Sunday, November 30, 2008

Spiritual leadership (5)

Edward Fudge


We have been considering three fundamental truths of spiritual leadership.(1) Spiritual leadership involves lowly service, not legal power. Therefore we must not confuse spiritual leadership with political position. (2) Spiritual leaders exercise grace-gifts from God, not worldly qualifications. Therefore we dare not focus on worldly achievements when choosing spiritual leaders. (3) The Bible identifies gifted people, not legal qualifications. Therefore we should not confuse technical qualifications with spiritual characteristics.

Scripture nowhere provides a single, uniform list of qualifications for spiritual leaders. There are two New Testament passages which people often read in that fashion, written by Paul to his co-workers Timothy (1 Tim. 3:1-7) and Titus (Titus 1:5-9). However, when we read these passages carefully, we discover that they differ in several significant ways. Paul gives Timothy a description of the individual gifted for the episkopes ("oversight," "episcopacy" or "bishopric"), the work of overseeing or watching over other believers. He sends Titus a description of the person gifted to serve as a presbyteros ("senior," "elder" or "presbyter"). Christian scholars differ as to whether elders and bishops served in one position or two in the first century.

These two passages also contain different descriptives. Of the 30-35 traits mentioned in the two lists, only five are the same in Greek. If Paul were listing official qualifications, we would expect his lists to be identical. In addition, the descriptives Paul does give are often negative in form (don't pick this kind of person). The named traits are almost always relative as to quality (no precise threshold given). And there is no attempt to define these sometimes ambiguous terms. Paul is certainly not listing formal qualifications for an office, but is rather giving informal descriptions of those who are divinely gifted for the ministry of spiritual leadership.

Copyright 2008 by Edward Fudge. You are encouraged to share this gracEmail freely, widely and in its entirety (including this final paragraph).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The NT "elders" seem to have had some sort of "official" recognition. (Titus 1:5)

However, in the ecclesia in which I grew up, there were no appointed elders. All we had were democratically ELECTED "Arranging Brethren", who we were carefully taught, were NOT to be regarded as elders in the Biblical sense. We were however encouraged to take the qualifications for eldership into account when voting - but for various "political" reasons NOT everybody always did that properly!

There were of course a RARE few members in some ecclesias, who did have the Biblical qualifications for eldership. They were often NOT Arranging Brethren. When people needed the "services" of an elder, they would seek them out privately. I suspect that many had to go outside their home ecclesias to find a true elder.

I am eternally grateful to have known some of these truly Biblical elders from a former generation, whose example and ministry contributed greatly to my spiritual development.