How Do You Select Church Leaders?

This sermon can be watched or listened to at!

How do you find church leaders? John Maxwell has said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”[1] I think that is a little overstated, but not too far off. Especially when we define leadership Biblically – servant leadership – as I believe Rob Banks does when he states, “We often talk about servant-leadership, but we get Christ’s emphasis backwards. We mix up what ought to be the adjective and what ought to be the noun. Servanthood is the primary calling and leadership is but one form that servanthood takes. So we really should be talking about LEADING SERVANTS. Church leaders are servants who happen to lead.”[2] I’ll return to this concept of Leading Servants time and again as we study this important topic.

Over the next two Sunday nights, I hope to help us understand how to select church leaders and walk you through the process that we have taken as a church to select leaders. Next Sunday night I will teach on what is a deacon and what is an elder. Then in two weeks after Sunday morning service on January 26, we will be voting on new leaders to serve us for the next three years. This is a crucial time in the life of our church and I ask that you join me in asking God to reveal who will lead us.

Selecting leaders was one of the first tasks of the early church after Jesus ascended into Heaven. We read in Acts 1:12-14 that the apostles went back to Jerusalem after crossing the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended and what did they do? They selected an apostle to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus and hung himself.  How did they select leaders and therefore how should we select leaders? Let’s read Acts 1:21-26 to find out!

How do we select church leaders? We must…

1.    Pray! (Acts 1:14 – “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”) Notice that the apostles didn’t pray to find a new leader. They prayed and God lead them to the assignment of finding a replacement for Judas. We pray not to do ministry, but pray because it is the ministry. Nothing will unify a church like prayer. You can’t stay mad at each other when you truly pray together. Prayer helps overcome the grief of a loved one. The disciples were still grieving Jesus leaving and they took that to God. This is why prayer is always our first step here at Temple. It is the thermometer of gauging how spiritually hot we are. Our fervency for prayer should be our scorecard, not our Sunday morning attendance. The first step in selecting leaders is to pray! The second step is that we must…

2. Look from within! (Acts 1:21 – “It is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all.”) Church leaders need to be time-tested. Just because a person served in another church or ministry does not mean that they should be automatically be given a leadership position in the new church they start attending. When selecting deacons Paul commanded Timothy to first test their leadership before giving them the office: “These men must also be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.” (1 Timothy 3:10)

Now that does disregard faithfulness elsewhere. “Street Cred” – serving well in another location and assignment – still counts. Paul was all the time advocating for his co-workers when He sent them to other churches like he did with Timothy in Philippians 2:19-20, “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” However, ministry is based on relationships and it takes time to know someone and give them increasing trust. Just like in a dating relationship, one should, “Go slow until you know and then go fast when you know it will last.” This is why I don’t take the trust you give me lightly.

Looking from within also follows the principle that Jesus taught that you must be faithful with the little before you are given the much. Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Our Elders are applying the principle in regards to staffing that “homegrown and local are best, import only when necessary.” Looking from within also helps us defend against the “savage wolves” Paul warned the Ephesian Elders to guard against who come into destroy the sheep (Acts 20:28-29). My wife Lori knows this first hand. After her father resigned from the church he pastored for nearly 11 years in order to be devoted full-time to Christian radio, the next pastor that the church hired came in and started spreading lies about Lori’s family. In three short months, this man decimated the church and he ended up leaving with his family in the middle in the night. Come to find out later, he was wanted for tax evasion and had decimated other churches. All this because this independent church did not do their due diligence in first checking out this “pastor” who was a fraud. It makes a case for belonging to a Fellowship of Churches where there is interdependence. So let’s remember this starting point: look from within! Homegrown and local are best, import only when necessary. The next step in selecting church leaders is that we must…

