Some have expressed frustration regarding the low level of qualification demonstrated by some local church leaders. Someone recently mentioned to me that nominating committees should be more careful and discerning when recommending names to serve in the main functions of the church. Certainly, when wrong choices are installed in office, great damage can come upon the congregation.

Too often, we make the mistake of looking at someone who has been a successful professional in business and think that he or she is therefore qualified to exercise spiritual leadership in the church. But we must not appoint people simply based on their appearance or social status. I believe that many congregations make this mistake.

Choices based on appearance

I always think of the experience of the prophet Samuel, who made a great mistake in choosing a replacement for King Saul. Samuel's choice was based simply on appearance. God told the prophet to go to Bethlehem, where he would find a man named Jesse who had several sons, one of whom would be the future king of Israel.

Arriving in Bethlehem, Samuel invited Jesse and his sons to offer sacrifices to the Lord. "When they came, he looked at Eliab and thought, 'Surely this is the Lord's anointed'" (1 Sam. 16:6). Samuel believed this handsome young man who looked like a king, walked like a king, and talked like a king must be the future king. Samuel naturally concluded, "Certainly this is the man."

But the Lord intervened. "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (verse 7).

The individual whom God had chosen to be the next king was David. But where was he when all this was taking place? David was herding sheep. Jesse never considered that his young son David could possibly be in God's plans. Samuel asked Jesse to call David. Even though the Bible says that David had beautiful eyes and a good appearance, we know that he was chosen because of his heart.

We may learn precious lessons from this experience which would help us choose future leaders for our church. Based on several situations and circumstances in David's story, we may extract at least three basic factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing future church leaders.

Individuals of heart

When Saul was crowned king, his heart was good. He was in harmony with God's will and had the basic requirements to fulfill that position. But in time, he began to disobey the Lord's instructions and was rejected as king (1 Sam. 15). The Lord had called Saul, but unfortunately, Saul did not fulfill the ongoing expectations of the divine call. David was chosen to replace Saul because he possessed a righteous heart. Moral and spiritual credibility are necessary for church leaders. Leaders also need to cultivate a good reputation in the society in which they live. They need to be men and women of prayer who have intimacy with the Word of God and reflect His will before the congregation.

Individuals of ability

One of the first steps David took after he became king was to conquer the city of Jerusalem. After that, he appointed Joab, son of Zeruiah, to serve as the army's commander and chief (1 Chron. 11:6). Why did King David choose Joab from among so many men? What criteria did he use? Which qualities did Joab possess? We find the answer in Scripture; "Whoever shall smite the Jebusites first shall be chief and commander" (1 Chron. 11:6). Joab was chosen because he demonstrated ability coupled with a spirit of service; both are basic characteristics of a good leader.

As we choose leaders for the many positions in our congregations, we would be wise to appoint those who have already exhibited basic qualities. For example, when choosing elders, we should appoint those who have already demonstrated, on a day-to-day basis, proper capability in caring for and leading the congregation. Deacons and deaconesses also should be selected because they have already demonstrated readiness, sensibility, and a spirit of service to the church's needs. In other words, we need to know a little more about the abilities of those who will be appointed so that we do not appoint someone who has no preparation for the job they are expected to perform.

The biblical example reveals that David had this same concern. Later, he chose men to serve as warriors, men who could handle weapons and who were skillful fighters (1 Chron. 12:2, 8). When we appoint people for church positions, we should consider whether their spiritual gifts are compatible with the functions they are expected to perform. We also must determine whether they will have sufficient time for their new assignment. Why appoint someone who cannot spare any time for church work?

The most urgent need of today's church is to train and equip leaders, seeking to improve their potential and qualifying them to perform the tasks they undertake. They should receive continuous instruction from pastors, conference departmental directors, and administrators. The Ministerial Association exists, in part, to assist pastors with this task.

Individuals with a sense of mission

The third group that contributed to the success of David's army was called "the Issachar men." The Bible says that they "had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chron. 12:32).

Servants of the Lord today should possess the same ability. The church would advance much more rapidly and would better fulfill its purpose if the leaders were aware of the solemn and momentous times in which we live. The missionary spirit, the integrated evangelism program that is, the involvement of all in the fulfillment of the mission would become the main focus of the church.

The spiritual leader needs to dream Cod's dream. Even if the church or company is small and destitute of resources, the leader does not see the limitations that surround it but determines what the congregation can do for the salvation of the community with the resources at hand. In the heart of such leaders, evangelism will be the main priority in the church services.

As we approach the time for nominating new officials for the next ecclesiastical year, let us consider these important qualities. Dedicating time for prayer and having clear concepts about what the church desires will enable the Holy Spirit to use the nominating committee in a more powerful way. When people are elected whose hearts beat in accordance with God's will, your church will be filled with new vitality and experience more blessings than you ever thought possible.

Jonas Arrais, General Conference Associate Ministerial Secretary