June 6, 2020

Discernment and Decision Making in the Call to Ministry

As I make my way through the process of ordination in my denomination, I have been asked to do some reading about vocation and calling in preparation for various meetings. The following is from a small book given to ministerial candidates called, “What Shall I Say? Discerning God’s Call to Ministry.” These paragraphs describe one key reason I am seeking a denominational ordination and why I came to see free church evangelicalism as lacking when it comes to ministerial standards.

Discernment and decision making are distinctly different yet related approaches to responding to God’s call. Decision makers define the problem, gather data, analyze options, weight pros and cons, then cut away all choices but one. While other people may be consulted, the power of choice lies basically in the hands of the decision maker. This is appropriate for many kinds of decisions, such as making a major purchase or deciding which college to attend.

It might seem as if this is also appropriate for making a decision about ordained or rostered lay ministry. Someone who is considering rostered ministry might analyze personal strengths and weaknesses, evaluate the fit with various job descriptions in the church, then decide to become a pastor or a diaconal minister, for example.

In the United States we can see this in the way that talented individuals have established their own “ministries,” often using their own names to identify their ministries, and almost always establishing their ministries apart from the churches or traditions with which they might, in some loose way, be identified. Their powerful personal sense of call seems to have little to do with the church.

Such an approach can be dangerous for the people who respond to such ministries as well as for the individuals who engage in them. Well-meaning people have been manipulated, exploited, deceived, cheated, and, in some instances, led to despair and death by charismatic individuals, religious charlatans, and self-willed individuals who have been grasped and driven by something quite other than the gospel.

Yet, in the Lutheran tradition an individual’s discernment is only a part of the process. An authentic call to ordained or rostered lay ministry involves the church as well as the individual. Hence the church initiates the call, and tests the sense of call and the needed gifts for its ordained and rostered lay ministries. It has both the right and the responsibility to do so. The very notion of self-appointed and self-proclaimed leaders contradicts what it means to be a leader in the church. It is also precisely what “heresy” means: going your own way, on your own terms, with yourself as your own authority. “Orthodoxy” means rightly, authentically, praising God and rightly, authentically, teaching the gospel. Right teaching of the gospel takes place when the church teaches the gospel in accordance with Holy Scripture and the classic creeds and confessions. It is not one person’s homemade version of God’s truth.

What Shall I Say? Discerning God’s Call to Ministry
Walter R. Bouman and Sue M. Setzter

Of course, no system is perfect when human beings are involved. Roman Catholics, for example, have been dealing with a serious clergy sex-abuse scandal that wasn’t prevented by their organized ecclesial call systems. Nevertheless, there is a system in place now in which to deal with those problems, and one would hope that the resources of Church and leadership will help bring justice and healing in a way that no “lone ranger,” autonomous local-style ministry could.

“The very notion of self-appointed and self-proclaimed leaders contradicts what it means to be a leader in the church.” That says it all to me.

Comments

  1. I don’t think what you are describing in Lutheranism is absent in other traditions. While ordination is not as involved in my background (baptist) as it is in more high church/mainline churches, the church played a crucial role for me.

    That being said and totally off the subject. I find myself headed more and more for a mainline church.

    • Most evangelical denominations have very specific ordination requirements. Excuse the long comment but I think it would be good to see an example of what an evangelical church requires. Here are the ordination requirements for the Christian and Missionary Alliace:

      Ordination Requirements

      1. Study Requirements

      1.1. All For Jesus, Robert L. Niklaus
      1.2. Footprints, Lindsey Reynolds
      1.3. The Cross of Christ, by A. B. Simpson
      1.4. The Fourfold Gospel, by A. B. Simpson
      1.5. The Self Life and the Christ Life, by A. B. Simpson
      1.6. Perspectives on the World, eds. Winters/Hawthorne (read any 300 pages)
      1.7. Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright

      N.T. Wright has many profound things to say about heaven, which pastors need to clearly understand. He also propounds a particular view of the end times. Ordination candidates should understand that the presence of this book on the list does not constitute an endorsement of Bishop Wright’s view. Ordination candidates should clearly identify his view in their paper, and should state their own conviction on the end times.

