Leadership in Formation

We often talk about people developing into leadership indicating a process of learning, growing, being mentored and ministry formation. I have used the term "finished minister" to indicate that someone is ready to be released into autonomous ministry. This is not to say that all finished ministers are not called to continual growth and learning, nor that the minister operates alone.

I believe that any finished minister can look back to a lengthy period of growth and learning both directly the result of other people and also from the way God has engaged them on that journey. Churches or bodies of christians also go through this process. This is very clear in the case of the church plant where the majority of the church has little experience or maturity and are still working out what church is. In established churches we also see this process when the central church paradigms are changed. While the church may agree with the change it is not yet second nature.

During this process we don't see the kind of organic leadership interaction we see in mature churches or relationships between mature leaders.

· People tend to make mistakes in action, attitude and understanding

· Mature leaders who are mentoring churches or people tend to be much more dictatorial and dogmatic. They often don't have the common ground to be otherwise.

It is important for our understanding of New Testament leadership to realize that practically all the churches and the majority of the Christians are young and immature. Taking many of the examples, from Paul yelling at the Galatians to Peter rebuking the Samaritans, as a norm can result in a picture of leadership that is authoritarian and dictatorial.

1) Mt 10:24-25, Jn 15:14-15

· What is Jesus' understanding about preparing for ministry?

· Does it match the concept of ministry formation and then release as "finished ministers"?

2) Mt 8:23-27

· What stage of the ministry formation process are these disciples at?

· What mistakes in action, attitude and understanding are they making?

3) Mt 10:1, 5-15,11:1

· What stage of the ministry formation process are these disciples at?

· Why the detailed instructions?

· How autonomous were the disciples?

· Was Jesus with them?

4) Acts 2:14

· What stage of the ministry formation process are these disciples at?

· Where is Jesus now?

· How much do they still have to learn?

· How autonomous were the disciples?

5) Acts 12:12, 25, 13:5,13,15:37-40, Col 4:10, 2Tim 4:11, Phm 24

· Was John Mark useless as a leader?

· What stage of leadership formation was John Mark at in each passage?

· What happened to change him from someone that Paul wanted so little he fought with Barnabas to a valuable co-worker?

6) 1K 19:19-21

· What stage of formation was Elisha in?

· What mistakes in action, attitude and understanding did he make?

7) 2K 2:1-8

· What stage of formation was Elisha in?

· What mistakes in action, attitude and understanding did he make?

8) 2K 2:11-15

· What stage of formation was Elisha in?

· What mistakes in action, attitude and understanding did he make?

These three passages about Elisha are interesting in that they only show the very beginning of the journey and the end. In 2K 2 we see Elisha as an essentially finished minister and the process of his release into ministry. Many argue that Elisha went on to become a greater prophet than Elijah.

9) Ex 17:8-14, 24:13

· What stage of formation was Joshua in?

10) Ex 32:17,18, 33:11, Num 11:26-30, 13:31-14:9, 27:15-23, Jos 1:10-11

· What stages in each passage of formation was Joshua in?

· What mistakes in action, attitude and understanding did he make?

· What were the right things he was doing?

Methods of making Christians Excel

A key question facing the workplace today is how to manage the performance of staff. Staff costs such as salary, work environment, superannuation and insurance, are usually the most costly expense in any workplace. This investment in staff can return little or much depending on the staff and the way they are managed. Employers are focused on getting the best return from this investment.

So why am I talking about this in the context of a Christian article? I see the same issues within the church. From a people management viewpoint, a church is a very interesting context. The large part of the human resources, people to do things, is unpaid. Yet a core statement of the Christian faith is that all Christians have been paid for by the ultimate cost of the cross.

This cost has paid for a group of people who range from people who are very motivated and active to people, who I recently heard described as consumers and who I have always described as pew warmers. Around this group of people we wrap things that, in many cases, guarantee them failure: lack of accountability, lack of support, lack of training, lack of resources etc.

