A Church’s Lid

Written by Drew on October 8th, 2007

Leadership guru John Maxwell starts his bestselling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, with “The Law of the Lid.” Simply put, the Law of the Lid states that leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. Maxwell explains,

Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness (p. 1).

According to the qualifications God gave for the leadership of the church, the lid has been set high for God’s people. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 reads,

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

It would seem that John Maxwell was not the first to discover the Law of the Lid. Having high expectations for his church, the Lord set the lid of leadership ability high, setting the stage for great effectiveness.

Most of the time, churches seek growth by increasing their determination. For example, let’s say an elder in one congregation is frustrated with the low number of baptisms his church is yielding on an annual basis. His attitude is, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” He then dusts off the old Jule Miller videos, picks up the telephone, and starts working every prospect he knows for a Bible study. By the end of the year, he will have produced more baptisms, but how many more? Two? Three?

Now imagine another elder with the same problem in another congregation. He realizes he can’t do the job right all by himself. This man is “above reproach,” “respectable,” “able to teach,” and “gentle,” so he has a lot of influence in his congregation. He invests some of that capital in an evangelism program, working with his preacher and others who show potential in the area of evangelism. He starts a Fishers of Men class. He encourages the congregation to generate prospects and has a plan to process the input he gets. In short, he uses his influence to put people to work, and he gets results. Whereas he would have converted only two or three on his own, he facilitated several more baptisms through effective leadership.

The difference between these two scenarios is the level of the churches’ lids. In the second case, one elder excelled in some of the qualifications listed for elders in the New Testament, and this enabled him to be more effective.

What’s great about the directives Paul listed about elders is that no one has ever manifested them to perfection. There’s always room for improvement. You can raise the lid. This idea introduces a fresh idea for churches that are struggling with growth, faithfulness, or other issues that tend to present themselves in difficult societies like our own. Any time a conscientious eldership wants to improve in one area or another, it should work on further developing the attributes that comprise the lid of God’s church. Each time this is done, the benefits are sure to trickle down into the congregation.

Yes, the qualifications for elders are demanding, but God made them that way for a reason. It’s the Law of the Lid.


5 Comments so far ↓

  1. Kevin W. Rhodes says:

    I appreciate this article for two reasons, Drew. First, we are currently going through the process of selecting additional elders and deacons, which has seen people’s eyes open somewhat when I taught on qualifications from a “lifting the lid” point of view. Second, your use of Maxwell is exactly on target. I believe that more preachers need to understand these principles themselves in their own work but even more so understand that they have an important role in helping elders learn these principles as well.

  2. almcfaughn says:


    As always, great job!

    The focus in leadership needs to continually be on the eldership. While preachers are leaders in one sense, a congregation with true, steady, Biblical growth only gets such from having faithful and working elders.

    Elders need vision, too, to see that the “lid” CAN be raised.


  3. Kevin W. Rhodes says:

    You are certainly right, Adam. Somehow, however, this has been turned around. As a result, preachers must take on the responsibility, within their role as communicators of God’s Word, of instructing elders in leadership so that they in turn can become what they ought to be. When they achieve that in reality, they can then be a help to any future preacher who might come to that congregation, as well as to the congregation as a whole.

    The problem is that it is not enough to state the ideal. We must have the skills and know how in order to work toward the ideal when it is not currently present (which is the current situation in most congregations).

  4. David Courington says:

    Great post, Drew. I have read 4 or 5 or Maxwell’s books and am impressed with them. Regarding the comments about preacher/ elder leadership, we need to remember that there is never a vacuum of leadership in a church. Someone will lead, and if good men choose not to qualify themselves, it might be the one who is least qualified of all to do so.

  5. Kevin W. Rhodes says:

    Well said, David.

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