Who qualifies as a potential church leader?


Acts 1:21–26 (NRSV): 21 (Peter stood among the disciples and said) So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” (They were looking to replace Judas, one of the original 12 apostles) 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

You may recall that Judas was the original disciple of Jesus who betrayed Jesus to the authorities, which led to his crucifixion. In our passage for today Peter and the other 11 original disciples discuss selecting Judas’ replacement. V.21-22 name the chief qualifications they were looking for in this replacement.

At the time of Peter’s explanation I expect there were multiple people who fit the qualifications. It makes sense to choose as an apostle someone who had seen with his own eyes the events to which he would testify. But as time went on, the qualifications had to change because there were no more people available who were personal eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry.

The qualifications for apostolic leadership outlined in our passage made complete sense – until they didn’t. For example, the apostle Paul planted many of the most important churches in the early years of Christianity and wrote much of what is now the biblical New Testament, yet he was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry in the ways outlined in our passage.

This morning I’m pondering how the church continues to adapt our understanding of leadership and the qualifications necessary for people to serve as leaders in the church. Where might I be putting limits on potentially effective leadership because they don’t fit historic qualifications?

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