What are the qualifications for being a leader in Christ’s church? What kind of person should we look for? And what kind of people should we try to be? Sometimes we can emphasize image or charisma. Sometimes we can emphasize competence or skills. There may be a place for these things, but what Scripture emphasizes is character (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4). This is important, because who we choose as leaders affects the kind of people we will aspire to be. If we choose leaders based on superficial flash and show, we will become people who build their lives around maintaining the right external image of ourselves. If we pick leaders for telling us what want to hear rather than what we need to know, we will become self-indulgent. If we pick leaders who show a superficial, external righteousness, that is the type of people we will become. How do we pick the right kind of leaders and become the right kind of people?
We need to start with the Gospel. God says we are righteous before God based on what Christ has done for us (Romans 3:21-31; 4:4,5; Philippians 3:4-11). But the result of this is that God changes us from the inside (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). Scripture clearly condemns a superficial, outward appearance of righteousness (Matthew 23:25-28: 6:1-18; 2 Timothy 3:5). Our lifestyle should be based on the love of God, not just trying to please other people (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Titus 2:11-14). We need leaders whose lives exhibit this type of character. And we ought to be people who live according to the same principle.
Further, in order to change we need the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; John 17:17). This is why the one qualification for leadership that is not a character trait is the ability to teach the Scriptures (Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; John 21:15-17). Now all us are not called to be teachers. But we all need to make the word of God a part of our lives (Hebrews 5:11-14; Colossians 3:16; Psalms 1:1,2). Therefore, we need leaders who can teach the Word, but they need also to show the character traits that come from not just knowing the Word of God, but also applying it (James 1:22-25; Psalms 119:9-11; 19:11). And so should we.
Therefore, I do not see the qualifications for leaders as a sort of checklist, but an illustration of the kind of person to look for. The broad terms, such as blameless, are references to other character traits of the same sort. Nor do I think that these qualifications apply only to leaders, but are, with the exception I noted earlier, things we should all pursue. The main requirement we need for leaders is that they show the work of God in their lives and can instruct us to follow them. And we should ourselves be involved in the same pursuit.