“Vetting” was originally the use of the shortened term for a veterinarian applied to the action or activity associated with examining a racehorse to determine the animal’s condition prior to it participating in a race. The horse was said to have been “vetted” because of this veterinarian “OK.”
In business, “vetted” means ‘a comprehensive and thorough evaluation of a prospective person or project prior to a hiring or investment decision, something akin to due diligence.’
In politics, the term can be applied to a candidate for office so that the candidate’s credentials and claims do not become a source of distraction or dismissal during the actual campaign especially in the sense that the candidate’s fatal secrets be revealed at a time in the campaign at which fielding another candidate would be impossible in terms of time, money, and political momentum. Vetting is seen as the responsibility of the political party backing the candidate and the impartial media examining the candidate’s viability and validity.
For example, some have said that President Obama was not properly “vetted” by the media because information was not disclosed about him that would make his ability to govern suspect in terms of experience and know-how, or his claims of personal experiences and history were not completely or accurately detailed so that his history was beyond suspect.
Another example is now being discussed with respect to Governor Christy of New Jersey in that his vetting may reveal some difficulties for conservatives if he were to run for President in the next cycle.
Vetting Kingdom Leaders
Examining leaders who are to lead in kingdom functions (the use of the word “position” can be misleading) before they are fully validated is of supreme importance, and that importance enhanced and expanded as the scope of their leadership is enhanced and expanded. The responsibility for vetting does not lie wholly with Jesus: that is, the idea that God will vet kingdom leaders for us and no such vetting is left to the leaders of the kingdom is not consistent with Biblical thinking and specific Biblical teaching.
All kingdom leaders should stand up to scrutiny.
With fire in His eyes, Jesus commends the Ecclesia in Ephesus because “you have examined those who falsely claimed to be apostles and after examination found them to be false.” The word “examined” means “to put to the test to ascertain quality, test character, and see how a person would respond or react, test behavior in intentional ways.”
2 Corinthians 11:13 tells us that some false claims to apostolic function were made in Paul’s day. As well, Paul spent some time in discussion of his own qualifications to function with apostolic authority. “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”
He makes a defense or “apology,” (the use of this term here refers to a discussion that defends a position of thought.) [See 1 Corinthians 9:3.]
Before running away with the concept that Paul is saying that no one but God can examine him, remember that Paul is writing this defending his apostolic function. That is, Paul is making it clear that they should examine those other apostles who are seeking to discredit Paul in order to gain control or position of advantage with the Corinthian church. Paul is seeking to protect them from these false apostles by discussing the vetting process.
Vetting is necessary in kingdom leadership.
In one sense, we understand that there are scoundrels using position and power for nefarious purposes, money, and ego-trip adventures, using the kingdom to build their own kingdoms and meet some inner need. In another sense, we know there are people attempting to be someone or do something for which they are not called, prepared, or qualified. In both senses, leaders should be vetted.
Levels of Vetting
On one level each of us has vetting responsibilities, even to vet ourselves. “Examine yourself to see that you are in the faith.” The term used here refers to authenticating the genuineness of metals and materials. Paul says that a person should know that his behavior in sacred things is authentic.
On another level of vetting, we are each responsible for choosing our influences. That is, we are asked to consider the motivations of leaders by study of their behaviors in producing what they claim to be their assignments. “By their fruits you shall know them” refers to more than ethical and moral behavior but the production of purpose, fulfillment of mission, the life that does what it has been called to do. We cannot be wholly unaccountable for choosing the wrong influences since we are warned repeatedly about poor, false, controlling, and enslaving leadership.
We should able to vet leaders who are spokesmen or representatives of the kingdom for the content of their Message and the motivation of their hearts. We should be able to recognize the heart of Jesus and the Truth of Jesus in their lives, ministry, message, and practice. And, we should be aware of their consistent lives and living.
“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.” [Hebrews 12:7-9]
Vetting also provides leaders the validation of the Body when they are attacked, maligned, criticized, persecuted, falsely accused, and defamed, as they often are. That is, the vetting process provides a statement of validation: “We have examined these leaders and have seen that your criticism is false, and your defamation unfounded.”
How Good a Job Are We Doing?
Jesus seems to make a statement very early in His discussions with the Ecclesia about valid apostolic leadership. He seems to have this on His mind as a first step of providing the Ecclesia with a “state of the Church” address as He walks among the representative churches of Asia Minor in John’s vision.
Jesus repeatedly warned against leaders who would seek to victimize His people in the sense of wolves among sheep (although this can be a discussion of protecting sheep from other sheep as much as poor leadership) and shepherds who are hirelings, people who just do a job for the money.
In our generation, church is so poorly defined and our polity and policy so governed by an invalid and improper definition of Ecclesia, that the fundamentals of vetting leaders could be warped, weakened, or lost. The idea that large, complex and pervasive systems of government will help us avoid leadership dysfunction and perversion has proven to be ridiculously overblown.
One charismatic denomination, by examination, realized that a vast majority of its leaders at the local church level were addicted to pornography! According to Leadership Journal, 40 percent of pastors admit to visiting a pornographic website. The vetting was not working so well, nor is the institution equipped to deal with the problem.
In short, the process of leadership preparation and positioning isn’t very Biblical. Most leaders in the kingdom don’t even have the gift of leadership! In this poorly devised process, the discipling of leaders isn’t even present; therefore, the means or method by which vetting could be accomplished is usually absent.
That is, leaders should be tested at each level of their leadership maturity because their leadership should actually provide leadership!
Then, the leadership should be tested for validity in terms of motivation far more than method and machinery.
Testing leaders is part of leadership preparation, in other words, and a major shift in how we prepare and position leaders is happening. Within this shift, we should make a concerted effort to practice and improve our leadership vetting so that we aren’t caught with revelations that shock the entire Body.