Friday, July 5, 2024

Lessons on Leadership (Phil. 1:1-2)

Philippians is the only letter of Paul's in which the leaders of the church are addressed in the opening. He makes three points:

1. Within the local church is the fellowship (all the saints) and the leadership (overseers and deacons).

2. The fellowship is not "under" (hupo) but "with" (sun) the leadership. Leaders are not above the fellowship but are extensions of it. 

3. "Overseers and deacons" are plural nouns. Shared leadership was practiced in the early church. To put it in the words of Alexander Strauch in his classic book Biblical Eldership, the leadership was non-hierarchical. There was no senior pastor except for Christ himself (1 Pet. 5:4). The job of the leadership is to enable the fellowship to exercise its God-given gifts through teaching (1 Tim. 3:2 -- "able to teach") and to mature into Christlikeness. 

This means that leaders see themselves first and foremost as members of the body, and only then as leaders. They are shepherds, yes (and we thank God for them), but they are sheep as well and even more fundamentally. Leaders are essential to the functioning of the body, but they are not its essence. "All the saints" are. 

There is so much to be grateful for when it comes to the church today, so much to be in awe about. Every congregation is precious beyond belief. That's because their Senior Pastor is precious beyond belief. If you're a senior pastor and catch yourself not wanting to refer to yourself as such, congratulate yourself for having the humility and wisdom to focus the attention of your congregation on its Head -- and yours.