      If any of the books have been read previously, alternate selections may be substituted with the prior approval of the District Ordination Committee. A written statement must be submitted concerning each book in which the author’s main premise is stated and the reader’s reaction is presented. These statements must not be over one page in length.

      All applicants shall be requested to fulfill the same reading requirements. In some instances, where books are unavailable in the language of the applicant, other books may be substituted. When substitution of reading requirements becomes necessary, the selection of books shall be done in consultation with the District Superintendent and the Chair of each appropriate national multicultural organization recognized by The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada. New Canadians, not represented by national organizations, shall fulfill the same reading requirements or substitute books in concert with the District Superintendent.

      In all instances, applicants may submit their written reports in the language of their preference. All substituted books must reflect Alliance doctrine and be approved by the President.

      2. Written Requirements

      A series of topics for ordination papers is listed below.

      All applicants shall be requested to submit the same written assignments. Applicants may do so in the language of their prefer¬ence. Applicants are encouraged to apply these papers to their own cultural reality.

      2.1 The Scriptures – inspiration and inerrancy.
      2.2 The Holy Spirit – his person, work and gifts.
      2.3 Divine Healing – biblical basis and procedure.
      2.4 The Church – its nature and purpose and relationship to the candidate’s personal philosophy of ministry.

      Directions Re Ordination Papers
      Ordination papers relative to the subjects indicated should be 8 – 10 pages, typed and double spaced, outlining the candidate’s understanding of the subject with insight into its application to the candidate’s life and ministry. A proper bibliography should be included, documenting research and quotations used.

      Candidates are well advised to work with the District Office in the preparation of a schedule which would result in a book being read and a paper submitted at least every three months. A target completion date for all work should be the end of the second year of ministry.

      Papers will be evaluated by the Ordaining Council and returned to the candidate at the oral interview.
      3. Speaking and Other Requirements
      3.1 Submission of one taped Sunday morning service, in which the candidate preached, every six months prior to this examination, may be done in the language of preference.
      3.2 Regular participation in district -sponsored in-service training sessions.
      4. Oral Examination Requirements
      4.1 An oral examination before the Ordaining Council at the completion of the second year of ministry. The Council will examine a candidate’s:
      4.1.1 call to the Gospel ministry,
      4.1.2 personal experience and maturity in Christ,
      4.1.3 theological understanding and working knowledge of Scripture,
      4.1.4 response form from local church leadership where candidate has been serving,
      4.1.5 response form from the District Superintendent with whom the ordinand is working,
      4.1.6 response form from the Senior Pastor with whom the ordinand is working.

      4.2 The Council may also examine the candidate generally on any of the reports submitted or books included in the read¬ing course.
      4.3 Ordaining Councils will vary according to the linguistic and cultural background of the applicant. It is suggested that three members from the District Ordaining Council meet with two members of the linguistic and cultural background of the candidate for the oral examination.

      In all cases, the District Superintendent shall participate in non-Anglo, non-Caucasian oral examinations.

      • Compare the above with the much looser ordination requirements of my present denomination the North American Baptist Conference.

        A. In the case of ordination credentialing, the individual seeking ordination shall submit an ordination paper to the leadership within the association/regional leadership structure. This paper (submitted in such a manner as to allow the committee the needed time for review ) shall explain items including but not limited to the following:
        The individual’s Christian experience; The individual’s call to ministry; Education; Previous Christian service; Doctrinal statement; Current ministry position and duties; Signed copy of Code of Ministerial Ethics of the North American Baptist Conference

        B. Upon review, the leadership committee shall either vote to recommend the church call an ordination council, refer the paper back to the individual for further development, decline to proceed with ordination credentialing, or recommend with qualifications.

        C. Upon a favorable recommendation from the committee, the church shall call an ordination council. The council shall examine the individual concluding its deliberation with a vote to recommend that the local church proceed with ordination, recommend that the individual undertake further study, or recommend the individual not be ordained.

        D. Upon the favorable recommendation of the council, the church shall conduct an ordination service and inform the International Office of NAB of the ordinand’s new status.

        E. Forward signed copy of Code of Ministerial Ethics of the North American Baptist Conference to Association/Regional and International offices.

      • Good example of an evangelical DENOMINTIONAL approach. It’s the non-denominational world that I left behind.

