What Are the Biblical Standards for Spiritual Leaders?

The Bible explicitly and implicitly delineates certain standards that must be met before one can assume leadership roles over the people of YHVH. Israelites should know what the Word of Elohim demands of leaders, and should expect leaders to meet those biblical standards. If they don’t, Israel should reject such individuals.

These standards must apply to leaders over and within congregations. Many individuals who are in ministry are not associated with a congregation, so it may be questioned whether these standards should apply to them as well. It seems self-evident that the same biblical standards that apply to leaders within a congregational context should also apply to itinerate minsters, while not connected to or holding leadership in a local congregation, yet they minister to local congregations, and therefore, are perceived to be leaders and elders within greater Israel by those they teach. Therefore, we take the approach that these ministry standards apply to all leaders within the spiritual body of Yeshua whether they are connected to a local body or not. The body of Yeshua is a interconnected, and all must be playing by the same rules, and be held to the same standards. 

We draw, furthermore, from the whole counsel of YHVH’s Word (i.e., Genesis to Revelation) guidelines for leadership qualifications. YHVH’s standards of righteousness for his leaders has not changed over the ages, for he has not changed. His character is inviolate and immutable, and what he requires of those whom he has appointed as servants over his people has not changed and is based on his character, which defines his standards of righteousness.

Prevalent Non-biblical Standards for Leadership

Within the Christian church and, as an offshoot of that, within the Messianic Israel, Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots movements, there are many non-biblical standards that, in the eyes of many people, qualifies a person for leadership roles within the body of Yeshua. These “qualification,” in fact, may or may not meet YHVH’s standards of leadership. Some of these “qualification” include:

  • Self-appointment resulting in the formation of a “successful” ministry. 
  • The use of ecclesiastical titles, the earning of academic degrees.  
  • Popularity among men. 
  • Oratory and public presentation skills.
  • Professional-looking packaging of persons, ministries, websites and materials to merchandized. 
  • The size of one’s following, mailing list, ministry, or all the material trappings associated with the ministry.
  • Length of time in the ministry.
  • Acceptance among peers and within the church.
  • Financial success.
  • The number of books published, the number electronic media one has been on. 

The Bible nowhere indicates that any of these criteria necessarily qualify one to be in a leadership role. In fact, the biblical record clearly shows that usually the more popular (among men) and successful (by  worldly standards) religious leaders were, in fact, more unpopular with YHVH. Yeshua, for example, when addressing the religious leaders of his day, emphatically stated that that which is highly esteemed (uplifted, eminent, exalted, influential or honorable) of men is an abomination (a foul thing, detestable or idolatrous) in the sight of Elohim (Luke 16:15). Why is this? Because YHVH looks at the heart of man, not on the outward appearance of things (1 Sam 16:7; Isa 29:13; Matt 15:8). YHVH sees the true content of a man’s character, which is often hidden under the false facade of appearance.

Biblical Standards of Leadership

What are some of the more obvious biblical standards that must be applied to all spiritual leaders in our day? Those leaders who reject any of these criteria we reject them as not meeting the biblical standards of leadership. The following is a list of criteria that one must meet in order to meet the qualifications of biblical leadership.  

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Is your job a launch pad into your ministry?

Exodus 3:1, Tending the flock. Moses spent forty years in the wilderness of Midian tending the flocks of Jethro, his father-in-law. After this phase of his life, YHVH called and commissioned Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and then to shepherd them through the wilderness en route to the Promised Land. This was the very same wilderness where Moses had shepherded Jethro’s sheep for forty years. Moses’ job as a physical shepherd prepared him for the next phase of his life—his ministry as a spiritual shepherd. 

Often YHVH chooses individuals as his servants based on their vocational background, which provides training for the spiritual ministry to which he then calls them. For example, David was a shepherd before he became the king over Israel. Yeshua was a carpenter before he became a builder of the spiritual house of Israel (Heb 3:3–6; 1 Pet 2:5), and several of Yeshua’s disciples were commercial fishermen before becoming “fishers of men” or apostolic evangelists. Sometimes our physical vocations may be an indicator of what our spiritual calling is. 

Being a shepherd of physical sheep is a most suitable profession to prepare one for tending YHVH’s spiritual sheep. A shepherd has to put the needs, comfort, care and protection of the sheep above that of his own. This is one reason why the Scriptures refer to those who care for and protect YHVH’s spiritual sheep as shepherds or pastors. There are many similarities between physical and spiritual shepherds, and physical and spiritual sheep. Unless one has been a physical shepherd and cared for physical sheep, it is unlikely these reasons will be readily apparent.


 

Are You a Shepherdless Sheep?

Lone Sheep

Deuteronomy 31:23, He gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge. YHVH is the author of godly leadership. He prepares and trains leaders and then raises them up to lead his people in the paths of righteousness leading to the spiritual Promised Land. Beware of leaders who raise themselves up and promote themselves.

