Dale S. Dewitt
Grace Bible College
The thesis of this article is that leadership gifts are gifts of the Holy Spirit; they arise and are practiced only in the living fellowship of body life. Outside actual practice in church fellowships they may function as “talents.” In origin and practice the gifts are not permanent institutional offices or powers conferred by a governing body. They are discerned by actual practice by the body and the body’s already recognized leaders, and by the individual’s sense of possession and function confirmed by others.They are rather “charisms” or “charismas,” gifts given by the Holy Spirit for ministry to the larger body of believers gathered for worship, instruc- tion and fellowship. The subject of this article is further delimited by the list of leadership gifts in Eph 4:11 and parallels elsewhere in the epistles. In scope, this article is limited to leadership ministry gifts of a permanent nature in the church, the terminology for leadership, and the functions of leadership discernable in the terms. Accordingly, the quest here is for theleadership terms in the New Testament epistles since they define or char- acterize the functions produced by the Spirit in the church. Since even in this Ephesians list two of the six have passed away, the basic remaining four are discussed. Which gifts have “passed away” is not, however the argument here; what remains in the church is the focus.
The gift of evangelist appears only in the gift-list in Eph 4:11, where it is placed after apostles and prophets; this is the main reason for a discussion of evangelist here. Its placement in Eph 4:11 suggests a relatively high importance; but the suggestion is not met with equal attention to the gift elsewhere in the New Testament, as measured by a high frequency of usage or scenes of evangelists at work—independently, that is, of apostles. The term occurs only two other times in the New Testament, once for Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8) and once for Timothy (2 Tim 4:5). Despite low frequency of use, these few texts show that this gift was recognized in, but also beyond its presence in the apostles. More evangelists were probably active than the New Testament speaks of under the term, since the apostles were evangelists from the beginning and the term here is plural along with the other gifts.1 The appearance of “evangelists” apart from apostles sug- gests that the gift was moving beyond its original attachment to apostles.
In Eph 4:7-11 charisma is not used for the gifts listed; but this is not a material difference since the basic concepts of gift-giving and a list of several specific gifts are present here as in other gift-list texts which do use charisma. Instead, domata (gifts) appears (4:8) as the gift term for six gifts in the text: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. This list shows that “evangelist” was no more an office than elder, but a cha- risma function among early Christians. Philip appears to have been itiner- ant; Timothy worked in a settled situation at Ephesus. The euaggelistas is apparently named for the work of preaching the gospel (euaggelion), and probably pictures the winning of converts to Christ. Despite its limited use, euaggelistas is to be viewed in the modern church as a gift of importance all out of proportion to its infrequent New Testament use; it appears to have emerged from its original association with apostles. Recognition and en- couragement of this gift is vital to the cutting edge of growth and gain for the church in every age. There is no sustained connection between proph- ets and evangelists in the New Testament. The two gifts join only here and in the family of Philip—an evangelist whose daughters prophesied (Acts 21:8-9); thus the connection with prophecy in Philip’s family may be coin- cidental, i.e., not a case of a pattern of combined gifts. There is a connec- tion in actual function and activity between apostles and evangelists, and this may be the reason why evangelists do not receive more attention in the New Testament, i.e., the gift was first concentrated in the apostles as public preachers of the gospel, and at the beginning only fell for the time being to a few others.
Pastors, Teachers, Elders, and Deacons
The thesis is the same as stated above: elders and deacons arise from the same empowerment of Christ and the Spirit as the gifts of apostle and prophet. Paul’s lists of Spirit-gifts show them all flowing in the same cha- risma stream. Locating a starting point for the pastor-teacher-elder-dea- con gifts that does not improperly skew the conclusion is a major problem which the following discussion does not presume to decisively overcome, except that the procedure seeks the whole available information by a search for all leader terms, especially elders.
