Whether in society or in the church, the democratic process of voting does not ensure that the best people are chosen to serve as leaders and often leads to division and strife. How can church elections be different so that harmony is maintained, and we find the leaders that God intends for us?
Rev. Doctor Galela
Regional Superintendent, Wesleyan Church of Southern Africa
The church is spiritual in nature, distinct from any other organization from the society. The church is made up by those who have experienced redemption from sin and are Spirit-filled believers. They are growing in their spiritual walk and becoming obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables believers to discern God’s leading, guidance and direction. The spiritual atmosphere where church elections are taking place is vitally important in raising men and women of Christlike character and possessing necessary gifts and abilities in fulfilling the task of the church. Maturity of those involved in the process of church elections will produce godly results and bring unity amongst believers within the church.
Jethro’s advice to Moses, “But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes ……” Exodus 18:21. Two qualities are mentioned, namely; who fear God and capable (competent).
After the Ascension of Jesus, the Apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer …..” Acts 1:14. Note that they were constantly united in prayer. The Bible mentions 120 believers were together in one place and Peter addressed them from scriptures as was predicted by the Holy Spirit. “So they nominated two men; Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Mathias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry …..” Then they cast lots, and Mathias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven”. Note, they all prayed to God who knows every heart to direct them in electing a suitable candidate for the task.
As the church grew in Jerusalem, challenges arose of daily distribution of food. “So the Twelve called a meeting of all believers. They said, we apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility” Acts 6:2-3. Note the qualities described, well respected, full of the Spirit and wisdom.
Paul in a first letter to Timothy 3:1-13, outlines qualification for leadership in the church, “before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons”. Note closely examined. Believers know each other in daily interaction beyond church walls. If they can discern, they will know those who are ready to serve in different leadership and administrative structures.
The Election Procedures
I believe there are two vital aspects in the process of electing or appointing the right individuals for leadership and experience harmony in the church. The right individuals are those who are displaying godly character and possess the required competencies for the task ahead. These must not be compromised in order to keep the church without spot or blemish. The church must not fall short of excellency in fulfilling God’s given task or responsibility. Two vital aspects are:
A. Nominating, Appointing and Electing Bodies.
I suggest the following marks for believers who serve in these bodies:
- The proven record of walking with God
- Full of the Spirit and wisdom
- Prayerful, fasting and discerning
- Clear understanding of leadership and administration
- Knowledgeable of the Discipline and Processes
- Wesleyan Covenant members in good standing
B. Eligible Individuals
I suggest the following marks for those to be considered for appointments or elections for positions of church leadership and administration:
- Individuals of godly character
- Growing in daily walking with God
- Prayerful and full of the Spirit
- Already serving in some capacity in the church
- Knowledgeable with the Discipline
- Possess the necessary competency or skills for the position nominated for.
- Has creative ideas in the church development
Avoid the following Pitfalls
- External Influences from those who are interested in church positions.
- Individual social status in the society, but not eligible individual.
- Not a recent convert who has not yet been discipled.
- Canvasing is strictly discouraged.
- Don’t compromise character or competency (skill).
Teaching on procedures of elections
The church leadership must be proactive in teaching about democratic election processes of the church to avoid unnecessary disputes that create divisions. This process doesn’t permit ungodly behavior in promoting immature individuals to occupy church leadership and administrative positions.
The church is distinct, cannot be involved in ungodly behavior to influence the processes of appointing or electing individuals to church leadership and administrative positions. Always keep in mind that both, godly character and competencies are required for a rightful individual to be considered for position in the church. The nominating, appointing and electing bodies have the responsibility to retain the church without spot or blemish. Remember it’s godly harmony, not compromising for the purpose of keeping peace.
Rev. Felix Baafi
National Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church Ghana
Democracy is a pluralist form of government where decisions are made directly or indirectly through majority votes. In democracy, the political system has a government from the people, which is elected in free elections by a majority vote. The level of democracy in the church fellowship can partly be seen in its organizational structure. In some churches, management and decisions will be made by appointed or elected church ministers and lay members, while in others, all believers take part in managing the church. Commitment to democracy is one thing, and living according to its principles could be another. Democracy is the rule of the people through elected ones, and therefore characterized by making decisions collectively. Apart from a few churches, the vast majority of members endorse and operate under democratic conditions, with elections being of majority decision.
All authority comes from God and the Bible duly enshrines the authority of God in all governments. Apostle Paul warns us that ‘there is no authority except from God.’ This places the Church government under the control of God, with limitations in our decisions on the Church. Democracy is therefore practiced within the limitations binding the church in the light of the Bible. Some major decisions on elections could be vested in the hands of a selected few, who might not be in the good books of some of the members, thereby limiting the essence of true democracy in the church. The Church, being a spiritual entity cannot compromise the divine side of it, where God becomes actively involved in His Church’s government, with theocracy guiding decisions during elections (cf Rom. 13: 1-7).
