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Why be a trustee? Part 2

The Charity Commission requires all charities to appoint trustees, and it’s sometimes easy to think of trustee appointments as routine, tick-box exercises – something you must do. But in the faith-based sector, there is more to being a trustee than simply enabling a charity to meet regulations. There is a theological reasoning behind this set up which can itself form a powerful motivation for candidates to be willing to be a trustee.

Why be a trustee? Part 2

It is possible to see one of the core themes of the Bible as being the search for the perfect leader, a search that reaches its glorious conclusion in the person of Jesus. Prior to Jesus, and after his ascension into heaven, there are many other leaders who take on a variety of roles within the life of God’s people. In their best moments, these leaders reflect a small element of Jesus’ leadership. But similarly, all these leaders fail.

No human leader, aside from Jesus, is unaffected by the brokenness of the world, by sin and temptation. This brokenness can bring down a leader in a numbers of ways:

- Power eventually corrupts. This is recognised both within and without the church, and can result in a leader acting unwisely, unfairly, or unkindly.

- The burden of leadership is too great for a single individual to bear on their own. There are too many problems, too much complexity, and if left to one person they will burn out, or become controlling in the attempt to ensure order.

- No individual has all the information. Diversity of gifts and perspective is needed to ensure that an organisation thinks about the impact of its actions in all directions. Without this, a leader can become obstinate, opposed to challenge, and ungenerous towards new opportunities.

The Bible recognises these limitations of human leaders and often introduces factors which seek to mitigate these risks:

- The three most important offices in God’s people (prophet, priest, king) are rarely combined in one person. There are countless examples of the prophet rebuking the king or the priests for ungodly deeds (2 Samuel 12:1-15, for example). The temptation of power is too great for all authority to rest in one person – there must be space for healthy, direct challenge.

- Jethro advises Moses to appoint officials (Exodus 18). The burden of leadership is too much for Moses to bear alone. His father-in-law wisely counsels him to enlist trusted officials to govern the people to enable him ‘to stand the strain’ of his responsibility (verse 23).

- When they recognise there is favouritism spreading amongst their dealings, the Apostles decide to appoint deacons to ensure that the matter is given full attention, and dealt with carefully (Acts 6:1-7). They invite others to take responsibility and use their gifts to bless the people, recognising that they are called to something specific.

Where sinful humans are concerned, the Bible makes clear that division of power is a healthier and safer model to follow. It protects the leader concerned, and works to ensure fairness and justice for all.

In light of this, trustees aren’t just helping their charity to meet the Charity Commission’s requirements, they’re helping charities to be governed in a way that reflects the wisdom God has revealed about humanity and leadership.

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