Leadership terms appear in a variety of ways. (1) Acts favors the use of presbuteros—17x including several times for Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, but mostly for Christian church elders, Jewish or Gentile. Luke’s use of “elders” for Christian leaders may reflect gradual standardization of this terminology by the 80s, the probable decade of Acts’ publication. This de- velopment was not yet reached by Paul as shown by his extremely limited use of the term. He does not use it at all in the earliest epistles (Galatians, 1-2 Thessalonians) even though by the time of Galatians he had appointed elders in the south Galatian churches (Acts 14:23), and only three times for church leaders elsewhere—all in the Pastoral Epistles.2 The scene of Acts 20 shows one group of leaders for which three leadership terms are used in the same speech: elders, overseers (“bishops”) and pastors. These remarks call attention to another issue, i.e., the probability of some kind of gradual usage development for “elder.” (2) Paul avoids “elder,” preferring instead a variety of leadership terms other than elder—at least fifteen in all for church leaders under functional terms, and perhaps as many as about twen- ty. The terms are scattered through the epistles. They sometimes appear in pairs or triplets. In such texts they may be in parallel or synonymous relation to each other; a second or third term may define the preceding one; some are repeated from one epistle to another; or they may occur in random fashion. (3) Still other Pauline passages contain lists of ministry gifts for the whole church, but include obvious leadership gifts. Five such passages are spread through 1 Corinthians, Romans and Ephesians; all allude to leadership gifts with some overlap and coordination of leader-terms with the passages and terms of points (1) and (2) above. The use of certain leadership terms in the charisma-list passages supports the larger point of this essay since these charisma-lists contain the broadest view of both the charisma idea and several specific leader terms.
Finding the Terms for Elder
In seeking a Pauline picture of who are elders and what they do, we are met with a methodology issue—how to find the defining passages. It seems simple: find the “elder” texts and adopt what they say. However, it is likely that many more terms than “elder” itself are used; hence a larger view nec- essarily emerges for reasons that will become apparent. Elders are referred to by well over a dozen terms, perhaps by as many as fifteen or twenty beside the term “elder” itself. Several occur in Paul’s lists of gifts, showing that eldering is a gift of the Spirit. To the three texts using “elder” in Paul (1 Tim 5:17, 19; Titus 1:5) maybe add ten (10) “elder” texts in the central chapters of Acts (11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18), al- though these are Luke’s, not Paul’s. The remaining seven (7) in Acts refer to elders of Israel, not the church. Further questions arise: why should the search be limited to the study of “elder” alone? Why is presbuteros (elder) so scarce in the Pauline epistles? And why are there no elder function lists like the elder qualification lists of the Pastoral Epistles? In Paul’s speech of Acts 20 presbuteros/elder, episcopos/overseer/bishop and poiman/pas- tor/shepherd overlap in that all three terms are applied to the same people (Acts 20:17, 28 ). In another text, two elder terms apply to the same people (Titus 1:5, 7, elder and overseer/bishop only). These passages are rightly taken to indicate that no varied offices are denoted since all three terms refer to the same people without distinction or qualification. Judged by their meanings, the three terms of Acts 20 encourage another kind of distinction between elders and bishops than the Catholic-Anglican-Meth- odist one (with variations): the basic term is “elder,” while the other two terms describe elder functions,3 i.e., “overseer” and “pastor/shepherd.” By this reckoning we have not one, but three terms for church elders in the two passages using the three and two terms for the same persons in their respective passages (Acts 20; Titus 1).
If these two passages suggest elder functions for some terms, then the question arises about other possible functional terms that also denote elders as well as further functions or aspects of their work. Expanding the search for elder terms leads to another text (1 Tim 5:17) where presbuteros/elder is defined functionally by three more terms beyond “elder”: prohistemi/rule, take care of; kopiao/labor “in word” (NIV “preaching”); and didaskalia/ teaching. Thus the accumulated terms now number six (6)—presbuteros plus five functional terms expressed in noun participles or common verbal nouns. But if there are more leadership terms not directly linked to “elder” by the contextual presence of “elder” itself as above, but overlapping with the other terms gathered above, or otherwise appearing in clear references to leadership people in congregations, then there may be more such terms.
In fact, as many as another six (6) functional terms and possibly even more appear. 1 Thess 5:12 has three terms: kopiao/labor; prohistemi/ lead; care for; and noutheteo/admonish/warn. “Labor” and “lead” are the same as in 1 Tim 5:17, where they are definitions of “elder/presbuteros; but “ad- monish (noutheteo)” is new. In 1 Tim 4:5 paraklasis/urging/comforting/ exhorting is a ministry function of Timothy and seems akin in thought to noutheteo. Hebrews 13:7, 17 add hageomai/govern, which is new, fol-lowed (13:7) by “who spoke the word” as in 1 Tim 5:17 after kopiao/labor “in the word,” and agrupneo/watchers (over you), which is new; the terms denote leaders since the congregation(s?) is urged to submit to them. We now have a total of ten (10) elder terms (not counting repeated words) found in interlocking, overlapping or even synonymous relationships, in- cluding with “elder” itself.
