Romans 12:4-8, 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Cf. Titus 1:5-9
Developing Leadership in Early Christian Communities
The NT has a range of descriptions for leadership in the early communities of believers. There is an interplay between everyday and church language(episkopos= supervisor, overseer, into “bishop”) (presbyteros= elder, later transmuted into priest) (diakonos = servant, deacon).
Jerusalem: apostles, elders, presided over by James, Jesus’ brother. Antioch: prophets and teachers. Paul appointed new converts as “elders” (Act 14:23). Philippi used the language of supervisors/overseers and servants (bishops and deacons). Many assemblies were evidently led by those in whose house they met (Mary, Lydia, Priscilla and Aquila, Titius Justus, Chloe). Paul usually describes leadership in terms of gifts of grace (charisma) with a range of functions (Rm 12). He never speaks of elders till 1 Timothy and Titus, near the end of his life.
Paul’s Instructions to Timothy and Titus.
In our own tradition, the descriptions of elders in 1Tim and Titus have often been the law, a kind of checklist, discussed and debated but controlling. We looked for a binding pattern and these texts were explicit enough to override descriptions of leadership in other letters.
It is important to ask what Paul intends in these texts. They’re very important as they show Paul dealing very explicitly with situations in Ephesus and Crete. What are we to learn?