Thursday, April 10, 2008

Implications of Divine Election of Leaders

Last time, I argued that God chooses spiritual leaders. If we accept that premise, what are the implications for ministry today?


The implications of this perspective on leadership are profound. If we conclude that God chooses leaders, our goal becomes cooperatiaon with the choice of God in assuring that only divinely appointed leaders are recognized. Therefore:

We should avoid appointing someone as a leader on any basis other than our belief that God has chosen him or her for that role. This rules out leadership based on seniority, on level of scholarship, degrees earned, prestige in the community, personal friendship, etc.
We should exercise caution when giving, or providing ministry to a young Christian. We should provide opportunity to build ministry, but we would not want to install a young worker into a well-developed ministry he or she did not actually build. Otherwise, we might simulate from the human side what God should provide from his side. The result could be that a person appears to be chosen by God, when in fact we have installed the person in their position artificially. Installing a person into a developed ministry will often result in the "turtle on a fence post" syndrome (i.e. the turtle didn't put himself there, someone else placed him there). We may harm both the church and the individual when we interfere with God's election in this way. It makes more sense to offer young workers opportunities to follow up new people and form discipleship relationships than to offer them ready-made leadership roles like existing cell groups or home groups. An exception to this would be cases where a person has proven leadership in one venue, and we call on them to move to a new ministry. This was apparently what Barnabas did when he summoned Paul from Tarsus to Antioch.
We should be very reluctant to remove ministry from a young Christian worker. Such removal could result in a subsequent failure to recognize God's choice of the person for leadership because humans have disrupted his or her ministry every time it begins to flourish. There are important exceptions to this rule of thumb warranted in Scripture. The main exception would be the case where the young worker has disqualified him or herself by recent, serious, and objective sin. Scripture teaches the importance of moral character for Christian workers in passages like the requirements for deacons, (which, if violated could result in disqualification). Although young workers are not deacons, the principle would still apply to some extent, that anyone who serves the Lord needs to live up to minimal standards of Christian character. The the Bible provides examples of leaders removed from leadership due to sin or false teaching (1 Tim:1:20; 3 John 9,10). But these passages indicate that such removal should involve serious sin, not minor slip-ups. We would assume the same thing with young workers--they should not be removed from ministry because of minor slip-ups. All the passages warning against hypocrisy also imply that those trying to lead others, should be doing what they preach to a large extent. (Luke 12:1) "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
Whether someone is removed from leadership for disciplinary reasons or removes himself for other reasons, this could be an indication that God has not elected the person for leadership at this time. For this reason, we would not restore one who has been removed from leadership back to leadership unless the signs of divine election are again evident. This usually means the person has returned to the beginning stages of ministry and re-built their following. An exception to this might be situations where leaders have temporarily stepped down due to situations judged to be either outside their control, or unimportant.
Only leaders whose ministry is blessed by God are considered for advancement to higher levels of ministry. If we err in putting in leaders whom God has not chosen for that role, we do better to make such errors at lower levels of leadership rather than higher levels.
The notion that leaders are chosen by God strongly implies favoring indigenous leadership to imported leadership. Leaders imported from another group cannot be realistically affirmed by the local members and leaders, unless they know those in the former location relatively well. Such imported leaders usually have to depend on external credentials or hearsay for their legitimacy. Although we see the example of Barnabas bringing Paul in from Tarsus to Antioch, Barnabas had personal knowledge of Paul and his ability. Paul had also planted more than one church in Syria and Cilicia before Barnabas came for him. (Acts. 15:36,41)

Even with these principles, the business of determining God's calling remains subjective. We are often reduced to guesswork when naming leaders, because there are so many variables involved. We usually are faced with compromise in at least some areas with every leader we recognize. Pray often that God will clearly indicate his choices for leadership.

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