36. Review Article # 2: T.J.Addington, High Impact Church Boards (2006).

1. Leadership and Calling. Addington firmly believes that people should only engage in church leadership (he includes both pastoral and board roles) if they are ‘called’ to do so. The rigours of leading a spiritual organization require a commitment that arises only from a sense of sacred task. But how is one to discern this calling?  Having affirmed that calling is necessary and arguing for an essential relationship between character, giftedness and calling, Addington does not describe a process by which a person can discern such a calling. The perspective seems to be that others in the church will discern this and take action to entrust such people with leadership. Yet, he also seems to propose that individuals are somewhat active personally in this discernment process also. And then he mentions nominating committees. God also must be involved. How all of these various elements work together to identify, develop and put in place good leadership is not defined.

According to Addington Paul identified leadership as a ‘gift’ in Romans 12:8 (closely allied to administration (1 Corinthians 12:28)).  He also relates Paul’s qualifications for leadership with Peter’s description of “elders” in 1 Peter 5:1-4.  However, the details of these texts may not entirely support Addington’s perspective that leadership is a spiritual gift. The term Paul used in Romans 12:8 (proistamenos) may emphasize more the idea of exercising care over and not our Western concept of leadership.[1] Further in Ephesians 4:11ff God gives people to the church, who fill specific roles. I do not dispute that God calls believers to roles of leadership, but I am not sure that we can affirm ‘leadership’ as a spiritual gift. Calling and gifting are related, but not the same. As Addington himself indicates, people in leadership require a variety of gifts to lead well.

Additional confusion, I think, emerges, when Addington argues for a difference “between leadership and caring gifts” (17). In his view “the primary gifts needed to fulfill the leadership function are fundamentally different from those needed to fulfill a caring function” (17). Yet, the very texts that Addington has referenced to argue for leadership as a gift (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Peter 5) all deal with the importance of a caring for the “flock of God”. 1 Corinthians 12 is followed by the most elaborate passage in the New Testament emphasizing love as the foundational motivation for everything Christians do and this must involve caring for others. Spiritual leadership has to incorporate caring because this is the fundamental outcome of such leadership. This is why all Christian leadership fundamentally is serving, because it must focus on caring.  This means all of the functions that the New Testament requires church leaders to fulfill are at their foundation caring actions — whether exercising discipline, defending the congregation against error, equipping for ministry, or caring for the weak (cf. Acts 20:33-35). In the Kingdom church leaders lead through effective caring and they accomplish this by giving attention to mission fulfillment (which has to include deep caring for the “flock of God” with whose care they are entrusted).

Church leaders exercise their leadership through moral and spiritual suasion, “being examples of the flock” in Peter’s words (1 Peter 5:3). Addington is right to emphasize issues of character in discerning spiritual leaders for the church. He provides his list of required leadership qualities at the end of the chapter (27). I would suggest several elements could be added with benefit. For example, nothing is said about spiritual leaders being motivated for and active in evangelism. He obviously assumes that church leaders will be passionate for the church, but while he focuses upon passion for Jesus, he does not require a similar passion for his church. He ends the chapter by requiring leaders to be bold, but does not include boldness as a necessary part of an effective church leader’s profile. I think I would also include “discernment” in such a list.

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