Chosen for Leadership vs. Called for Service

Choosing People for Leadership (Man's Way) vs. Calling People for Service (God's way)

There was once a person who organized a team for a big mission worldwide. His nominees were evaluated by a management consultant firm and here is the report letter he received:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the persons you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken a series of tests, and we have not only run the results through our computer, but we have also conducted an in-depth interview with each of them by our staff psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully. It is the staff's opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of assignments they will be undertaking. They do not have the team concept and we would highly recommend that you continue your search for persons with more experience, higher qualifications, and greater managerial abilities.

Here are some remarks concerning some of the nominees:

* Nominee #1 is emotionally unstable and is given to fits of temper.

* Nominee #2 simply has no qualities of leadership.

* Nominee #3 & Nominee #4, they place personal interests above team loyalty and are quite boisterous.

* Nominee #5 demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale among the ranks.

* Nominee #6. It is also our duty to inform you that we have received reports on him regarding questionable business practices.

* Nominee #7 & Nominee #8 definitely have radical leanings and both demonstrate attitude problems which would present difficulty in their dealings with the public.

* However, one of your candidates shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, responsible, and is not afraid to take the initiative. We recommend Nominee #12 as the most qualified of all of your prospective candidates.

Ace Management Consulting

If Jesus had sent his twelve disciples for psychological testing, the assessment above might well be the reply he would have received.

* Jesus chose Nominee #1, Peter. He later denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest (Matt 26:69-75). He wasn’t faithful. He lacked the courage to take a stand in public. Also he was impetuous and would say and do things without thinking.

* Jesus chose Nominee #2, Andrew, Peter’s brother. In John 6:9, before the multiplication of the loaves and fish Andrew said to Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Andrew would still have much to learn about Jesus.

* Jesus called Nominee #3, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother Nominee #4, John. They were in a boat mending nets with their father Zebedee. Immediately they left everything and followed Jesus leaving their father in the boat. (Matt 4:21) But we discover later they were following Jesus for the wrong reason, they were looking for their own glory. In Ireland we have a way of saying that, they were only in it for the beer. In Mark 10:35 they ask Jesus, “Teacher we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Jesus didn't say he would, he just asked them what they wanted. And then they made their big request, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” What confidence they had. And there was the time (Luke 9:53) when the Samaritans did not welcome the visitors Jesus sent ahead and James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” It is no wonder that they were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder.” (Mark 3:17)

* Jesus called Nominee #5, Thomas. But he would only believe in the resurrection of Jesus if he could put his fingers into the wounds the nails made and put his hand into Jesus’ side. (John 20:25) Thomas lacked faith. Where was Thomas on that first Easter Sunday evening? Why wasn't he with the other apostles?

* Jesus called Nominee #6, Matthew (Matt 9:9). Matthew had a past, he was a tax-collector before Jesus called him. If he was like any of the other tax-collectors he would have collected a lot more in taxes from people than he returned to Rome. We can guess that Matthew would have had enemies, many of them.

* Jesus called Nominee #7, James, the son of Alphaeus, and Nominee #8, Simon, the Zealot. They have radical leanings and both demonstrate attitude problems.

* But Jesus also called Nominee # 12, Judas Iscariot. He later plotted behind Jesus’ back. (Matt 26:14-15) He wanted to force Jesus to bring about his kingdom. He wanted the kingdom on his terms instead of Jesus’ terms. He complained when Jesus’ feet were anointed not because he wanted to give that money to the poor but so that he could steal it for himself. (John 12:4-6)

Called for Service

That assessment of the Apostles gives hope to us because if they could go on to accomplish great things for the Lord then so also can we. We are each called by the Lord at baptism and confirmation to be his witnesses. No one can say they are not suitable. If Jesus could use the apostles with their obvious weaknesses, he can also use you to advance his kingdom. God calls you to make a difference to the world, God wants to use you in his plan for the salvation of the world. Paul, who had been a persecutor of Christians and watched Stephen being stoned to death, wrote in our second reading;

“I am the least of the apostles...I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace he has given me will not be fruitless.” (1 Cor 15:9-10)

Will you allow God to use you in his plan for the salvation of the world? Will you make a difference?

Jesus called his apostles and they weren’t who we might consider to be likely candidates. Their weaknesses are so obvious as we read Scripture. But Jesus knew their hearts and their potential and knew what they could become and do for his kingdom. Jesus knows our potential and what we can do for his kingdom. Let us answer his call.

Jesus is calling us. Like Peter we lack faith. Like Andrew we have much to learn. Like James and John we are selfish sometimes. Like Matthew we have a past. Like Thomas we doubt sometimes. Seeing that the apostles of limited competence did so much for the Church gives confidence to us. If Jesus could use them he can certainly use us. With the intercession of Jesus for us at the right hand of the Father and by our spending time in prayer with the Lord we too can grow from strength to strength and accomplish great things for God and his kingdom.

Servant leaders and as Transformational leaders

Paul discusses the kind of people God often chooses in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. It serves as a humbling reminder to all who aspire for leadership in the kingdom:

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

This is not to suggest that evaluation tools and techniques are completely without merit. They can be quite useful when used correctly. However, it is clear that relying too heavily on these things can disqualify those whom the Lord would have us choose. These men were not chosen because they were the best and brightest. They became what they became because they spent time with Jesus. Through his discipleship program and the inner working of the Holy Spirit, these men were transformed into the greatest leaders the church has ever known. These men from humble and ragged beginnings, formed the nucleus of a group that went on to turn the world upside-down.

Luke records for us their choosing:

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he designated apostles:

Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Luke 6:12-16

Jesus chose 12 men and developed them into the church's first leaders. Within a few short years from this event, he would delegate the continuance of his kingdom to them (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

Throughout Jesus' ministry, it is difficult to detect a pattern in his behavior. Sometimes he heals people from a distance (John 4:46-53); sometimes he travels to see them (Luke 8:40-56). Sometimes he touches people (Mark 1:40-42); sometimes he spits on the ground and makes mud (John 9:6). Sometimes he runs away (John 6:14-15); sometimes he confronts (John 18:1-6). The one consistent theme is that we never know for sure how Jesus will act or react, but we can trust it will always be right for that specific situation.

Even a casual study of the manner in which Jesus prepared the 12 apostles shows us how effectively he adapted his leadership activity to the realities of the situation. He instructed them when they were uninformed, directed them when they were confused, prodded them when they were reluctant, encouraged them when they were downhearted. When they were ready, he allotted them limited tasks and responsibilities and then participated with them, guiding them through their assignments. Finally, he empowered and commissioned them as his apostles.

The Master Teacher shows us that effective leadership is situational. The leader's whim or desire (even when that leader is Jesus) is not what drives intelligent action. Effectiveness in leadership is driven by what followers need. Jesus observed and understood what his followers needed, and he supplied it. He always interacted with them within the situation and responded appropriately to it. And within three years these obscure Galileans began to change the world.

As we observe Jesus' training of the 12 in the Gospels, we notice how consistently his actions were exactly appropriate to the situation. Jesus was very intentional about situational leadership. Leaders who can analyze a situation and adapt their leadership activity to address it can function as servant leaders and as transformational leaders, and they can profoundly affect the lives of their followers.