Thursday, July 5, 2007

Your Gift Makes Room for You

The discussion about church leadership gifts continues...

If an apostle is the founding leadership gift of a church (in an area or in a culture), as I have purported in earlier posts, we could well say the fledgling church is led by an apostle. What do you call such a leader? To be technically accurate, he would be called an apostle, but as is often the case, a term's definition evolves through use. It seems to me, few places today would use that term, and would instead call him "pastor." We could make a case that once a congregation is established it would be more correct to call the leader an elder or bishop, but then Acts 20 indicates the terms bishop, elder, and pastor are largely interchangeable. Is it possible to describe an apostle as a pastor? Isn't that a confusion of terms since both apostle and pastor are listed in Ephesians 4?

It would seem so, except for a few verses: 2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1; Galatians 1:19; & Acts 21:8. If one takes the Apostle John to be the author of all the Johannine epistles (as I do) and understands James to be the first Bishop of the Church in Jerusalem, a biblical case for seeing any of the five-fold gifts as capable of exercising the church leadership office begins to emerge. The long and short of it-- the office (or even the effective utility) of elder/bishop does not describe the gift that is expressed by the individual in it. Sometimes the elder/bishop will be an apostle (as in the formative stages of church establishment), sometimes a prophet, or an evangelist, or even a pastor/teacher. I think the same kind of thing is true for the deaconate. For leadership, it's the function of preparing God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up, rather than the title of office that matters.

A corollary is that some folk will be gifted in similar ways as are church leaders, but will not thereby automatically qualify to be church leaders. Church leaders are full of the Holy Spirit, tested in service, of good reputation with all, and good managers of their own families among other things (at least at the time they qualify). Some will be more gifted than others. If some are given to these gifts, it follows that some will not be. But be assured of this: when a tempered individual has been gifted in the ways leaders are gifted, his gift will most certainly make room for him.

7/6/07 Addendum:
An interesting take on the subject.