Set Free to Lead: Anointed Versus Appointed

R. Scott RodinBy R. Scott Rodin8 Minutes

Excerpt from “Five Leadership Lessons” of Set Free to Lead: Your Guide to Discovering the Abundant Life of a Steward Leader by R. Scott Rodin

Anointed versus Appointed

I know of few Christian leaders today who were anointed before they were appointed. We have mostly employed the business model of doing careful searches looking for Christian leaders whom we can appoint to office. We check their credentials, put them through rigorous interviews, and even give them psychological tests before we make the critical appointment. Once in place, we then ask God to bless their work.

The biblical evidence seems to indicate that God selects leaders in the opposite order. Samuel anointed David before appointing him king. The selection criterion for leadership was not based on who would most likely get the appointment, but on whom God had anointed for this task. And appointment without anointment always led to disaster.

I have never been asked in an interview if I sensed God’s anointing for this position. I don’t know what I would have answered, but the issues and criteria to consider in forming an answer to this question were ones that I never considered in my response to my various appointments.

The reason that anointing is so critical to the task of Christian leadership lies in its nature as the most unique form of leadership on earth. Christian leadership, which we will define as the work of the steward leader, requires nothing less than a complete, wholesale sellout of your life in service to God and God only. It is “losing your life” to the work that God wills to work in you to benefit your institution, school, church, or organization. And the stakes are high. Nowhere else in the Christian life will the price for divided loyalties be so costly for so many for so long. Ineffective and fallen leaders compromise kingdom work, and the effects are both temporal and eternal.

Therefore, Christian leadership is a field that must be entered with the utmost seriousness, and only when one has clearly been anointed for the task. I admit it is difficult to create a set of criteria to guide a search process or to apply to our decisions to determine one’s anointing. However, because this is a biblical model, it needs to be explored more deeply in our selection of leaders. So here are two considerations.

On the personal side, perhaps anointing can be discerned in part from a sense of humility that acknowledges that the task to which we are being recruited is beyond even our best skills and abilities. When I think of Joseph, Moses, Esther, David, Ezekiel, and others, their initial response to their call was this admission of their own inadequacies for the job. The result was a complete trust and dependence on God’s power, presence, and provision. In short, his anointing.

On the search side, I wonder if we could craft our questions to determine to what extent a candidate sees their dependence on God’s power, presence, and provision as the basis for their success in the position. We like it when candidates present themselves as confident, qualified, and competent to do the job well. Are we willing to prioritize this admission of utter dependence as a critical factor in our hiring decisions? If not, might we miss someone whom God may have anointed for a position in favor of someone who looks more qualified in our own eyes?

These are difficult issues, but I pray we begin to struggle with them because we know that with God’s anointing comes what every leader seeks: God’s power and presence. There is a special blessing bestowed on God’s anointed. It is the blessing of God’s power manifested in ways only seen through the work of God’s chosen. Those whom God has anointed shout, and walls fall. They lift their feeble staff, and seas part. They speak God’s word boldly, and movements are begun that free the souls of the oppressed. God’s anointed do the miraculous because they are servants of the Almighty. There is a unique presence of God in the lives of those God anoints and calls to leadership through that anointing. Without it, we are continually thrown back upon ourselves to make things work. With it, we have the resources of heaven at our disposal if we will be faith full servants.

For this reason, anointed leaders are sublimely unique people. As God’s anointed, they will do anything God asks—anything. They will seek God’s will with passion. They will not move without it, and they will not be diverted from their course once they have it. God’s anointed will love what God loves and hate what God hates. That means loving God’s people, God’s church, God’s environment, God’s resources, and God’s plan. It also means hating sin in every form and coming against anything that stands between God’s loving plan and its accomplishment. God’s anointed are people of keen discernment. They are branches who are solidly engrafted into the true vine. God’s anointed are servants first, last, and always. And God’s anointed have only one passion: to know and do God’s will that he might have the glory. In this way, God’s anointed are people of no reputation.

I did not come into my leadership positions with a clear sense of anointing as a leader, but I have come to better understand and value the distinction between appointment and anointment. I believe that God’s anointing can rest on steward leaders who submit everything to him. God works through leaders who trust him beyond question and rely on him for the totality of their life and work. Anointing begets surrender, and, as we will see later, surrender is the disposition of the heart of the steward leader.

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