Churches and denominations have a system set up that if you’re ambitious enough, and you get in the right channels, you might have an ecclesial career. So, let’s say you were willing to go to seminary, meet the qualifications, and then willing to market yourself you can probably get into a church that is willing to pay your salary. Just know the right hands to shake and answer the stuff that makes people nervous. People generally frown upon outright ambitiousness and resume career tailoring so a person would have to work things so as to not appear ambitious and even then there are no guarantees that the person will be at all successful where they’re ministering. God gives the increase after all.
It’s just Marketing 101 applied to the Church. After all, we do the same thing in the business world. We make sure we meet the job qualifications but that’s just the barebones—the nitty gritty is in who you know and how you impress them. That sort of thing can easily wind up working in an area where we might not like it happening but it happens anyway. We might not like Absalom or Diotrephes but they’re methodology isn’t going away any time soon.
Enter these churches that say they are directed by the Holy Spirit. They don’t elevate any elders unless the Holy Spirit seems to indicate this person is doing the work of the Elder and so forth. Perhaps they’re a congregational model that doesn’t operate on voting: whatever. Would they be protected from this sort of system gaming?
Apparently, 95% of Pastors are married. Maybe that’s not surprising if a group believes that there is a blessing attached to marriage but this is hefty considering that there are non-married men who are alternately blessed and even more focused on the Lord’s work—note Paul’s thinking (1 Cor 7). When you look at one of the surveys that they use for narrowing down candidates, you’ll see that the stuff that they consider is divided equally between subjective, interpersonal and outright qualifications.
What other qualifications would led-by-the-Spirit churches bring to the table? How do you judge Led by the Spirit-ness? Is it based on the amount of people that are influenced? Well, that would stink for some of the OT prophets. What about the amount of people that agree with his teaching? So ends Jeremiah’s ministry.
I actually wish that there were some sort of study that reflected what percentage of church leaders were tall.
Anyway, I imagine that if you take a look at these sort of churches, you’d find the same exact dynamics occurring as churches that use checklists and subjective sensibilities you would use at any interview. In other words, even in these churches you’ll (conceivably) have people who are charismatic, know how to shake the right hands, know how to preach according to the playbook being elevated when they probably shouldn’t be.
Personally I’ve seen this sort of thing in our own Plymouth Brethren. You have giants of Evangelicalism like FF Bruce who were committed to the Plymouth Brethren almost entirely forgotten by the Plymouth Brethren today. Why? I’ve seen men who belonged to the right family get elevated to the pulpit and I’ve seen humble, God fearing men who can’t look anyone in the eye because they worry about pride, get kick out of ministry for absolutely zero reason. I’ve seen this happen in Southern States and Northern States. I’ve seen this happen in urban, suburban and rural settings.
Diotrephes has no problem operating wherever he’s given opportunity.
What do we do about it? Well, Paul warned the Ephesians that they would have wolves rise up amongst themselves in Acts 20 but it’s always easier to see the wolf in someone else’s flock than one’s own. Heck, it’s even harder to see the wolf when he’s looking right back at you in the mirror.
One thing I do know. Using this idea of Spirit blessedness should probably be re-examined in light of Scripture. And maybe, continue using the term while admitting that another Spirit may be at play.