A couple of years ago, I was privileged to be part of a Christian group that conducted Bible studies every week and also encouraged one another through God’s word. One summer, the group organized a retreat at the lake and we were joined by two other friends who had just been converted to Christianity.
For some reasons, unknown to me, the leadership of our group entrusted these newly converted brothers with some leadership roles at the retreat. This was a great mistake as we will later realize. During the retreat, various teachings were programmed. But trouble came up when it was a turn for a teaching that had to deal courtship and marriage.
Ten minutes into this teaching, the two brothers felt it was not ‘spiritual enough’ so one of them stood up while the teacher was speaking and told him in the face: “Sorry sir, but as one of the conveners at this retreat, I see that this is not what God wants. We can’t come all the way here to hear about courtship and marriage. God is telling me that we should spend more time in prayer not unnecessary teaching like this one.”
Boy! I couldn’t believe my ears. The brother was very zealous for the Lord but had little knowledge. The speaker was evidently embarrassed. But thank God that despite being offended by these remarks, the speaker handled it very well and we continued with our program.
Later as I reflected on this scenario, 1 Timothy 3 came to my mind. In this chapter, Paul discusses qualifications for Christian leaders and one qualification he lays out is that a Christian leader “must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).
I, strongly, believe that the leadership of our group was wrong in entrusting leadership roles to these newly converted brothers. They were supposed to grow first in the faith as well as learn from other mature Christian leaders before they could provide leadership. I don’t think that someone who’s grown and continues to grow in their faith would regard a Biblical teaching on courtship and marriage as unnecessary and unspiritual.
This is just one of many examples of challenges the church faces as a result of entrusting leadership to new converts. Please get me right, I don’t mean to say that new converts are of no use in God’s Kingdom. This is not what I am saying and meaning. Rather, basing on Scripture I am arguing that new converts should be taught first and enabled to grow in their faith before they can lead.
It saddens my heart to see a person getting converted today and in no time he is pastoring a church. No, this can’t be! What kind of pastorate is this brother going to provide. Also, get me right. I don’t intended to underestimate the gifts and power that God gives out even to new converts. However, these gifts need to be nurtured over a period so that they can be used in a proper way that glorifies God.
In this part of the world, where many Christian leaders hardly make it into seminary, Bible or theological college due to lack of resources and inadequacy of training institutions, I would not argue that every new convert should be trained in such institutions before he leads a church; nevertheless, I would suggest that if one cannot make it into to a training institution, he should learn under a mature and godly Christian leader or leaders for some time before he can venture into leadership of God’s flock. Timothy never went to seminary but he learnt from his spiritual Father Paul. Even apostle Paul, himself, before he ventured fully into Christian leadership on his own, he partnered with Barnabas and in the process he learnt some lessons of Christian leadership, I believe.
As somebody said, “Every Timothy needs Paul and every Paul needs Timothy” I would like to encourage our mature Christian leaders to identify young people, probably, those who have just been converted to Christianity and train them in Christian leadership. Young people should also be humble enough to sit down under mature and godly men and learn from them how to lead God’s flock in a way that glorifies God. In this way, the church will never give leadership responsibility to a recent convert who may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.