Leadership Conversation – Temperate and Gentle
When we consider the image of an Elder, Typically we’re concerned with whether or not they are married and if they are successful in business and if they have kids who aren’t in prison. Even though I jest, there’s a little bit of truth to that. But there is a lot more to the qualities of an elder…qualities we don’t really address all too often. Now we get to some of those ‘other’ qualities and the deeper questions that need to be asked.
These next two are just that. The first one is Temperate. some versions say, Sober Minded. and some say self controlled. This isn’t really talking about whether or not the man is a drunk. That check mark comes later. This word Temperate means “clear-headed,” and self-controlled could actually be translated “prudent or thoughtful.” These words picture a man who has his head on straight. Someone who doesn’t jump to conclusions, or assume the worst in someone. Why is this important? The deeper question here is this. Has this man shown wisdom in his decision making? An elder must often think his way through thorny relational, financial, and doctrinal questions—all of which can have eternal consequences. And sometimes delicate decisions must be made and they oftentimes require a temperate and clear headed mind to work through them. Again, this type of clear headedness and wise decision making comes through experience. This is probably why spiritual leaders are called “elders,” suggesting that a lifetime of wise decision making comes through a certain amount of life experience. Wisdom doesn’t always come with age, but it rarely comes without it.
The next quality is similar. Is he gentle, violent or quarrelsome. You may think this is a given and an obvious quality that people look for in an elder, but the truth is that this is oftentimes overlooked. Someone once told me, if you want to know what a man is really like, go and play a round of golf with him. There you will see whether or not a man has is temper under control. And that’s really the deeper question isn’t it? Has this man shown the ability to keep his temper in check? If this is a man who constantly loses his temper and fires up others as a regular member, imagine what may happen when he is given authority and responsibility? Someone once told me a story of a moment where a fistfight broke out between two of the elders in an elders meeting. The conversation became personal and they lost their temper. Sadly, this isn’t unusual. Some leaders are where they are because they have frightened people into submission. Some have used their lack of a self controlled temper as ammunition to get where they want to go. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 20:25-27, that they will not act as the Gentiles do…lording over power. Instead, he promoted service rather than the power play.
You see, Church leaders will face volatile situations in which a soft word will turn away anger, but a harsh word will stir up wrath (Proverbs 15:1). If a man is known to have either an explosive anger (“losing it”) or a slow, simmering anger (“carrying a grudge”), the church will begin to pattern their life and reactions after those leaders. Eventually the church will suffer.
Today, Think deeper than the marital status or family state of a candidate and ask yourself these two questions. Who do you know, in your church family Has shown wisdom in his decision making? And who do you know that has shown the ability to keep his temper in Check?
In fact, ask yourself these same questions…who knows? Maybe God is trying to transform you into the leader you never thought you could be.