In my experience of being a Christian within so called “charismatic” churches, I have heard quite a lot about being ‘called’ to church leadership. We talk about someone being ‘anointed’ to lead worship or being set apart by God for leadership in a local church. We might say that God has called us to minister in one part of the world, or to help out with the children’s work etc etc.
However, one of the things all this talk of ‘chosenness’ and ‘calledness’ misses out on is the qualification to lead.
Yes, we read in the Bible that Paul was chosen to be an apostle, to be a servant of the Lord, to build up the church. Paul was called by God, and we know of this because of the words spoken to Ananias at his conversion in Acts 9.
However, when Paul talks about church leadership and appointing elders. He rarely, if ever, seems to prioritise that person’s sense of calling. Rather, he talks about their qualifications.
E.g. ‘not given to drunkenness, gentle, above reproach, faithful to his wife, self-controlled, respectable and able to teach. Not a lover of money’ (1 Timothy 3:2-3).
What’s interesting here is that none of these qualifications mention:
1) The candidate must have a “strong sense of calling” or “a strong calling-experience”. I don’t not disagree that these items are important, and maybe even necessary. But whether they are biblical requirements…I’m no longer so sure.
2) None of these qualifications mention bible college, seminary or ability to translate Greek & Hebrew. Yes, ‘able to teach’ does suggest some knowledge, for how can we teach what we have not learnt. But I think the emphasis is not on the leader doing/being able to study, but rather the leader being able to teach. That is an important distinction, which I think the Church often seems to have the other way around (preferring people who have studied hard and have lots of ‘qualifications’, than people able to teach).
3) The qualifications largely refer to character. Not largely: Giftedness, knowledge or “people skills”. These are character traits: self controlled, temperate, gentle etc. Again I think we have this backwards.
Why is all this important?
A. By requiring what is unbiblical, or extra-biblical, we may be putting people off Church leadership. Because they don’t meet our additional set of qualifications. It sounds a little like the Pharisees who put additional laws on God’s people, than what God ever intended.
B. We limit the Giftedness expressed in the Church to the academic (and, possibly, by extension the wealthy). How deeply sad. If the only people we let lead churches and preach regularly are those who have had the time, money, opportunity to go to Bible college we rule off the majority of the body of Christ). How sad!
C. Those who are biblical excellent candidate for leadership, may not pursue the aspiration which is a “noble” task (1 Timothy 3:1). I think by restricting the leadership to those who have had “mystical experiences” or even those who have a “Strong conviction” that God is calling them to Church leadership. We discourage people from ‘aspiring’ to lead.
This is a topic, I am only beginning to scratch the surface off in my prayers and wrestling with God. But I think this is something I will be delving more deeply into over the coming weeks.