Promotion, Preferment, Sacrifice

Its job hunting time for curates all over the country, and on Friday mornings new jobs are advertised in the Church Times (today’s are in Ireland, Scotland and Brittany – tempting – and a school in Ashford). Depending on the rules of their particular diocese curates in their third or fourth year have to move on and many are keen to go, ready to spread their wings and take more responsibility.\r\n\r\nAnd yet.\r\n\r\nTraining for ministry is not just about ‘learning the ropes’, as it’s inelegantly called. Occasional offices. Running a PCC meeting. Preaching. Not ruining worship services.\r\n\r\nSkills aren’t enough.\r\n\r\nAnd that is because – if leading in ministry is not empowered by a tangible, dynamic, and forceful spiritual authority then it will waste the good time of congregations and fail a world that is, according to Jesus, waiting for someone to step up (Matthew 9/Luke 10).\r\n\r\nThe alternative to a ministry of  Spirit Empowered Spiritual Authority is a well practised ministry that is ineffective in the spiritual world, and consequently unfruitful in the temporal one too.\r\n\r\nSo how is spiritual authority gained?\r\n\r\nUnfortunately this aspect of the job cannot be taught by Diocesan training staff or learned easily in theological colleges.\r\nIt doesn’t come with the job, and it isn’t conferred by a hopeful PCC.\r\nIt doesn’t come automatically with the Bishop’s license to minister, and it isn’t handed out with a promotion.\r\n\r\nNo, spiritual authority in leadership comes from the public and private practice of surrender and sacrifice. And as Jesus modelled in the Gospels, it is often discovered in the desert.\r\n\r\nWhich means that in trying to make sense of some of our hardest years of leadership behind or ahead we should take encouragement from the following quote about the road to spiritual authority in leadership:\r\n\r\nIt is not won by promotion, but by many prayers and tears. It is attained by confession of sin, and much heartsearching and humbling before God; by self surrender, a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold uncomplaining embrace of the cross, and by an eternal, unfaltering looking unto Jesus crucified. It is not gained by seeking great things for ourselves, but like Paul, by counting those things that are gain to us as loss for Christ. This is a great price, but it must be paid by the leader who would not be merely a nominal but a real spiritual leader of men, a leader whose power is recognised and felt in heaven, on earth, and in hell.\r\n\r\nSamuel Logan Brengle

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