Called … But Why? Perspectives on the Call to Leadership

By Samuel Indreiu

Have you ever wondered why…?  Why did God call you to a role of leadership?  Whether you are a pastor, an elder or a church administrator, why did God call you specifically?  If you are anything like me, especially when I have committed a great blunder in ministry, in exasperation you would have asked: “Why in the world did God call me to leadership?  Lord … what are you getting out of it?” 

I invite you on a journey to explore a few different perspectives on our calling.  I am not saying that I know why God called you, but I hope that this journey will help strengthen your confidence in God’s call, more specifically, in the basis of God’s call in your life.  Furthermore, I would like to suggest that often times, God calls leaders to spiritual leadership roles for their own sake and sanctification, as well as his mission. 

Perspective 1: My Obedience
We will start our journey with an extreme understanding of one’s call.  In Exodus 19:5 we read: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples.”
So one can conclude based on this scripture alone that my obedience is the basis for God’s call in my life.  God calls spiritual leaders because they have a proven record of obedience.  When I was growing up I remember thinking that God would never call me to a leadership position since I am quite rebellious and nonconformist. 
Now … if we are to be faithful to the context in Exodus 19, the preceding verse says: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.”  God had already brought them up from the land of slavery and as such they were already called.

Perspective 2: The Goodness of My Heart
Moving on in our journey, we come to 1 Samuel 16:7 in which God, speaking of the anointing of a successor to King Saul, tells the prophet Samuel: “Do not look at his appearance … for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
As a leader, this can be very reassuring.  It tells me that God knows that my heart is good, it’s ok … or will eventually be good and ok, even though I may still have some small “heart” issues now.  
Furthermore, we discover God’s perception of David in Acts 13:22.  “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.

So … God knew David’s heart and He knew that David would do all His will.  This is a very high standard!  As God looks at my heart and chooses me to be a spiritual leader, He is affirming the goodness of my heart and my commitment and ability to do His will.  How wonderful to receive this affirmation by which God says: “Well done good (hearted) and faithful servant!”

But let’s ask: in David’s case, how well did this work?  We know that David had major moral falls – David had major “heart” problems.  Additionally, in Jeremiah 17:9 we read that “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”

Am I, a spiritual leader, an exception to this?  Let’s not kid ourselves … for David himself begs God in Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God;”  David recognized that His heart was impure and evil. 

Problems with Perspectives 1 and 2
At this moment let’s take a detour and discuss some problems with the first two perspectives.  First of all, in perspective 1 and 2, the focus is on our obedience to God, or the goodness of our hearts and our ability to do God’s will.  There is plenty of Biblical support to the contrary.

Secondly, there are hints of legalism (perspective 1 is legalism) as we can summarize the perspectives as: my doing leading to God’s calling.

Thirdly, perspectives 1 and 2 lead to pride.  Since God chose me to be the leader based on the goodness of my heart, it follows that the hearts of those I am called to lead must not be as good as mine.  After all, God called me to be a pastor but he called Johnny to be an elder only … so my heart must be better than Johnny’s heart.  From here, it is very easy to come up with a ranking of people’s goodness levels.  Also it would be easy to acquire domineering attitudes towards those I am called to lead. 

“Leaders who are gripped by a call from God do well to remember that they serve the call.  The call is not given to serve them.  The initiative and substance of the call belong to God.  The leader is an instrument in the Lord’s hand to help others have the opportunity to live their lives with greater significance and in relationship with God.”  (McNeal, 2000, p. 27)

Fourthly, perspectives 1 and 2 fail miserably during the storms of leadership.  As we look at ourselves we have no solution.  Moreover, when we are inward focused we see no support.  We look at ourselves and we begin our guilt trip.  “It must be a problem with my obedience or a problem with my heart” we might say.

Ask yourself, “What happens when problems arise?  What happens to your anxiety?  Can you remain calm and trusting?  Do you continue leading as a non-anxious presence?”  If you answer yes to these questions, what is your secret?  Could it be found in our third perspective?

Perspective 3:  God’s love and promises
When we recognize that our call is not based on our obedience, the goodness of our heart, or our ability to follow God, we will accept and embrace the fact that God’s call is solely an act of grace to us based on His love and promises with the goal being our sanctification and ultimately our glorification.

In Exodus 6:8 we read “I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  Furthermore, Deuteronomy 4:37 states “Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them” while Deuteronomy 7:7,8 adds “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers ….”

I invite you to consider the following illustration: Moses has been up on the mountain for quite some time by now, receiving the instructions regarding the sacrificial system.  In Exodus 29:4-9 God is giving Moses detailed instructions for the ordination of Aaron and His sons.  God basically says that Moses has to wash his brother, dress him, put a turban on his head and pour oil to anoint him.
As the High Priest, one of Aaron’s duties was to represent God to the people.  What kind of character would be required of the person chosen to do this?  If you were God, what kind of person would you chose?  Why did God call Aaron to be the high priest?  Was it because of His obedience or his good heart?  Or was it purely an act of God’s love, mercy and grace? 

Moreover, let’s discuss the timing … specifically, what was Aaron doing even as God was giving Moses instructions for his ordination?  We find the answer in Exodus 32 in the shocking story of the golden calf: Aaron was leading God’s people into rebellion and idolatry. 
“Such a crisis demanded a man of firmness, decision, and unflinching courage; one who held the honor of God above popular favor, personal safety, or life itself. But the present leader of Israel was not of this character.” (White, 316)  “Aaron feared for his own safety; and instead of nobly standing up for the honor of God, he yielded to the demands of the multitude. … he made a molten calf, in imitation of the gods of Egypt. … He did more. Seeing with what satisfaction the golden god was received, he built an altar before it, and made proclamation, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” (White, 317)
We should remember that God is omniscient and He certainly knew what Aaron was doing even as He was giving Moses those detailed instructions.  What would I do if I was God?  How about you?  Given Aaron’s blatant apostasy, a change of plans would certainly be recommended, even required.  There is no way that Aaron could continue as God’s representative to the people.  There wouldn’t even be a need for discussion!  It is a very clear situation.
And here God shows that His ways are not our ways!  May He be praised forever!  1 Corinthians 1:26-31 states, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.  But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I suggest to you that God doesn’t call us for the many benefits that He will get from our service (after all … if the stones can cry out they should be able to lead as well), rather He calls us for the many benefits we will get from our service.  He calls us to spiritual transformation, to grow in our knowledge of Him.  He calls us to sanctification through spiritual leadership. 
“God appoints leaders.  People may apply for various leadership positions, but God is the one who ultimately determines which leadership roles they will have.  Leadership development comes through character development, because leadership is a character issue.”  (Blackaby 2011, p. 81)  I see this very clearly in my life and in Scripture, in his love, God knows that I have the best chance at sanctification if I am called to the role I am performing right now.  He wants to be with me for eternity and He knows that my call to leadership is the best chance He has to make this happen.

In closing, my prayer is that you will see the following verses in a new light.  “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.   Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)
Samuel Indreiu serves as the pastor for the Burbank and La Grange - Brookfield Churches close to Chicago, IL.  
Reprinted from the second quarter 2016 issue of CALLED

All Bible verses are from the NASB.
Blackaby, H. T., & Blackaby, R. (2011). Spiritual Leadership: Moving people on to God's agenda (Rev. & expanded ed.). Nashville, Tenn.: B & H Pub. Group.
McNeal, R. (2000). A work of heart: understanding how God shapes spiritual leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
White, E. G. H. (1913). The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets: The Conflict of the Ages Illustrated in the Lives of Holy Men of Old. Pacific Press Pub. Assn.