Theological Tension on Ministerial Leadership
I love Theological Tension. Theological Tension is when the Bible teaches two things which appear to contradict one another. The reason I love it is because God uses it to focus our thoughts on what is important and to give us a guide to change our thinking. Examples of Theological Tension, particularly for Westerners, includes questions like the following:
“How can God be sovereign and still create man with free will?”
“How can we pray to God and ask Him things so as to influence God when God is immutable (unchangeable)?”
Too often debates over these questions end up focusing on what is not important. When we finally figure out what we really do know versus what God is silent on and figure out what is truly important, then the Theological Tension disappears. There is no contradiction, for example, between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.
Any perceived contradiction in scripture is due to our flawed thinking.
Given that, I find some Theological Tension in considering the Bible’s teaching on Leadership. This means that my thinking is flawed. I just haven’t figured out how yet. To be sure, it’s not a direct teaching found in the Bible, but in the storehouse of general Biblical principles that could be applied to leadership. The apparent contradiction is the absence of teaching on how to make particular decisions based on general principles.
Let me give a few examples:
We know that we must preach. Proclamation of the truth is how the truth is propagated, according to Paul. Jesus did it. Peter did it. Paul did it. Paul instructed the churches to do it. How does any preacher know what to preach at any given time? Unless he has a direct word from God, how can he be certain that he is preaching particularly what God really wants him to preach? How can he be certain that God even wants him in the pulpit?
Someone may answer: “God didn’t give us particulars because He wants us to use our minds.”
Me: “But on what basis are you certain that your mind is generating an accurate conclusion toward the discernment of a particular?”
Someone: “That’s the freedom we have in Christ.”
Me: “What verse is that?”
Someone: “There’s not a verse. It’s just that as long as we don’t go against what actually is in the Bible, we’re free to use the gift that God has given us to choose what we think might benefit the congregation.”
Me: “Granted that what you say sounds reasonable. But since it’s not given in scripture how can you be so certain of yourself?”
Someone: “Didn’t I read where you successfully chaired an Evangelism Committee? Tell me how you knew to start the outreaches that you did.”
Me: “It was a shot in the dark. Seriously. I had no confidence that anything positive would come of it or that I was doing the right thing. How can I pretend to have some certitude about something particular that I cannot know is particularly right from scripture?”
Someone: “Well, you just have to trust the Holy Spirit.”
Me: “How does that work toward a particular decision without some direct information from Him like Paul got when he went to Macedonia?”
Someone: “He directs your desires. As long as that desire doesn’t contradict scripture, then you should be fine.”
Someone: “You know what I mean. So is there anything that you really want to do to serve God?”
Me: “Whatever He wants me to do. I’m available.”
[Back to square one!]
This is how most of my imaginary debates go in this area. It always ends with a general desire to do in particular whatever God wants me to do. Once again, I know that my thinking is flawed in there somewhere.
To be honest, there have been many particular things that I have desired to do. For example, a great outreach ministry would be to take eight gifted vocalists capable of striking up a variety of Christian a cappella music (sans instruments), performing short skits, giving their testimonies, and presenting the gospel. They would be able to walk into a neighborhood or park, start singing, draw a crowd, proclaim the gospel, counsel any who profess Christ, and leave without any permits or set-up time. I have had countless ideas like this one. However, they all require getting other people involved. No one I’ve ever told of this idea is particularly interested. So I must conclude that either my ideas are not of God or I’m going about it all wrong.
Consider this: if it is of God, He will provide what I need to accomplish it. Do I need a mentor to teach me how to accomplish this? God has not provided one. Do I need other people who are interested? God has not provided them. Do I just need to come up with the idea and let others who can lead take it and run with it? I’d gladly do that, but God has not provided those either. Do I need some other way of thinking? God has not provided that yet.
So, If God does not provide what is needed to accomplish what I want to do in His name then I must conclude that God does not want me to do this thing.
So, I’m still back to square one on this… except for one point: This thinking agrees nicely with something I noticed in 1 Corinthians 12. But that’s my next article: Don’t Waste Your Mediocrity