A Theology of Calling

I think constantly about leadership in our congregations … the difficulties and challenges of it … the structures and models that organize it … the ideas and attitudes we have about it. I know you think about such matters as well. It is, for all of us who care about the church, a matter close to our hearts.

I’m hoping to publish a number of articles about leadership (on my website) over the next couple of months. I want to explore the “polity model” that is common in churches of Christ, the relationship of ministers and elders, my doubts as to whether a committee (i.e., an eldership) is capable of effective leadership, and the “pastor-led” model that is so prominent among our religious neighbors.

At the nub of such explorations is a simple but basic question: Is God still leading his church and does he work through individuals today to guide and inspire his people (in some manner analogous to the way in which he worked through leaders in Scripture).

Looking at the way we do church leadership, it appears we believe God works through a leadership structure (the eldership)—that He leads through a divinely sanctioned organizational model. Who serves in that leadership is less important (so long as they are “qualified”). It is the plurality of leaders, the wisdom of the group, that (in such a view) ensures effective leadership. Our view of leadership is founded on an assumption that individual powers and influence must be moderated by peers, that checks-and-balances are essential for church leaders, and that consensus (i.e., a balancing of factions, coalitions, and priorities) is required to hold churches together and keep them moving forward.

What I’m not sure we believe is that God any longer works through individuals. We have no effective theology or practice (or vocabulary!) of “Calling.” What God did with Abraham or Moses or Paul is foreign to our experience. The notion that anyone might claim, “God has called me to lead this church,” that a church might view a minister not as a bundle of competencies but as a man upon whom God has laid his hand, is not something with which we’re comfortable.

If this is a topic of interest to you, would you go to the following link and think with me about ministerial “Call”? I would appreciate and enjoy your comments on the subject. I’m not sure where this series of articles is going. I have no particular ax to grind or position to stake. But I am convinced that what we’re presently practicing in the name of “church leadership” is untenable and ineffective. More importantly, I believe it is unbiblical.

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© 2012 by Tim Woodroof. Reproduction of this material requires permission from the author.