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But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,

To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

Galatians 1:15 and 16, KJV

Paul, in developing his argument to the Galatian churches, expresses his own, personal, calling and experience. He stresses this in order to support his own standing with the churches - first, his calling and second his experience.

What do modern Protestant, Trinitarian, evangelical churches expect of their leaders. Do they expect such a ministry ? Are they gathered by such a ministry ?

And from whom do they expect to be taught what is the gospel and who is Christ ? Do they expect, and are they gathered, by such called and experienced persons ?

And, what are the names, today, now, of such persons who are leaders of Protestant, Trinitarian, evangelical churches ? Who are they ?

Paul says he is separated.

Paul says he is called.

Paul says that God has 'revealed' his own Son 'in' Paul.

Who, today, in Protestant, Trinitarian, evangelicalism supports their standing in the churches by such expressions as Paul uses to the Galatian churches in the first century ?

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    The question of how leaders should be called and if the calling today differs from Paul's apostolic calling is a good one but perhaps asking for the names of such persons is opening a can of opinion worms? – Mike Borden May 27 at 11:41
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    You're asking four questions from thousands of denominations from dozens of branches of evangelical protestantism. – curiousdannii May 27 at 11:58
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    There is a huge variety of methods and requirements for appointing pastors in Protestant churches. You will need to be more specific. Also there are different kinds of leaders. And Paul was not the leader of the churches that appointed him. He was a church planter, a missionary. If you are asking how a church chooses and equips the person who leads it, then Paul is probably not the best example. – DJClayworth May 27 at 13:25
  • @curiousdannii In the first century and second century, the question would have been answered by a short list of well known names. Such prominent persons as we are talking about do not exist in droves. Historically, there are only a handful on earth at any one time. The Reformation, for example. My question is not a difficult one and it is not a large task to respond to it. – Nigel J May 27 at 13:45
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    Churches of all sorts call their leaders, and prospective pastors and missionaries usually won't stop talking about their God given calling. If you want something more than that (more like modern apostles?) I don't see how that could ever not be an opinion question. – curiousdannii May 27 at 13:48
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There is no difficulty in identifying godly men during past centuries, men who were called and who taught the gospel without apology or excuse. Their ministry was blessed by God. For example:

Martin Luther – 1483 to 1546

John Calvin – 1509 to 1564

John Bunyan – 1628 to 1688

Jonathan Edwards – 1703 to 1758

John Newton – 1725 to 1807

George Whitfield – 1714 to 1770

William Huntington – 1745 to 1813

Charles Spurgeon – 1834 to 1892

During the 1900’s, revival came to Wales, Scotland and England. We may not know the names or even the identity of those ministers who brought the gospel into those godless corners of the United Kingdom, but we do know that God blessed them and that many came to saving faith. For example:

Overflow of the Welsh Revival in the 1920’s - Characteristics of the 1921 Revival.

  1. Praise. Services were characterized by joyful singing (Edwards p 142.) The men sang on the boats. The sound of hymn singing could be heard as the boats were coming home then those on the shore and those in the boats would sing together.

  2. Spontaneity. Services consisted of praise, prayer, testimony, preaching and appeal. Services went on for hours and were spontaneous, not organized.

  3. Preaching. People would be weeping over their lost condition in the singing before the preaching began. The preaching focused on the message of the cross and the new birth. “Our need and God’s deed” they called it.

  4. Prayer. The revival was preceded in every place by fervent prayer – sometimes for years. At the tiny village of Whinnyfold in Aberdeenshire prayer for revival had been going on since 1900. In Cairnbulg there was a 6.60-9.30am prayer meeting every Sunday. Edwards p 126. At Peterhead there was a 6.30am prayer meeting every Sunday. Prayer caused expectancy to rise.

  5. Unity. There was a tremendous unity between church leaders and churches. Jock Troup and Douglas Brown would stand together in the pulpit in Lowestoft praying and weeping together.

  6. Lives Transformed. Whole crews were converted and lives totally transformed. God also came on those already saved and changed them. David Cordiner was a very quiet lad, converted at 13 before this time. He felt God now called him to preach. All his friends and family told him he couldn’t do it but God set him free to preach powerfully night after night. Source: http://www.oasischurchperth.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Scottish-Revivals-1905-and-1921.pdf

Revival in the Hebrides on the island of Lewis (December 1949) - The revival in Lewis is the last (most recent) move of God in the British Isles where "God came down" in transforming power. In November 1949 two old women, one of them 84 years of age and the other 82 - one of them stone blind, were greatly burdened because of the appalling state of their own parish. It was true that not a single young person attended public worship. Not a single young man or young woman went to the church. Those two women were greatly concerned and they made it a special matter of prayer. Their prayers were answered in a most powerful way. Source: https://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/94936/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/Revival_in_the.aspx

Personally, I can only think of one Trinitarian, Protestant and Evangelical minister who fits the description of a man called by God, to whom Christ revealed himself and whose experience testifies to that calling. He was the minister at the U.K. Baptist Church where I was led by God’s Spirit, and under whose ministry I became a Christian and, through God’s grace, came to saving faith. He would not thank me for naming him. Suffice to say he came out of those Welsh valleys that saw revival in the early 1900’s. We could do with a few more like him, is all I can say. Sadly, he has now retired.

