Staff ministry leaders need to rightly handle all kinds of people, even the dull, boring, angry and annoying. They also must be effective in various working environments—solo, one-on-one and in various types and sizes of groups. Everyone has favored and best-suited working environments, but it’s important to get an advance sense of a candidate’s abilities and preferences before he ends up in a key staff leadership position. Why? To see if he’ll mesh in the church’s culture and if he’ll grate against the requirements of the ministry leadership position. Also, of course, to discern a sin problem that will undermine his ministry and cause him to outright fail or to damage the church. Relational ability is deeply connected to integrity, spiritual maturity and godliness.
Here are a few items that help get at the root of the issue:
• Describe a circumstance when you’ve successfully solved complex people problems.
• Are you an empathetic person, i.e. Can you authentically weep with those who weep and can you rejoice with those who rejoice? (Romans 12:15)
• Are you partial—or are you tempted to be partial—to those who are financially wealthy, powerful, influential, prominent or physically attractive? (Proverbs 24:23-26; Acts 10:34; James 2)
• And the flipside of partiality, but equally harmful: Do you disdain—or are you tempted to disdain—those who are financially wealthy, powerful, influential, prominent or physically attractive?
Oftentimes it’s not possible to know what a man will do until a tough reality stands before him. Is the church in a financial crunch? Is there something to be gained by laughing at a coarse joke told by a powerful person in the church? Then playing in partiality for the wealthy and the powerful is an ugly temptation. Has a wealthy or powerful person from the past hurt you or caused immense harm in the church? Then there may be an overwhelming temptation to disdain warm relationships with people who enjoy wealth, power, influence or prominence. Only one who is unusually principled and strong can discern the motives of his own heart, clearly foresee the fruit of his own actions and turn away from the temptation.
But until someone demonstrates deep integrity that proves authenticity, you never know what that person will do in extreme difficulty. For the book, Auschwitz, author Laurence Rees interviewed many former Nazis and those who survived the death camp in Poland during World War II. Rees repeatedly noted that extraordinary circumstances and their accompanying pressures squeeze out the reality that lurks in a person’s heart, revealing either a horrific ugliness or a golden excellence.
Rees wrote: Just as water exists as water only within a certain temperature range and is steam or ice in others, so human beings can become different people according to extremes of circumstances. And, while interviewing a formerly devoted Nazi, Rees pressed the man about why so many people went along with the horrors of the regime. The man’s annoyed response: The trouble with the world today is that people who have never been tested go around making judgments about people who have.
That’s why, in the church, it’s crucial to ask the right questions, in the right way, with a thoughtful discernment, to get the right person in church leadership.