      • I should mention that these are the ordination requirements of the Canadian Christian and Missionary Alliance. The U.S. one will be similar but different.

  2. How can a pastor know that their call to the ministry is really the will of God?

    Listen to this:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/how-to-know-if-you-are-in-the-will-of-god.mp3

    He gets into just this question of ‘the call and knowing the will of God’ (after a few minutes).

    Good stuff.

    • Thanks Steve.
      ‘To exercise faith in daily life is to take up a vocation, to take up a set of gifts, with all their limitations both in terms of their powers and application and to use them in faith believing this is what God wants you to do. And you might be dead wrong.’
      Yes! We might be – hence the need for a good dollop of humility.
      Can you tell me who the speaker is?

  3. This was a good post CM. I read a post on Facebook tonight right before checking the IM. Its one of my old fundagelical contacts talking about calling and the will of God. Here’s the post….

    “Northern Virginia FCA is looking to hire four Full-Time Area Representatives for Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. Applicants should have a clear calling from God to minister to athletes and coaches, a servant’s heart and a passion for seeing lives changed through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    When I read that I wondered….clear calling? How does anyone know they have a clear calling? If its clear…isn’t it beyond the shadow of a doubt? Do those that have a clear calling encounter the following:

    1. Got an email from God…? “Bob I want you to be a full time rep for FCA…”
    2. Get a voicemail from God….? “Bob give me a call…its about your calling…I want you to work with FCA…”
    3. Bolt of lightening at the gym with a Mounti Siani expereince….?
    4. Get a fax…? “Hey Bob….God here…I have your calling….”
    5. Got a text message? “Bob….U R 2 work @ FCA”
    6. Writing on the wall? Okay…time to go back on the Prozac….

    Your post CM is encouraging. Discernment and calling has to be one of the most abusive rackets in evangelical theology today. I’ve read and heard about callings in many different shapes and forms, and sometimes it left me to scratch my head, and ask….”God is calling you to do that? Huh?” . But as I read that post on Facebook tonight I’ve been resisting the temptation ot ask questions, but for me its another example of the problematic theology of evangelicalism.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Here in La-La Land, the 9th District Court has just overturned Prop 8, so you can guess what Discernment (TM) will get screamed from the pulpits of all the Calvary Chapels this coming Sunday.

      Clop these horseapples. I’m watching the My Little Pony marathon on Hub instead. If I want everyone running around in circles screaming, I could work overtime.

  4. In the Baptist tradition I am part of the discernment of a call is very similar to that described in the part quoted about the Lutheran denomination. The church and the individual explore the possibility of calling together and the individual has to be ‘approved’ and ‘sent’ by the church before they can proceed to the next stage which is when the local grouping of ministers discerns the call, then it’s approved nationally and finally the college they apply to has to agree. After that, until they are called as a minister to a specific church they are not recognised as a minister and so can’t be ordained until they actually start their formal ministry. Every stage is about communal discernment and covenanted Baptists (lay and ordained) listening to the Holy Spirit together.

  5. What an incisive and helpful piece of writing.
    Someone I love was almost sidetracked by such a charismatic person, and I thank God for answered prayer, for the discernment given to her and for her church’s decisive action not to endorse the individual concerned. She escaped and is all the wiser. Sadly one of her friends did not and is walking in the wilderness right now.
    It is so helpful to see such a clear definition of heresy in this context. Thank you for quoting this.

  6. I love this. I am currently going through the ministerial credentialing process in the Assemblies of God, after being in independent churches most of my Christian life, for the same reasons you list here – the additional confirmation of a denomination.

  7. “The very notion of self-appointed and self-proclaimed leaders contradicts what it means to be a leader in the church.” That says it all to me.”

    I lean towards that direction as well, but are we putting God into a box because we are concerned about potential dangers?

    It may have been abused by some in the past, but is it always wrong? Does the Holy Spirit have to have the approval of a denomination before launching a new ministry?

    Again, I lean towards the tone of the post, but I also don’t want to hand-tie the methods God may use.

  8. “Denomination” is our construct, but I would say God calls people in the context of the church. And I think it’s definitely healthier if that church understands itself as part of the church catholic.

