Thursday, June 28, 2007

Express the Manifold Grace

An interesting post has spurred me to think about the subject of church leadership, in particular the gifts associated with it and how they come into expression over the life of a church. Despite the relative clarity of the scriptures about the subject, there seems to be a lot of fog surrounding it, so I'll add my two cents over my next couple of posts and hopefully not add any dry ice to the bucket.

Today, almost everyone exercising church leadership is called a pastor, as if the responsiblity and authority of church leadership (bishop/elder) tracked congruently and exclusively with the gift of pastor/teacher. That is unfortunate because I think it clouds the scripture and confounds our practice. I don't see that as what was ocurring in the biblical church, nor is it what is suggested in Ephesians 4. In that passage we are told that leadership could come from any of four (or five depending on your take on the passage) gifts or, perhaps, even a combination of those four/five gifts. All four are are the subjects of the leadership action which prepares God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Properly applied, this passage means a church could be led (bishop/elder) by an apostle, or a prophet, or an evangelist, or a pastor/teacher.

That is, in fact, what happens in practice, regardless of whether or not our theology describes it that way. Although we call them pastor if they lead a church, their true gift is going to make itself known in the execution of their duties. A church "pastored" by an evangelist is likely to stress the invitational message reaching the unbelieving. A church "pastored" by a prophet is likely to stress the revelatory message. A church "pastored" by an apostle is likely to stress getting the church planted. A church "pastored" by a pastor/teacher is likely to stress discipleship.

I think that explains the imbalance we often see in church ministry. Our response to one-sided church emphases is sometimes criticism, but I think what we need is understanding from churches about this reality in the nature of their church leadership, and a willingness from clergy to embrace the giftings of others that can balance their own. I truly do not believe that diversity in leadership gifts is meant to produce handicapped churches, as it often seems to, but instead full-bodied expressions of the manifold grace of God.

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