The choice of leaders in the Church could be God-ordained-and-approved or not. The procedure for choice could be inspired by God or not. As carnal as humans could be, some decisions on thew choice of leadership could be wrong, thereby appointing inefficient leaders for the church some of the time, during elections. The choice of leaders in the Church has been the prerogative of some delegates who are representatives of various congregations in the Church. Nominees are presented to and vetted by committees, who could endorse wrong candidates for elections in their search for leaders. Carnality could also take the better part of decisions, to the disapproval and disappointment of the masses the delegates represent. As Christians, the choice of leaders in the Church is highly dictated and approved by God through His Word. Qualities of church leaders are enshrined in the Bible with other physical qualities to be attained through formal training in seminaries and theological training institutions.
The Wesleyan Church has the National Superintendent as the spiritual and administrative head. This implies that, some level of administrative skill and background is required of such a candidate for this position, in addition to their spiritual abilities. Lack of knowledge and ignorance of such requirements by the electorate, could obviously produce a wrong choice made on grounds of perceived inherent qualities in the nominee. Physical appearance could deceive delegates into voting for wrong nominees. This again shows how shoddy preparations are sometimes in the search, choice, and election of our leaders at conferences.
Ethnic considerations could also cloud the choice of right leaders in the church. The decision to have a leader from a particular ethnic group could defy competence and right attitude for the choice. Our resolve to have a leader from a particular area or persuasion tends to affect church democracy and good judgment.
Division and strife could affect the election of leaders in the church, for various reasons including the following observations.
- Electorates often have too high expectations of appointed leaders, most especially when progress of church has been stagnant with past leaders.
- The choice of good leaders must be based on practical demonstration of the required leadership qualities and abilities. Very many delegates tend to vote in ignorance of these salient, required qualities of leaders.
- Church leadership is God-ordained and inspired. Of late, people with parochial interest vie for church positions only to perform abysmally due to the absence of the divine endorsement. This reinforces the fact that, physical abilities alone cannot see the elected leaders through. As a divine institution, God is actively involved in the choice of leaders. Electorates may endorse the candidates on grounds of their physical appearance. Such a choice could fail if they lack the divine touch and approval of God.
- Physical appearance and personality traits could win the hearts of delegates, to the disadvantage of the required physical and spiritual abilities.
- Elected leaders may have great vision but may not be able to implement any. They may have great preaching and communication skills to the delight of church members, and complacency can rob them of improving such track record skills to the disappointment of their admirers.
- In some cases, the working team members may have issues with the leaders in their term of office, and they may not be willing to work with the leader, depriving him/her of all the support for survival.
- Failed leaders may portray and promote some biblically acceptable personality traits in public to the admiration of the electorate, only to disappoint them with some privately otherwise behavior. Such leaders normally promote godliness key to their acceptance as church leaders, but disappointingly live otherwise.
- The expectations of the Church in endorsing such leaders may not be met to the dismay of electorates. 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1must be a guide to personality traits.
- Disgruntled church members may take a hard stance against an elected leader who may not dance to their selfish tunes. Members who may not want change for the betterment of the church would fight any good leader who sees progressively. In some rare cases, any successful current leader could be an envy of a selfish past leader who did not perform well. Such leaders who normally have a following could cause division and disaffection. This reinforces the qualities of leaders in the light of the Word of God. Are leaders really called to lead the Church, or vie for these positions for personal interests and gains?
- Division and strife are now common in churches with the attendant consequences taking their toll on the growth and stability of the church.
- Ultimately, leadership tends to fail under the schemes of these detractors in the church. Though a leader could be a good choice for the church, the leader’s efforts could be undermined to effect division and strife. The leaders’ quest to instill honesty and accountability will incur the displeasure of the corrupt team members who surround them. Pastors must be sincere leaders who believe what they preach. They must live and breathe their faith formally and informally, in and outside the pulpit.
- Sadly, selfish ambition and greed have taken the better part of some leaders so that, any attempt to check and expose such characters will prompt displeasure, and eventual attempt to undermine and malign him, to bring about confusion and division in the church. You will always have people of like mind in the church supporting such corrupt and selfish detractors.
- It is however worthy to note that, not all leaders could be absolved from incompetence in office. Some are real failures and in which case, you may have a majority seeking their replacement. Their true nature might have been hidden to the Church or he/she could be lacking true leadership qualities. Hasty decisions and without much time to access the candidate, could lead to poor performance of leaders.
Concluding, I suggest that leaders be scrutinized for leadership qualities, and be trained over time to take up positions in the church. Like every professional person, the pastor needs the capacity to acquire knowledge, to impart it, to lead, to inspire confidence and trust, in addition to convincing others of his position.
It is high time the church took a second look at aspiring leaders who manage our churches. The call mandated of pastors must be revisited, since most of them have become pale shadows of themselves as believers. In some cases, church members seem to be living the Word of God better than the leaders. This should be the other way round, for church leaders are called to be worthy examples of leadership.