Discerning Gifts for Spiritual Growth

1 Peter 5:1-7

A Community Process of Discernment
We’ve come to an important time in the process of adding to our leadership. A church is a part of the body of Christ. We exist to help each other and the people around us know the God of the universe who shows himself in Jesus and lives in us in his Holy Spirit. That affects every aspect of life, but its priority is important. We want to discern, participate in God’s work. 
We know from our world how cynically leadership is manipulated. Across history, the church is often no different, just another broken human institution. The process of discernment matters for those who believe/trust in God with renewed minds (Rm 12:1-2). There’s no set method or failsafe technique. We do our best. God works. The Holy Spirit acts among us. Always the challenge of Jesus shows us God’s reality turning our world’s values upside down. We must go back again and again to the scriptures as learners, looking at Jesus, growing. 
Maturity, Task, Responsibility

Inclusive Leadership in a Challenging Culture

Romans 16:1-13

A Community that Broke Barriers
Last week we talked about how 1 Tim. 3 showed how Paul urged Timothy to discern leaders that fit the distinct situation, life, and needs of the congregation. Remarkably, in its first cent. the Jesus movement struggled to be inclusive on every level. Success was real but limited. There were no patterns of associations with women or slaves as leaders. It was hard in that society for them even to speak, much less serve as prophet-teachers or leaders.
But they were pushed by the Spirit giving gifts, by theology/baptism, by Jesus’ example. Jesus treated every person as honored, valuable (paradigm of Samaritan woman // Nicodemus). The Spirit came to all (Act 2) and gave gifts as he willed (1Cor 12:11), not staying in lines. The deep reality expressed by baptism broke down the most fundamental barriers to make believers one in Christ. How could they live that truth in such a divided, hierarchical society?
Calling and Service

Leadership among New Testament Christians

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?

Gifts for Spiritual Leadership

Ephesians 4:1-16

Leadership by Community Discernment
We’re starting a process to expand the group of “elders” who lead this congregation. MCOC is within the Churches of Christ, part of the “Stone-Campbell” movement of “restoration” that became distinct early in the 19th cent. (About when the Church of Christ began in NYC in 1810.) Our identity as a church centers in a commitment to the NT and all of Scripture: the church will be healthiest when it stays closest to NT teaching. No hierarchy. Independent congregations. In practice, the CoC developed a pattern of local “elders,” “deacons,” and “ministers,” with variations. Always within a deep commitment to being guided by scripture.
The leadership of this congregation has been stable for many years. It was about 15 yrs ago, (2003) when we last went through this process: Elders: Paul Stelzer (26 yrs), TR (25), Angel Reyes (15), Lark Mason (15). All the deacons (15+), Ministry staff (17+). The community is always evolving, diverse, learning, maturing. We have quite a number of men and women who are able to bring important spiritual gifts into leading this community. On March 11 we’ll ask for our best discernment of those who could best serve as leaders.