Does Your Church Welcome Leadership Diversity?

Some elders are tempted to invite only those who agree with them onto the eldership team, that is to say, to acknowledge men who do not “rock the boat” or cause disagreement. I’m referring to views on things such as practices, traditions, ministry leanings, passions, concerns, etc. But I think this is unwise.

To recognize only those who agree with us is to negate what the Spirit is doing by equipping a diversity of men with hearts that love the assembly. To select only men who agree with us is to promote our own agendas. 

A better way would be to trust the Spirit of God, who is raising up men to be elders of the assembly, thereby allowing different voices and perspectives to be brought into the team of elders. After all, it is God who makes a man an elder, not us, as Paul taught in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders.

“Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”. 

Acts 20:28

Diversity allows sharpening

But isn’t that inviting disharmony into the team of elders? Yes, it may be inviting disharmony or disagreement into the team of elders. But only if our pride gets in the way. Instead, we must ask: are disharmony, diversity, and disagreement really a bad thing?

Take a closer look at the team the Lord chose: one was a tax collector and the other a zealot. How those two ever came to an agreement would be a miracle in and of itself! But the Lord intentionally chose diversity for His team.

Diversity guards against blind spots

Therefore, since no man possesses the full wisdom of God, and since every man is blind to his own blind spots in both doctrine and perspective, it would be wise to have not only a plurality but also diverse perspectives in the eldership team in order to yield greater wisdom.

There is safety in a multitude of counselors but not if that multitude is cookie-cut and afraid to have their own opinions. 

Recall the lesson from 1 Kings 22. King Ahab had a multitude of counselors, four hundred to be exact, but he didn’t have any wisdom for it. Listening to Jehoshaphat and Micaiah, men who thought independently and followed the Spirit of God, was Ahab’s only hope. But he didn’t and perished (1 Kings 22:1-38).

Diversity promotes balance

Diversity is one of the traits of healthy leadership. One elder places a greater emphasis on evangelism; another focuses on discipleship. One elder believes in traditional music; another believes contemporary music is the way to go. One elder thinks we need to change to adapt to modern society; another feels we need to hold on to that which worked in the past.

One elder feels prayer is the engine that fuels the church; another believes it is studying the Word. In reality, we need all of these perspectives but the only way to achieve balance is by seeking out, inviting and building diversity into our leadership teams.   

If we have a diverse representation of personalities, some A-personalities, some non-A personalities, some cautious, some adventurous, then we will have broader perspectives, more accumulated experiences, and therefore greater wisdom. 

Diversity includes those whom God chooses

Regardless of a man’s bias and perspective, whether he agrees with the present eldership or has ideas of his own, we need to recognize the men whom God has raised up. To ignore the ones He has been preparing for leadership is to court disaster.

Saul was the people’s choice, a man towering head and shoulders above the rest (1 Samuel 9:1,2). But he was not the Lord’s anointed. Eliab was a natural choice as well, a capable and experienced man, before whom even Samuel cried, ”Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!” (1 Samuel 16:6) But he was not the Lord’s anointed. 

Meanwhile, in the lonely fields of Israel, learning to tend sheep and fight off wolves, David learned lessons from God. God was preparing him to lead the nation. Likewise, among the church pews, quietly but consistently, God is preparing men in every generation to lead His assembly. All we need to do is identify and recognize the ones whom God has raised up – whether they think like us or not.   

Diversity fits qualifications 

Paul told Timothy the qualifications of an elder – he is to desire the work of the ministry and possess the qualifications of proven maturity and blameless character (1 Timothy 3). That’s it. It doesn’t say he has to agree with every point of view and practice.

It doesn’t say he has to be modern or old fashioned in his thinking. It doesn’t even say he has to be young or old (although he cannot be a novice). 

Diversity yields dividends  

Yes, diversity is a risk, a gamble. It does have the potential to divide the leadership. But it also has the potential to yield great dividends, if successful.

While it is true that a group of men who do not agree, who do not see eye to eye, who have the potential to bicker and compete instead of shepherding the flock of God together, have the potential to tear down the work of God, it is also true that they have the potential to build up and expand the work of God. 

The answer is not to weed out those who differ from us. The answer is to embrace and invite a diversity of perspectives and skills into the governing body. The answer is not fear and mistrust. The answer is grace and faith. 

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Shane Johnson
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