Archive for June, 2013

The talk I gave at CHOW is now online, do head over there where you’ll see and hear a whole load of other interesting resources that relate to this topic.




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We’re jumping around a bit as I want to get this post online before the talk tomorrow at CHOW, although ideally I want to make a few more points on the business leadership side before doing the bit on leadership in the church. So this is principally for the benefit of those who are trying to follow slides 12 and 13 in the talk, which will hopefully become clearer later in the series. Let’s start with a word of scripture – Mark 10:42 – 45.
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Slides 12 and 13 in the CHOW talk are essentially two vocab lists. All I am going to do today is to provide a little background and definition and bring in a note on one more leadership word from the NT. In Graham Tomlin’s excellent talk at the HTB Leadership Conference he focused on Ποιμένας "shepherd" and tracked the OT roots of the pastoral motif through Zechariah and Ezekiel, before coming to the iconic John 10:11 and 1 Peter 2:25. I’ll save the discussion of that exegesis for another time.

The other NT words on slide 12, are these:

Διακόνους– servant, waiter, “errand runner” – often transliterated as "Deacon" and read through a Contantinian ecclesiological lens, as a life long order of clergy. I would argue that a better modern gloss might be "that person who regularly stacks away the plastic chairs, or cleans out the tea urn, while everyone else is getting into their cars.
μαθητὴς– student, learner, disciple – a good word for Christian leaders, remembering that we are all lifelong learners, the word "disciple" itself is now probably too religious and archaic to make sense.
δοῦλος – slave, servant – obviously the language of slavery and class makes this a difficult one to use. "Server" is perhaps a better English word than servant.
ἀποστόλους – messenger, envoy – the transliteration "apostle" is just too fully loaded theologically to be useful as a word for contemporary Christian leadership, but in the contemporary context perhaps +John as our Episcopal Visitor is acting as ἀποστόλους?
Προφήτας – prophet – as my friend Richard notes the role of prophet is a key linking role in the plurality of leadership in the church.
Εὐαγγελιστάς – good news bearer, herald – difficult to translate this NT word since as we live in a world post Finney, Moody, Graham, and the televanglists of the modern era. To our ears the word speaks of a short presentation of a "gospel message" of persuasion leading to a "decision for Christ", but it is not at all clear that the NT word refers to such a construct.
Διδασκάλους – teacher – this one suggests one who facilitates learning. Effective learning is a product of environment, questions, dialogue, guided study and skilful teaching.
ἐπίσκοπος – one who watches over, tends attentively. This is another example of a word whose meaning for is influenced by our subsequent ecclesiology. Even where translators seek to avoid the anachronistic "Bishop" the language of overseer, or supervisor, tends to read in a managerial mindset, which is lacking in the original sense of one who watches with attentive and tender care, not one who directs from above.
Πρεσβύτεροι – elder, mature, experienced. We will need another post altogether to handle the "presbuteros = priest" heresy. For now it is interesting to note that the word is virtually always plural in the NT, and speaks of wisdom, discernment and kind advice rather than the sort of authority we saw with "archon".

Slide 13 picks eleven English words that have been used by churches to denote their leaders.

Vicar – “agent / stand-in, representative, substitute, deputy”
Rector – “Ruler, one who guides, directs” “archon”
Dean – “One in charge of ten”
Abbot – “Father”
Priest –”performer of ritual sacrifices / spiritual mediator”
Cardinal – “Permanent assignment”
Canon – “ruling / regulating
Monsignor – “My Lord”
Pastor – “shepherd” , but “Executive Senior Pastor”?
Minister – “servant”, but Prime Minister…?
Reverend – “Honourable / one who must be respected”

Our point is merely that many of these words owe more to the thought world of "archon" than those of the ten words of NT Christian leadership, and the sentiment of the Mark 10:42 passage above.

Finally a note about Προϊστάμενος – Proistamenos. We see this word in Romans 12:8, which the NIV renders:
8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
We also see the word in places such as 1 Thess 5:12, 1 Tim 3:4-5,12,17, Titus 3:8,14 and Romans 16:2. Many translations render it as "lead" (with the exception of the Rom 16:2 occurrence). The word breaks down into two parts; "pro" meaning "in front of" or "before" and "histemi" meaning "to stand". This might lead us to think about the one presiding, or standing at the front of a liturgy. But a better understanding is about someone we set before us as an example to copy, someone we hold in our vision as a model or demonstration of lived out behaviour. This then becomes a consistent reading with our other NT leadership words.
And why does the NIV, along with a good many other translations, balk at using the word "leader" for Proistemenos in Romans 16:2? Maybe its because the example given of this leadership trait is someone the translators cannot permit to be seen as a model of leadership? Romans 16:2 is about a leader of the early church in the strategic port town of Cenchreae. One proven as a leader to many including Paul himself. One given prominence in the list of greetings and commendations at the end of Paul’s greatest letter. Romans 16:2 is about Phoebe.

