There is a troubling trend among young, ambitious Christians who hope to be leaders and are working to discern God's calling on their lives: they try to discern it on their own. Too often the story of calling is about some internal feeling or sense that, once attained, can't be changed by anyone. After all, if someone has heard from God, who is anyone else to question it, right? This is especially prevalent among young hopeful church planters who want to move to a place, put their flag in the ground, and declare themselves to be a pastor.
The problem is that our faith and our journey are never designed to be experienced in a vacuum. God's calling on your life is not about your self-fulfillment. It is always necessarily focused on His glory. He will move and speak and call us in the context of community. At what point has it become justifiable for anyone to pursue a calling to ministry in the church completely apart from the involvement of the church?
So, enough with self-appointed eldership.
There is no such thing in the NT. Everyone is sent by someone.
- Jesus was sent by the Father. This is basic Christology, apparent in Jesus' claims about Himself (Jn. 5:37) and shown clearly in the beautiful scene of Jesus' baptism (Mt. 3:16-17).
- The Apostles were sent by Jesus. This happens repeatedly throughout the Gospel accounts (i.e. Mt. 10:16), and is shown ultimately in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) and in the Ascension (Acts 1:8)
- Paul was sent by Peter, James, and John. This may be the biggest disconnect for folks. Sure, Paul had a physical encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus (which you probably have not). Even Paul invested himself in the ministry of the local church for at least 14 years before submitting himself to the Apostles and receiving a commission for ministry (Gal. 2:1-10). Even after that point, Paul was formally commissioned and sent by his local church in Antioch (Acts 13:3).
- Elders and Deacons were appointed where the gospel had been planted and a church grew as a result. These were not self-appointed elders, they were commissioned by laying on of hands and prayer, in the presence of the local churches (Acts 14:23; 2Tim. 1:6; Acts 6:1-7).
This is clearly the pattern of gospel ministry and leadership in the New Testament. In fact, the examples we have of those who were outside of this pattern speak for themselves. Do you really want your life and ministry to go the route of Sceva's sons (Acts 19:11-20)? God does not change, and it's hard to argue that we can come up with a better way to make an impact for the gospel than what we see in the early church.
So, you feel called into ministry. Great.
To whom have you submitted yourself?
Who is sending you?