By Mike Willis
Whether we recognize it or not, the men who lead the congregation in public worship have an impact on the congregation. Many look up to the men who lead public worship in the congregation as leaders to be imitated. This is true of preachers, Bible class teachers, those who serve the Lord’s table, or lead public prayers. Sometimes men are chosen for these roles who are not examples worthy to be imitated.
I would like to suggest some qualities which should be present in the men who take a public role in worship. This is not to imply that those who are young and inexperienced should never be used in worship. However, where men who do not have these attributes are used regularly, the congregation becomes convinced that one can be faithful to God without these attributes. Hence, I would like to suggest that men who lead the public worship should manifest these attributes:
1. They must demonstrate faith. As a young preacher, Timothy was exhorted to “exercise himself in godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). He was warned not to become entangled in the affairs of this life to such a degree that he could not serve him who called him as a soldier (2 Tim. 2:4). The men chosen in Acts 6 to take care of the daily ministration were men “full of the Holy Ghost” and “full of faith” (Acts 6:3,5). Barnabas had such an impact on the church because he was “full of the Holy Ghost and of faith” (Acts 11:24).
A congregation rarely excels its leadership. If the leadership of the congregation is without zeal and half-committed, the congregation is usually the same way (although the congregation may have a few with life in it). A half-committed leader will not inspire anyone to do anything for the Lord. When a congregation uses men in the public worship who do not attend half of the services, who habitually come to Bible class without preparation, who show no interest in the worship service, etc., that congregation is making a statement to its membership that one can lack these attributes and still be acceptable in God’s eyes.
On one occasion, I was a member of an organization which elected its officers at an annual business meeting. On one particular occasion, the organization recommended for its president a man who rarely attended. No one wanted the job and every person suggested for the office respectfully declined. When this man was nominated, the one suggesting his name commented, “Let’s nominate him since he is not here to decline the nomination.” Needless to say, an organization with this kind of leadership will accomplish little or nothing.
What is true in secular organizations is also true of the church. When the leaders of the local church are so entangled in the affairs of this life that they have no time to serve the Lord, when they are so wrapped up in baseball or school activities that they miss many of the services, or when they just don’t care enough to be present, the congregation will have a spirit of indifference spread like a gangrene through its members.
2. They must manifest moral purity. Timothy was to be an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). He was instructed to “flee youthful lusts” and “follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace” (2 Tim. 2:22). By so doing, he would be “meet for the master’s use” (2 Tim. 2:21). Those who administered the daily ministration in Acts 6 had to be men of honest report (6:3).
Those who take active roles in the local church must be men and women whose moral lives are above reproach. When men are used to serve the Lord’s table who are known to social drink, do not dress modestly, etc., the congregation will be influenced to think that one can do all of these things and be pleasing in the sight of God. Social drinkers, fornicators, etc. do not need to be leading singing, teaching Bible classes, making announcements, or leading public prayer; they need to be told to repent and be converted.
3. They must have God’s cause on their hearts. Nehemiah’s concern for the Lord’s people demonstrates another quality of good leaders. When Nehemiah learned that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he “sat down and wept” (Neh. 1:34). His countenance was so saddened by the condition of his people that the king he served noticed it. He asked, “Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart” (Neh. 2:2). Nehemiah had the cause of God on his heart.
Many of those who serve the Lord’s people are not saddened by problems facing the Lord’s church. After all, they come to church on Sunday morning and forget about the church until the next Sunday morning. As they leave the building, they quickly lay aside all thought of the Lord and his church, turning again to the affairs of life. We need men like Nehemiah who have the cause of the Lord on their hearts.
4. They must recognize the impact of their influence on others. Teachers were warned, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (Jas. 3:1). Teachers have an influence on others, not only by what they teach in class, but also by how they live. What does a teacher say to the children in his Sunday morning Bible class when he misses a night of the gospel meeting to play baseball? What does a teacher say to her Wednesday night class when she is too lazy to get up on Sunday morning to attend Bible class, slipping in just in time to observe the Lord’s supper?
Brethren, we do the cause of Christ a grave injustice by using those who are half-committed to the Lord in public roles, such as teachers of Bible classes, song leaders, leaders of public prayer, announcers, ushers, or any other capacity. These jobs need to be done by men who truly care about the Lord’s work.
Excuses Offered For Using Half-Committed Members
Here are some reasons given for using half-committed members in the public services:
1. To encourage these members to come. Some have the mistaken idea that we should give half-committed members a Bible class to encourage them to come to all of the services. This is getting the cart before the horse. Where did one ever get the idea that the job of teaching Bible class be given to encourage a person to attend? Certainly it did not come from the Bible.
2. To use every member as a teacher. Some have the mistaken idea that every member should be used to teach. 1 Corinthians 12:29 plainly states that not every Christian is capable of being a teacher; some of those who are capable of becoming qualified to be a teacher do not have the desire to become one.
3. No one else will do it. Sometimes half-committed men are given a Bible class because no one else will take it. I am not speaking of the humble, dedicated Christian who is. reluctant to step forward because of his humble assessment of his own abilities. I am speaking of Christians who are too lazy to assume responsibility; so, rather than taking the extra work of teaching more frequently, some lazy Christians are content to use half-committed members in public roles. What a sad plight the church is in where this spirit predominates! If we are going to object to using members who do not regularly attend, we must be willing to do the extra work resulting from removing them from these roles.
Problems Created By Poor Leadership
There are problems created by poor leadership. Here are a few of them:
1. Poor examples. Paul was able to write, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:11). Could we recommend to our children, “Follow the example of your Bible class teacher, the man who makes the announcements or leads the opening prayer”? We do, whether or not we expressly say that.
2. Causes indifference to permeate the congregation. Even as false doctrine (Gal. 5:9) and immorality (1 Cor. 5:6) can spread like leaven in a congregation, so also can indifference. Using men who are not committed to the Lord contributes to the spread of indifference in the congregation.
3. Unprepared classes1no learning. A half-committed teacher will do a slipshod job of teaching a class. The result will be a class in which the Bible is not taught and the class does not learn. Using half-committed teachers will eventuate in an untaught membership, a biblically illiterate congregation.
What kind of leadership exists in the congregation you attend? As we wrestle to overcome the problems of indifference and apathy, let us begin by using in leadership roles those whose personal zeal for the Lord’s kingdom is apparent and whose moral character is impeccable.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 10, pp. 290, 310
May 19, 1988