Alister Cameron // Blogologist

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Leadership structures in the NT… not!

Read thru the pastoral epistles numerous times.

Read Gordon Fee re his reflections on church structure and order (mainly as reflected in the pastoral epistles). Also read Stuart Murray (an Anabaptist from the UK) and…

And the point is all three line up powerfully for me on one key point: there is precious little we can deduce about leadership in the church, from the NT documents. Fact is, it’s never talked about, short of some ad hoc statements from Paul when his key concern is elsewhere.

For me the conlusion is that in the NT we are an Eschatological Community led by the Lord Jesus, by means of the empowering presence of His Holy Spirit… and this in a way that precludes the kind of top-down obsession of today.

Fee basically says that you can’t answer our modern questions from the NT – like, “Who’s in charge here?”

I think this is profound. The real answer to that question is that the Lord is in charge, manifestly so by his Holy Spirit, and as such leaders in the church are expressing a particular GIFT, rather than an OFFICE. And that gift is about “caring for the church” rather than “lording it over others”, which is a clear no-no (it’s what the “Gentiles” do, which we don’t!).

I know this is not a prohibition on leadership, but it’s more of the same for me, as far as God’s theme in my life lately has been… that we need to take our dependence and focus on the work and “participation” of the Holy Spirit up a level… big time.

We keep cutting him out of the equation and retreating to a more humanly engineered form of faith and life that is more OT than NT. But the whole point of the New Covenant is that God is here in our midst in an awesome and thorough-going way, by His Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is taking us from one level of glory to the next, doing amazing stuff in and through us, etc.

I see this with the tithe (a leadership favourite!). To me tithe is nowhere in the NT, except (very) implicitly in every mention of the law’s obsolescence in the New Covenant. In the NT it’s about God asking for 100% – a nonsense in the OT, but all that Jesus ever asked for the NT.

More on this when I am not focussed on billiable hours!

One Comment

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  1. Posted 10 years, 7 months ago // Permalink

    From what I see, there are multiple leadership structures hinted at in the New Testament, which has always led me to believe that the early church used what ever structure seemed to be best for their particular situation.

    The modern Protestant church seems to be suffering from a lack of good leadership structures. Most large churches are built around the charisma of the head pastor instead of a structure designed to best suit the church’s mission. In the short term this can help a church grow in numbers and is much easier than what it takes to build a solid church community where the head acts as a teacher, but not as the focal point of the church.

    Leadership is a difficult thing to get right. A lot of churches create a structure that is quickly outdated because of growth or because it relied too heavily on the skills and talents of an individual. As a result you see many churches hitting a glass ceiling once they get to a certain point. Sometimes this glass ceiling is seen as numbers stop growing, but even more often it is seen as the spiritual development of the congregation stagnates.

    Most churches would benefit tremendously by really thinking about leadership–beyond just reading 2 or 3 of the popular books on the subject.

    Doing a lot of hard work in setting doesn’t mean ignoring the Holy Spirit. But the bits and pieces of leadership we see in the New Testament doesn’t suggest that everyone just heard the same thing from the Holy Spirit and everything was easy. There were a lot of disagreements and points where people had different opinions.

    Effective church leadership takes a lot of work and requires much more attention than most churches are willing to give it.

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