This article describes one approach to dealing with issues of accountability and emotional and spiritual support. For a while now the church has been very interested in accountability and accountability relationships. These are seen as very important because they are the basis on which to maintain church discipline – discipline ranging from ensuring that things are achieved, to correct behavior. This can be a very negative approach in that it tends to encourage the person not to do things – don't be late, don't be slap dash - rather than encouraging them to be the best person they can be.

The thing that every church desires is a membership that is self starting, active, spiritual, works hard and adds to the kingdom. In other words every church desires a membership who are actively being the best they can be. Yet there is very little in the culture of many churches to allow people to excel, there tends to be slightly more for paid ministry than lay people but even paid ministry tend to get less than they need.

A church that has people who are less than they should be is incredibly wasteful. Paul in 1Corinthians 12 describes the church as a body with each part a valid and valuable member, each contributing their all to the function of the body. Applying this analogy to many churches today would be to describe a diseased, cancerous body with many vital systems on the point of failure.

Paul makes two things clear in this passage – each member is valuable and each has a specific purpose. It follows that a key area that needs to be addressed in making Christians the best they can be is in the area of their individual purposes. Historically the church has described this as a person's calling or vocation. It is what God made the person to be and do.

Equally important is the understanding that none of us are perfect, each is on a spiritual journey to be the people God wants us to be. Part of helping Christians be the best they can be is to actively work with them and address the areas in their lives that need growth. These areas may be anything from ministry development to ethical behavior.

A third area is things that the Christian is directly responsible for. There may be things that are related to the person's calling that they are also responsible for, but there will also be others. Being a responsible Christian tends to mean that you also end up being responsible for and doing things that have nothing to do with your calling. However without your active, mature effort the kingdom will be impacted. In the past (and no doubt in the future) I have been on church cleaning rosters and have diligently cleaned not because my calling is in wielding mop and broom but because the church's ministry and mission could be impacted by the bad impression of a dirty and messy building.

These three areas of Christian life are easy to think of and identify, it may be that there are other areas that are important in specific contexts. The challenge now is to help the Christian to address each of these areas so that they can improve and become the best that they can be.

Working in each of these areas is intensely personal – they are a subjective measure of the person, presented in the person's view and framework. Each is a key area in which the Christian can excel. Obviously there is a whole tapestry of other things that may have a bearing: training, opportunities, ministry to the person, prayer and study to name a few.

Having identified the areas that need to be addressed, the question is how to make the change a living process. Any of us could sit down and describe our Christian lives in those categories. In most cases we will then file the description and return to our difficult and failure fraught efforts at being the people God wants us to be.

In the sporting world or the world of personal fitness, there is a role called the "coach". The coach is responsible for transforming the desires of the person or team into reality. They use a variety of methods to do this. They hold the team or person accountable for their performance both in preparation (training) and also in the delivery of their sport. They supply expertise in how to achieve the outcomes required. They push the person or team to operation beyond the comfortable. They listen and look after the player.

There is a well known role in the church called "mentor". This role, or title, has many different flavors ranging from spiritual direction through to a more pastoral approach. The role of Christian coach in this context is another flavor of mentor bringing together aspects of accountability, encouragement, wisdom and direction.

In our process of helping Christians excel, we now have the three areas of calling, assigned ministry and personal growth, and the key figure of the mentor-coach. In some cases this is all that is needed and, depending on the maturity and focus of the Christian and mentor-coach, the relationship will achieve a Christian who excels.

In most cases more is required. In the sporting world, the outcomes are very clearly defined: you specifically want to beat all other athletes that you can. To this end you will train and learn skills. It is usually useful to specify the role that the Christian is to excel in. It could be anything and will relate to the calling, ministry and maturity of the person. It may be practical helps around the church building, leading a small group, intercession, arranging rosters or simply being involved in various areas of church life.

