To start our new series of blogs on how we prepare people for different ministries, Tim Ward looks at how we prepare Church leaders.
When the New Testament describes the qualities required in those who will be appointed as church leaders, it speaks of three things: character, leadership ability and commitment to the truth. Thus a leader must have demonstrated good leadership at home and must have the ability to teach (1 Tim. 3.2-5), and must hold firmly to the truth (Titus 1.9). Yet the most immediately striking thing is that the statements on leadership qualifications in the Pastoral Epistles spend over half their time on character. This emphasis is surely significant. The Lord may allow a skillful leader with a flawed character to flourish for a time, but most often he will one day bring things crashing down. Yet the world is full of church leaders with real but unexceptional gifts whose ministries have been highly effective, and it seems that often their personal godliness has been crucial in this.
We are striving to reflect this real-life reality at Oak Hill. Our new Graduate Profile describes what we’re aiming for in our students, under three headings drawn deliberately from the Pastoral Epistles: ‘godly character’, ‘effective church leadership’, and ‘biblical and theological wisdom’. This Profile has shaped the content of the new teaching programme, which launches in September this year. For example there will be a ‘capstone’ module in the third year, running right through the year, that focuses on the Pastoral Epistles in detail. So much time spent on one small portion of Scripture? Yes,because in this part of Scripture so much that a church leader needs -character, leadership, and unwavering commitment to truth - comes together.
We’re also thinking about how these emphases on leadership qualifications in the Pastoral Epistles should be reflected not just in what we teach but in how we teach. It is clear from Scripture that leaders need resilience and backbone - people who will not be swayed by every shift in culture and every wave of opposition in the church. And it is also clear that they must be‘gentle, not quarrelsome’ (1 Tim. 3.3). We who teach at Oak Hill have been thinking hard this year about how we ourselves model, and develop in our students, both gentle humility as well as solid conviction, through our classroom practices as well as our manner of life among the students. A College can never aim to produce the finished article (who is ever that?) But we are aiming for students to be deeply convinced of the breadth of all that they will need to be good and faithful leaders.
The 'We are for' series: