What is the Biblical Leadership Model for Christian Communities?

by fulltimestudent 8 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • fulltimestudent

    NB: I'm using the word 'community' in lieu of the word 'church' or congregation.


    I know what I used to believe about organisational leadership in a community of Christians. 1 Timothy Ch.3 was firmly fixed in my mind. But that letter, attributed to Paul, is thought to have been written in the mid 60s CE. By that time some 30 years had elapsed since the death of Jesus and the formation of the first Christian community in Jerusalem.

    Jesus left no clear instructions (known to us) for the organisation of a community of Christians. So we can only try to watch as the first community coalesces.

    The book of Acts is not an historical document in a modern sense, but it paints a picture of what the author considered important in that first Christian community. In Acts ch. 1, we're told that 'about' 120 people were associating. These associates included Jesus own family, (his mother and brothers - Acts 1:14), which is interesting because during the period of what we call 'Jesus ministry', they are noted as 'not believing.'

    The whole family (most likely) had been engaged in the family business of rural woodworking. Now they were about to make a career change.

    It seems that the Apostles organised whatever needed organising in the first days of the early church. They need to appoint some assistants to help organise a daily distribution (and presumably the prior collection of foodstuffs) of food. Interestingly, none of Jesus own family were selected for the job.

    Luke's account then focusses on Peter, (to a great extent, the rest of the Apostles then disappear from history) and its after Peter is released from a prison, that we learn something interesting about leadership in the Jerusalem church, for Peter after giving an account of his escape from prison, tells the group he's talking to, "Report these things to James and the brothers." leaving us to assume that in the intervening time, James had gained the most prominent place in the Jerusalem church.

  • fulltimestudent

    Ben Witherington III ** comments in his New Testament History, A Narrative Account, that the later*** non-canonical Gospel of Thomas includes a claimed response by Jesus to a question the disciples ask Jesus:

    We know that you will depart from us. Who is to be our leader?

    Jesus supposedly responds:

    Wherever you are, you are to go to James the Righteous, for whose sake haven and earth came into being.

    Gos. Thom 12

    James the brother of Jesus likely died around 62 CE and is considered the first Bishop of the Jerusalem church. However his death did not bring an end to family involvement in leadership positions in the Jerusalem church. Early Christian writers Eusebius and Epiphanius both acknowledge that James was the first Bishop but claim that Simeon was the second Bishop.

    But it doesn't end there - there is some evidence that Jude (thought to be author of that Epistle) and his grandsons played key roles in early Jewsih Christianity and that maybe some of them returned to Galilee and were an influence in the local church around Nazareth.

    So what model is there for us, in this early example of leadership? Very little evidence of a collegiate, it looks much more like the authoritarian 'Bishop,' being the key figure.


    ** Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. A graduate of UNC, Chapel Hill, he went on to receive the M.Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies. Witherington has also taught at Ashland Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, Duke Divinity School and Gordon-Conwell.

    *** scholars date the Gospel of Thomas as being composed as early as 40CE and 140 CE.

  • designs


  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    There were many Christianities at the same time. I assume that each local area developed its own model. My hunch is also that such communities evolved as circumstances required. We know that different areas used different scriptures.

  • fulltimestudent

    Band on the Run:

    There were many Christianities at the same time. I assume that each local area developed its own model. My hunch is also that such communities evolved as circumstances required.

    Scholarship speaks of Jewish Christianity. It must be the oldest model, picking its way carefully through a maze of Jewish customs. Some think it survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, albeit with scattered believers. But Jewish Christianity is unlikely to have survived the brutal Roman suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the years 132-136 CE. The Emperor Hadrian prohibited the Jews were prohibited from entering the site of Jerusalem (except for one day a year) and renamed the city, Aelia Capitolina.

    Babylonian Judaism (i.e. the Jews who did not return to Jerusalem after Cyrus the Messiah gave permission for them to return), became the spiritual centre for the Jewish religion.

    Antioch must have been a strong centre for early Christianity also. That community seems to have been well-organised. (and, we recall that it was that community where label 'Christian' was first used.) It would be interesting to know how it varied to Jewish Christianity? And, were any differences in their beliefs the result of the Jews who became Christians, being differentiated to the Jerusalem Jews, in some way?

    Scholars also speak of the Johannine Christian Community and the Pauline Community. In what ways were they different (if at all)?


    We know that different areas used different scriptures.

    Now that's an idea I have not come across ( that I recall, anyway). I wonder if you have any more information on that point?

  • Fernando

    This is admittedly a challenging topic humans have grappled with since the beginning of our history.

    Autonomy vs control.

    Leadership vs management.

    www.greenleaf.org paints a clear and compelling picture of authentic leadership.

    http://www.gore.com/en_xx/aboutus/culture/ shows there are other ways than hierarchical command and control systems.

    Our idolatrous materialistic passions impede us from understanding transcendent Biblical Leadership which would otherwise be clear.

    No carnal human authority over other humans.

    Humans are semi-autonomous beings designed with an internal guidance system comprising heart, mind, spirit and conscience.

    These work best when we seek and find God on his terms via the liberating gospel of grace.

    We are to be led internally, organically and authentically by the spirit and not the letter.

    Law vs grace.

    Faith vs works.

    Legalism is apostasy.

    Moralism is apostasy.

  • Fernando

    (Matthew 23:10, 11) . . .Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for YOUR Leader is one, the Christ. 11 But the greatest one among YOU must be YOUR minister.

    (1 Samuel 8:5-7) . . .Now do appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing was bad in the eyes of Samuel inasmuch as they had said: “Do give us a king to judge us,” and Samuel began to pray to Jehovah. 7 Then Jehovah said to Samuel: “Listen to the voice of the people as respects all that they say to you; for it is not you whom they have rejected, but it is I whom they have rejected from being king over them.

    (Psalm 118:8) . . .It is better to take refuge in Jehovah Than to trust in earthling man.

    (Psalm 146:3) . . .Do not put YOUR trust in nobles, Nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.

    (Jeremiah 17:5) . . .“Cursed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in earthling man and actually makes flesh his arm, . . .

    (Luke 12:12) . . .for the holy spirit will teach YOU . . .

    (John 14:26) . . .But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach YOU all things. . .

    (1 Corinthians 2:10) . . .For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.

    (1 John 2:27) . . .YOU do not need anyone to be teaching YOU; but, as the anointing from him is teaching YOU about all things. . .

    (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15) . . .But a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know [them], because they are examined spiritually. 15 However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.

  • oppostate

    Paul's Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, by Robert J. Banks.



  • fulltimestudent

    What do you like about Bank's book, oppostate? He's also written another book called, "Going to church in the First Century."

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