This morning we continued a brief series I’m calling New Years Resolutions for Faith Church. We’re looking at two facets of the church that figure to be a significant focus for us in 2013: leadership and discipleship. Over the next month or so, we’ll unveil a proposal for changing our church governance structure. To prepare for that the first two sermons of the year took a look at a couple leadership episodes in the life of the first church. In Acts 6 the apostles decide to select new leaders to handle a ministry in the church. We explored that last week, and we saw that the apostles had a specific criteria for who would become leaders. Surprisingly, it was not their business acumen or ministry skills, but that they were full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit.
Is that how we select leaders? Simply because they have distinguished themselves to be full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit?
Fast forward about 30 years after that Acts 6 story, and we read the teaching Paul gave two young pastors, Timothy and Titus, about selecting leaders in their churches. What Paul shares are lists of character qualities that essentially boil down to one principle: leaders need to be people of spiritual maturity. Notice how very similar that is to what the apostles thought was important in Acts 6.
Again, is that how we select leaders? Because they are the most spiritually mature in the church?
What I found so interesting is that in both of these situations, there was something missing. Calling. And yet in many churches, we have elevated calling as primary, essential even to the selection of leaders. We have said that if God has not called them, they have no business pursuing leadership in the church, pastoral or otherwise.
If that is the case, why doesn’t Paul, who was quite experienced with callings (read about his own in Acts 9), mention a peep about it? It would seem that if a divine calling is so vital, Paul would have least given it a nod. Instead he says in 1 Timothy 3:1 that the task of leadership is for “anyone” who “desires it”, “sets their heart on it”. People can choose to be leaders!
Clearly, this is not to say that God does not call. He has in the past, and it seems to me based on many testimonies, that he still does. Sometimes in dramatic fashion, and other times in very subtle ways. Most importantly, when he calls, we should answer. What I have seen, however, is that for every person who feels called but has no business being a leader, there are ten, maybe a hundred, who are not called, and feel a sense of relief at not being called so they don’t have to serve. The lack of divine calling becomes for them an excuse not to serve.
But what if the necessity of divine calling is actually a false premise for serving as a leader? What if all are called to serve the Lord, and all should consider the possibility that they might be gifted for leadership? What if, instead of a criteria of calling, we select leaders using the apostles (Acts 6) and Paul’s (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1) criteria of spiritual maturity? Furthermore, perhaps most importantly of all, this passage could serve as the impetus for us to pursue a deepening relationship with Jesus.