3.    Seek those who have walked with Jesus and experienced His resurrection power! (Acts 1:21-22 – “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us – beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”) In that day, a man must have already encountered Jesus, starting with Jesus’ baptism, been taught by Jesus and witnessed His resurrection before being selected as an apostle. Why are baptism and the resurrection so important? Romans 6:1-4 gives us insight, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Do you see how baptism and the resurrection are connected? When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, a voice from heaven declared, “This is My Beloved Son, and whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Jesus was authenticated by God the Father as His Son. And then we read in Acts 13:32-33 where Paul is preaching to the people in the town of Pisidian Antioch, “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; Today I have Begotten You.’” Therefore, at both the baptism and the resurrection of Jesus, we find that Jesus’ divinity is authenticated by God the Father, but more importantly His Sonship is authenticated. This is true for us too! When we are baptized as believers in Jesus Christ, we are authenticated as God’s children. Baptism doesn’t make you a child of God in the same way that Jesus was God’s Son before His baptism, but it showcases your adoption as God’s sons. We are following Christ and fully identifying with His death, burial and resurrection. This enables us to walk in newness of life as we recognize we have died and been buried with Christ and we now experience His resurrection by being able to say no to sin and to defeat death by living forever with Jesus. This can be true for all of us as we follow Christ’s command of being baptized as believers, but it is a requirement of church leaders. For how can one disciple and lead others if not pointing them to Christ as the Resurrected Son of God. Imagine somebody who promotes themself as a leader, encouraging others to follow Christ in baptism and then a younger believer asks them whether they have been baptized, and they say, “Well, no…not yet. I don’t want to get my hair messed up.” They could not be leader in Christ’s Church. How can they emphasize the power of Christ’s resurrection over sin and death? Therefore, we must seek church leaders who have walked with Jesus and experienced His resurrection power! I love the title of Eugene Peterson’s new book Practice Resurrection. We need leaders who practice resurrection everyday – who walk in newness of life. Besides, resurrection is a major theme at Temple. When I candidate here, I called you to come die with Christ and then we would experience His resurrection. There is another step in selecting church leaders…

4.    Identify those who are qualified! (Acts 1:23 – “So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus) and Matthias.” Notice not everyone was qualified to be a leader. Just like today, not everyone is a leader. Yes, we can all influence people but not all are called to receive the position or office of a church leader. Next Sunday night, I will delve deep into 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, which describes the qualifications of church leaders in greater detail. This week though, I am going to challenge you to read these passages and pray through the list you will find in your bulletins of the men we have put forth to you to lead you as a church. Ask the Lord, “Do these men meet these qualifications?” Or “is there anything that disqualifies them as an elder or deacon?” It is Scriptural to put forth the names and take one more step…

5.    Pray some more, asking God to reveal those He has specifically chosen! (Acts 1:24-26, “And they prayed, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they drew lots for them and the lot fell to Matthias, and he was added to the eleven apostles.” We must seek the Lord for Him to identify the individual of His choosing. Several men might be qualified, but God has in mind certain names of individuals over others. Why does God choose one over another? I don’t know why this happens but I trust God to pick His team. Interestingly, the New Testament never mentions Matthias again. We don’t know if he became a missionary or pastored a church. God just picked Matthias for this role. He was a serving leader! On the other hand, Justus, who was not selected for the position, seems to still have a ministry. If it is the same man, Justus is mentioned in Acts 15:22,[3] Colossians 4:11, Romans 16:22 and Acts 18:37. I can’t make a slam dunk case that this same Justus who didn’t make the cut on the team of apostles was the one who had a significant ministry later on when Paul writes in Colossians 4:10-11, “Mark … and…Justus, these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.” However, the principle is still true that God may not allow you to have a position, but will use you significantly in another assignment. I have seen this to be true in my life. I wasn’t permitted to go on short-term missions trip to Europe when I was a teenager, but later led a missions trip to Haiti. Sometimes God’s “no” now is for a greater “yes” later.

In summary, in selecting church leaders we must pray, we must look from within, we must seek those who have walked with Jesus and experienced the power of His resurrection, we must identify those who are qualified and we must pray some more, asking God to reveal those He has specifically chosen.