  9. Hmmm? Calling??? God’s Call to Ministry.???

    Was Wondering…

    In the Bible – Does anyone know where to find…

    A “Disciple of Christ” – called – to be a pastor/reverend leading a church?
    A “Disciple of Christ” – called – to be hired, or fired, as a pastor/reverend?
    A “Disciple of Christ” – called – have the “Title Pastor” or the “Title Reverend?”

    A “Disciple of Christ” – called – to be a “Leader?”
    A “Disciple of Christ” – called – “Leader?”

    A “Disciple of Christ” – calling – another “Disciple of Christ” – “Leader?”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • I understand what you are saying, but is there anywhere that the Bible says those can’t take place?

      Also, can they still be seen as different roles in the church structure, yet part of the “one”?

  10. This post makes me question my own position of leadership in my own church.
    I am one of three elders over a very small (a dozen or so people) simple church fellowship. All three of us were confirmed as elders in a larger non-denom church that no longer exists, and one of us was ordained many years ago through a Bible college with an Assemblies of God affiliation — though he no longer considers himself part of that denomination.
    One might say we are self-appointed leaders — but honestly, we’re just three longtime friends who, in the absence of a church home, mutually agreed to start up what began as a house church but has recently acquired a building. We just wanted some context where we and our families could worship and serve and grow in the Lord together, along with anyone else who happens to come onboard.
    For myself, I know I have no desire to control or order anyone around. I’m just someone who has accepted certain responsibilities in regards to the church. And I’m pretty sure it’s the same with my two fellow elders.
    But, should a situation calling for a real application of authority arise, do any of us have any real, God-given authority to bring to bear? Or should we seek the arbitration of an outside authority with more legit credentials?
    And would it be out of line for one of us to baptize someone or administer the Lord’s Supper?
    What do you guys and gals think?

    • Coming from my Baptist position, if you are recognised within your church – however small – as leaders and in good standing then I would have no problem at all with you baptising or administer the Lord’s Supper. As far as church discipline is concerned the same would apply.
      I think the main concern I would have is that in such an environment you may not be formally and genuinely accountable to anyone either inside the church or outside and such a situation could result in damage for your church and/or yourself.

    • I’m not a protestant myself any more, but when I was I was part of a non denominational church. The area I lived in had lots of non-denoms. I’m not sure how it started, but the pastors of a lot of the local non-denominational churches formed sort of a council for mutual support and accountability. In addition, if one of the churches had a ministry member seeking ordination, the group would do that process together. A former youth pastor of ours was ordained that way.

      Perhaps such a thing exists in your area? I’m not sure exactly how you’d find it, except to perhaps contact other local non-denoms and ask.

  11. Rick

    How about when Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called “Leaders?”
    For you have “ONE” leader – Christ?

    New American Standard Bible – Mat 23:10-12.
    Do not be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    The Message – Mat 23:10-12.
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    And NONE did…
    In the Bible, ALL “Disciples of Christ” called themselves “Servants.”

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    If someone calls them self a “Leader” – Or, thinks they are a “Leader”…

    Are they a “Disciple of Christ?” 😉

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important?

  12. Rick

    Does the Bible say – Peter – Paul – were leaders? Or leading?

    Or, was that taught to you by those who convinced you they were “Your Leaders?”
    Who desire to maintain their – Power – Profit – Prestige – Honor – Glory – Reputation?

    Maybe the “Problem” is – Who do you want as “Your Leader?”
    God/Jesus – Or – A mere Fallible Human? 😉

    1 – Do folks really want A Mere Fallible Human as their leader?

    Yup!!! God gives you what you ask for and “A Little Bit Extra.”

    Seems the Israelites no longer wanted God to be their “Leader.”
    They asked for a King to be like the other people. How’d that work for them? 😉

    1 Sam 8:11-19 KJV
    Your King will take your sons.
    Your King will take your daughters.
    Your King will take your fields.
    Your King will take your vineyards.
    Your King will take your oliveyards.
    Your King will take the tenth of your seed.
    Your King will take your menservants.
    Your King will take your maidservants
    Your King will take your asses.
    Your King will take the tenth of your sheep.
    and you shall be the Kings servants…

    1 Sam 8:19
    Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel;
    and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us…

    Maybe Kings, mere fallible human “Leaders,” are NOT such a good idea after all?

