Tuesday, August 09, 2005

the liberation of a missional leadership text

On Sunday I began a series on leadership (the sermon is available here, along with some discussion questions for study groups). I am concerned that leadership is often reduced to certain styles and personalities. So I find 1 Corinthians 3:5-4:21 liberating. Paul uses 6 different images to describe his leadership.

Paul has planted some house churches in Corinth (done the “apostolic” thing). Now there appears to be conflict over leadership. Paul continues the “apostolic” thing (perhaps working to protect the missional DNA of this early church plant?), by tackling understandings of leadership. He then offers 6 different images of leader; Servants; Workers; Builders; Resource managers; Cross carriers; Parents. To me this is wonderfully liberating and offers a whole new range of leading.

In honour of Al Hirsch, and in some good-natured Tasman-banter, I am calling this the “SWBRCP” model (not as easy to say as APEPT, and therefore unlikely to be as catchy, I know:)). A few weeks ago, when I wondered aloud about the APEPT model, Alan commented back:
“suspect many of you would not like to be part of genuine missional movements because of your reserve on so many things. How are we every going to change things if everyone is so touchy about basic biblical ministry?”

So in honour of being so “touchy” about being Biblical and missional, I offer the “SWBRCP” model; arising from the missional ministry of 1 Corinthians. For in the wonderful diversity of God, some are called to be apostolic leaders as servants; others as workers, others as builders; others as resource managers; others as cross carriers; others as parents.

Now I am not suggesting that this “SWBRCP” model should have books written about it. Heaven forbid. Rather, I wonder, if given that Paul can suggest both SWBRCP and APEPT, perhaps we are being offered uniquely creative leadership for every different context. I find this missionally liberating.

And for the scholars, my key texts were
Peter Cammock, The Dance of Leadership,
Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth,
Clarke, Serve the community.

Posted by steve at 12:43 PM


  1. Wow
    All those letters!
    How about the SeWoBuReCrPa
    (tho it is difficult to say CrPa without sounding a little rude!)

    (All together it sounds faintly Asian!)

    Comment by lynne — August 9, 2005 @ 12:50 pm

  2. I really like Derek Tidball’s book on NT leadership “Builders and Fools: Leadershp the Bible Way”. He suggests 8 NT images of leadership: Ambassador (2 Cor 5:20); Athlete (1 Cor 9:26); Builder (1 Cor 3:10); Fool (2 Cor 11:16); Parent (1 Thess 2:7,11); Pilot (1 Cor 12:28); Scum (1 Cor 4:13); and Shepherd (Acts 20:28). I especially like scum in our current church climate with its “leadership” obsession.

    Comment by Andrew — August 9, 2005 @ 4:10 pm

  3. But in what sense is this an *alternative* (other-context-ual?) model to APEPT?

    Ephesians 4 suggests that each member of the body of Christ is part of the APEPT gift-mix. The passage you spoke/wrote on speaks of Paul – as an apostle – in terms of SWBRCP, and implies that Ps Es Ps & Ts can also be spoken of in terms of SWBRCP…which are analogies to partially describe leadership, as opposed to gifts given us by Jesus.

    And I’d suggest that the analogies offered in this passage are rounded enough to point to the fact that a P will serve/work/build/etc differently from an E – and so forth – without labouring the point more than analogy can bear by giving lots of particular examples of those differences. That is left to our imagination, under the leading of the Spirit.

    This is in no way meant to be hostile. I greatly appreciate your creativity in developing church community in general, and your tenacious questioning in relation to missional leadership in particular. But I don’t think your thinking in that regard is robust enough yet, and still needs to be pushed…

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — August 9, 2005 @ 8:16 pm

  4. 🙂 good post

    Comment by richard — August 9, 2005 @ 8:21 pm

  5. Mr Dowsett. I am honoured that you have taken on the role of “robust detecter” and “pusher” on this blog.
    Now, I nearly put in this post a paragraph just for you. I thought to myself as I wrote … hmmm, now will Mr Dowsett be aware of the common evangelical, pietist mis-translation of 1 Corinthians 3 – in which “you are the temple” is wrongly applied to individual sin? Or will he be aware that recent commentaries (eg Gordon Fee) stress that Paul’s “you” is plural … and thus Paul is writing to the body as a whole … which would suggest that, like Ephesians, 1 Corinthians is also a text about how the whole body functions, and not just Paul on leadership?

    And if I may push back, Paul in Romans names leadership as a gift of the Spirit. So how can you say that leadership is not a gift given by Jesus?