Beside the above terms, eight (8) more functional terms also overlap, in- terchange, or are joined with the previously identified ten (10): kubernasis may be synonymous with prohistemi; it means piloting (a ship), managing, guiding or steering, although it could more suitably relate to other terms (1 Cor 12:28); sunergeo/work together (1 Cor 16:15), which is attracted by the already mentioned kopiao to make a word-trio with diakoneo/min- ister for others who minister/diakoneo (1 Cor 16:15-16) at Corinth with Stephanus. (The diakon- word-group is usually associated with “deacon,” but also has the broader general meaning of “ministry” as shown by Paul’s use several times for his mission.) The term apodidomi/dispense, give out, followed by “the word” (Heb13:17) overlaps in concept and function with pastor-teacher; epimeleomai/care for, is a further definition of prohistemirule/care for in 1 Timothy 3:4 (2x), which in turn is a further function- al definition of “overseer” (1 Tim 3:1). Overlaps and extensions (further definition) are well-illustrated in 1 Tim 3:1-4 as in 5:17 (cf. 1 Cor 16:16; Heb 13:7, 17; 1 Thes 5:12). Sophos (wise man) and diakrino (act as a judge, 1 Cor 6:4) are also probable elder terms or functions; but lacking overlap connections with any other elder terms in the passage, they could be disputed. Finally, there is another term for teaching (katacheo, Gal 6:6; 1 Cor 14:19, meaning teach, instruct). The new terms here beside those identified above totaling eight (8), bringing the gross number of functional elder terms to eighteen (18).
Why Paul multiples elder-function terms while using “elder” itself so sparingly—at least in the earlier epistles—is an open question. He offers no list of elder functions like the lists of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The eighteen (18) functional terms describe what elders do or the manner of their work, and thus together are the equivalent of such a function-list when viewed together. The remarkable variety of terms for elder-leadership in Pauline churches shows that elder activity had severalfunctional descriptions even when synonyms are recognized. On any reck- oning the terms clearly fall into overlapped groupings since the meanings of several, when synonyms are considered, are among the aggregate of terms. A summary of elder functions will be offered below, but more needs to be said about elders than just further study of the functional terms alone: the meaning of qualification terms, service-term limits or suspension, ap- pointment, support, and gender issues need more study, discussion and implementation. But before summarizing the basic elder functions, some details of the gift lists warrant discussion.
The Language of Charisma-List Passages
To achieve the clearest and fullest Pauline perspective on leadership as charisma, it seems useful to discuss the introductory language of the Spir- it or Christ’s gift-giving in passages where teachers, leaders, pastors and deacons appear. At the base line the same charisma language appears for teachers, leaders, pastors and deacons as is used for apostles and prophets and many other gifts. This is true despite the fact that the texts on these functions might be understood to show the establishment of an office—more, that is, than do those texts that list the primal gifts of apostle and prophet. A possible tendency toward office may also seem encouraged by the parallel fact that far more is said about the moral qualifications for these functions than is the case with the gifts of apostles and prophets. But do these appearances really support office versus charisma?
Paul uses a more or less fixed vocabulary in his charisma-gift introduc- tions—regularly repeated words and phrases detailing the larger charisma framework. In such passages the power and principle of the gift-lists is grace (charis) in the sense of unmerited, beneficial power. For the resulting personal and public appearance of the gifts Paul uses “gift (charisma)”; for their source and conferral he uses “given” (didomi) and assumes the “divine passive” (God, Christ or Spirit as agent) with the persistent passive voice (“given”) of the verb for giving (usually a participle of didomi/give. Sometimes the agency of the Holy Spirit (pneuma) in imparting and op- erating the gifts is stated. The net effect is to attribute the rise of ministry gifts to the work of God or Christ or the Holy Spirit. In these passages Paul is thinking not of establishing offices of ministry, but of the Spirit at work in the church-body inducing functional gifts for meeting congregational needs. No awakening mechanisms are given; rather, people apparently come forward to meet needs, and their gifts are recognized as they practice them. The matter is left to the Spirit in the actual life of the church-body, i.e., the Spirit induces leadership and other gifts as the body meets and needs become known and serviced; apparently this is the only “how” of recognition.
