From Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck, Designed to Lead, p. 94-95.
A local church will not be led for the Kingdom of God unless her leaders are consumed by a passion for the Word of God. The leaders of God’s Church are men and women submitted to God’s Word and lovers of God’s Word. We have no more precious entrustment than the doctrines of God. Without the Word of God, we have nothing to offer those who follow. Leaders who do not see themselves as people of the Book will falsely offer life in their own opinions and practices.
As we look to equip saints to lead in the local church, we cannot overemphasize the need to ensure that they are able to protect and teach sound doctrine. For years this task has been largely entrusted to seminaries and other educational institutions. There is no doubt that these schools have been a great blessing to the Church in fighting for the preservation of healthy doctrine in the Church. Still, there seems to be a disconnect when applying the same standard of doctrinal integrity to leaders not “on the church payroll.”
Those who will go into paid ministry leadership positions are often expected to get a quality education. However, in many cases, we don’t expect leaders who are “just volunteers” to obtain the same level of understanding in the Scriptures. This is an incredible problem. There will always be a spectrum in “ability to teach,” but the requirement for leadership in the church (especially that of “elder” or “pastor”) is not contingent on the source of a person’s income.
Every leader we entrust with a title is also entrusted with the health of the church. When we call someone a leader in the church, we are calling the church to trust his or her words. Recognizing that there are varying degrees of knowledge between leaders, we must still take seriously the call to train our leaders in sound doctrine. What good is it to collect masses of people if our leaders have nothing but empty, powerless words to offer? The gospel of Jesus is what is at stake here (Rom. 1:16; 10:17; John 17:17; Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:15). Paul paints a terrifying future to the Ephesian elders before his departure:
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them.” (Acts 20:28-30)
One of the primary roles of church leaders, unpaid like Paul, and paid alike, is to protect the sheep of God from those who would destroy them through distorting the Word of God. Do you believe that wolves still prowl in your flock today? If so, we must develop the kinds of leaders who are ready to ferociously guard the flock with sound doctrine. We need our leaders to be able to say along with Paul, “A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God’s mysteries” (1 Cor. 4:1).