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Glancing across at the bookshelves in my office I can pick out the word "Leadership" on the spines of over a dozen texts. If I included the words "management" or performance into my search there would probably be over fifty titles on the subject. As a Human Resources Director and occasional speaker and writer on matters of business and people the whole topic of leading and managing people is clearly a hot topic and one which is not settled.

Within the business literature there is at surface level a raging debate. Is leadership about command and control or about laissez faire? Are we trying to make star performers or team players? Is the proper focus the task, the team or the individual? Each book or talk has its own nuance. Some models of leadership focus on the big picture, others on the small details. Some have a degree psychological sophistication, others are blunt and unsubtle. Some focus on leadership as an implicit "pull", others show it as an explicit "push".

Yet across all of these theories there are some common themes. In business it is unquestioned that the leader is someone who gets things done, who makes things happen. Leaders are in charge, and their job is to make others do things. Whether this is by charm, persuasion, inspiration or coercion it is accepted that leaders are there to impose will, purpose and direction. This is also implicit in the idea in Capitalism that the owner of the means of production has the right to direct the labours of the work force – we find it hard to imagine it otherwise.

Before we look at leadership within the church, I wanted to think about the way leaders in business, are treated within the church. I particularly want to think about how highly successful leaders, such as CEOs, Generals, and high ranking Civil Servants who are Christians are treated within the Evangelical Church. My case study for this is the LC13 Leadership Conference recently hosted by the much reported Holy Trinity Brompton Church, known as HTB.

At LC13 there were a great number of high profile leaders on the speaking platform. When they were interviewed several themes came out; (i) it is hard to be a Christian at the heights of the career ladder, (ii) one reason for this is the pressure on family time and church time that having a high flying job requires, (iii) the Christian leader might not necessarily do their substantive job any differently but they will show some key differences around personal morality. These last differences might include abstaining from coarse language, being kindly to one’s driver, avoiding the scandal of a workplace sexual affair and, importantly, witnessing evangelistically so that one’s colleagues know you are a Christian. Those that had reached the top of their respective professions, while keeping to this narrow ethical code were greeted with adulation and celebration, with the success ascribed to the glory of God.

Two things struck me as noticeable, which became starkly evident following Tomlin and Backhouse’s seminar at the same event, the first was that it seems being a Christian made no difference to the substantive decisions made by the executive in the course of their appointment, and secondly, it was assumed that becoming a leader – one who makes stuff happen and takes charge – was not only a desirable thing for other Christians to emulate, but also a sign of God’s blessing.

Anticipating the conclusion of my next post – that leadership in the church is nothing like the leadership of Caesar, or of big business – we have several choices. We could take the view that Christians who work "in the kosmos" need to simply accept the ways of the kosmos and get along accordingly, albeit without swearing or shagging your secretary. Alternatively we could take the escapist / monastic route and leave the world to its own destruction.

But I’m (obviously) searching for a third way. I think it can be right for Christians to engage in worldly institutions and even to accept high office within them, but how we treat them as a church is key. Looking for Old Testament examples such as Joseph and Daniel, is not, I posit the answer. Treating the Christian CEO as a celebrity is not a healthy answer either. We should celebrate the work of all who toil. We should pray, equip, support and ordain all who are called into work in hospitals, schools, businesses and governments. We should especially equip, with teaching and pastoral support those whose roles require them to use coercive power. We should minister forgiveness and absolution to those who have reached the top of organisations, knowing all that is required to get there. We should honour the prophets in our churches who with God’s eyes can see through the charade of organisations and boards opf directors and all the trappings of status, money and power that go with them. And, in anticipation, we can model – in the leadership of the church – such a different way of relating to people and collective purposes, that leaders in business see the poverty of their leadership concept and the emptiness of their management models.