Under this set of concepts the lists of specific leadership gifts include apostles, prophets, evangelists, elders/pastors/overseers, teachers and dea- cons. Other gifts following in various lists show much variety. The only differentiation in the passages is the first-second-third of 1 Cor 12:28. In fact, Paul goes on to say the “greatest gifts” are none of these, but rather faith, hope and love, and that these gifts are to be especially sought (1 Cor 14:1). This statement alone implies that one of the “mechanisms” of gift-realization is “seeking” gifts once they are known to exist by appear- ing in servicing congregational needs. By this reckoning, the substantial egalitarianism of the body of Christ is maintained and the appropriate hu- mility of leaders and people is encouraged as all submit to and benefit from the gifts working in the whole.
Five passages contain appropriate combinations of descriptive terms in gift lists: (in likely chronological order) 1 Cor 12:4-11; 12:28; 12:29; Eph 4:11; Rom 12:6-8.5 1 Tim 4:14 is not a charisma list, but uses the same
formulaic terminology of divine gift-bestowal for one unnamed gift.
The basic concept is grace (charis, charisma)—a quality of God’s inter- actions with man in redemption. It often means “unmerited favor” when Paul is thinking about salvation without human works, and with human unworthiness in mind. In these contexts it is a “legal” or “judicial” concept describing forgiveness of sins without works by God the Judge. In other passages grace is a power notion—the unmerited power of God gracious- ly entering human life to effect salvation from sin and empower toward good. This is the sense in a passage like 1 Corinthians 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.”6 The power sense is also that of the passages listed above, where charis or charisma occur to denote ministry gifts (Eph 4:7, 11; Rom 12:6-8). But when Paul lists the specific gifts, he usually prefers charisma (1 Cor 12:4, 9, 28, 30, 31; Rom 12:6; 1 Tim 4:14). In one case doma (gift) is substituted for charis/charisma (Eph 4:7), partly because it occurs in the Old Testament quotation used to undergird gift distribution by the risen Christ (Eph 4:7-8). When the verb is either in the active or passive voice it is often followed by the object in dative or accu- sative: “to each one” (1 Cor 12:7-8; Eph 4:7, 11; 1 Tim 4:14; Rom 12:6). Mentions of the Holy Spirit as agent are profuse in 1 Corinthians 12 (vv. 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11). Christ is the giver in Ephesians 4:7-11, and the human mediation of eldership is noted in 1 Tim 4:14 showing that mediation may include human persons along with the Spirit or Christ. Bestowal of gifts in the church is a manifold work of the sovereign Holy Spirit and has little to do with human initiative, management or offices, although both desire and human mediation are part of the process.
Coordinating the Major Elder Teams
Considering that synonyms and overlaps occur among functional terms for elders, it seems appropriate to distinguish between major and minor elder terms. While it may appear arbitrary to do so, it also seems necessary as a way to bring order into the discussion and avoid the novel idea that twenty functional terms can be converted mechanically into twenty elder functions. Accordingly, the goal of this portion of the essay is to discover the functional priorities for elders in the New Testament situation so that the emphasis of the apostolic thinking on leadership functions becomes clear and convertible into a useful set of elder responsibilities and activi- ties. An implication of this consideration is that varied ways of ordering the terms and concepts might be attempted, considering their overlaps. This discussion should go on and ought to result in greater clarity and useful- ness. But there appears to be no other such attempt to grasp the functions of elders by a complete assemblage of the many terms, it seems permissible to proceed in this manner in the interests of a thorough understanding of the New Testament Christian elder.7 An example of what at least seems to be a difference between major and minor terms would be the relative dif-ference in specificity between, say, prohistemi (lead) or prohistamai (care for), and kopiao (work hard). It seems easy to see a difference in specificity between caring for the needs of church members on one hand, and work- ing hard (kopiao) which is vague; kopiao seems rather more a term for the manner of carrying out other clear elder functions. With these thoughts in mind we may proceed to the substance of the discussion.
