In the wake of all of the events surrounding the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus it was important to the disciples that Judas’ replacement be selected. Perhaps Jesus Himself had stressed this to Peter and the disciples during His appearances over the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension. We can conjecture why this was necessary as they all awaited the arrival of the Holy Spirit but Luke does not connect the dots for us.
So, before the Day of Pentecost more than 100 disciples gathered around the original 11 apostles. These men had been chosen by Jesus, Himself, and Peter observes that–in fulfillment of two specific prophecies in Psalms–it is necessary to choose someone to take Judas’s place and restore the total number of apostles back to twelve. For this apostolic ministry Peter is very clear about the qualifications necessary for consideration:
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22)
And so, the development of a selection philosophy for leaders for the body of Christ begins with the twelve. Certainly, there will be other examples to help us understand how best to go about the process such as Acts 6:1-7 and 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. Jesus also gives clear instruction for the servant leadership model that must guide us, the most poignant example being when He washed the disciples’ feet in John 13:1-17.
As an Involvement Minister who has helped develop, coordinate and implement a bunch of shepherd selection processes over the last 30 years, I have several questions that naturally emerge from the start. For example, from the 120 disciples, what kind of process did they go through to arrive at the two nominees, Joseph and Matthias. Perhaps they were the only two who had been there from beginning to end. If there were more than the two of them, how did they narrow down the field of nominees to the final two? Once they were selected why didn’t they go ahead and select one? Why the casting of lots for the final decision?
From the beginning we realize that Luke leaves this topic open to conjecture, giving us virtually no details to help us…which tells me something. First, the process is not what is most important here. The fact that Peter declared that it was necessary is what is important because, I suspect, Jesus made it plain that this was one of the first things they must attend to while they were waiting for the power from on high. Having twelve disciples right at the start was important. Let’s take care of this now.
Second, by not detailing the process the field is open for those who would select leaders in the future to focus upon the underlying mission, vision, values and principles rather than the mechanical process of how. This is really important, I believe. It is not the process that is important; but, it is being clear about the kind of leaders that we are looking for that take precedence. Once this is clearly stated, the process chosen is specified to reflect those values within their cultural context.
So, it should not be surprising that we in western democratic societies value the input of the congregation’s members to choose their leaders. To do this, however, without being clear about the kind of leaders for which we are looking and their relationship to the values the Lord has led us to honor can be a mistake. If we are not careful, democratic processes can become little more than popularity contests with political influencing for certain candidates and–horrors!–against other candidates. Whatever process the apostles went through to select James and Matthias, in the end they solved the popularity contest question by casting lots and inviting God to determine the outcome (verses 24-26).
What a novel idea….