We should certainly avoid the opposite temptation, to make our church leaders into "Executive Pastors" who run the body of Christ like a Fortune 500 company…

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Tuesday’s post "A New Testament View of Leadership" has set me thinking and making connections all over the place, so before I complete my reaction to Graham Tomlin’s talk I’m going to take a little excursus around a few related issues. Before we get to a model of Christian leadership in the church, I’m going to do a reflective piece about Christians in leadership roles in ("secular") business and public organisations. While I’m getting that together here are two excellent posts that struck me as being very harmonious with where this is going.

The first is from the inestimable Richard Beck, and is well worth reading, saving, hacking, sharing and preaching…


This other one from Robert Martin, also I think subtly chimes with the subjects of power and leadership…


Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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Nearly a month ago I attended a conference at which I heard Graham Tomlin and Stephen Backhouse talk about leadership and authority. The post below is inspired by Stephen’s paper on the Kenotic hymn, who took a similar approach to that taken by Erik Heen in his "Phil 2:6-11 and Resistance to Local Timocratic Rule" in Richard Horsley’s "Paul and the Roman Imperial Order" (Trinity Press 2004) – which is well worth a closer read.

Today, somewhat belatedly I’m going to attempt to summarise and respond to Graham’s paper. This will be more challenging as Graham took a much broader scope, and I’m thinking I may need to split this post into two already. The first thing Graham did was striking in its simplicity, but has occupied my thoughts a lot for the last month. He did a simple NT word study on a leadership word, and his finding was so obvious, and yet so neglected it was like seeing something that had been hidden in plain sight.

Tomlin’s simple point was that Koine Greek had an obvious go-to word for leader, that any contemporary reader or writer would have used, and that most NT writers used frequently. The word is ἄρχων "archon", and it is often translated as "ruler" or "official". We see it in many places and here are a few examples:

· Matthew 9:18 – 23, Luke 8:41; referring to a ruler of a synagogue.

· Matthew 20:25 – "the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them"

· Luke 12:58 – referring to a judge or magistrate

· Luke 14:1 – referring to the leaders of the Pharisees

· Luke 18:18 – "a ruler / official asked Jesus; "Good Teacher…"

· Luke 23:13 – "Pilate called together the Chief Priests and the rulers"

· Luke 24:20 – "The Chief Priests and the rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death and they crucified him."

· John 3:1 – Nicodemus is referred to as a leader of the Jews.

· John 7:26 – "Have the authorities really concluded he is the Messiah?"

· John 7:48 – "None of the rulers or Pharisees have believed in him."

· The book of Acts is strewn with rulers, officials and authorities of various locations and levels…

· Romans 13:3 – "Rulers hold no terror for those who do right."

· 1 Cor 2:6,8 – We speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing… None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

· Eph 2:2 – "You followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient."

· John 12:31 – "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out."

· Matthew 9:34 – "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons."

· Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15 – "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."

· John 14:30 – "I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me."

The word archon, is derived from ἄρχω "arche", meaning "first, or beginning" and has the sense of who is placed before all others, the one who holds primacy, or pre-eminence. As well as being a common NT word it is also used extensively in Classical and Koine literature and early non-canonical Christian writings. If we wanted to make some more modern translations we might reach for words such as "boss", "executive", "officer" or the more common generic "leader". People in the ancient world, as much as they do today, have a clear idea of what leadership is and what to expect from a leader. There might be some nuance to be drawn about good and bad leaders, but the underlying concept of someone in charge is well enough understood.

So far, all pretty obvious, but the observation of the truth that had been hiding in plain sight for all this time was the point Tomlin made about all these references…

Not one of them refers to a Christian. Not one of them refers to a "leader" in a church. The various NT writers, at various times, both demonstrate that they are familiar with the basic concept of leadership and equally clearly they avoid the concept – almost allergically – when they are talking about the new community of the Spirit, that arose in response to the resurrection. In the third post in this series I will discuss some of Tomlin’s analysis of some of the words that the first Christians did use for roles within the churches and draw some conclusions around the issues of laity/clergy, ordination and vocation. But for now I just want to stay on this point.

What is the significance of the early church’s rejection of the obvious norms of leadership as reflected in the dominant worldview, well it speaks of a radically different approach to leading people, as seen in these two dicta of Jesus himself…

Mark 10:42-45

Calling [James and John] to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

John 15:15

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Leadership for Christians, according to the New Testament, is not a case of being in charge, nor even a matter of "first among equals". The NT rejects the notion of being first and foremost altogether – at least within Jesus’ alternative community. The implications of this are immense, not least at a conference that bills itself as being about Christian Leadership! I look forward to engaging with your comments and pushbacks!

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