    Isaiah 3:12 KJV
    … O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isaiah 9:16 KJV
    For the leaders of this people cause thee to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    Matthew 15:14 KJV
    Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind.
    And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

    Rick – It seems – Mere Fallible Human Leaders “will” lead you astray. Yes?
    Maybe that’s why Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called “Leader.”

    2 – Or do folks really desire Jesus/God to be their “Leader?”
    To hear His Voice – And Follow Jesus?

    Mat 23:10 NASB
    And do not be called leaders; for “ONE’ is your Leader, that is, Christ.

    Rom 8:14 KJV
    For as many as are *led by the Spirit of God,* they are the sons of God.

    Gal 5:18 KJV
    But if ye be *led of the Spirit,* ye are not under the law.

    Tried following “Human Leaders.” Lot’s of pain, tears, and Spiritual Abuse. 🙁

    NOT anymore – Thank you Jesus.

    Let’s see… I can follow a Mere Fallible Human who “Will” lead me astray…

    Or… I can be His sheep – “Hear His Voice” and follow Jesus…

    Guess which “ONE Leader” I’m choosing… 😉

    Jesus loves me this I know…

    • I don’t know Amos.

      If you look at all the letters and the book of Acts you get a slightly different picture.

      In them Paul has some strong words to churches, for some reason he seems to be speaking to them as a leader. You see it clearly in Acts, as there was a council of elders that Paul communicated with (to see if he had run in vain). In a good many of his letters he speaks as one with authority, they are full of admonishments to do better. In his later life he is speaking of overseers and the qualifications of such people.

      If what you say is correct, then we have no reason to listen to Paul at all, because he wrote:

      Gal 5:18 KJV
      But if ye be *led of the Spirit,* ye are not under the law.

      When I see contradictions in scripture such as what you have quoted, and other verses that seem to say something different, it tells me we may not be listening to the text as we should.

      You said:
      Tried following “Human Leaders.” Lot’s of pain, tears, and Spiritual Abuse.

      Is it even remotely possible you are letting your experiences color your interpretation of scripture?

    • I would agree that our True Leader is Christ. He is the one that deserves the title. However, I do agree with much of what Ken has said.

      We need to be careful in distinguishing the role of leaders (and those roles may just be temporary) with the titles that come with some leaders. Futhermore, we need to keep in mind those that lead out of a servant heart, and constantly point to Christ, as opposed to those who use leadership and titles in an unhealthy power play.

    • Ken

      You write…
      “In them Paul has some strong words to churches,
      for some reason “he seems” to be speaking to them as a leader.”

      That’s what I was also taught by “The Corrupt Religious System” I was a part of…
      BUT, in the Bible, Paul “always” called himself a “servant” – NOT a “Leader.”
      So I now understand Paul speaking as a “Servant of Christ” – NOT a “Leader.”

      Even Jesus humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation,
      and took on the form of a “Servant.” Phil 2:7-8.

      I was ordained. I was a “Leader.” I desired folks to “Follow Me.” 🙁
      BUT, NO longer. NOW – I desire folks to know, and to “Follow Jesus.” 😉

      Because – I checked the Gospels – and the only “Leader” Jesus said to “Follow”
      was “Himself.” Except once – where they were to follow a pitcher of water. 🙂

      Mt 4:19 …Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
      Mt 8:19 … I will Follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
      Mt 8:22 …Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
      Mt 9:9 … Follow me. And he arose, and FOLLOWED him.
      Mt 16:24 …let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and Follow me.
      Mt 19:21 …and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and Follow me.
      Mr 2:14 …Levi… Follow me. And he arose and Followed him.
      Mr 5:37 he suffered no man to Follow him, save Peter, and James, and John…
      Mr 6:1 …came into his own country; and his disciples Follow him.
      Mr 8:34 …Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself…and Follow me.
      Mr 10:21 …One thing thou lackest…take up the cross, and Follow me.
      Mr 14:13 …there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: Follow him.
      Luke 5:27 … Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: said unto him, Follow me.
      Luke 9:23 And he said to them “ALL” If any man will COME?AFTER?ME,
      ……let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and Follow me.
      Luke 9:57 …Lord, I will Follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
      Luke 9:59 And he said unto another, Follow me…
      Luke 9:61 …Lord, I will Follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell…
      Luke 18:22 …distribute unto the poor… and come, Follow me.
      Luke 22:10 …bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house…
      John 1:43 …Jesus… findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
      John 10:4 …and the sheep Follow him: for they know his voice.
      John 10:5 And a stranger will they not Follow, but will flee from him…
      John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they Follow me:
      John 12:26 If any man serve me, let him Follow me…
      John 13:36 …Whither I go, thou canst not Follow me now…
      John 13:37 Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I Follow thee now?…
      John 21:19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.
      …….And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
      John 21:22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come,
      ……what is that to thee? Follow thou me.

