Can you imagine the Fortune 500 company that says to its employees:
“Hands up anyone who wants to volunteer for leadership… we’ve got a few open slots to fill?”
And yet this is exactly how many churches - particularly small churches - go about choosing their leaders. And larger church aren't doing much better. They typically tend to have budgets big enough to cobble together a multimember "professional" staff to oversee the various niche ministries offered by their respective church. While this might serve a pragmatic end and meet the needs of a large and diverse congregation one wonders if this approach more or less bypasses the biblical mandate to "equip the saints to do the work of the ministry" (Ephesians 4:12).
With these things in mind I want to suggest that any church, large or small, need only look to the bible to find a reliable leadership model. Nowhere in the Bible will anyone find that church leadership is merely about filling slots - regardless of whether those slots are filled by volunteers or professionals. We are never to merely fill slots! Church leadership is a serious matter and thankfully God has not left us in the dark about it. In the Bible we draw out the following basic principles about leadership in the local church - they are to be detected, developed, and deployed.
Let me explain:
1) Detecting: The elders and pastor of a local congregation should actively be on the lookout for perspective new elders and deacons to join them in the shepherding care of God's people.
2) Developing: Each local church should have a well designed mechanism for mentoring and training perspective leaders in various areas including – the biblical qualifications for leadership (I Timothy 3 & Titus 1), the doctrinal standards and distinctives of the church, and the organizational and operational norms of local leadership.
3) Deploying: Men who are qualified to lead and who are trained to lead must be turned loose to lead.
Since All Souls Church is a fairly new church plant we needed to come up with a strategic program to help us accomplish these things - and we did so! Early in the Autumn of 2014 we launched a nine month course of study called F.I.O.T. (the Fraternal Institute for Officer Training). Our inaugural class is almost halfway through their coursework this year and they are doing excellent work. I have been both encouraged and blessed in the fellowship I have shared with my F.I.O.T. brothers.
The stated rationale for F.I.O.T. is as follows:
Our belief is that if All Souls Church is to be governed by Biblical and Reformed principles, and is to continue in its commitment to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, then it is necessary that all men seeking the office of elder or deacon should be committed to Christ, His Word and the church. Therefore FIOT will seek to accomplish two things.
1) It will equip perspective office-bearers to serve, if elected, with all of the knowledge and resources necessary for the fulfillment of the office.
2) It will ensure that all potential elders can make an honest, informed, and wholehearted affirmation of their ordination vows if and when they are given the opportunity.
Some people might say that a 9 month course of study is a little much... but in my opinion it beats the pants off the "hands up whoever wants to lead" model of church leadership!