Baptist Denomination is unique in several ways even though there are some other ways through which the Denomination maintains resemblance with other Denominations. The Baptist People believe in the Bible as the sole authority of their faith just as some other Denominations also believe the same. However, one feature of the Baptist People that is not common with other neighbouring Denominations is their Call System tailored to their Congregational System of Church Government. Call System here refers to the process of getting a Shepherd over a local Church. The ‘local’ being used as an adjective to qualify their Congregation does not connote incivility or barbarism. It simply means a Congregation in a community. The Call System of the Baptist Denomination is quite different from that of other Denominations in sight. Among the Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, and some others who practice Episcopalian system of Church Government, their Priests are sent to their local Congregations from the Diocese, that is, the seat of Bishop. However, the People called Baptists have their unique way of getting a Shepherd for their local Congregation. This is the main focus of this article. It would not have become a subject of discussion but for several issues that are emanating which need clarification.
THE CALL SYSTEM AND THE PROCESS
Coming from the understanding of their Congregational System of Church Government, the Baptist People believe that it is the prerogative of each local Church to call her Pastor without any external interference. The assumption is that every member of each local Church is a child of God filled with the Holy Spirit and so can participate in the decision making process on any issue. Since all of them have the leading of one Spirit, definitely, even though they may initially come up with different opinions but as they further discuss the issue, they would be led to decide correctly through the help of the Spirit. This is the hallmark of the People called Baptists. On the Call System, the process is simple. When the pastorate of a local Church is vacant, the Church will prayerfully set up a Search Committee. The Church will continue to pray while the Search Committee will become the spiritual think tank for the Church. The Committee can receive suggestions from the Church members. After vigorous prayer by the Committee, in their meeting, suggestions will be made of any qualified Pastor. Such a Pastor will be contacted, after he might have prayed, he would respond to their invitation positively or otherwise as he may be led. This will be duly reported to the Church for ratification. This has been the best method that guarantees peace, joy, and God’s presence in the local Church until some things began to threaten this peaceful process.
THREATS AGAINST BAPTIST CALL SYSTEM
The process explained above was operating in the local Baptist Church before some cases began to surface that are very detrimental to the uniqueness of the Call System of the Denomination. What are they?
Advertisement and Collection of Curriculum Vitae of Several Pastors. This is a new trend in the Denomination but a threat to this beautiful uniqueness. Where is the place of prayer? Where is the leading of the Holy Spirit? Oftentimes, Churches who ply this road fall into error.
Pastors Writing Application for the Post of Undershepherd of a local Church. This is another trend that emanates from secular understanding of leadership but very detrimental to the health of the Church. Why? Because the best candidate may not be God’s candidate (1Sam. 16). Moreover, shepherding a Church is not a secular job but a spiritual assignment only for the Called and not for the job-seekers. Remember those who hire you can fire you.
Lobbying and Politicking. This is very common these days. Once, the pastorate of a Church is vacant, some Pastors will begin to run around seeking connection, visiting the Deacons in the Church, kneeling and begging the leaders, making unreasonable promises, and so on. This is uncalled for. If God does not send you to a Church, you will be useless there if you lobby or force your way there.
External Interference. This is another threat to the Call System of this Denomination. Oftentimes, when the pastorate of a Church is vacant, especially the so called “viable Church”, some leaders will make sure they send their “anointed” candidate there. It was once said of a Church about one of the past apex leaders of the Denomination who forced his candidate on the Church and the candidate eventually caused havocs in the Church. The leaders in the Denomination should allow the Holy Spirit to choose for each local Church.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
One, during my graduation at the Seminary, as God glorified Himself in me at the occasion with awards, one Pastor was sitting beside my Mentor who later told me what he said. He said: “If I have opportunity of putting this young man in a Church, I will just be collecting returns”. You can imagine how many people are bringing “returns” for him. Our leaders should stop this kind of thing, it kills grace in the Church.
Two, I have been a Moderator for three years and during the period, four Churches have called their Pastors without my interference except for my private prayer for them. As a leader in the Denomination, we should stop unnecessary interference in the affairs of the local Church.
Three, few days ago, a member of a Search Committee of a “viable” Church met with me and said: “you are one of the people we are considering to become our Pastor, sir are you available?”. I replied him politely that the method they are employing whereby they will contact many Pastors collecting their curriculum vitae is not healthy for the Church. Moreover, I do not participate in such exercise.
As Pastors, let us take time to educate people about our unique Call System. Even though you may be in dire need of pastorate, do not go where God does not send you. Lion does not eat grass even in the face of terrible hunger.
The third experience shared above moved me to write this article. I do not have anyone in mind. I think the time has come for this generation of Baptists to rise and preserve our unique heritage starting from this Call System.
NOTE: Please, if you do not understand the system and the article do not bother to write comment. Even in your comment be polite. We are cultured people. Thank so much.
Victor Segun Ogundipe, PhD
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