D.A. Carson has said that the list of qualifications for elders is “remarkable for being unremarkable.” They’re the same traits that should be present in the life of every believer.
We need more unremarkable Christians.
We tend to focus on remarkable people. Some people can’t help it. I confess that I’ve sometimes felt humbled while reading about the life of Charles Spurgeon because he was so uniquely gifted. I can learn from his godliness, but I can’t copy his giftedness. I praise God for people like him.
But Spurgeon didn’t set out to be extraordinary. God simply used him, as he has many other great pastors, theologians, and authors. They’re not the norm, though.
The problem isn’t that some Christians are extraordinarily gifted. The problem is when we start to value extraordinary gifts over ordinary faithfulness. The former is optional; the latter is essential.
Our culture operates according to the myth of the great person model of leadership. An extraordinarily gifted person is the solution to most problems. What every struggling organization needs is a great leader who, by virtue of extraordinary qualities, will be able to turn that organization around.
When imported into the church, we long for great leaders. We look for those with big personalities and leadership gifts who can turn our churches around. We’re drawn to those who can work a crowd, wow and audience, and build a platform.
I praise God for leaders like that who are faithful, but really, there aren’t that many. That’s what makes this model of leadership so dangerous: it’s not easy to replace an extraordinary leader. Besides, we can start to rely too much on the leader’s charisma and gifts rather than what matters most.
Without disparaging great leaders, I’d much rather have ordinary ones who are growing in godliness, serving faithfully, loving and praying for those they’re called to serve, and who understand the need for the giftedness of others because they know they’re not the complete package.
In a way, pastors should aim to be replaceable. Every pastor is an interim pastor. Every pastor will eventually step aside. The goal should be for that church to continue to thrive because the church isn’t built around that pastor’s giftedness. Instead, it’s built on the ordinary things that all churches are called to do. Wise pastors who are extraordinarily gifted know how to keep the emphasis on these ordinary things rather than on their extraordinary gifts.
Pastors: don’t despair if you feel ordinary. Ask God to grow you character. Regularly review the qualifications for elders, and ask God to sanctify you. Give your ministry your best efforts, but never buy into the belief that your ordinariness stands in the way of God using you.
Extraordinarily gifted pastors: Don’t build your ministry around your extraordinary gifts. Build your ministry around what every pastor is called to do. Make yourself replaceable. Raise up others who can succeed you.
Churches: don’t buy into the myth of the great person model of leadership. If you have pastors and elders who meet the qualifications of Scripture, rejoice. God has blessed you.
Christian: value faithfulness over giftedness. Our Father measures greatness differently than the world does.
Ask God to shift the attention away from who you are to his glory alone. Serve faithfully, and stay out of the way. Keep the focus where it belongs. Aim to be unremarkable.