Opinions on faith and life

Take Me To Your Leader

2011-05-31

I write a lot about individual responsibility and discernment, and about not blindly following every claimed authority. But how do we identify someone who is gifted by God to lead believers? How do we go about choosing a qualified teacher of scripture? Though I’ve probably covered the answer in various articles already, I think it might be a good idea to summarize and review.

  1. The Bible is where we get most of what we know about Jesus and His teachings, so those who deny that it is authoritative are false teachers.
  2. Remember “Jesus the Anointed, the Crucified One” (1 Cor. 2:2) who rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:4). Anyone denying this is a false teacher.
  3. Know the key characteristics of the faith, such as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23), humility (Mat. 20:20-28, Phil. 2:3-11), love (1 Cor. 13), and all the finest qualities people can have, both of doing the best and refraining from the worst. Don’t follow anyone who routinely violates these core principles, either in word or deed. Our role models are Jesus and the apostles.
  4. Hold leaders to higher standards, not lower ones. Don’t follow anyone who uses a double standard (pleads “under the blood” or “a sinner like everyone else” yet denies such excuses to others), or who turns sins into virtues, or demands payment for teaching or leading (John 10:12-13, 1 Cor. 9:15-18). If it’s wrong for you, it’s wrong for them; if you are to humbly serve, then they are to humbly serve— without titles, privileges, or authority.
  5. Be like the people of Berea (Acts 17:11), who cross-checked and verified (Prov. 18:17) the teachings of even the apostle Paul and were commended for it. We get second opinions before major surgery if our physical lives depend on it, so we must do the same all the more when our spiritual lives depend on it. And be sure to get those second opinions from people outside of your group.
Know your Bible, know your Savior, know how people reconciled to God must behave, hold leaders’ feet to the fire, and don’t follow just one of them. And above all, pray for the Spirit’s guidance. These simple guidelines will not guarantee that you’ll never be led astray, but they’ll reduce the odds by quite a bit. A lazy Christian is a gullible Christian, but if you dedicate yourself to being a disciple by “doing your homework”, you will stay on that “narrow way” (Mt. 7:14) and not slip off.