One of the things I love about the Calvary Chapel Movement is our openness to empowering men who seem to the world to be unqualified for leadership. There are many pastors leading great, dynamic, kingdom-building churches in Calvary who don’t have formal seminary training. How can this be? It is because we have a God who intentionally uses the weak for powerful works. He does this so that when huge things happen it will be clear who should get the glory. Paul explained God’s reason for doing this to the Christians living in Corinth in the first century by quoting Jeremiah 9:23-24. He wrote that God uses the weak, “that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:31)
I love Calvary’s openness to using the weak. I’ve often heard Mark Driscoll quote Chuck Smith approvingly as saying, “Calvary Chapel doesn’t call the trained; we train the called.” That is one of the reasons I’ve found a home within Calvary Chapel. I’m thankful for the opportunities to lead and serve that I continue to find in my Calvary home, which I would miss were I part of other movements or denominations.
Now, as much as I love the openness to using the weak in Calvary, I have seen a misapplication of this principle in the attitudes of some when it comes to assessing the qualifications of men for pastoral leadership. Sometimes our openness to God using the weak can become an excuse for not helping men legitimately assess their calling, character, spiritual gifting, and theological understanding for leadership in the church. Because of a healthy hesitance to being too program oriented or process driven, some would consider nearly any kind of formal assessment of pastoral qualifications to be “un-Calvary.” If you’re stuck in that perception, I’d say two initial things:
1. Don’t just cling to the first part of the principle conveyed in Pastor Chuck’s statement above, but cling to the second part as well. “We don’t call the trained” needs to be balanced with “we train the called.” And the training of the called in the context of your ministry needs to be a priority.
2. Ultimately, as much as I love Calvary Chapel, the Lord will not hold us accountable for whether or not we do what is considered “Calvary Chapel,” but whether or not we do what is biblical. If the Bible urges us to practice the training and assessment of weak men whom God is calling to pastoral ministry, that is the standard we must meet whether it is widely practiced in Calvary Chapel churches or not. And the truth is that the Bible very clearly lays out the mandate to assess future pastors and leaders. In fact, the very same man who gloried in the fact that God calls the weak for great things is the man the Holy Spirit saw fit to utilize in delivering the message of our need to assess and train pastors- the apostle Paul. This is such an important issue that the Holy Spirit preserved the points of assessment for pastoral ministry in two separate letters in our New Testament. What this tells us is that being weak isn’t an excuse for not being evaluated, trained, and assessed. It tells us that when the Bible speaks of apostles as being “uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13) it isn’t speaking in absolute terms. These guys had spent three years being trained and educated by Jesus as they worked side-by-side with Him doing ministry. What’s being emphasized in Acts 4 is their lack of formal instruction, not their lack of training and instruction in general.
Here are the two clearest passages that demonstrate that God requires would-be church leaders to be assessed and trained:
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you-- if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” (Titus 1:5-9)
In my post next week, we’ll dig into the meaning of the qualifications (or points of assessment) described in these passages. But for now, to those who are pastors in some way (or want to be), let me encourage you to think about some ways you may need to be assessed:
Every pastor or would-be pastor needs to do an honest self-assessment regarding the above qualifications. The Holy Spirit didn’t inspire these points of assessment for us to view as idealistic and unattainable. We cannot use the excuse of being imperfect as a way to avoid taking an honest look at our lives through the lens of these passages. We need to spend some time doing work in these texts, figuring out their meaning exegetically and prayerfully, asking God how we’re doing. As I did this morning, listen to capable Bible teachers explain and apply these passages to your life. If you won’t, you probably have something you know you’re trying to hide. If there’s a little voice in your head saying, “he’s too extreme,” it’s probably the voice of a demon who hates you, and those you want to lead. Do an honest self-assessment.
Contextually, these two passages were given to two lead pastors who were to use them as a lens through which they would view potential, future church leaders. This shows it is the job of senior leaders who’ve been trained and proven to test and assess other men for leadership affirmation and appointment. So after doing self-assessment, ask for honest assessment from the senior pastoral leadership who know you best.
Some men don’t have pastors who have the skill or time to personally assess them. If that’s you, don’t be content with merely having done self-assessment. It’s too easy to lie to ourselves. There are many practical sources you can utilize to assess your call, character, spiritual gifting, and theological understanding. This is something we have a heart to help guys with at the Calvary Church Planting Network. Ideally, guys will go through self-assessment, and further training and assessment in their own local church. But where this is not possible, an outside entity that is biblical in focus should be utilized in most cases.
The best source of assessment for an honest man is probably his wife and family. Your wife sees you at your best and worst. If you want to be a pastor, or just get a read on how you’re doing at the assessment points of a pastor, ask your wife’s opinion, and shut your mouth until she’s done responding. Next, take what she says to prayer, repent where needed, and continue in doing the good things.
After you’ve assessed yourself, and been assessed and trained in whatever way God provides, you need to spend the rest of your life re-assessing yourself. We’re all on a slippery slope to scandal when we let our guard down. Don’t be the next statistic in the category of pastoral self-destruction.