    Above all, please be aware that there is a fair bit of Aussie-Kiwi shoving going on around these set of posts — all good fun, as Al and I have known each other for a few years.

    But never fear, we won’t be burning any ashes:) Goodnite.

    Comment by steve — August 9, 2005 @ 10:08 pm

  6. Good morning, Revd Dr Taylor! If we are being formal, I’m a Dr Dowsett (PhD, Biblical Studies) – but I prefer “Andrew” (though I know there are too many of us). I’m also aware of the good natured Aussie-Kiwi bashing that is going on, and I hope you don’t feel as if I’m gatecrashing a party. I would declare myself to be an interested party on a number of levels, including Al Hirsch using the church we’ve been part of as an example of APEPT working in practice, and also that we’re about to uproot to Perth on a sabbatical, possibly returning there longer term. I hear it said a lot that the church in Aus/NZ is “ten years behind” the church in the UK (whatever that means!), but I’m very positive about the creativity I see going on down under…

    Now, I agree with you that all these texts are concerned with how the body functions. But, I still think you are treating texts about who we are, and texts about what we do, and texts about how we do what we do, as if they were all the same. Perhaps I’ve got it wrong, and you’re just concerned that we should take the what and the how into account and not just focus on the who, but I’m not sure that that is all you are arguing for.

    It seems to me as if you have walked into a fruit shop, where there are apples and melons and pears – and maybe even kiwi fruit; and you’ve walked up to the apples and said, “Here are five varieties of apple, and that’s great; but they aren’t the only varieties of apple in the shop, and we’re missing out on the variety if we think they are.” And then you walk over to the melons and say, “Look – here are some more varieties of apple…” and the same with the pears. In other words, that, out of concern that leadership is being reduced, you’re simply reducing it in a different way.

    To reply to your ‘push back’ – “And if I may push back, Paul in Romans names leadership as a gift of the Spirit. So how can you say that leadership is not a gift given by Jesus?” – I’d want to at least suggest that if the three members of the Trinity are distinct, with distinct and complimentary roles, then is it not at least conceivable that gifts explicitly attributed to Jesus (Ephesians 4) should be different in nature to gifts explicitly attributed to the Spirit or to God the Father?

    I want to reiterate that my intention is not hostility. But I’m writing out of over 10 years experience of how what Hirsch calls an APEPT model has been profoundly releasing both at individual and community levels for hundreds of church members, as part of a wider set of principles of discipleship that has transformed people from believers to disciples in ways that have impacted surrounded communities; and that are being picked-up on by various denominational leaders, consultants, etc. I think we’ve learnt something important, something for the wider church. I don’t think your concerns are reactionary; but I do think you’re seeing a disconnect where there isn’t one at all. Rather than offering contextualised alternatives to APEPT, I would dare to suggest that you’re simply rounding-out the APEPT model. And for that we should all be grateful.

    With love from the northern hemisphere!

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — August 10, 2005 @ 8:20 pm

  7. Just want to affirm that I agree that St. Thomas Crookes in Sheffield, and the resultant Order of Mission has immense experience in how APEPT works out at a very practical level. It is not just theory and chardonnay chatter going on there. From my perspective, this church demonstrates the power of the APEPT model when it is adopted and developed at the DNA level of ecclesia.

    And Steve, in the spirit of the cross-tasman banter, my comment regarding that some of your bloggers might find real live movements uncomfortable is that the conversation is way too nuanced and technical–thus effectively making it inaccessible to most people. The really remarkable movements in history (pre-Constantinian Church and China for instance) are people-movements and lacked the scholastic nuance that you and others tend to adopt. And hey, before you get me wrong, I am all for nuance, its just that the really remarkable movements are not really into it–at least when it comes to praxis. They just seem to do it. And I know that you think that I am being too simplistic here, but I defer to those movements when it comes to true biblical understanding of these texts–they seem to know them from the inside, and not just as objective ideas.

    I remember one of Kierkegaard’s critiqes of the Western penchant for objective knowledge focussed particulary of Wilhelm Hegel, the master systematizer. He said that “Hegel builds a magnificent tower (his ‘system’) and yet he lives in a hut” I quess there is too much of that in the Western church. Too much reserve! Too much ‘objectivity, too little subjectivity and participation in the truth of the texts.

    And to add to the loving banter, C’mon the Wallabies! May the Bledisloe Cup return to where it belongs! Amen!

    Comment by alan hirsch — August 10, 2005 @ 10:10 pm

  8. Hi Alan,

    (Steve – sorry to ‘hi-jack’ your blog!)

