For three years, Jesus poured himself into a core group of 12 people. These guys had lived ordinary lives, but, after being called, became greater through faith and service, proclaiming a new era through the gospel. Young King David lived as a sheep herder, but was anointed (blessed by God) by the priest and Judge Samuel, and through God's calling, he became the renowned and beloved king of Israel. His son was considered the wisest man in the world.
Going further back in time, after the time of Moses and Joshua had passed, and judges would rule over Israel, there was a time of warfare and oppression with no one able to bring about victory over their enemies. A young man named Gideon received a messenger from God and soon he would lead his people to major military victories. He mentioned how he was a weak part of a clan that was least of his tribe, and yet he was used to lead a great campaign for God's work.
Leadership is a hard thing, and Christian leadership even more so. Leadership in the faith community means putting on the mind of Christ, having vision, and being able to take a group of people with you toward a deeper and more holy discipleship in God's ways.
If we relied on the news to tell us what leaders of faith are up to, it would seem that the bar for faith leadership is very low. That's unfortunate, because for the myriad people who have given their lives to their calling, whether it is as a pastor, missionary, theologian, worship leader, youth pastor or whatever, the majority have lived up to the high standards held up in the third chapter of 1 Timothy, telling us that overseers of the church are not to be greedy; they are to be self-controlled, hospitable, able to teach and be mature in faith. They are to be bold and dignified in their calling of faith in manner and conduct. Those who fail but are humble are not bad people, though it is regrettable that so many have used ministry as a way to lord their own plans and visions. But the ideal is set high, so when we see a person who is false, they can be confronted.
In testing leadership, there is a trinity of calling that can illuminate the path. 1. Is a person feeling the call to leadership and feeling they have the gifts for it? 2. Has God placed a burden on the heart for others so they give of themselves to the work? 3. Has the community called them and confirmed the gifts of the leader, and that these gifts are needed and affirmed? The community can care for and test the leader, building a bond together as the work of God is done, and the good news is spread.
In our own youth group there are those who are beginning to feel the pangs toward Christian leadership. Each summer we have college aged interns and volunteers who explore ministry and test whether God is really giving them a passion to appeal to the hearts of people and care for the spirit. I am praying for them as they step out in faith and begin to serve. We are in a time of great transition, and many are searching for good leaders to do the work of ministry together.
As the world contemplates the future of faith and its place in society, as the Catholic church prays and convenes in the selection of a new Holy See, as our conferences and denominations appoint pastors, and as each local church calls leaders to shepherd and teach, let us be full of prayer for the spirit of all leadership in all places. God's spirit is moving, faith is not stagnant, and leadership refreshes itself for each generation. Are your eyes open for new works of grace? Are you the leader God is calling? How will your work find purpose and bring life? How will you respond?