What are you looking for in a leader? What is absolutely essential? Vision? Charisma? Skills? Dedication? Today I fear that even few Christians offer the Biblical response when considering what is absolutely essential. J. Oswald Sanders reminds us in chapter 9 of his classic book, Spiritual Leadership, that the indispensable requirement is that that leader be "full of the Spirit" (Acts 6:3,5). Sanders describes what it looks like to be filled with the Spirit:
To be filled with the Spirit, then, is to be controlled by the Spirit. Intellect and emotions and volition as well as physical powers all become available to Him for achieving the purposes of God. Under His control, natural gifts of leadership are sanctified and lifted to their highest power. The now ungrieved and unhindered Spirit is able to produce fruit of the Spirit in the life of the leader, with added winsomeness and attractiveness in his service and with power in his witness to Christ. All real service is but the effluence of the Holy Spirit through yielded and filled lives (John 7:37-39).
To think about this controlling influence of the Holy Spirit is to think about the doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which we strive to be conformed to the likeness of Christ by the grace, power and influence of the Holy Spirit). The mystery of sanctification is that it is 100% by God's grace and yet we are called to strive for it with 100% of our effort. (Tilt one way or the other and you are in trouble!) As the Apostle Paul puts it in Philippians 2:12-13:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 35, asks, "What is Sanctification?" The answer is:
Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
The topic of sanctification is in the air. Kevin DeYoung recently wrote a book called The Hole in Our Holiness. There was a special forum on sanctification at the PCA General Assembly this summer. John Piper's pastors conference this fall will address the topic of sanctification. The Princeton Regional Conference on Reformed Theology--featuring Derek Thomas and Ian Hamilton (Cambridge, England) will take up the same. Apparently, many are feeling that the issue of the Holy Spirit's active work in the life of the believer needs to be taken up afresh in our setting.
In sanctification God works in us personally. The Holy Spirit regenerates us, making us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5), and takes up permanent residence in our lives. He redeems our wills. Rather than leaving us passive, he calls us to participate with him. The Holy Spirit calls upon us to desire him to be the controlling influence. "Be filled with the Spirit," Paul commands in Ephesians 5:18. He also calls us to obey him, lest he be grieved (again, it's personal with God): "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Eph 4:30).
Every Christian is called to be filled with the Spirit. Perhaps the reason for the sudden interest in sanctification is that there are more and more professing Christ who have the notion that the point of the gospel is to bring forgiveness into their lives while leaving God out of their lives. There are folks who want God's forgiveness, but don't want God Himself. To be aware that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness, does not make you repentant. Repentance goes further, not only acknowledging sin, but earnestly desiring God in the place of that particular sin. Repentance is not simply desiring to be rid of sin. There are all sorts of reasons to desire to be rid of sin. Sin is inefficient at times, life dominating, degrading and enslaving. True repentance is desiring God instead of sin. And, if you say that that you desire God, but don't care about grieving him then you are deceiving yourself. It's best in that case to go back to the gospel itself, revisit it and consider whether you ever grasped it.
The work of the Holy Spirit affects every aspect of our lives. With regard to leadership, His ministry is absolutely essential to the health of the church:
Spiritual Leadership can be exercised only by Spirit-filled men. Other qualifications for spiritual leadership are desirable. This one is indispensable...
Choosing men for office in the church or any of its auxiliaries without reference to spiritual qualifications must of necessity result in an unspiritual administration. In illustrating such a situation, Dr. A.T. Pierson likened it to the course sometimes pursued in a large company when it desires to rid itself of its controlling head. Gradually, in the subordinate offices and in the Board of Trustees or Directors, men are introduced who are opposed to the presiding officer in method and spirit. They quietly antagonize his measures, obstruct his plans, thwart his policy. Instead of cooperation and support, he meets inertia and indifference, if not violent opposition, until at last, unable to conduct affairs, he resigns from sheer inability to carry out his policy of administration. Appointment of men with a secular or materialistic outlook prevents the Holy Spirit from carrying out His program for the Church in the world.
To "make a man" an officer in the church because we think we have a need to fill is to deal a deadly blow to the body of Christ. The same is true for women in positions of spiritual leadership. Spiritual sensitivity is the overriding and controlling criteria. All else is optional. Apt words as we commence once again this fall in the training of officers for ministry in the church. Pray for our church, asking God to make sure the the Holy Spirit is the Chief Executive Officer in the church. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Chief Shepherd.