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  • It would be interesting to know if the named people themselves identified as such - called. I think OPs question targets the self-identification as being called. – kutschkem May 27 at 11:58
  • The question was about modern churches, I think. – DJClayworth May 27 at 13:21
  • Much appreciated. Your experience is similar to my own. (+1). – Nigel J May 27 at 13:42
  • Would it not also be appropriate to include John Wesley, alongside Whitefield, in the list of godly men from past centuries? – BalooRM May 27 at 14:33
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    Everywhere I have ever ministered whether my home church, neighboring churches, or in Sierra Leone I have worked and prayed alongside godly, spirit filled believers whose primary battle was to see themselves diminish and to elevate Christ. Most of these folks will never be known outside their small circles. There are wolves among the sheep, for sure, but there are shepherds as well. If Elijah felt all alone, certainly we can too (1 Kings 19) but take heart that the Lord has set apart for himself those who will not bow the knee to aught but Christ. May we be such as they. – Mike Borden May 27 at 17:33
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Paul was speaking as an apostle, and all the apostles were chosen by divine appointment. As Jesus said in John 15:14-17, they were now his friends, for they did what he commanded.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.”

There are some groups that still believe in the continuation of the Office of Apostles, but not within the groups you have singled out. Catholicism has a foundational belief in “Apostolic Succession”, but Protestantism either questions this belief or outrightly denies it. Yet, the Latter Day Saints (often viewed as Protestant but with no belief in the Christian Trinity) teach that it applies to them only. A brief quote from this Catholic source might identify some of the issues involved:

“The notion of Apostolic Succession presents the office of the Church (hierarchical ministry) as the authority which succeeds the office of the apostles. It is constituted through sacramental admission into ecclesiastical office by means of the visible sign of the laying on of hands… the primary pre-requisite for the legitimacy of the office-holder as administrator of (most of) the sacraments… The Protestant questioning of such a chain of succession as bearer of the most priestly functions in the Church, or the express denial of it, was felt to be an attack on the hierarchical structure of the Church."1

Sacerdotal systems depend on the notion of apostolic succession, yet we also see the Episcopal church (which is trinitarian) with priests, and other apparently orthodox groups, having a hierarchical system too. All have rituals of the laying on of hands for bishops, elders and so forth. I don’t think your question looks for a delving-into of the differences and similarities between all those groups, but I mention this at the start to show that the issue is complicated. Even outside of sacerdotal, hierarchical groups, there is “the laying on of hands” at ceremonies of appointment to indicate agreement that such-and-such a person has been called to whatever role in the church he is now deemed as qualified, to begin. I say ‘he’, but once I was in a bus sitting besides a lady who had just started out as minister in the local Church of Scotland, and I asked her why she had taken on that role. “Because God called me to it,” was her simple reply. That did not satisfy me because it isn’t as simple as that – she would have spent years at theological college then, having satisfied her examiners, would have been ceremoniously appointed to be a minister of that denomination with the laying on of hands, but none of that constitutes evidence of God’s calling! Indeed, it is only men who should be appointed as ministers of the gospel.

Jesus spoke of “fruit that remains”, being granted what they pray for in his name, and showing love, as visible signs of his appointment. Even so, given the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers, and the Protestant view that the office of apostle died out with the last apostle’s death, we are left with the biblical statements about the laying on of hands on men appointed to teach and lead, in the Church. Such appointments would bear evidence of Jesus’ approval, as above.

When the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, he was charged to “war a good warfare, holding faith, and a good conscience” (1 Tim. 1:18-20), unlike some other men in the Church: throughout the centuries we have seen their likes, shipwrecking faith, leaving a trail of spiritual devastation in their wake. Paul handed them over to Satan, to learn not to blaspheme, but this is obviously not happening much these days, given the men in various church groups who do not bear good fruit, who do not pray in accordance with God’s will, and who do not show the love of Christ.

In Paul’s second epistle to Timothy, he again exhorted him to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (1:6). “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” and spoke also of the gift of the Holy Spirit that had been committed to him. Timothy was to pass on sound teaching “to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2:2). Prior to that, after the Holy Spirit empowered all the Christians at Pentecost, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). No wonder Jude said Christians “should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (vs 3).

