Thursday, January 25, 2007

Selecting Leadership in the Church

Most evangelical churches are congregational, meaning the the assembly of the members has a say on matters of church business. Most also have some form of leadership that is more or less selected by the members to exercise that role. Some may have a more authoritarian form like a pastor that is voted in but once there has a very strong voice in any decision making. Some may have a more diverse group like a plurality of elders who are picked to lead the body. Some, like the Brethren churches have very little centralized leadership.

Leadership is biblical. We see leadership in the church laid out in the New Testament. We are given qualifications for what kind of men can be in leadership. But the thing I have been considering is the choosing or appointing of leadership. Appointing a leader can be a very top down thing like the president appointing a secretary of state but it can also be a bottom up concept like a congregation voting on a pastor.

We see both of these approaches in the scriptures. Paul appointed elders in every church that he established. He instructed men how to appoint pastors. But there is the other style of appointment too. Do you remember? In Acts 1 the whole assembly was to decide who should take Judas's place as one of the twelve apostles.

I have been ruminating on this for several days because I find it interesting. There are two components. First there was qualification. Peter articulated to the assembly that they needed a man that had witnessed Jesus's entire earthly ministry from His baptism to His resurrection. There were then 2 men Joseph and Matthias that were put forward as meeting the qualification. I find it interesting that they found 2 men who were qualified (and we are given no indication that one was more qualified) and then they chose between them. Often in politics we talk about the evil of two lessers in an election but here was two well-qualified men and the assembly had to choose one of them to exercise leadership.

Then they held a vote. Well, not really. Then they cast lots. Now I know that we see lots being cast throughout scripture although it is not entirely clear what this device was. Whether it was some kind of dice or straws or colored stones drawn from a bag is really immaterial. The issue is it was something definitive (not like tea leaves!) that could unequivocally answer a question. Not only do we see lots being used in scripture frequently but we see some commentary on their use. Most shocking to us is perhaps Proverbs 16:33:

33 The lot is cast into the lap; But the whole disposing thereof is of Jehovah. (ASV)

So, this is the question I have been asking: can you imagine your church selecting deacons, elders, presbyters, pastors or whatever by lot? I think an argument could be made that an election is a form of the lot, however, I have been considering what happens when you have no rational bearing on the outcome. A method "cast into the lap" where the "whole disposing" is in God's control.

I'm not suggesting this necessarily. But the exercise is this: our twenty-first century minds immediately become uncomfortable with such a low-tech and irrational idea. But this is something that scripture tells us that God commanded of His people in the Old Testament and we see it used in the New Testament. So before we just write it off as some vestige of the past we should at least consider it. Would you base your decision on your next leader on the role of a die?

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