I believe that it is necessary to formalize these items. The relationship should be forged in a document describing the role, the parties to the agreement and the items in the three areas that are going to be addressed. There are several reasons for doing this:

  • The document captures the focus and aim at that point in time
  • The process of creating a document makes the relationship formal and helps all parties to take it seriously.
  • The process of creating a document promotes clear discussion and identification of what are the areas that the relationship will be working on.

The document should include one other thing. If the relationship is successful, one would hope that after a time things will change in the Christian's life. Area's identified for growth will be mastered, roles within the church will change as responsibility increases and so on. For this reason the document should identify periods for review. My suggestion is that the mentor-coach and the Christian should get together to discuss, review and celebrate the changes required in the document on a six monthly basis.

This describes some of the formal aspects of the relationship. It is important to note that there are considerable informal aspects. A formal document that is visited once every six months will do nothing to help a Christian excel! The document can only provide a framework in which the real work happens. The Christian and the mentor-coach need to be in relationship. They should be in contact on a regular basis and have the opportunity talk through how the Christian is going in addressing the areas in the formal document. Short term plans – this week I/you/we are going to... - can incrementally move the Christian into excellence and promote growth. Issues can be discussed and the mentor-coach and the Christian can identify solutions.

The frequency of contact will very much depend on the people involved and the current issues within the Christian's life. Even when things are going well, the Christian and the mentor-coach will need to be in contact to maintain relationship. Method and context of contact will very much depend on what is possible and what is desirable. It could range from face to face meetings, chats at church, correspondence or phone calls. The methods should release the relationship rather than constrain it.

One area of discussion between the mentor-coach and the Christian will be learning opportunities. These can range from formal training, conferences, ministry/mission opportunities, books or articles or even someone for the Christian to go and talk to. It may be useful to actually document a learning plan or it may be more useful to play it by ear and look for opportunities.

In the workplace, the employer has a range of responsibilities – providing a safe workplace, providing accident insurance, providing superannuation, training etc. There are also relationship responsibilities that are addressed in a variety of ways ranging from a labor union approach through to consultation frameworks.

Returning to Paul's body analogy in 1Corinthians 12, the church – including the local church – operates based on the activity of its members. The members of the body are supplied and connected to the body. From this, the church has a responsibility to supply the members, to be in relationship with the members. If the specific local church agrees with the statement:

"The thing that every church desires is a membership that is self starting, active, spiritual, works hard and adds to the kingdom."

then that church has to be prepared to enter into a social contract with its members that it will be in relationship with them. The church has responsibilities equal to those of an employer.

Within the local church there is a tension between two poles: that of ministering to the people of that church and that of the people being involved in the ministry and mission of the church. In one the relationship is from the church to the people, in the second there is partnership between the church and the people with a direction to the world. Any church will balance between those two poles. For some it will be more of one than the other.

Local churches that are actively trying to work in partnership with their people will face issues around leading, managing and directing their people – the term "herding cats" comes to mind. The relationship between mentor-coach and individuals provides an opportunity to address some of these issues. By using this methodology as a key discipleship and leadership development tool, the church gets the opportunity to speak into the document ensuring that the things that are important to the church are included and that the Christian is developed in a way that fits with the church's ethos.

This is one side of the social contract. The other side is the responsibility to provide an environment in which the Christian can be released and also to act in a way that maintains relationship. Depending on your implementation the mentor-coach can be a key enabler of this. They can be the church's representative, enabler and resourcer in the relationship. In addition they can hold the church accountable to meet their side of the social contract.

This paper has outlined the high points of a methodology for encouraging and managing performance of church members. If you choose to implement a management process based on this methodology you should be aware that it needs to be done in the specific context. Questions such as number of mentor-coaches required, whether to split the role, privacy requirements and linkage to a local church polity structure have either not been addressed or brushed over.

The methodology is based on current management practice and has been contextualized for the local church.

Culture Change: Riding the Crest

The Theory of Culture Change

A Culture is a delineated group of people who because of group boundaries hold to consistent common understandings and ways of doing things. In turn this group of people can be delineated by their common understandings and way of doing things. They tend to also be delineated by identity - we are the specific workgroup, team, church etc. Identity is to some extent defined by a common value and belief system that in turn defines ways of working and includes beliefs about the best way of achieving things.

A culture may exhibit axioms (core beliefs eg that there is one God), myths ( beliefs that may or may not be true but arise from axioms eg intelligence is linked to skin colour), and ways of working (eg the way to do mission is to hire a hall and an international speaker). At any of these levels - axioms, myths or ways of working - it may be desirable to encourage change ie "culture change"

Self-perception of a culture group is significantly coloured by the shared axioms and myths of that group. In the extreme, shared axioms and myths of the group define an attitude or even polemic boundary between cultures. The Islamic myths of "The Great Satan" and "Holy People" define where the culture group begins and ends. The axioms of religious righteousness and holiness maintain the myths - "Holy People" - that colour the cultural self-perception. A viewpoint external to the culture tends to see a very different view. A western view of the Islamic culture would suggest that this culture is no more or less holy than any other, just different.

Within any culture, there are a number of sub cultures each with their own axioms and myths. The distinction between the term "culture" and "sub culture" is a semantic convenience allowing comparison between the container culture and the contained culture. Sub cultures will replicate axioms and myths of the culture with alterations, additions and subtractions. Often the view of those from outside the culture are that there is very little difference while to those fighting across the sub culture divide, they are strong, vivid and detailed (consider Festus' attitude to the dispute between Paul and the Jews Acts 25:13ff). The political government of Australia forms a sub culture within the Australian culture. During their term of office, that sub culture becomes more distinct as the axioms and myths valued by the Australian culture are replaced by others. Finally the dissonance between the two cultures is so great that a different government is elected. During the opposition period, that same sub culture works hard at identifying and aligning its axioms and myths with those of the Australian Culture. If their alignment is perceived to be better than the current government they may win the election.

One way culture change is achieved is by the conflict of cultures providing the testing of axioms and myths and the survival of the fittest of those axioms and myths ie those most useful. Revival history describes the heavy impact of revival on society. There are many documented cases where pre-revival society was corrupt and failing, post revival society was renewed not just in Godliness but also in ethical and social responsibility at all levels. The axioms and myths of the corrupt society around power, money, greed etc do not survive the axioms arising from the christian culture.

Another way culture change is achieved is by placing a culture in a new context that breaks down the axioms and myths of that culture. Classic liberal theology arose from, among other things, a mix of the enlightenment, evolutionary theory and higher critical method in the mid to late 1800s. The axioms and myths in this culture did not survive the trenches of the first world war. The militaristic, holy war interpretation by many churches of the first world war was exploded by the horror and the grey - rather than black or white - reality. While many men returned home, few returned to the churches that sent them out.

In both cases, culture change is achieved by exposure to influences from outside whether those influences are positive or negative. These influences provide a mirror in which the culture can truly see itself. This process can be from inside or from outside. If from inside, members in the culture go and seek out different viewpoints. If from outside, members move into the culture from a different culture bringing a different set of axioms and myths.

Large change in culture is less likely to occur if from the inside. It can be extremely difficult to assemble and assimilate a set of axioms and myths that are very different from the culture that you are part of. Your culture's axioms and myths will tend to filter and reject those of the other culture. (Mt 7:1-5). Usually the best that can be hoped for is incremental improvement in the same directions that the culture is going.

Large change in culture is more likely to occur if from the outside. The change of context or the addition of another culture that becomes a change agent causes a re-examination of the axioms and myths and their change. This process is inevitable if the change agent - whether context or foreign culture - continues to be in conflict with the host culture.

Change in culture is gradual and elastic, if the push to re-examination is removed, the change may or may not stop. Early in the process, the culture will tend to snap back towards the former set of axioms and myths. Toward the end of the process, the culture will tend to continue in that direction as the changed axioms and myths gain critical mass.

The process of culture change is two ways. A change agent is itself potentially changed by the culture that it is interacting with. The resulting axiom and myths across the culture and change agent will be defined by the relative malleability on either side of the culture interface. Missionaries from western countries can have a very "mundane" worldview. They in some cases will have no place for axioms and myths referring to the spirit world - even miracles and similar phenomena. In this example, their role is to be a change agent and change the culture from an animistic culture that has strong axioms and myths about the spirit world to a christian culture. In that process it is common for the missionary to recapture a christian spiritual set of axioms and myths such as miracles and the demonic. A change agent that has little success in changing the culture but is itself markedly changed can be said to have "gone native".

The speed of change is dependent on a number of factors. The process speeds up as the imperatives to change increase in force and also as the new axioms and myths become useful. The process slows down in proportion to the distance between the axioms and myths of the culture and the opposing culture or context, and also on level of attachment of the culture to its axioms and myths. Australian culture has a strong equality focus on a number of levels, however there are sub cultures that maintain standards of inequality - the redneck phenomena. These sub cultures manage to survive unchanged despite strong imperatives because of the level of attachment and the distance between the axioms and myths of the sub culture compared to the culture.

Culture is changed due to either conflict with another culture or a new context. There is nothing to say that the culture or context needs to exist before the process of culture change. Often, where a leader needs to initiate culture change, that culture exists only in their minds or in their own personal culture. This is the basis of methods of initiating culture change. Often the leader or leaders who are initiating the culture change are described as "change agents".

The Practice of Culture Change

The first stage in initiating culture change is to define the axioms, myths and ways of working that you wish to change and what you wish to change them to. This is easier to say than to do since in many cases while it is clear that there are problems, your descriptions of the axioms, myths and ways of working will tend to be vague because these things are deceptively complex. In addition they are things that are a lot less defined than the descriptions you may wish to apply. A church that operates with little cross relationship, love to each other or consideration, that instead is highly divisive and political may have a description of the current culture including a lack of christian love, a lack of christian community etc. The target culture that you wish to move that church to is equally difficult to describe and you may use terms like: being a people of grace, being in community, having Christ's love for each other etc. In both cases, the descriptions barely indicate the outline of the shape of the cultures in question rather than truly defining them.

A written description of both cultures - the current one and the target one - may be useful in the actual process of culture change, however much more important is that the person who is working the change have a very clear understanding of both, even if every time they describe the cultures they use a different description.

The next question to answer is what are the imperatives that will force the culture to address the new axioms, myths and ways of working? There are many that can be used depending on the situation but the following are examples:

1) The Axioms and Myths of the Old Culture: Frequently the actions of members of a culture don't match axioms and myths of that culture. Churches tend to maintain the axioms of christian behavior and the myths that they largely comply. If a church has fallen into bad community practices of judgment, blame, division, gossip etc, one option is to restate the axioms and myths and point out the discrepancy. It takes judgment in deciding how to make the restatement. There are times and contexts for a strong statement and also times and contexts for encouragement and anything in between.

2) Stated Direction or Purpose: A culture contains dreams and visions, directions for the future. Frequently the culture must change to achieve those dreams. The linking between the achieving of an objective that the culture wants with changes to that culture can be a strong imperative. If we revisit an example above, the Australian Government has just lost power because its culture is not aligned with the Australian culture. The political party has as a dream and vision, that of gaining government. To gain that objective they will need to undertake culture change to align again with the Australian culture.

3) Statement of Context: The contexts in which a culture lives are subject to change. Changes required to adapt to a new context for either survival or some other motivator can be driven by that new context. Prior to the Second World War, Britain was unprepared in either a military sense or a culture sense. The culture was focused on surviving the depression. Survival in the new context of war required a shift in axioms, myths and ways of working to channel resources into the war effort rather than the comfort of the population. It was the marketing that Britain carried out at a number of different levels that caused that culture change.

4) Various Power Bases: A description of power bases can be found here. If you have strong legitimate power - ie power from position eg you are the boss - you could require culture change based on that power. Another example is the peer christian leader who has legitimate power in that they are equal and can use relationship power to push a different viewpoint.

The third step is to begin to state the new axioms and myths in a manner that links in the imperatives you have identified. It is important to state them on two levels: the visionary and the specific. A strong element of culture change is aligned with vision leadership. Culture change is a journey from where the culture is today to where you want it to be - we are going to be a professional client service organization because otherwise our competitors will steal all our clients.

The new axioms and myths should also be stated at the specific level - 'We are going to be a professional client service organization which means that we should no longer describe our clients as "unfeeling grasping dolts"!' The comparison of current axioms, myths and ways of working are shown in contrast to the new culture clearly identifying the change required.

Expect that you will have to continue to restate the new axioms, myths and ways of working at both levels. Remember that culture change is elastic. It feels like nailing jelly to the wall: until there are enough nails in, it doesn't stay there. There should come a point though when it starts getting easier.

While I have said that you must state the new axioms and myths at both the visionary and the specific. There is a second dimension in that you will need to state them in multiple different ways - verbal, written, action etc. The more ways of stating the new culture the better. Each different way that you can use will add a different texture to the message and allow better understanding. Remember that even the best verbalization fails to capture all the complexity of a new culture. Communicate an expectation that the new culture is already in place - act like it is, operate according to it and finally be surprised when it isn't.

There is a general principle in education that if a lesson is not challenging then the student will not learn much and become bored. If it is too challenging the student will not learn at all because they will just avoid the challenge. The best results are from a lesson that is challenging enough to extend and engage the student but equally is achievable if the student applies themselves. This principle is equally germane to the process of culture change.

While the visionary level of communication may be about the final destination, the specific communication must be tailored to what the members of the culture can or will achieve. The change agent should specifically choose the distance that they believe that the culture can move at one time. The choice of distance will depend on the strengths of the imperatives as well as the change agent's judgment about the optimal distance that a culture can move. If the imperatives are strong - "You will lose your jobs unless..." - then the distances chosen can be larger than where imperatives are weak - "You will really please me if...."

In choosing what to work on in culture change, recognize that, like any major process, it is important to choose which aspects to concentrate on. For those undergoing culture change, it is a difficult and complex learning task, especially since the actually learning outcomes are poorly defined. Trying to address all aspects can have the same result as choosing a distance that the members of a culture cannot achieve.

If the change agent chooses the optimal number of aspects and the optimal distance to move at one time, the change agent will enter the sweet spot of culture change. Like riding the crest of the wave, the culture will move steadily and faster than either a more aggressive or less aggressive approach.

For the members of a culture, the process of culture change is uncomfortable, just as any growth or learning process can be uncomfortable as the student is stretched. This in turn can cause tension between the change agent and the members of the culture. The change agent should both expect this and also have strategies in place to deal with it.

The process of culture change is not to be embarked on by the faint of heart. It can be hard work for both the change agent and the members of the culture. At times it is difficult to see any progress, at other times it is amazing the distance traveled. The process of culture change is potentially very rewarding as the change agent begins to see real progress from a poor set of axioms, myths or ways of working to those that match where the culture needs to go.

'Elder' in the Old Testament and New Testament

In many christian traditions, the role of elder is central to the general governance of the church. Different traditions have different understandings of what an elder is from administration or management to spiritual direction and oversight and also some traditions see this as a lay role and others an ordained role. No matter what the understanding all churches link their office of elder to texts within scripture. Since eldership is so important in the life of the church, I offer a general examination of the term "elder". The references below are in no way exhaustive. They were chosen to demonstrate the general feel for each word.

Before you begin, identify how your church defines elder, it might be helpful to use the categories I used above:

administration or management

· spiritual direction and oversight

· lay role

· an ordained role

I suggest that unless this material is of special interest or application that you choose a selection of these passages. Y

1) Elder: Zaqen - Old, Aged, Bearded

a) Ex 17:1-7

· What is the role of the elders?

· Is their role secular or spiritual leadership?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

b) Ex 19:1-8

· What is the role of the elders?

· Is their role secular or spiritual leadership?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

c) Lev 4:14,15

· What is the role of the elders?

· Is their role secular or spiritual leadership?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

d) Num 22:4,7

· What is the role of the elders?

· Is their role secular or spiritual leadership?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

e) Deut 21:1-9,19-21

· What is the role of the elders?

· Is their role secular or spiritual leadership?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

f) Num 11:10,14,16,24-30

· What is the role of the elders?

· Is their role secular or spiritual leadership?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

How well does this picture of elders match your conception of eldership in the church? My view is that this picture is of part of the secular government of Israel. In the last case they step beyond that. This is largely not sustained. The Elders tend to represent the people in witnessing and ceremonial occasions. In addition they are the investigators and judges for their society's laws.

2) Leader/Ruler: sar - Officer, Controller

a) Ex 18:13-26

· What is the role of the leaders?

· Is their role secular or spiritual leadership?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

These leaders were probably drawn from the elders.

3) Elder presbuteros - Elder, aged person

a) Matt 15:2, Mk 7:3-5

· Who were the elders who created the tradition?

· Is this eldership as we practice it?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

The traditions of the elders were the written framework of righteous living developed over the previous 2-300 years by the pharisaical movement. The pharisees were a lay movement - an attempt at reformation of the jewish religion. The elders were the scholars, the examples.

b) Matt 26:47,57,59

· Who were these elders?

· Is this eldership as we practice it?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

The Sanhedrin was the government of the Jews. It was made up of the High Priest, the saducees and the pharisees-a total of 70 elders. The saducees were the high priestly party made up of the families and the friends of the high priest. They were generally outward looking and concerned with ensuring that they survived and had status in the Roman Empire. They tended not to be very spiritual. The pharisees on the other hand were attempting to fulfill what they saw as righteousness.

c) Acts 20:17, 28-32

· How do these elders practice their eldership?

· Is this eldership as we practice it?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

d) 1Tim 5:17-25

· What things do they do as elders?

· Is this eldership as we practice it?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

e) Titus 1:5-9

· What are the qualities of an elder?

· What is the role of an elder?

· Is it eldership as we practice it?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

f) 1Pet 5:1-4

· What are the qualities of an elder?

· What is the role of an elder?

· Is it eldership as we practice it?

· Are they aligned with God's vision?

In both the Titus and Peter passage there is some indication that elders were essentially the ministers of the churches. There is an emphasis on preaching and also on pastoral care. Peter the Apostle also calls himself an elder.

4) Bishop episcopos - Overseer, Superintendent.

a) Phil 1:1

· What is the difference between an elder and an overseer?

· Who governed the church?

· How many of them were there?

b) 1Tim 3:1-7

· What is the difference between an elder and an overseer?

· Who governed the church?

· What qualities were necessary for an overseer?

· How many of them were there?

c) Titus 1:5-9

· What is the difference between an elder and an overseer?

· Who governed the church?

· What qualities were necessary for an overseer?

· How many of them were there?

At this stage we see that there is very little information about a ministry of eldership as we currently practice it. We have looked at some words that people have traditionally linked with this ministry. In the passages we have examined there is nothing compelling to link those offices or passages to eldership as we currently practice it. The passages in some cases, are very useful in describing the qualities that should be evident in a leader's life and ministry. Having said that "Does this mean that eldership as we currently practice it is wrong?" I take a very pragmatic view of governance structures. The short is that if elders, as your church describes them, enable the church to advance the kingdom of God then we should continue to have them.

Sources of Power for Leadership


In many management texts they supply an analysis of the power bases that people work from in management. One such is:

(Quoted from Lloyd S. Baird, James E. Post & John F. Mahon Management - Functions and Responsibilities Harper & Row 1990)

Legitimate Power: i.e. authority from a position - supervisor, boss etc

· Referent Power: power from a compelling personality - the secular charisma

· Coercive Power: power from a threat or the barrel of a gun

· Reward Power: If you do something I will give you something e.g. a bonus, pay rise etc

· Expert Power: you believe someone and do as they say because they are an expert.

To these we add:

Spiritual Power: power from the gifts of leadership

· Relationship Power: You do something because of the relationship

The question that has to be asked is what power bases are legitimate for Christian ministry? Which power bases are you comfortable with being used in the church? Why?

a) Coercive Power: This base has little place in the context of Christian ethos or ethics. It is hard to see the use of threats as a legitimate leadership tool. However this is heavily used in some churches to control paid ministry and also in general church politics.

b) Referent Power: Again this base has little place in the context of Christian ethos or ethics. Christian leadership is not about achieving an end by projecting personal charisma or personality.

c) Reward Power: This base has very little place in Christian ministry. It may be used on occasion in relationship based ministry such as mentoring or counseling but mainly as an adjunct to other bases.

d) Legitimate Power: This base has been heavily used in the Christian church through the ages. I would suggest that it should be rarely if ever used. The issue is not whether it is ethical but its use demonstrates the failure of the leader to achieve their purpose. A situation where legitimate power is the solution indicates serious issues with the protagonists of that situation. There is a lack of relationship, maturity or righteousness on one side or both for fiat to be the only option to achieve an end. However in some relationship based ministries as a teaching or healing tool it can be very effective as one of a range of tools.

e) Expert power: We use this base heavily week by week as the preacher preaches for example. For christian use though the expert needs to leaven the base with a modicum of humility.

f) Relationship Power: This is central to the Christian ethos. Serving one another, expressing love to one another. In fact the christian ethos goes beyond this to extending love and care to those outside relationship. As with all bases this one too can be abused in the kind of manipulation that we can all identify.

g) Spiritual Power: Obviously legitimate but the temptation is to rely on another power base rather than this one. In addition it can't be faked.

Stepping beyond the power bases there is another observation that can be made. There is a sense in which having to push to achieve ends by Christian leadership is false. The attempt to push to achieve ends - a real temptation - tends to lead us back to the illegitimate power bases. Instead Christian leadership is about having a part in, enabling or facilitating God achieving his ends. As such there is a sense of rest, effortlessness - although from personal experience when I have hit close to this ideal it has been very hard work in other senses.

The following passages give some examples of the various powerbases in use:

a) 1Kings 18:7-20

There are three characters in this passage: Elijah, Obadiah and Ahab. Both Obadiah and Ahab respond to Elijah in interesting ways. Obadiah shows awe and Ahab shows hatred. However in both cases they end up doing exactly what Elijah wants despite having good reasons for ignoring him: Obadiah  - fear for his life, Ahab - hatred. Elijah is outside the structure and so can only be operating out of spiritual power.

b) Acts 5:40-42

The council or Sanhedrin was the Jewish government. Their approach to the Apostles was to threaten. Thus they were operating out of legitimate power and out of coercive power.

c) Acts 5:1-10

It is fascinating to observe that Peter in his dealing with Annanias and Sapphira is almost gentle and yet the results are spectacular. My vote would be spiritual power

d) Acts 5:33-40

Gamaliel cut across the argument and the desires of the Sanhedrin or council because he was a respected scholar. An expert in the Law and one who lived it. He was operating out of expert power.

e) 1Cor 5:1-5, 2Cor 2:1-8

The first passage has Paul, the founder of the Corinthian church and the top leader passing judgement by using legitimate power. The second passage has the same Paul appealing to the church to act on the basis of relationship power.

f) Philemon 10-19

In this short epistle, Paul pleads for the run away slave Onesimus on the basis of his relationship with the master Philemon.

g) 1Pet 5:1-5

Peter appeals to the elders on the basis of his relationship with them thus using realtionship power.

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