Protestant church order and organization manuals repeatedly make the point that elder, pastor and overseer/bishop are used interchangeably of the same persons or groups of church leaders, often as an alternative to the Catholic and Anglican elevation of bishops as a separate office from elder, for which there is no clear New Testament authority. There is also common agreement that this point issues from the use of all three terms by Paul for the same group of leaders addressed in Acts 20, and in the in-terchangeable use of the terms for elders and overseers in Titus 1:5-7. The three gift-functions are not divisible or separable, but are themselves terms for one group of leaders who are generically called “elders”; of these three primary terms, one is the generic name (elder), while the other two are basic but not the only functions. In reality, then, when any of these terms or other synonyms and related language occur in lists of charisms, there is reason to believe they too belong to the gift-powers spread through thechurch by the Holy Spirit, and are not merely appointed, perpetual offices. This is due to the way the terms are interchanged and varied in the texts viewed as a whole; the discussion following will show how this is the case.
Five (5) primary repeated terms can be identified for major church lead- ers and functionaries at the local or regional church level; other terms noted above complement, expand or extend, or (potentially) add new meanings. The most widely used8 is elder/presbuteros (though not by Paul) along with its related word-group including presbuterion (a group, council or body of elders with local oversight responsibilities), presbutes (old man, ambassador), presbutis (old woman), and presbeuo (be or work as an am- bassador or envoy).9 This remark, however, can only be made because of the quantity of uses in Acts. While age is nowhere a specified criterion for eldership, the qualifications lists do suggest an appreciable range and quan- tity of experience in several aspects of life; the lists also seem to generally value the principle of church and community respect. A closely related term is teacher (didaskalos), occurring 7x in Acts, and 9x in the epistles; not all uses in Acts’ refer to church teachers. The word-group for teacher includes didaskalia/teaching and didasko/teach, used for church teachers in Acts and epistles apart from Jesus or apostles, occurs about 11x.10 Another set of terms, less used than the presbuteros group,11 is the word-group for overseer including episcopos (overseer, guardian, superintendent, “bish- op”), episcopeo (take care of, oversee, care for), and episcopa (divine visi- tation, position of overseer).12 A notably overlooked term, prohistemi/lead/ govern, and its relative prohistamai/care for,13 is used parallel to and as a substitute for elder or leader, and as a functional description for elders.14 The root occurs only as a noun or participle or infinitive, appearing 6x in elder connections in Paul’s letters—more frequently than “elder” in Paul,
though not in Acts. Its senses include preside, lead, conduct, direct, govern, protect, care for, the last meaning being carried more fully by prohistamai. In Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint/LXX) the related masculine noun is entirely a term of political governing and denotes an official or governor. The word’s close association with elders in the New Testament merits careful attention, especially because it occurs as a parti- ciple in the gift list of Rom 12:8, although near the end of the list. A fifthmajor term is pastor/poimen (shepherd, sheep-herder) with its related verb (poimaino, herd, tend a flock, shepherd). The term is nearly short-suited in Acts and epistles compared to its wide and standard use in the apostolic fa- thers and throughout Christian history: the noun occurs only 2x, while the verb occurs 4x in Acts as an activity of church leaders. As noted above, the largest scope would be to consider all leadership gift terms from the sev- eral types of passages identified previously. However, since the argument here is that elder leadership functions are charisms of the Holy Spirit and not all terms have equal value for defining functions, it seems satisfactory to begin with the use of these terms in charisma lists and then expand the discussion to other leadership terms which are clearly or at least appear to be related. The less central terms will be discussed further below.
Primary Elder Terms Inside and Outside the Gift Lists
Terms for leaders occur in the gift lists with bewildering variations in order of appearance and consistency, and even in their presence or ab- sence from the lists. Several terms occur in gift-lists, but others do not. This should not deter a study like this from attempting a synthesis, even though unevenness in use of the terms requires cautious conclusions. On the whole, the noted variation in terminology suggests a broad mixture of basic and other functional terms for elders in the early churches. This variety and interchangeability makes it impossible to limit one’s thinking about elder leadership to one word group like presbuteros. The interface of terms outlined above and discussed in some detail below is like the relation of interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle: one needs all the pieces to see the whole picture. For example, persons Luke usually calls “elders,” are referred to by Paul with several terms. It might seem unwarranted to say that “elder” is the cover word for four or more other leader terms; but in- terlacing and overlapping of the terms does point in that direction. In some cases, it may have been only a matter of time before certain functional leaders, called at first by terms like “laborers among you,” “those who lead you,” or “those who instruct you (all in 1 Thes 5:12),” came to be called “elders.” One can see this happening with a term like “those who lead you (prohistami),” since in 1 Timothy 5:17 it is interchanged as a functional synonym with elders/presbuteroi. So the terms need to be surveyed, even though with something short of absolute exhaustiveness and precise sifting of every possible detail, to see how these variations actually describe the work of elders. The following are the major leader terms and synonyms in relation to the charisma gift lists.
