Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Extend the Telescope

I've been posting about church leadership, in particular the gifts associated with it and how they come into expression over the life of a church. This post resumes the discussion. We looked at the five-fold gifts in the post linked in the title of this one. In this post we'll tackle how these leadership gifts come into play over the life of a church.

The birth of a church within a culture or even a geographical area begins with the ministry of an apostle, one called by God to establish the church of Christ where it was not before. The pattern was set with the Apostles: they defined by words and deeds what an apostle is and would do in the time after them. The only real distinguishing mark between the Apostles and apostles who would follow them was the qualification of being a hand-picked eyewitness to Christ's resurrection. The Apostles, in that capacity, became the source for canonical witness, which following apostles would rely upon but not be in a position to add to. Much is made of Apostolic (and apostolic) authority today, and certainly they had authority, but I see no record in the scriptures that it was ever derived from anything more than anointing, persuasion, ethos, and consensus. That kind of authority is acknowledged by those under it, but cannot claimed hierarchically in a manner tantamount to a legal claim of subservience and fidelity. A trail blazing founder who would insist upon such authority would establish a cult not the church-- he or she would be a guru not an apostle.

I think it self-evident that an apostle would be a generalist in terms of gifting. He is the church when he starts. All that needs to be inspired is going to have to be inspired through him, hence he will be a jack of all trades. Then through preaching, teaching, signs and wonders others are added to him and the church grows. As it grows, and believers mature, others will step into aspects of gifting for which the apostle was a generalist. Prophets will arise, and teachers, and all manner of other utilitarian gifts. This is what Paul was speaking about in 1 Corinthians 12:28. The ordinals used in this text therefore sketch out the advance of gifts in the extension of the body in a telescoping fashion.

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