Leadership structures in the church are always shaped by their context. This was true in the 1st century with Paul, the 2nd century with Irenaeus, the 3rd century with Cyprian, the 4th century with Athanasius, the 6th century with Pope Gregory I, the 9th century with Pope Leo III, and the 21st century with a host of denominations in America (and the rest of the world). Although many Christians, throughout history and throughout the world, could probably find some form of biblical justification for their leadership structures, there is a reason that most leadership structures in America today look either like a business with a board of directors or a democratic republic. This is not something I think we should lament. There is no getting back to the Bible or the early church, at least not by direct imitation.
Instead, the question we need to ask ourselves is this: how can the leadership structures of the church be normed and shaped by the gospel and the apostolic testimony in scripture? How can we infuse them with the cruciform life of Jesus? How can they embody the power of Jesus' resurrection? Once we ask ourselves these questions, we might need to transform our current leadership structures (likely borrowed from our context or someone else's) into something new. Or, we might need to scrap them and start all over. Or, they might only need tweaking here and there. It just depends on the structure and to what extent it needs redeeming. Regardless of the structure, though, we need to shift our conversations away from "the biblical model of leadership" or "the leadership structure of the early church" or (as many discuss today) "the most effect leadership structures in business and government," and start reflecting deeply on the best way to embody the death and resurrection of Jesus in our leadership structures in our context.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Garrett East on Leadership Structures in the Church
Things are busy these days, what with final application matters, final papers, final traveling arrangements and SBL plans, so I will continue with my trend of quoting wholesale my brother Garrett's wonderful and ongoing insights: