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Leadership and the People of God PDF Print Write e-mail
Sunday, 18 May 2008 15:49

washingfeet.jpgRecently there has been a lot of dialogue on the role of leadership. What is this thing called leadership? Who leads? Who follows? What difference does it make? Who cares? The question of leadership always leads into a lively debate. The great urgency always comes down to-who the heck is in charge around here?

My intention here is to share some of my thoughts on the role of leadership.

The role of leadership will be communally oriented, meaning it will not stand outside the context of the community, but rather will be Spirit-led from within the community. The purpose of biblical leadership is to serve, nourish, sustain, shape, and equip a community of people who will routinely demonstrate, announce and embody the purpose and direction of God.

Gordon Fee has been a big help to me regarding leadership. "Historically the church seems to have fallen into a model that eventually developed a sharp distinction between the people themselves (laity) and the professional ministry (clergy), reaching its sharpest expression in the Roman Catholic communion, but finding its way into almost every form of Protestantism as well. The net result has been a church in which the clergy all to often exist apart from the people, for whom there is a different set of rules and different expectations, and a church in which the "gifts" and "ministry", not to mention significance, power structures, and decision making, are the special province of the professionals. Being "ordained" to this profession, the later tend to like the aura that it provides, and having such ordained professionals allows the laity to pay them to do the work of the ministry and thus excuse themselves from their biblical calling. He goes on to say that the model would look something like the clergy sitting outside the context of the gathered community. For instance, think of clergy being in one circle and the laity in the other with the clergy standing over the laity.
Fee goes on to illustrate a biblical model that looks something more like one circle- without clergy/professional at all, but with identifiable leadership ("gift's") who were simply part of the whole people of God. No separations, all are a part of the whole people of God

As we go back into the story what we see in the old covenant is the king and priests in particular who were recognized as having an existence apart from the people with their own set of rules and expectations. It is precisely this model of leadership that breaks down entirely in the NT. The basic reason for this is the lordship of Christ himself. Christ himself has now come down to dwell among us—he is king. As God intended himself to be king over Israel, so Christ has come as God's king over his newly constituted people. Christ is the head of the church, all others, including leaders, "function as parts of the body." (Eph 4.11-16)

Biblical leadership challenges the us/them paradigm. The Spirit has come upon all believers. We have been immersed in the same Spirit. There can be no kings or priests in the new social order, there can be no "us" and "them", mentality. There is no elite body of insiders, no first class or second class citizens. No distinction of any sort i.e., rich or poor, male or female, or for that matter clergy or laity, professional or laity.

This is not to down play the role of human, Spirit-led leadership, (we need it) but to define it and sets its limits of power, authority and governance. But, rather, it is to recognize that leadership in the NT is seen as part of the whole people of God, never as a "group" unto "themselves," essential to its well being, but governed by the same set of "rules." They are not "set apart" by "office", but rather their gifts are a part of the Spirit's work among the whole people, functioning as apart of the community using his or her own gifts to help prepare the community for its mission to itself and for the sake of the world. "Gifted" to do so as one "gift" among others in the body...each one being celebrated—no one "gift" looked upon higher than the other—each one looked upon as valuable for the formation of a people who's vocation is to bear God's image and likeness to the world.

Leadership exists for the sake of the people. Leadership is not for someone's own personal advancement or pleasure, on the contrary, that is the very antithesis of community. Leadership is to be seen as service, as a gift to the body, given to, or better, through the individual for the common good of the community.

For Paul, leadership in Ephesians is a function/task (Ephesians 4.11-16) especially "to prepare God's people ("the saints") for works of service ("ministry") which seems to emphasize the formation of God's people so that they can lead a life worthy of the calling to which they (including leadership) have been called, so that the body of Christ may be built up."

Questions to reflect upon

As soon as we separate ourselves into some sort of class or office, or special position, the result becomes a potential breeding ground for pride, love of authority and lack of accountability. When this happens the result is death to community. Do you see yourself sometimes following into this mentality? Yes/No? Reflect!!!

Can you imagine a lifestyle in which we lead from within the community, not above it, or outside it? How does it make you feel to think of "gifts" as a function and not an office?
by Mark Priddy




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