The groups you ask about largely avoid sacerdotalism, fewer others avoid hierarchical systems, and very few seem to deal with teachers who stray from the apostles’ doctrine, which runs into the matter of experience. It would naturally follow that false claims to be appointed as a ‘minister of the gospel’ would result in a falling away from the truth of the gospel, and eventual shipwrecking of faith and truth. As this is what we see in many Protestant groups, the evidence Jesus said of those whom he has chosen (albeit not apostles, but teachers in his Church) is singularly lacking. False teachings have crept in, a corrupted gospel message is proclaimed in many places, and the sheep are often wandering around, seeking sounder teaching, or more satisfying experiences for those who are either spiritually shallow or spiritually dead.

Protestants should not expect “to be gathered by the ministry” of their leaders, but by the Holy Spirit. The gathered church has nothing to do with denomination, but the calling of the Holy Spirit, who also calls men to minister and teach. Such men are evident by adhering to the biblical gospel message, the apostles’ teaching, and being much in prayer, showing love to the congregation. Those individuals who are saved by grace will, as they mature in faith, be able to identify such godly men. They won’t set up a following after them, but value the sound preaching and teaching of the word of God, and appreciate the example of their faithful lives.

There remains a special word of warning for evangelicalism. This was highlighted in an article in Evangelical Times, April 2020, dealing with concern that some evangelical groups appear to be showing cult-like tendencies with some leaders. Pseudo-Christian cults do claim that they are the only organisation God recognises and blesses today, using fear of expulsion to prevent any challenging of the leaders. While that is not the claim of evangelical groups, some are appearing to claim that there might be no salvation outside of their group, or that you cannot be in God’s will if you leave them. In that regard the article states:

“I think of ‘the Churches of God’ (the ‘Needed Truth’ group) – a splinter group from the Plymouth Brethren. It teaches clearly that unless you belong to one of their churches, you cannot be a member of the ‘House of God’ or be counted faithful by God. The charismatic Restoration Movement of the 1970s and 80s taught that unless you were ‘covered’ by one of their apostles, you could not be in the will of God. And yes, I have been told by members of various evangelical churches that apart from their own church, there is nowhere in the U.K. where they can truly hear God’s Word preached. To my mind, yes, that is cult-like.” 2

In conclusion, the apostle Paul warned of ‘false brethren’ trying to bring Christians into bondage, though Christ had set them free. Paul said he and the leaders had not given them any ground, “that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Galatians 2:4-5). Those false brethren were not “walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel” (vs. 14). That is how they are identified as not having been called by God; the biblical gospel is the touch-stone. Do these claimed ministers / teachers remain utterly true to the gospel proclaimed by the apostles, and do their lives show godliness, prayerfulness and love for the brethren? Those who have been saved by God’s gospel of grace should be able to detect the genuine from the frauds, but many just seem to want to sit in congregations and be spoon-fed by whoever claims to be an authentic minister of the gospel. I have known several authentic ministers of the gospel in several denominations during my 40 years as a Christian but I will not name them as they would be horrified at that. They prefer to be over-looked, that Christ might receive all the attention.

1 Karl Rahner, Encyclopedia of Theology, p36 (Burns & Oates 1981)

2 Article first published in the Church Bulletin of Grace Baptist Church, Stockport, abridged for ET. The full unabridged version of the ET article is available from the ET website: http://www.evangelical-times.org

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  • Why did Paul write pastoral letters to Timothy and Titus (naming these two individuals and highlighting them) and why did he not write his 'pastoral epistles' to all the churches together with their elders ? Looking to the next generation, Paul specifically instructs (in writing) two men. And writes to none other in this particular way. – Nigel J May 27 at 15:10
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    @NigelJ It is hard to imagine Timothy and Titus were the only personal, pastoral letters Paul ever wrote. There was, apparently, a letter to the Laodicean Church and possibly a 3rd letter to Corinth. I would say that what we have in the canon regarding pastoral matters is only all that God knew we would need, not all that was ever written. – Mike Borden May 27 at 17:23
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    @NigelJ Just to mention that when Christ instructed John to write to 7 congregations in Asia Minor (Rev. chs 2-3) no names are mentioned, even for the one in Sardis, which has no criticism from the Lord at all. The Philadelphia one has only one criticism, being largely praised, yet the names of those congregation leaders do not figure in the divine record. They were likely known to John but not mentioned in the Revelation. I don't know if this relates to your point but it struck me as interesting. – Anne May 28 at 5:50
  • @Anne The content of the letters to the seven churches is content relevant to congregational members. No elders are addressed, nor are ministerial matters mentioned nor is doctrine referred to nor the administration of the Body of Christ. The pastoral epistles are plainly and clearly a totally different form of communication, addressed to specific, named individuals. – Nigel J May 28 at 21:43

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