Q&A: Is this “a Comprehensive Pauline Account of Leadership Gifts/Roles?

Original question(s): “Do you think Paul has clearly delimited distinctive roles in mind here? Relatedly, do you think this is a comprehensive Pauline account of leadership gifts/roles? These are general questions about what you think Paul is doing in this text, the answers to which will, I assume, relate to the way you are using the text to answer your DMM-specific question. Watson’s reduction to two categories at the end of the post seems to indicate that you take Paul’s categories to be sort of broad strokes that get at tendencies. Is that fair?”

My Response: Questions and answers always have a context. Greg and I both know that from our life experiences and our efforts to study the Bible. In 1 Corinthians Paul responds to numerous questions which he was asked via a letter that had been sent to him from the congregation in Corinth. Many commentators on those sections have wished to have the actual letter and additional background information so we could explore Paul’s responses in that greater and more detailed context. It is possible some of our teachings from those sections would be transformed by a clearer picture of the specific context which Paul and the Corinthian believers knew all too well.

I personally read Ephesians as a circular letter written for all the churches in the Roman province of Asia (along the coast of modern-day Turkey). While he spent the longest time in Ephesus of any of the places where he made disciples of Jesus and nurtured emerging communities of faith, Paul never refers to anyone there by name. This is so different than what he does in his other letters. I think Paul is addressing a broader context than is true of his letters written to Thessalonica, Philippi or Corinth. Ephesians speaks of “church” in a more universal sense, rather than a more particular sense, in my studied opinion.

When I think of Pauline writing about leadership and gifting, as a whole, I see more diversity than uniformity. Ephesians 4 is one of three diverse passages from his pen that list “spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 are the other two). Laying these three lists alongside one another and it is striking how many different roles/functions are listed. While there is some overlap of these three, there is great diversity.

My personal reading of Ephesians as a circular letter prompts me to see those four or five roles (A.P.E.S-T) as leadership categories which take their unique distinctions from one another out of other more specific usages. Because of this nuanced reading, I often reference “apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral.” While there are people who function fully, with incredible divine empowerment, in these roles, Paul seems to me to be addressing the need for everyone in the universal body of Christ to have exposure and training from all in order for us to be equipped for ministry. Not everyone in the church will become an apostle, but there is some apostolic thinking that will and can enrich their efforts to live out the life of Jesus. Not all will be prophets, but Paul certainly admonishes the people in the Corinthian church to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts” especially the gift of prophecy. While many of us may not feel as out-going (never met a stranger) as someone we think of when we read the word “evangelist,” all of us are to become evangelistic.

In this swirl of Spirit-empowered context, I addressed a specific question, from a specific context where the prophet, pastor and teacher roles are much more emphasized. The questioner is asking “What about those roles? DMM seems to be emphasizing the roles of evangelists and apostles, in working among the lost. What about the roles we talk about being used primarily among those who are already saved? Where are they in the DMM world of thought and emphasis?”

I wrote a response to a more specific question than many of the readers of my blog realized. I posted a link to that article in a social media in hopes that others would click through and consider what I have written. One friend responded at the place of that link, rather than here in the blog. Context matters, greatly. Many people don’t want to dig deep enough to discern the nuances that context can create. They want snippets here and there. Just give us quick easy answers, don’t make us think or dig too deep.

I will explore this further in some additional posts. I do not want to overestimate your interest, even if you have subscribed to this blog.

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