In Paul's list of the character of an elder in 1 Timothy there is a little line that I think we often miss, or minimise to make it manageable. Any prospective elder "must be well thought of by outsiders...". Traditionally we've always taken this to mean that there aren't people who he has swindled in a business deal, or colleagues or neighbours he has mistreated. In other words everyone should think well of him not just in the church but outside of it too. He is a one life man - he doesn't divide life into sacred and secular, acting one way with his church family and another with the world.
There is something in that, but having recently read some interesting stuff on this in Tahiti Anyabwile's 'Finding Faithful elders and deacons' I've realised we have minimised what ought to be a much bigger calling. It is not just that there must be no one with anything against him, unless they are slandering him for doing good. But that he must be actively involved in seeking the good of the community. In other words its not just that people don't have a negative opinion about him but that they actually hold a positive opinion of him. The elder if he is to lead the congregation in reaching the world for Jesus must be involved in that world. He cannot be a member of the Christian rabbit warren. Someone who goes from christian meeting to home to christian meeting and all the world sees of him is the white of his tail.
It is a challenge isn't it. For those who are existing leaders is this character trait still true of me? For those aspiring to eldership - are you concerned for your neighbourhood and community, are you involved in making it a better place, in contending for those who cannot contend for themselves, in serving for the good of the neighbourhood, working towards human flourishing even as we hold out the gospel of life?
If the churches leaders excuse themselves from serving in the community it will be little surprise when our church congregation does. Where the shepherd goes the sheep follow.