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.

Follow-up Questions

Today I will be posting some questions which my last blog post prompted. They come from my friend, Greg. We go to church together and have talked about DMM on multiple occasions. Greg has some concerns about aspects of DMM and I appreciate him and his heart for truth and making disciples. He posted the following questions on my Facebook wall, where I had shared a link to my previous blog article, https://dmmcoach.com/2021/09/09/what-about-the-other-gifts/. If you have not read that article, yet, Greg’s questions will be more meaningful if you read it first.

Thanks, John. Various questions arise. We can talk in person if commenting becomes ponderous.

1. 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?

2. My second question, regarding the evangelist, is threefold.

(A.) I’m having trouble distinguishing it from your account of the apostle. “Apostolic workers are those who intentionally go to new places,” and evangelists are “able to cross many cultural barriers” and “intentionally bring good news into dark places.” Both seem to be about “going.” Is it that you see evangelists as a subset of apostolic goers who specifically cross cultural barriers?

(B.) I’m curious where you derive the cross-cultural component of the evangelist from. Obviously, one needn’t cross cultures to bring good news into dark places. But more the point, what about Paul’s claim suggests crossing cultures is a specific feature of this gift?

(C.) The phrase I’m struggling most with (as you’ll have guessed) is “without requiring specialized training.” As with the cross-cultural dimension of your definition, I’m wondering where this assertion comes from. It seems to me that, on the one hand, this is a claim that you (i.e., those who understand “gifts” this way) would be interested in appending to each of the gifts. Because it is a gift (and not an accomplishment of “training works”?), the apostle’s ability to be apostolic requires no training, and so on. On the other hand, it seems to me that this is a commitment DMMers are bringing to the text, which makes no claims about the means through which God bestows gifts. Isn’t it the case that DMM is already committed methodologically to leaders not needing specialized training? If so, does that lead you to find an affirmation of that presupposition in the definition of gifting?

Finally, I’m wondering what specialized training includes, given that the training (equipping) of the church is in view in this text. If we assume that being gifted definitionally entails no specialized training, then once the gifted train the church for service, can those so trained “become” gifted, or does being trained rule that out? Or is it just that such training is not “specialized”? Or perhaps the training—say, for crossing cultures—is simply irrelevant to the question of being gifted, so that those trained by the gifted may be equipped for service, but whether they’re gifted for it is another matter altogether?

More than enough for one comment. 😬 I look forward to the dialogue.

[NOTE: I use social media (Facebook and Twitter) as a place to post invitations for deeper conversations. I prefer having those deeper conversations in person, or here on my blog. Others do not agree that this is best, but it is my choice to this point in time. I do this because I want my deeper conversations to be with people who want to converse. I do not like the “drive-by shootings” which often happen on social media. I want a real dialogue. I plan to respond to each of Greg’s questions here in future posts. I shared that with him and will post my responses here. Due to some travels I may not make my usual Tuesday and Thursday morning times, but will try to stay regular in my responses. After I finish with those I will return to the list of questions which arose earlier this year at the Salt & Light Conference.]

What about the other Gifts?

Original Question: “Where does the movement model make room for pastor, teacher, prophet etc.?”

Answer: Many questions like this arise when leaders of individual churches and/or networks of churches start exploring Disciple Making Movements strategies. The assumption is that DMMs are only focused on the apostolic and evangelistic giftings, while Paul clearly identifies additional giftings.

Here is the actual biblical text which is being alluded to in this question:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15).

To me, this immediate context makes it is clear that Paul is thinking about the Church Universal, rather than a single congregation in a particular location because of his use of the phrase “the body of Christ” and “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” For the majority of his ministry, Paul has not labored in the areas where others of the Apostles lived and worked. He spent some time in Jerusalem during his early days as a believer when Barnabas vouched for him. Later he joins them in the discussion about acceptance of the Gentiles into the Kingdom, but by and large Paul’s intentional strategy was to go to unreached and unengaged regions where the Gospel had not yet been heard.

The word “apostle” is an English form of the Greek word “apostolos” which was used for anyone sent out as an emissary. In the Great Commission Jesus directs the 11 to “Go make disciples” in the whole world. Paul is later added to their number and we actually know more details about his going than we do the 11, because of Luke’s presence on Paul’s apostolic team going on mission with Jesus. Apostolic workers are those who intentionally go to new places, where the Gospel has not been heard prior to their arrival.

The word “prophet” clearly carries great significance in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. Seeking that gift is proposed by Paul as a corrective for some of the problems which arose in that specific church. Prophecy gives divine insight and confirmation. There can be predictive elements as is seen when an upcoming famine is revealed ahead of time by Agabus. (Acts 11:28). This foreknowledge empowers believers to prepare ahead of time to assist those who will be most negatively anticipated (much like happened through Joseph in Egypt). Prophecy is not restricted to a single located congregation, though.

“Evangelist” is one of these functions which many recognize fits well into the Disciple Making Movement rubric. Someone who has this divine gifting is able to cross many cultural barriers without requiring specialized training. But many believers are not this way. They need help in recognizing the differences which make so much of an impact that shifts in tactics are required. Those who intentionally bring good news into dark places are seeking to be evangelistic.

“Pastor-teachers” seems to me to be the best translation of the next category in Ephesians 4, because of the way Paul’s Greek is written here in this text. There is a phrase which is duplicated multiple times earlier, but is noticeably absent between pastor and teacher. Paul writes of Jesus, “he gave some to be…” four times, not five. Jesus gave some to be apostles, gave some to be prophets, gave some to be evangelists, gave some to be pastors and teachers.

In many traditional church networks the pastoral/teaching role is almost exclusively present. Because it is so significant, the efforts to counter-balance this extreme are heard as denigrating this function. I remember David Watson encouraging a large group he was training in California, “In every group gathered to be shaped by God’s Word, look for two types of leaders in the household–apostolic/evangelist types who live to see the word go to other villages where it has not gone yet and also those with the pastoral/teacher hearts that are necessary to nurture the ongoing spiritual life of an emerging local church.

With these thoughts in mind, explore what God does in Antioch of Syria. Read Acts 13:1ff and see that you have both emphases. Early training in DMM always focuses on vision casting for going, but if there is to be fruit, much fruit and fruit that lasts (John 15), then it requires a both/and, rather than an either/or.

Q&A: What are the Protections?

Actual Question: “As you change the ecclesiology more towards a decentralized structure – how do you prevent that people would build their own kingdom and draw people out of the church?”

The best prevention against those who seek to do this is ongoing coaching. Calling leaders and their emerging teams to discover the biblical passages on themes like plurality of elders has proven helpful. Paul was always operating in a team setting and with appropriate mutual accountability. Calling all disciple makers into mutual accountability is foundational to multi-generational disciple-making.

There have been instances of what the questioner is raising which have happened in Movements. It often becomes obvious when they cease sharing the stories of breakthrough, transformation and the numbers of new groups being started. Tracking outcomes is critical to assessing health and leadership issues. Getting emerging leaders to do ongoing Discovery studies (written and/or group) is critical to helping them develop a strong, healthy biblical approach to leadership.

Encourage them to explore the leadership model of Barnabas. Spend time in Ezekiel 34 where Israel’s leaders are compared to shepherding. Explore the theme of “shepherding/pastoring” in both the Old Testament. Investigate the model of leadership Jesus establishes in Matthew’s Gospel. Mutual accountability in an ongoing leadership cohort (which maybe meets once a month) can be profound in protecting God’s people from self-serving leadership models. They are rampant in our world, so we must anticipate their will be challenges.

Who do leaders answer to, ultimately? That is the question they need to answer.