Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Giftedness is paramount - 9Marks Trends

As I reviewed the 9Marks article (see intro here ), I noticed a first trend: giftedness is paramount. Consider what John MacArthur has to say:

“Furthermore, the gifts and calling of an elder are ultimately far more important than any other formal training track.” - John MacArthur

This is quite the statement from the president of Master’s Seminary.

When looking to recognize a pastor/elder/overseer, much importance is put on the preaching and teaching ability of a pastor/elder/overseer. While these are usually a result of his spiritual gifting, they can be just natural traits of a good speaker, a good theologian, or even of a well trained professional. The question at hand, though, is not are they a good speaker, a good theologian, or even a well trained professional, rather it is: are they a pastor/elder/overseer? Therefore, while not wanting to undermine passages like Tit 1:9 which point to the fact that an overseer must hold “fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict,” we need to see them in the light of passages like Acts 20:28, which points out that the elders of Ephesus had been made overseers by the Holy Spirit (my friend Alan posted on this here), and Eph 4:11, which clearly states that Christ is the one who gave some to be pastors and teachers (gifting/gift, not position). Many can know Scripture and doctrine, many can be great speakers, but not all are gifted by God to be pastor/elder/overseers, therefore it is paramount to recognize the ones who are given this gift by God.

How do we do that? Well first of all, we can only do that by sharing in the life with them so that their life and gifting is allowed to be exhibited (more to come on this topic in my next post in this series). Consider the following statements:

“It is also tempting to appoint someone who is theologically brilliant and agrees with the doctrinal positions of the church. But we need to remember that Paul stresses character qualifications for elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). We need elders who are theologically faithful and who live out the gospel in their everyday lives. We must not sacrifice the latter simply because the former is present, for the words of elders must accord with a godly life.” – Thomas R. Schreiner

Bruce Keisleing states that: “I learned that concentration of teaching opportunities (assuming an individual teaches well) will heighten the ability of the church to recognize its elders.” While it is true that a concentration of teaching opportunities could provide the opportunity for a pastor/elder/overseer’s gifts to be lived out so that people can recognize them, we need to remember that it might just make someone more visible. Here I think that the words of Phil Newton are to be heeded: “more than doctrinal knowledge and high visibility is needed.” Just because someone is highly visible does not mean that person has the gift of pastoring.

Ultimately, since it is God who gifts, we have to be sure that we are led by the Holy Spirit in the process even when we are not sure what the Spirit is telling us:

“… as you pray for discernment, be conscious of the Holy Spirit setting off ‘alarms’ concerning the character, conduct, or qualities of those aspiring to eldership. If you are hesitant to approve someone, then don’t until your reservations are cleared.” – Phil Newton


Anonymous said...


I agree with you that the Holy Spirit does the gifting for the office of pastor/elder. Also, it does seem that the Holy Spirit chooses who should be pastor/elders. As you mentioned, this seems to be clear from Acts 20:28.

So how should churches do a better job of discerning who the Holy Spirit has chosen and gifted for the position of pastor/elder? You said, "How do we do that? Well first of all, we can only do that by sharing in the life with them so that their life and gifting is allowed to be exhibited." I agree completely, but I am just wondering how this plays out in a local body. Discernment of what God is saying to us can be somewhat subjective, so I am curious to know how you think the Bible tells a body how to hear what He is saying.

I look forward to reading your next post.

I have been recently thinking about the issue of God's choice of missionaries -- specifically those who will leave their own culture and serve overseas. Acts 13 tells us that the Holy Spirit actually told the men in Antioch who to send out. I will be posting on this later, but it seems to have some relationship to what you are talking about here.

-Eric C.

Renata said...

When talking to a friend this afternoon, I came to the realization that God doesn't want us to give Him our gifts -- He wants our life! I think this also can help us discern who a pastor/elder is. Does this person seek to entrust their whole life to Christ, not just what they are good at, but what they are lousy at too?

Maël said...


I wanted to answer, but I do not have much time, so it probably will not be as exhaustive as I wish, but here it is.

Rom 12:1-2 possibly gives us some direction on how to hear:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

But, much is written in Scripture that describes God communicating to people in a variety of ways without letting us know how they (the humans) knew how to hear from God. You point to one such example in your post on Acts 13. Could this lack on information on the "hows" be due to the fact that God is not to be limited in how he communicates?

As you said, this discerning can be subjective, that is why I find great peace in knowing that when I believe that God is communicating to me I have Scripture to go to and I have other believers, with whom God is also communicating, who can confirm or deny what I think that God is doing in my life.

I've got to get back to my students, but I have a question for you. When your family left for the Far East and while you were there you repeatedly said that what kept you going was that you were sure that was where you needed to be. How did you know that? Where was that certainty coming from?


I would agree ... in these posts I am looking at trends in a series of interviews I read, so these posts marked 9Marks Trends will no represent all I believe that Scripture teaches. When looking at the characteristics of pastor/elder/overseers one listed in Tit 1 is self-willed. I think that is what you are talking about: are they giving it all to their Master or are they self willed doing their own thing. Thanks for the encouragement.

Eric said...


We knew in three ways that, I believe, were all guided by the Holy Spirit. First, scripture kept pointing us to the lost. Second, our hearts were continually burdened by the vast number of lost people we would see each day. Third, the other workers in our city kept encouraging us and telling us we were adjusting well. They wanted us to be there. I believe God was using this to tell us that we were where we were supposed to be.

Much like the third reason above, I believe the Holy Spirit tells believers within a body who He has chosen out to be pastor/elders or missionaries (ones being sent out overseas). Clearly, God does not want us to be confused about matters like this. If we are faithful in prayer, He will let us know who He has chosen (and gifted) for leadership positions.

Maël said...


Thanks for the answer about knowing while you were there, but what about before you left. How did you know that you should be going "as a missionary" to that specific country and that specific town?

Eric said...

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you on this.

All I can say is that it was the work of the Holy Spirit. In Jan-Feb of 2004, I was struggling with why we were even in Wake Forest. I prayed specifically that God would give us some sense of why we were there. Within a month God laid a burden on our hearts for international missions. It seemed like almost every conversation in my classes pointed to missions. In chapel, someone was always discussing working overseas. Dr. Akin had just come in as president and was frequently talking about serving with the IMB.

Alice and I suspected that this was the direction God wanted us to pursue. We soon had meetings with Dr. Eitel and then the IMB rep. for SEBTS. Those meetings were great.

Not long after this, we found out that SEBTS was sending a team to our country in Jan. of 2005. Both Alice and I wanted to go, but the money seemed like far too much. God provided it anyway.

On the trip, we were burdened by the lostness of the area. We saw one church building in a city of 5 million people.

I know a lot of this is subjective, but it just seemed like God kept pointing us in one direction. All doors were opening. Added to this is the great need for workers in our country, and especially in our part of the country.

We originally thought we would be in the national capital, but my supervisor switched us to our eventual city. Once we found out about the religious significance of that city, we wanted to go there.

To summarize, several factors were coming together. Scripture kept pointing us overseas. Our friends kept encouraging us in it. All of the above situations pointed not only to going overseas, but also to our country.

A lot of it felt out of our control. I mean that in the good sense. It felt Holy Spirit controlled. I had little desire within myself to move somewhere that difficult to live. I believe it was God who burdened us and pointed us in that direction.

Join my blog network
on Facebook