So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias… Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven. (Acts 1:23,26)
It is undoubtedly true, that it is easier to appoint someone to a leadership position than it is to move them out of it! Divisive leaders can harm the team while ineffective leaders can do harm to those who are being led. Equally, a leader without the necessary gifting and passion, can not only weaken the ministry, but their appointment can lead to a loss of confidence and discouragement.
For these reasons, appointing leaders is a task we undertake with great caution. A mistake can have significant consequences.
As those first disciples waited in the upper room, in one accord, it was apparent to them that they needed to appoint a replacement for Judas Iscariot in order to fulfil prophecy (Psalm 109:8).
It was an important decision that may make their approach to the appointment even more surprising to us. On the face of it, it seems like they could not decide between two people – perhaps they even argued – and then finally they did the first-century equivalent of flipping a coin! Not many of us would have elders who would endorse such an approach, but there is a lot more going on here that we need to explore and learn from.
To appoint the right people to positions of responsibility in the church, we need to have a clear and Biblical understanding of what the right leader looks like. To do this we develop a list of criteria that describe the ideal candidate.
The danger here is that our picture of what an ideal leader looks like, may differ from the person God is looking for. Without reference to Scripture, we tend to look for elders who are successful in business, financial administrators who are accountants, and youth workers who are “cool” and relate easily to young people.
Such qualities and experience are valuable, but they are not the primary criteria God is looking for. If our criteria are wrong, we will likely overlook the person God is calling to lead.
It is evident through the Bible that God is more concerned with character than competence – attitude than aptitude. Many of the people God called to positions of responsibility, did not see themselves as being capable of fulfilling their role – Gideon, Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah and even Mary, to name a few.
To give some understanding of the qualities required of leaders, twice in the New Testament we read a list of the desired qualities of an elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). All have to do with character and conduct – not training or ability.
In appointing a replacement for Judas, the disciples, were looking for “men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.” In other words, they wanted people who knew Jesus personally, and people who they knew personally – people who had proven themselves over time. Interestingly, these are two criteria that hold just as true for us today, when looking to appoint leaders!
We can teach people the responsibilities of leadership, but we can’t teach them to know and love Jesus. We can notice certain competencies and aptitudes, but it takes time to observe character and attitude.
As the disciples considered potential replacements, it seems they narrowed it down to just two: Barsabbas and Matthias. At this point, as mentioned earlier, they simply cast lots to discover God’s choice.
However, that is not to say that they left the final choice to chance. The casting of lots was, at the time, a common God-ordained way through which He provided guidance (see Numbers 26:55-56; 1 Chronicles 24,5 & 31; and Jonah 1:7). We are not told exactly what this act entailed – it may have been through tossing flat stones like coins, flipping sticks of various lengths, or the throwing of some kind of dice.
So, if God guided people through the casting of lots, should we not do the same today when faced with a decision? The answer is, “No”, because now we have a better means of guidance: the same Holy Spirit that was given just days later to the disciples, lives in us today, and through Him, we are guided into all truth (John 16:13).
Here then, is what God is teaching us about the process we work through when seeking to appoint leaders. Use the criteria of spiritual maturity and proven character to produce a short list, and then, as Christ’s body, pray for Him to reveal His choice through the insights and promptings provided by the Holy Spirit. Be patient and take note of any circumstances or conversations through which He may guide.
Remember, it is ultimately God who appoints leaders; we simply discern His will and ratify His decisions.
Reflection and discussion
What are the qualities we should look for in a leader in the area of ministry you are involved in?
What are some ways in which God might guide us to confirm those people he has called to lead with us?
Why is it important for a leader to know they are called by God – not simply approached by man?
Describe your own call to leadership. How was it confirmed by the church (or was it?!)
Consider the process you follow for appointing leaders in your ministry. What changes might need to be made?