What is the purpose of righteous leadership? (See Eph 4:11–12.) What are the qualifications for leadership ? (See 1 Tim 3:1–13.) What is the premise of true, Spirit-ordained leadership? (See Matt 23:11.)

Many believers have been hurt by kingdom-building, money-grubbing and self-seeking leaders in the church world and now trust no one. They pride themselves on being “independent.” Is this good?

Did Yeshua ever speak of his sheep as being “lone rangers” or did he refer to them as “a flock?” Does he ever speak of his flock as being shepherdless? Of course, Yeshua is the Chief Shepherd, but does he speaks of undershepherds as well? (Read John 10:1–18.) Is a flock that is under the guidance of a servant shepherd a place of safety or harm? Is being outside the flock a place of safety or harm? (See Matt 18:12.)

Yeshua says that those who are outside are “lost” and have “gone astray” and are in danger of perishing (Matt 18:11–14).

Are you part of a literal flock of believers, or have you spiritualized this passage away to justify your independent (rebellious?) spirit against YHVH-ordained authority?


 

Wimps and Bullies Versus Godly Shepherds

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1 Timothy 3:3, Violent. This passage (vv. 3–7) lists the qualifications of an elder or leader of a congregation. One of the of character traits that he is not to posses is that of being a brawler (KJV),violent (NKJV) or pugnacious (NAS). What do the words brawler, violent or pugnacious mean here? It is the Greek word amachos meaning one who is by nature “a fighter, brawler, contentious, quarrelsome, one who causes strife, or one who is combative.” In modern terms, he’s a bully. Perhaps you remember the neighborhood bully from your years as a school child. An elder, overseer or shepherd of a congregation is not to be such a person. This is what Paul had in mind when he gave these instructions concerning the qualifications of an elder.

So let’s now explore this issue a little further. Is there ever a time when spiritual leaders may need to resort to forceful words or even to forceful actions to protect YHVH’s spiritual sheep? What, for example, did David mean when he asks the following question in Psalm 94:16?

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

What did Yeshua mean when describing a good shepherd versus an evil hireling shepherd when he said that unlike the evil shepherd, a good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep and protects them from those who come to kill, steal and destroy the sheep? He says that the good shepherd defends the sheep, Continue reading


 

The Fivefold Ministry Explained

Ephesians 4:11, He gave some to be apostles. (See notes at Exod 28:1.) Did the so-called five-fold ministry offices cease after the New Testament era, or do they continue function in the body of Yeshua to this day? In our day, most people agree that the ministries of the evangelist, teacher and pastor are still in operation today, but many say that the offices of apostles and prophet have ceased to operate. Yet in verse 13, we read that these offices would operate “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah…,” which hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, it would stand to reason, that all these ministry offices are still needed today.

He. It must be kept in mind that Yeshua is the epitome of and over all (authoritatively) ministry offices that follow in this verse. When we ascended to heaven, he spread his own abilities out, as it were, among those he called to be leaders over his spiritual flock below (see Eph 4:8). Collectively, these ministry offices should be doing the work that Yeshua himself would be doing were he here on this earth presently.

Apostles. In addition to the twelve original apostles (including Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26), here is a list of the other apostles, which might be called Continue reading


 

A Pastor Is a Herder of Sheep

Ephesians 4:11, He gave some to be …pastors. The word pastor is the Greek word poimen (pronounced poy-mane) occurs 18 times in the NT and is translated in the KJV as shepherd (17 times) and only once as pastor (pl., Eph 4:11). Poimen literally means “a herdsman, esp. a shepherd or one who cares for sheep.” In the Near East, it was the duty of the shepherd to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep, to defend the sheep from attackers, to heal the wounded and sick sheep, to find and save lost or trapped sheep, to love them, and to share their lives with them thus earning their trust.

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The TDNT summarizes the role of the shepherd in this manner: In the Gospels, the shepherd’s sacrificial loyalty to his calling is depicted with loving sympathy using true-to-life pictures. For example, he knows each animal by name (John 10:3, 14, 17), seeks the lost sheep, is happy when he finds it (Luke 15:4–6), and is prepared to hazard his life to protect the sheep form the wolf (John 10:11–13). Yeshua even uses the shepherd as figure for Elohim in two parables (Luke 15:4–7; Matt 18:12–14; Ibid., vol. 6, p. 490).

As noted, only once in the NT are congregational leaders called shepherds (Eph 4:11). The absence of the article before teachers in the list of church offices (Eph 4:11) indicates that pastors and teachers are to form a single leadership group as it relates to ministering to the individual congregations, yet there’s no indication in this verse of pastor being an ecclesiastical title (Ibid.)

The verb poimainein, a derivative of poimen, gives some indication of the work of the pastor in the congregation. By definition, poimainein indicates the leadership responsibility of feeding, nourishing, tending, leading, ruling and cherishing Elohim’s flock or church (1 Pet 5:2; Acts 20:28; John 21:16) as a shepherd feeds his flock.