships and rural areas alike.
By Thembela Matthews Nkuna
By Thembela Matthews Nkuna