    If we were to get the chance to meet up at some forge event or other, that would be great. I’ll be in Perth from September to December; Hamo has already invited me along to a WA forge event – don’t know whether you’d be coming across?

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — August 10, 2005 @ 10:50 pm

  9. I’ll be there bro–In November. Hamo told me you were coming. See you there!

    Comment by alan hirsch — August 10, 2005 @ 11:44 pm

  10. dear alan and andrew

    as much as we all enjoy eavesdropping on private conversations – have you come across a new emerging church tool called ’email’? apparently its completely un-nuanced, just works in praxis 😉

    Comment by richard — August 11, 2005 @ 12:34 am

  11. Richard – I would stand corrected by you, but apparently it is bad etiquette to acknowledge the prescence of fellow-visitors to someone else’s blog [wink]

    Steve – when I first tried to post my fruit shop analogy above, the comment was rejected by your police-software. One of the fruits I had chosen was a vine fruit, starting with G and ending with S, from which wine is made. Your software found another word within the G and the S, which it found too offensive to let pass…

    …Perhaps Al is right, and you are overly touchy…or perhaps he is wrong, and you do not nuance things enough… [wink]

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — August 11, 2005 @ 4:47 am

  12. wow. a heap of comments overnight. Sorry, I was asleep. If people could keep comments on topic I would be glad.

    Andrew, thanks for the compliment about “rounding out APEPT.” Cheers. And since you’re a Dr in NT, I can presume you have read Clarke’s book, which for me started my thinking. I’d love to know what do you make of the book?

    Al, there seems to be a recurring thread in your comments that I feel is playing the person, not the issue. I mean you’ve previously suggested I am not-biblical, not-missional. Now I’m not-immersed and overly technical. These feel like good techniques for shooting the messenger – ie I don’t take Steve seriously cos he’s a “non-missional, non-Biblical, overly technical.” But I don’t feel the banter is actually advancing my understanding in relation to this conversation. I’m not sure what Hegel has to do with my engagement with a range of biblical metaphors in 1 Corinthians 3. I’d love to know if you could find any resonnaces with Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians within your context of training missional leaders?

    This is not technical scholar stuff for me, it’s what I’m preaching at the moment, as part of an attempt to cultivate a missional environment at Opawa, as part of an attempt to empower people. The feedback to date from people in the pew – IT workers and health professionals has been “hey this is helpful.”

    Comment by steve — August 11, 2005 @ 11:45 am

  13. Steve, I apologize if my comments are percieved as playing the man. It is not my intention to denegrate you at all bro. Forgive me. I have great respect for you and what you have to say. I do not wish to imply at all that you are un-bilical (not sure when I said that) or non-missional (not sure when I said that either.) So once again sorry if people have read me that way.

    I actually was really trying to engage the issue of doctrinal complexity and was refrencing off a comment you made to me about my perspective being too simple. Actually, I have often been accused of being too complex myself. I have repented. And that is actually part of the problem when it comes to stoking missional fires and movements. The problem with always highlighting dostrinal subtlety/nuance is that it makes people (and by extention the church) dependent on professionals. I am more and more committed to simplifying ideas to the point that they become easily accesable reproducable (sneezable really)by just about anyone. Learning how to ‘give it away’ (ala memes)

    Comment by alan hirsch — August 11, 2005 @ 2:24 pm

  14. Hi Steve.
    In the post that generated all this comments, you wrote: “Rather, I wonder, if given that Paul can suggest both SWBRCP and APEPT, perhaps we are being offered uniquely creative leadership for every different context.” And in your last comment to Alan, you asked him: “I’d love to know if you could find any resonnaces with Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians within your context of training missional leaders?”

    These quotes seem representative of a ‘contextual-card’ you’ve been playing consistently. But the way you are playing it looks like you are saying that APEPT doesn’t apply to your context at Opawa, and SWBRCP does. Is that fair, or have I mis-read you? If fair, what criteria lead you to conclude that? (I’m asking as a church leader, not as an academic.) If it is all uniquely contextual, would you suggest that there are church contexts where SWBRCP isn’t relevant? That would be the implication.

    Personally, I’d suggest that *both* APEPT *and* SWBRCP are relevant in *every* context – and, as I’ve already said, that they are different and complimentary, not alternative models/options.

    It is strange to me that we find church leaders arguing that APEPT – and especially A and P – aren’t relevant (I’m not saying you are one of those leaders, but it is a common view), but you’d be much harder pushed to be taken seriously if one were to suggest that being a servant or a spiritual parent was no longer relevant…

    In other words, I don’t think it is contextual, in the way you are suggesting, at all.

