How does God pick leaders? Acts 1:15-26 is an interesting section of Scripture because it contains some things for choosing leaders that we probably should use and others we probably shouldn’t. This text isn’t intended to be an exact verbatim checklist. There’s a difference between holy manuscript and a have-to-manual.
Here’s what Peter and the Apostles noticed: something is missing. There were twelve and now there are eleven. In this case, Judas was lost. Because of this, Peter makes a clear reference to David in the Psalms.
“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
“‘May another take his place of leadership.’“[Acts 1:20]
God knows what’s in a man. He is never surprised when a man sins. Jesus lost a guy. David lost a guy. I’ve lost men – leaders – to sin during my twenty-six years of pastoral ministry.
So something is missing. A position isn’t created just to accommodate a man. There is a genuine need that the Lord has made known.
Here are some qualifications for the leadership the Apostles settled on:
- “with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us”
- with us since “John’s baptism”
- “a witness with us of [Jesus’] resurrection”
This is the only place in scripture where, in addition to this list of spiritual and experiential qualifications, they do something that we don’t see anywhere else in Scripture when choosing leaders: they cast lots.
When it comes to picking leaders, throwing dice isn’t part of the process. We don’t have to pick leaders exactly like this. When we pick leaders, there are other verses to guide us. We use the whole Bible, not just part of it. That’s how you develop sound doctrine.
When choosing leaders, also look to Exodus 18. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, gave sound advice about what to look for in leaders:
- “able men”
- who “fear God”
- “men of truth”
- “hating covetousness”
Jethro also advises that these men be selected to have charge over groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand. Different guys are gifted to lead different numbers of men. Moses needs help leading the people of God and Jethro gives timely guidance for selecting the men to help him shoulder the work.
Here at Calvary Chapel, we look for people who are faithful, who have a good home life, and we look for those who are with us. I want to actually make sure that God is in charge of this decision, so I pray with and ask other godly men who they think are the ones who are really with us.
The ones we pick haven’t actually seen the risen Lord like the ones picked in Acts, but they do have a relationship with Jesus that is real and life transforming. They have experienced Him. They walk with Him and have followed Him in baptism. Christ affects all of their relationships.
I'm wise if I do as Jethro instructed Moses: look for able men who fear God, who love truth, and do not have a spirit of covetousness. Those are the guys I'm looking for.
In addition to Exodus 18, in Acts 6, another situation comes to light where there is a void that can only be filled with godly men. According to the text, a complaint arose because certain widows were neglected in the daily food distribution.
Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” [Acts 6:2]
So they looked for men who were:
- “of good reputation”
- “full of the Holy Spirit”
- full of “wisdom”
They cast lots in Acts 1, but in Acts 6 and Exodus 18, I don’t see it. Some scholarly folks say that casting lots was such a poor way to choose, you never hear anything from the guy they picked, Matthias, from that point forward. He was a dud, they say, and should never been picked. But I take issue with that because the same thing could be said about Andrew, Thomas, Matthew, and most of the other twelve as well. They, also, were never mentioned again in the Bible.
So if you can't say the same thing about them what's wrong with Matthias? I don't know if there's anything wrong with Matthias, but here's what I do believe: we don’t cast lots or flip a coin to pick our leaders. I know you all well enough that if we don’t get your way, you'd “say how about two out of three?”
Don't play toss the coin or roll the dice with God. Pray! Come in contact with the Spirit. Our first order of business when picking leaders is to pray and then choose men full of the Spirit, who walk with Jesus and have lives exemplify godly character. The process involves godly men in partnership and guided by the Holy Spirit.