Last week, we began this series by affirming that Jesus’ view of Christian leadership is the one that counts, and if we are going to raise disciple-making leaders for God’s mission in church and world, then no other view ultimately counts.
Additionally, we saw from Jesus’ teaching example that in His (glorious) opinion, great leaders are great servants.
Since every Christian leader is always a disciple first, therefore the prototype of leadership for every Christian leader is Christ himself, since leaders are first and foremost, disciples of Jesus. And Jesus modeled servant-leadership.
In the historic churches therefore, one is always ordained to the diaconate as a deacon first, prior to ordination as a presbyter or elder. The call to lead is always at the base level, a call to serve. Leadership is diakonia or service.
Today, we begin to look specially at what I call the 5 ‘C’s of Jesus-shaped leadership – five critical elements that constitute divinely approved and inspired leadership in Scripture and history. The first of this is ‘Call’.
God, rich in grace and mercy, calls us to himself. Disciples are those who respond in repentance and faith. Similarly, leadership is first and foremost the call of God to a man or a woman towards a godly task and vocation. It is not a job for hire. No prophet or apostle in the Scriptures ever applies to be one. God calls, and still does, and part of the call of the church at last, is to exercise a godly discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, to which amongst us are called to exercise leadership.
Disciples and leaders, like sheep, are safe so long as they learn to heed the call of their Master and Chief Shepherd.
Years ago, when I was an under-graduate studying in London, I went with an international student group to stay on a farm in Cornwall, in South-West England – a novel experience for city-folk like me. One of our fellow students, a fine Christian man, was a farmer there. He was into poultry farming but also kept a flock of sheep. We had a great time visiting the flock with him. We noticed the sheep responded to a distinctive sound he made to call them. I remember a few of us trying to imitate the calling sound he made, but none of the sheep were deceived to follow us.
They had come to know the voice of their shepherd (John 10:4-5; 16). Jesus-shaped leadership flourishes when we develop an ear for hearing and obeying the voice of God. This must be clear and discern-able.
We know from the Gospels that Jesus had a habit of spending alone time with his Father in prayer (Luke 5:16 – something he taught disciples to do in Matthew 6:8). I find it interesting that Luke tells us that Jesus spent a night in prayer prior to calling and appointing his twelve disciples (Like 6:12-16). Why did he spend the night in prayer? I believe that the choice of his closest companions in ministry was a matter of vital importance to Jesus, and he diligently sought the Father’s mind on this, interceding for those so-called.
Consequently, every instance of the appointing of leaders (elders, deacons, etc) in the book of Acts is done in the context of prayer and often, fasting – Acts 1:23-26; 6:6; 13:3; 14:23. We don’t simply elect the leaders among us – we seek to discern God’s call and appointment on those he’s chosen. This was no flippant exercise of popularity, but a discerning of who God has called.
One qualifies for leadership only if one can prove a call from God. J. Oswald Sanders in his classic treatise on the subject, wrote that ‘Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or churchly assemblies. God alone makes them. One does not become a spiritual leader by merely filling an office, taking course work in the subject, or resolving in one’s own will to do this task. A person must qualify to be a spiritual leader.’ The call of God must be discerned or be clear in us. Whom God calls, he qualifies.
The clear evidence of a calling we receive to leadership is shown in the next ‘C’ on our list – character, which we will discuss next week.