Summary of NT Language of Leadership

Christian leadership is grounded in God the Creator. The clearest revelation of God is in the person of Jesus Christ. The clearest revelation of Jesus is the New Testament. And within the New Testament, the leadership principles of Jesus are most extensively exhibited in the letters of Paul.

When the early Christians were choosing language to describe leadership in the New Testament church, there were three basic models in the Greco-Roman world to choose from; 1) Judaism and the synagogue, 2) the every day household, and 3) the institutions of the Greco-Roman society. Language drawn from the civil, military and business affairs of the Greco-Roman world is widely used in the New Testament in relation to God, Christ, and demonic powers, as well as secular authorities. But with one exception, it is never applied to human leadership in the church. The one exception (proistēmi) has a strong related meaning of caring concern and the giving of aid.

Instead, the church blended the leadership language of the household with that of the synagogue and Judaism. Early Christian leadership language had strong overtones of parental concern, service, divine guidance and delegation of authority. In the earliest church, leadership was charismatic. But toward the end of the first Christian century, appointed leadership became the norm and adopted more hierarchical forms.

The bottom line of New Testament leadership is attention to God’s way of leadership through observing the examples of Christ and the apostles. It exercises itself in loving concern for those being led, with the attitude of a servant. As we seek to learn from the language of the New Testament, Christ-like, servant leadership must always be the goal.

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