      Ken –
      I can NOT find Jesus, telling believers to follow a Mere Fallible Human.
      I can find Jesus, telling His Disciples NOT to be “called “Leaders.” and NONE did.
      I can find Jesus, telling believers to – Hear MY Voice – and Follow Me.

      I can NOT find anyone, telling believers – “Lead” one another. – “Follow” one another.
      I can find – By love ”Serve” one another.

      Be Blessed in your search for truth… Jesus…

      • What, then, was the purpose of the council at Jerusalem, to which Paul submitted? And what are the functions of an elder or presbyter?

        As others have stated, I suspect that because of your experience you are over-reacting, emphasizing one side of the coin and totally rejecting the other. The scriptural picture is more complex, more nuanced, than you seem to be willing to admit.

      • James the Mad

        You ask…
        “What, then, was the purpose of the council at Jerusalem,
        to which Paul submitted?”

        I’m thinking you’re referring to Acts 15. If not, please correct me.

        Here’s what I see now – after leaving “The Abusive System.”

        1 – “ALL brethren” are involved. NOT just so-called “Leaders” like I was
        taught by “My Elders.” And “council” is NOT mentioned.

        2 – Acts 14:27, “the whole ekklesia that was gathered together,” In Antioch.
        When the dispute arose about circumcision. NO Elders mentioned.

        3 – “ALL brethren” thought it was good for Paul to go to Jerusalem.
        And check with the apostles and elders. Acts 15:2. NO Elders mentioned.

        4 – “ALL brethren,” the ekklesia, apostles, elders, are involved receiving them.
        NOT just the apostles and elders – like I was taught by “my so-called Elders.”
        Found out the hardway NOT ONE Elder qualified to be an Elder/Overseer. 🙁

        Acts 15:4.
        And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of “the church,”
        (the ekklesia, the called out ones,) AND – of the apostles and elders.

        5 – And – at the end of the matter – when the decision is made…
        “ALL brethren” are still involved.

        Acts 15:22-25
        Then pleased it the apostles and elders, **with the whole church,**
        to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch…
        The apostles and elders and brethren…
        It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord…

        In Acts – I see – the whole ekklesia, The Body of Christ,
        functioning together as “ONE” new man.

        The way “Leadership” is set up today…
        Only a few get to function – and the rest are spectators.

        But – You’ll have to go to Jesus for your self…
        To see if this is truth for you – today…

        Haven’t you ever wondered – Why…
        NOT one “Disciple of Christ” called them self – “Leader?”

        Maybe, it was Jesus who taught them NOT to be called Leader? 😉

        Why isn’t “Servant of Christ” good enough?

        • Not going to get into an endless debate with a rules warrior that insists on responding to a simple comment with 20 verses, so I’ll end my participation with this:

          Acts 15:22: “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, **with the whole church,**”

          I would simply respond with Acts 15:6: “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.”

          Which clearly demonstrates that “the apostles and elders” discussed the issue and made the necessary decisions. They were then supported by “the whole church” when they sent their decision out. But again, it was “the apostles and elders” who actually made the necessary decisions.

          You can chop up Acts 15 all you like to make it fit your view, but ultimately it was the council, made up of the apostles and the elders, that made the decisions that were made that day. Yes, the scriptures call for our leaders to demonstrate a servant’s heart. But that does not, in any way, negate the clear scriptural need for leaders.

      • James the Mad

        You ask…
        “And what are the functions of an elder or presbyter?”

        How about – To “serve” and NOT to be served… Kinda like Jesus… 😉

        Haven’t you ever wondered – Why…
        NOT one elder, in the Bible, called them self – “Leader?”

        And – Why… NOT one elder, in the Bible, called another elder – “Leader?”

