Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Biblical leadership

Further to my post on APEPT, let me quote Clarke…

church life in each of these communities [eg, Corinth, Romans, Phillipi, Thessalonians, Galatians, Philemon] varied considerably. As social groups, these churches did not fit neatly into a uniform, theological schema of Paul. It is also clear that each of these social groups was also part of the broader society in which the early Christians lived. They were, accordingly, influenced by the patterns of leadership which prevailed around them.” Clarke, Serving the community of God, p. 207.

“Although the early Christians had a range of models of leadership or community organization available for them either to adopt or adapt, it becomes plain that Paul associates himself with none of these. Instead, his perception of the nature of leadership within the Christian church derives from his understanding of the unique nature of the Christian church, and the basis on which that community is founded.” Clarke, Serving the community of God, p. 209.

My point is simply this ; APEPT is one of many New Testament ways of leading. And so I ponder; Why are we taking Ephesians on leadership and not say Thessalonians on leadership … lead a quiet life … work with your hands or Phillipians on leadership … live as citizens? Perhaps we are reading the Biblical text rather than letting the Biblical text fully read our leadering?

Posted by steve at 05:38 PM


  1. Because Paul in Ephesians means that we take APEPT as foundational and not just incidental to the health of the church. Ephesian’s 4 is all about organic health and fruitfulness in the ecclesia. Without APEPT he says we cannot mature or grow up into waht God intended. The other stuff you refer to is more about the ethics of living appropriately, and not about leadership per se. However, insofar that these direct Christian living, they shoudl direct leadership as well.

    Actually as you might know Steve, I think the Eph 4 passage applies only secondarily to leadership. Primarily is is about essential callings within the faith community. Leadership as such is a ‘calling within a calling.’

    Comment by alan hirsch — July 26, 2005 @ 6:20 pm

  2. Hi Steve,

    I don’t mean to be pushy but I’ll ask again, why do you think Ephesians 4 is about/a model for LEADERSHIP? Paul doesn’t refer to leaders or leadership positions there. I agree with Alan: it’s about how all the members of the body should work together.

    Paul writes about leadership positions/qualifications etc elsewhere, and uses completely different terms. But I’d suggest that’s because he is talking about completely different things, not offering alternative, contextual, leadership models…

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — July 27, 2005 @ 8:58 am

  3. Just to note that when I use the term leadership, I am using it to describe influence not role. We are all leaders, we all have the ability to exert influence. So leadershp is living.

    Trying to work the debate by worrying about definitions over “leadership” or “living” seems to me to be neither here nor there. I have still not been told why one Biblical text is being privileged over another.

    My take is this is what I said in my original comment … that Paul is contextual and leadership and living are contextual. To privilege one text is to miss the missional vibrancy.

    Does this mean I’m not biblical? … no, the opposite, I’m biblical enough to want to consider all the texts.

    Does this mean I’m not missional, or don’t believe in Apostolic? Again, quite the opposite, I just want to take the DNA out of apostolic by saying, hey, we need creative, mid-wiving, out of bounds thinking (sorry, couldn’t resist the book pun).

    Comment by steve — July 28, 2005 @ 11:18 am

  4. Hi Steve,
    Just wanted to say, I don’t think you’re mad, or bad, or any other pejorative term…
    But I do see things differently, and I do think the debate is worthwhile, because all of our understandings – even Hirsch’s [wink] – are provisional.

    I still think you’re not comparing like with like. It seems to me that Ephesians 4 is talking about something fundamental about our nature or personality, given to us as a gift from Jesus, so that we can be a gift to his body and through his body to the world. On the other hand, it seems to me that other passages – such as Thessalonians on leading a quiet life, and Philippians on living as citizens – are talking about lifestyle, how we should live.

    These two things are not the same (as in, comparable, contextual models); and so it isn’t a case of “either/or/or something else” depending on our context. Rather it is a case of “both/and/and” – this is the part Jesus has given you in the body (Ephesians 4) and here are the ways in which you should exercise that (lots of other passages).

    Am I making sense here? And if I am, how would you respond? I think it addresses the – problematic – idea of priveleging one text over others…

    Keep asking those difficult questions!

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — July 28, 2005 @ 10:17 pm

  5. Quite happy with the provisional tag!

    Comment by alan hirsch — July 29, 2005 @ 5:18 pm

  6. Larry Kreitzer (teaches NT @ Oxford) says on Eph 4 passage “Popular attempts to compose a comprehensive list of ‘spiritual gifts’ by harmonising the three scriptural passages (1 Cor 12; Rom 12; Eph 4) and then encouraging interested Christians to discover their particual gift are misguided and potentially destructive to life within the church. I remember some years back running across a popular book entitled “19 Gifts of the Spirit and How to Find Which One is Yours” which seemed to turn the whole exercise into a gigantic easter-egg hunt. This is far from the spirit of the passage which focusses on the graciousness of God and the bounty of his provision for the life of the church.” Is this some of your fears Steve? And is the issue of interpreting the passage linked also to issues of when Eph was written (e.g. 2nd generation or 3rd generation) and what the church situation was? Was it written much later by “Paul” and to a church that was facing the issue of settling down in the world for the long haul (delayed parousia)? Also a church much more interested in structure and fitting into societal structures (e.g. the use of the household codes). Do EPT follow (or are put alongside) AP to give authority to them in the (3rd generation – post apostolic) church? Therefore as Steve says the type of leadership roles put forth suited the context.

    Comment by Andrew — July 30, 2005 @ 9:50 am

  7. I’d agree trying to harmonise the lists is a mistake – but because I’m not convinced they are “like for like”. 1 Cor 12 and Romans 12 address very specific contexts.

    1 Cor 12 addresses the gathered meeting of the church, and how to engage in corporate worship. Paul speaks of the “dancing hand” of the Holy spirit moving across the gathered body and giving gifts, such as a prophetic word, tongue or healing, to different people as the Spirit sees fit. So, in the context of worship, any gift may be given to any believer for that context – making trying to identify which “one” gift is “mine” (as opposed to the Spirit’s!) pretty dumb.

    Romans 12 addresses a divided community, and seeks to encourage sacrificial service to each other using those gifts we seem to be given on a regular, repeated, forming way – some examples are given – while not wishing we had been gifted differently. In this context, it makes sense to be aware of your gifts, so you can exercise them, with contentment. This is as far from an easter-egg hunt as I can imagine.

    But in Ephesians 4, Paul – I subscribe to Paul’s authorship – isn’t addressing a particular church context at all. It is a broader, circular epistle, about the Church for the Church. In this context he writes about gifts of Jesus (as opposed to the Spirit or God – I wonder whether the gifts of different members of the Trinity have different purposes?); gifts which are people (as opposed to abilities). This is very different from the other passages.

    I’d suggest that Ephesians 4 is about *who* you are, and Romans 12 & 1 Cor 12 is about *how* you relate to others.

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — July 30, 2005 @ 7:22 pm

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