This is the pattern that we have endeavored to take here at Temple. I arrived in September 2012 and according to our Policies and Practices, the Lead Pastor is supposed to bring forth names of new Elders. And then he and the Elders are then to bring forth names of Deacons along with new Elders to the congregation for a vote. Sort of like casting lots! That was to take place in January 2013. However, only being here three months and not knowing the congregation, you gave me one year to keep the same Elders and Deacons team. This was a Godsend because we couldn’t have known about the challenges such as the lawsuit or closing of the Academy and many of the other challenges we have faced. We have been an extremely united group of men – “of one mind.” However, I knew that this Fall I would need to lead us through the process of selecting the next round of leaders. Therefore, I started in praying and fasting this year about who God wants to join our leadership team. I studied the Scriptures to determine a process and then I studied to get my mind wrapped around what a deacon really is and an elder really is since I had not served in a church with an Elders Council before, only a Deacon’s team. I put together a 30 page Deacon’s and Elder’s Training manual because I have found in ministry that we don’t train our leaders enough. I then walked our present Elders and Deacons through this training manual. It was a great time of studying God’s Word together. We also determined that our goal is to have an Elder and Deacon working together in each region of ministry. I asked our Elders, Deacons and Church Staff to pray and then to anonymously give me names that they thought met the qualifications of deacons and elders. I wanted to see if there were any names that consistently surfaced. Then we brought forth those men’s names along with their wives and discussed them more in-depth among the Elders. The next step was to send out a letter and questions to both potential leaders and their wives because being a church leader requires a husband and wife both being qualified for the role if you read 1 Timothy 3:11, “Their wives must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.” Some others were invited to consider this role but did not feel that God was leading to this assignment at this time. Our next step was that an Elder and myself interviewed each potential leader couple, answering their questions as well. Then we invited the potential Deacon and Elder to a session on Saturday morning where we took a couple of hours to go through the training manual I produced. Next the potential leader was invited to attend a respective Deacon or Elder meeting to observe and get a flavor for the position and whether they had chemistry with the present leadership. Our next step was to inquire of you in the congregation of any other potential names of deacons and elders by posting this in the bulletin and announcing it at Prayer Meeting. All the while, I have called you as a church to pray about God revealing those He selected. We then circled back with the men to confirm that they would let their names stand and in your bulletins are the names of the men we are proposing to you to vote on January 26. If there is something that we don’t know in our examination of these men that disqualifies them, please let me know.

I am going to take a few questions but I want us to end our night in prayer seeking the Lord as to whether these are the men who should lead us for the next season of ministry at Temple Baptist Church.


  • A year of prayer seeking the Lord as to the next round of leaders (November 2012 – Present)
  • Study of Church Leadership, especially the role of Elder and Deacon (September 2013)
  • Development and Presentation of Training Manual to present Leadership (October 2013)
  • Restructuring to include an Elder and Deacon overseeing and administrating each regional ministry (October 2013)
  • Solicitation of names from Staff, Elders and Deacons (October 2013)
  • Adding Staff Pastors (non-voting) to Elder Council (December 2013)
  • More Prayer
  • Vetting of nominations (November 2013)
  • Questionnaire sent to prospective leaders and their wives (November 2013)
  • Interview of prospective leaders and their wives (November 2013)
  • Training of prospective leaders and their wives (December 2013)
  • Prospective leaders attend and observe Elders and Deacons Meeting (December 2013)
  • More Prayer
  • Solicitation of names from Congregation (December 2013)
  • Presentation of names to Congregation (January 12, 2013)
  • Teaching on the process of Selecting Leaders (January 12, 2014)
  • More Prayer and vetting by congregation
  • Teaching on the role of deacon and elder (January 19, 2014)
  • Vote by congregation on deacons and elders (January 26, 2014)

[1] John Maxwell, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000).

[2] Source: Steve Jones’ newsletter. Posted December 2, 2013.

[3] Some scholars think that Judas in Acts 15:22 is the same one mentioned in Acts 1:23 but it is the minority view. Source:


3 Comments on “How Do You Select Church Leaders?”

  1. Marj McSwain says:

    Martin Richling right now I feel God does no)t want me to get connected to a Wolf dressed in sheep clothing! Hope you can make sense in my question! My friend is in with him and I was prepared to go with her to a house he holds his meetings (his home) in U.S.

    • Marj McSwain says:

      Paster Jon truly enjoy listening to your messages, Your are a true follower of Jesus Christ
      so I,am also, and God is my all, One night on my knees I commited my whole life to the Lord, from that night forward I told Him I will always obey Him , Thanking Him everyday, God bless you and family, My faith is so must strong today then ever before.
      Love in Christ.

  2. Marj McSwain says:

    Martin Pichlng wont read any Bible but the KJV. I dislike taking up your time, But would some answers on this man, God Bless Marj,

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