        • So the fact that a very specific word is not located in the scriptures defines the debate for you? That none are called “Leader”? I can think of a hundred words that are not in the scriptures. But if there are another hundred words that mean the same things, the arguments become meaningless.

          So let’s try this: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” 1Tim 5:17.

          Like it or not, the elders are, in fact, the rulers (or, to use modern English, leaders) of their congregations.

    • Rick

      Much agreement when you write…
      “and constantly point to Christ, as opposed to those
      who use leadership and titles in an unhealthy power play.”

      The challenge I have is – In my experience with Pastor/Leaders…
      and haveing been in Leadership shows me…

      No matter how loving… eventually…
      No matter how humble… eventually…
      No matter how much a servant… eventually…

      The Pastor/Leader will “Exercise Authoriy.” ……. (A No, No. – Mark 10:42-43)
      The Pastor/Leader will “lord it over” God’s heritage….. ( A No, No. – 1 Pet 5:3)
      I have been guilty of “Exerciseing Authoriy” and “lording it over God’s heritage.” 🙁

      That’s always the beginning of “Spiritual Abuse.”
      And – There is No excuse for Abuse….

      “Pastor/Leader” = exercise authority = lord it over = abuse = always.

      And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
      them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
      and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
      John 10:16

      One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

      {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  13. Another important question to ask is, which religion or denomination would be the best fit with my background and skills set? The trick is to aim high, but not too high (be realistic–everybody wants that ritzy Episcopal church), and to take advantage of personal connections. Also, the more you subconsciously match the image of “preacher” that people already have, the less they will consider competitors who are women or minorities or suffer from some other kind of disability. Think of it as acting.

    • Probably better to ask: which is the best fit with my theology and convictions? Of course if you are trying not to aim too high it would be wise to ignore Christianity altogether as it demands that you should be prepared to lay down your life for others.

  14. Ultimately all of this is tied into Paul’s repeated metaphor of us being the body of Christ, members of one another.

    If that is true, than legitimacy of our place or office has to come from the body itself. Not just ourselves. Feeling called is not really enough. There is wisdom in having a discernment process.

    I have seen the other side. A friend of mine asked the question why were so many ministers leaving the ministry for a major Charismatic denomination in Canada. He did research with ex-ministers (quite a few), it turned into a DMin thesis for a major university.

    One of his findings was that they lacked a proper theology of call. It wasn’t until they completed their training and got out into a church that they crashed and burned. This could have been avoided if there had of been a proper process in the beginning. I have several friends who got all the way through their bible school for that denomination only to discover they were not meant to be in ministry.

    Imagine the trauma, and debt from school!

    Good article!

  15. James the Mad
    Your comment from – February 11, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Thank you for Acts 15:6, which is usually the only verse mentioned by
    “The Abusive Religious System” to support “Leadership”making ALL the decisions.

    Hmmm? Just wondering…
    How many Apostles are in your fellowship today?
    That come together to “consider” a question?
    Do your pastors submit to your Apostles?
    Who gets to make the final decision? Apostle? Pastor?

    And – are the “elders” mentioned here just “Older” brethren? The Mature brethren? I doubt if they were like the “elders” we see today – Elected, or Hired – by a congregation. A “Special Clergy Class.” Because, in the Bible – NO one was Elected, or Hired, to be an elder. And NO one was, un-elected, or Fired, a few years later. And there is NO “Special Clergy Class” that separate themselves from the body.

    And – in the next verse – in Acts 15 – verse 7 says – much disputing – took place.
    (How much disputing is allowed by your “leaders?” Your Apostles and “elders?’)

    And Peter, still in verse 7, then addresses – “Men and brethren.”
    (Is this only apostles and elders – why is Peter addressing men and brethren?)
    (Could this also be The Antioch ekklesia that came with Paul to Jerusalem. Why would they be left out when it was their idea for Paul and Barnabus to come to Jerusalem in the first place? And Peter could also be addressing the Jerusalem ekklesia – NO where does it say the ekklsia left the scene.)

    Peter continues to speak to “Men and Brethren” untill verse 12 where it says… Acts 15:12 Then all “the multitude” kept silence… Why report “a large number?” kept silence? Why NOT – then – the apostles and elders – kept silence? Doesn’t that sound like “ALL the brethren” are still gathered?

