When you have a Lord, it is important to know what He wants; this is even more important when you believe He is the “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). Our Lord Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Leadership of the Church is a wonderful melding of God’s sovereignty and human choice under Christ’s leadership, lordship, and love. The Church is unlike any other organization or institution. The Church is Jesus’ bride (Ephesians 5:25; 2 Corinthians 11:2), His body (1 Corinthians 12:12–31), and He is the head (Colossians 1:18). As such, selecting and appointing human leadership for the local church is unique.
A personnel search is typically conducted when organizations or institutions look for new leadership. In a church, a pastoral “call” process is initiated. A call can be broadly defined as understanding and accepting one’s purpose in God’s plan. Just as Jesus called His disciples (Mark 3:13), Christians believe that Christ Himself, as the One who builds His Church, is the One who calls specific individuals to specific congregations at specific times for the building of His body.
Anyone who at one time or another has sought to discern the Lord’s will has probably said, “I’m all for doing the Lord’s will. I just wish He’d make His will clear!” And anyone who has been part of a Presbyterian Church knows that for discerning just about anything, there is a manual and a committee. The PC(USA)’s manual, On Calling A Pastor, states: “Presbyterians believe that God uses committees, papers, procedures, and our polity, sprinkled with a generous measure of prayer, Scripture, and worship, to help you discern who it is that God is calling to be your pastor.”
While the actual process varies just as much as the churches themselves, the one whom Jesus is calling to lead the congregation is confirmed when the candidate, congregation, and Presbytery all confirm the call and agree. In the PC(USA), the church Session and its moderator, the Pastor Nominating Committee (representing and elected by the congregation), the temporary Pastor (if any), and the congregation all play vital roles. Those who undergo this process are the Pastor, Co-Pastor, and Associate Pastor. Other pastoral positions are called by the Session with approval of the Presbytery. Vital throughout the entire process is a spirit of unity and abundant prayer by all involved so that, once the new pastor is called, the entire congregation will join together in ministry!
Just as the calling of a pastor has a methodology that is guided by the Lord, there is also an orderly process for becoming a pastor. Ordination, put simply, is Christ setting apart men and women for particular service within His Church. The PC(USA) ordains individuals to three ministries: ministers,
elders, and deacons. The process of ordination into these ministries involves: (1) an inner sense of the call; (2) an affirmation of the call by the church; (3) election to office; and (4) ordination in the context of public worship. For ministers, there is a period of preparation between steps 2 and 3 when they become an “inquirer” and then a “candidate” for ordination. Like the pastoral call process, ordination is a beautiful and tangible display of the Lord’s leading and His people’s discernment.
My ordination and call processes were straightforward… until they weren’t! My family and I originally discerned that I was to become a candidate for ordination in the denomination of our home church in Maryland, attend Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, then be ordained and serve in our home church until we launched into full-time ministry in Thailand. That was the long-term plan. However, in my life I have found that God often leads me step by step because, like Peter, when I look too far ahead I often take my eyes off of the Lord and become overwhelmed and overcome by the wind and waves. What ended up happening can only be described as a wonderful melding of God’s sovereignty and human choice. Two Presbyteries, two Sessions, and my family said yes to a plan that was immeasurably more than anything I could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). I was ordained in that denomination as planned, then I was called by the Session of First Church as an Assistant Pastor to serve in preparation for the mission field. Christ promised He would build His Church, and He called me and my family to the perfect church family for us to love and serve as we prepare for our next call overseas.
The call to church leadership is unlike that of any other organization because the Church is unlike any other organization. The Church plays a crucial role in the redemptive plan of God. Its leadership is called by Him to shepherd His bride into faithfulness and fruitfulness until He returns. When you have a Lord, it is important to know what He wants, especially when it comes to His body. It is encouraging and comforting to know that God is at work in and through His body, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
by Pastor Su Kim
Source: “On Calling a Pastor” published by Church Leadership Connection, Presbyterian
Church (USA), Louisville, KY, March 2015, pcusa.org
“Leading a church, an organization, or a ministry that transforms the world requires more than the latest leadership strategies and techniques. Lasting change in churches and organizations requires men and women committed to leading from a deep and transformed inner life. We lead more out of who we are than out of what we do, strategic or otherwise.”
– Peter Scazzero
Founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, NY and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a ministry active in 25 countries
Excerpt from The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015