Reaching the maturity to appoint elders is a hurdle facing so many African congregations. The very reason Paul left Titus in Crete was for this evangelist to facilitate growth toward eldership appointment (Titus 1:5). In a recent meeting of the men, it became obvious that much teaching was needed on the subject of congregational leadership.
Many congregations “tread water” for years, never moving closer to God’s divine ideal for congregational organization. In my experience, two factors particularly trap a church into leadership stagnation. Often, one man has the “upper hand” in men’s meetings. Some are of the Diotrephes variety (2 John 9, 10), while others may simply “take charge” in the absence of any others showing initiative. These men often seem reluctant to influence toward eldership appointment. Some want to keep their leadership and others simply see none qualified for the office of a bishop. So the subject receives no attention at all.
A second contributing factor is the breakdown of the family. The erosion of the domestic structure is at the heart of many congregational woes. One elder recently wrote to me deploring the shocking number of divorces within the local body of believers. The number of men with strong, stable marriages seems to be shrinking and children of the saints are leaving the church in disturbing numbers. The men who have proved their ability to lead their own families (1 Timothy 3:5) are becoming an endangered tribe. So the pool of men to be considered for the high church office is small.
In response to the need, Carey and I spoke for our leadership seminar in Iringa. Following Sunday morning worship, the men joined for a lunch in one member’s home. We enjoyed rice, beans, goat meat, bananas and sodas. With satisfied stomachs we returned to the building. I delivered a lesson on congregational leadership in the absence of elders. Carey followed by speaking about the need to strive toward an eldership and the qualifications that each man must be working to attain. After all, but for a few exceptions (i.e. married, believing children), all Christian men should meet the qualifications of an elder.
As a follow-up to our Leadership Seminar, I delivered a lesson the next Sunday, challenging us to develop goals for spiritual growth, both as individuals and congregationally. That is a challenge for all of us, not only the church in Tanzania. We need to plan for growth if we expect it to become a reality.
What are your goals for spiritual growth in 2012?