    And NO where does it say – the apostles and elders made the decision.
    It only says, the apostles and elders came together to “consider” the matter.

    You might not realize it – BUT – Sounds like you might be “adding to the scriptures.”

    • Ah yes, I disagree with your interpretation so you’re going to casually throw out the “adding to the scriptures” charge. Of course, you’ve shielded yourself from criticism by using “might be,” but your “- BUT -” makes it abundantly clear there’s no “but” about it.

      Sorry, this discussion is over. There’s no point in talking with someone who has a lock on “The Truth (TM),” and is willing to throw the charge of “adding to the scriptures” around to bully people around.

  16. James the Mad –

    Your comment from – February 11, 2012 at 11:43 am – You write…
    “the elders are, in fact, the rulers”

    Just some questions to ask Jesus about “Elders”… 😉
    …Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. John 18:37.

    Can you have an elder/overseer without the qualifications? 1Tim 3: 1-7, Titus 1:5-11.

    Do the “Leaders” you follow meet ALL the qualifications? 😉

    If you’re known as an “elder” – Do you meet ALL the qualifications? 😉

    And you quote 1 Tim 5:17, “Let the elders that rule well”

    *Ruling well* seems to be the challenge for todays “Elder./Leader.”

    In My experience…
    Today’s elder/leader will eventally “Exercise Authoriy.” (A No, No. – Mark 10:42-43)
    Today’s elder/leader will “lord it over” God’s heritage. ( A No, No. – 1 Pet 5:3)

    Today’s elder/leader will eventually – when disagreed with – call someone names,
    divisive, rebellious, lone ranger, etc, put them down, attack them personnally,
    ignore them, ask them to leave… You know the drill…

    The elders I’ve met wanted to be – The Ruler. The Leader.
    But had a hard time *Ruling Well* counting others *More Significant* then them self.

    Phil 2:3 ESV
    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
    but *in humility* count others *more significant* than yourselves.

    NOPE!!! Never net an elder/leader who “Ruled Well” in this area of humility.

    BUT – will they remove themselves?

    • “In My experience…”

      Ah, but do the excesses and abuses we’ve seen, and which are so openly discussed here at iMonk, invalidate the clear teachings of the scriptures? I think not.

      You have demonstrated a clear understanding of one side of the coin, while treading the other side of the coin underfoot. Sorry, but that just don’t cut it.

      When you’ve figured out how to deal with the overall picture, rather than just your own limited, one-sided perspective, maybe we can talk. Until then, goodbye.

  17. James the Mad

    You are correct…
    My statement of “adding to the scriptures” is a “Bully” statement. 🙁

    I apologise. Thank you for the correction.

    Please forgive me.

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation – even with our disagreements.

    I see these as sensitive, and important, topics for the body of Christ.

    Mal 3:16
    Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another:
    and the LORD hearkened, and heard it,
    and a book of remembrance was written before him
    for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

    • Apology accepted, all is well. And I too have enjoyed the discussion. 🙂

      More than anything, though, I am glad that when the discussion is done and we have, to use an over-used term, “agreed to disagree,” we are still brothers in Christ.

  18. Thanks, dude, that’s exactly what I needed! My Lutheran pastor thinks the church needs me, and I’ve been wondering whether God wants me as a minister and what I should do… long story short, just the day after I firmly committed to continuing my low-paying job of service to others (instead of getting a high-paying job to put money aside for seminary), a job posting turned up that would be better-paying AND allow me to continue serving the disabled. I don’t like to ask God to get me a better job, but in the tradition of Old Testament bargaining, I did point out to him that this job opportunity would indeed allow me to serve Him better. I do hope He will see it that way too… if not I will continue with the low-paying job and leave it to God instead of trying to run the show myself. (I guess it doesn’t make as much sense when I write it down, but at the time it seemed like I had finally discerned God’s will in this matter.)

    Anyway I’ll see if I can find the book you quoted. Also I totally agree with those non-ordained showmen who start ministries named after themselves… I think they’re serving money much more than the Lord, and as my RC priest friend was saying the other day (when I saw him in the temple of Mammon – the bank), could we just study the word of the Lord rather than the word of X or Y evangelist?