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — August 11, 2005 @ 7:12 pm

  15. apology accepted. i’m not sure about the simplicity thing. yes, i agree that their is a danger we make things too complex. yet on the other hand, people are just so much more educated in our culture than the examples you give. so many more people have degrees, and our kids are taught from primary school to think for themselves rather than parrot answers. incarnational mission will need to account for that. a sneeze is, after all, both simple and yet an object of doctoral study as people seek to make it more or less reproducible.

    now are you still cheering for them wallabies?

    peace, steve

    Comment by steve — August 17, 2005 @ 9:36 pm

  16. Andrew, I’m not totally sure what you are saying. Actually I don’t really have deep logical reasons for the choices I make. I could try and sound spiritual and say I was spirit-led. I’ll be honest and say that the God-challenge in my life at the moment is to think less and trust my gut. So it was sort of intuitive and just seemed appropriate.

    One of the thoughts in my gut was that the 1 Cor metaphors apply more easily to work and home. It wasn’t that I compared APEPT to 1 Cor and then chose one against the other. It was just that for where my church community was at, I wanted some metaphors that said – stop looking to one person in the church for leadership and stop thinking this world is a bad place – instead take your God-given ability to influence into every area of your life. And servant and gardener etc do that. I’ve never read anything on how to be an apostle in the work place, but I can relate to being a servant or a builder or a parent. They seem to connect really well outside the walls of the church.

    On Sunday a person came up after the service and said “well I supose you want me to bring some builders tools and put up a wall at the front of the church for next Sunday.” That shows some resonance and depth of engagement from a very practical person who would not have easily related to whether they were an apostle or a prophet or a pastor or a teacher or an evangelist.

    This is pretty honest, and I’d be grateful if you and Al took my sense of intuitive uncertainty amid the sheer lack of time realities of Sunday by Sunday preaching into account when you do your little double tag team routine that you have been doing so well to date.

    PS I note you haven’t answered me about whether you have read Clarke and what you make of him.

    Comment by steve — August 17, 2005 @ 9:51 pm

  17. Hi Steve,
    Your comments deserve a response, and then I shall drop out of this particular conversation, as it was never my intention to tag team you. I read your blog – and have a permanent link to it from my own – because I think you are one of the most interesting voices out there, in particular the creative ways you are seeking to redefine gathered church. You joined in a global conversation re APEPT, in response to Hirsch et al, and I joined in in response to you: no squashing intended.

    Your last comment was really helpful – both in terms of gaining insight into your context and in terms of learning from your experience. Thank you for taking the time to write.

    I’m really sorry you’ve never read anything on how to be an apostle in the work place, and that it doesn’t seem to connect outside of the walls of the church. I can’t think of many books, either, though I think there are a few in the pipeline. Maybe a few of us practitioners should write some.

    Like you – and Al – I am not a theorist: I have many years experience of the realities of leading in a church setting, and of doing other things alongside that at times too. And I could give you many examples of how helping church members realise they are an apostle (etc), and helping them apply that in practical ways, has really resonated with them in a liberating and fruitful way. I’m not sure that blog comments are the place to do that, though – not least because I don’t want to appear competitive about experiences, though I do want to share experiences. Maybe I’ll write something longer in another context, and email you a copy.

    Sorry I didn’t respond to your question about Clarke’s book. I haven’t read it, as it happens. I spent seven years in biblical academia in the 90’s, and don’t often go back. Clarke is at Aberdeen, and I’m afraid that the faith-attrition rate at the Scottish theology departments (most prospective church leaders are required to go through them there) is way too high for me. Nothing personal against Clarke; just the context he’s writing out of. I’m much more interested in learning from/with the “intuitive uncertainty” of guys like yourself.

    Comment by Andrew Dowsett — August 18, 2005 @ 10:11 am

  18. Andrew, Appreciate your encouragements. This post is fizzling anyhow – one of the hassles of the internet is the short life of blog posts. My last comment about “squashed” was only in reference to my feeling quite vulnerable about answering your particular question re motive around text. There are some bulldogs on the internet and it just felt scarey saying that I don’t live triumphant and systematic but actually live intuitively and uncertainly. It shouldn’t be read as applying to the whole conversation that has been spiralling over quite a number of blog posts, which has had some incisive moments.

    If you continue to champion the APEPT thing, I do really think you should engage with Clarke’s book – not necessarily to agree with him, but I think it is some excellent recent scholarship that for me, liberated some thinking around missional leadership.


    Comment by steve — August 18, 2005 @ 11:56 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.