Elder. Presbuteros is not found in the charisma/gift lists, but in 1 Tim- othy 5:17 it is notably important because the gift is divided into its rul- ing/caring function (prohistemi) and its teaching/instructing function (di- daskalia). While “elder” does not itself occur in a gift list, its functional synonym prohistami does (Rom 12:8). Presbuteros is also significant in Titus 1:5 where it is interchanged with episcopos (1:5, 7) in a striking in- terchangeability. Presbuteros is the basic leader-term and episcopos one of the ways to describe its activity. Peter (1 Pet 5:1) uses presbuteros in plural, but includes a reference to himself as a “fellow-elder.” Here too, “elder” is followed by another functional term for elder, i.e., “shepherd/ pastor,” expressed in a verb (poimaino). But in the next verse, Peter fol- lows again with a second use of the episcop- group, this time the verb (episcopeo). This suggests in parallel to Titus 1:5-7 that presbuteros was gradually becoming the base term with the other parallel nouns and verbals as functional descriptions for aspects of their work. These interchanges and functionalisms illustrate the flexibility of the terms. James’ use of “elders” in 5:14 is mainly about certain elder practices, using presbuteros in plural as often elsewhere.
The group term presbuterion (group of elders) is used in 1 Timothy 4:14 of a group who laid their hands on Timothy at his ordination. The more frequent use of plural presbuteros in Acts shows how normally elders are viewed as a body in which final authority rests. It would have been unusual for Greeks or Jews to think of an individual, isolated elder with final au- thority, since elders usually appear in groups.
Paul’s reserve in using presbuteros is all the more striking since Acts uses it with regularity (17x covering Jewish and Christian elders). Its infre- quency in Paul could be a peculiarity of the local conditions Paul address- es as at Corinth where only very limited leadership terms appear (16:16: diakonia, minister; sunergeo, fellow-workers; and kopiao, labor), and at Thessalonica where leadership terms are also limited (1 Thes 5:12: kopi- ontas, laborers; proistamenous, leaders/elders; nouthetountas, admonish- ers). In none of the Corinthian or Thessalonian letters is presbuteros used. Does this mean Paul wished to steer clear in certain situations of any use of presbuteros out of caution—perhaps about too much likeness of Gen- tile churches to Jewish synagogues, at least in the early period? Or did he avoid presbuteros simply out of preference for more functional terms like prohistemi or poiman? Or, again, was he merely being cautious about heavily weighted honorific connotations, especially in a place like Corinth where there was already a division over social status of members? How- ever these questions may be answered, three functional elder terms noted above are found in gift lists, making it clear that this leadership charisma was thought of as a work of the Holy Spirit; the three terms appearing in gift lists are pastor (poiman), teacher (didaskalos) and leader (prohistemi).
Having noted that the texts consider prophecy the revelatory gift, there is nonetheless overlap between prophecy and teaching just as between apostle and prophet. While it would be satisfying to be able to note a clean discreteness between each leadership gift, such a clean distinction is doubt- ful at best. Just as E. Ellis has shown how prophecy and teaching overlap, so the overlap of eldership and teaching will emerge in the ensuing discus- sion.15 Generally, then, the New Testament use of leader-terms and gifts disturbs any attempt to argue for categorical distinctions between each of the leadership functions by terms alone.
Teacher. “Teacher” is more frequent in Paul’s gift lists than “pastor,” occurring in the two lists of 1 Corinthians 12:28, 29 respectively, and in Ephesians 4:11. This frequency may reflect the urgency of grounding con- gregations in essential apostolic doctrinal and moral teaching; or it may involve actual early threats to doctrinal soundness which is viewed with great urgency in the Pastoral Epistles as an elder concern. In all three pas- sages it occurs after prophets (1 Cor 12:28: apostles, prophets, teachers; 1 Cor 12:29: apostles, prophets, teachers; Eph 4:11 apostles, prophets, evan- gelists, pastors, teachers). In Romans 12:7 “teaching” is listed third after prophecy and deaconing—again in a charisma gift-list. It is unlikely that “teacher” is precisely equivalent to “pastor,” but there is certainly a sub- stantial overlap and coordination as Ephesians 4:11 shows (“pastor-teach- ers”). The link of teaching with elders is clear in 1 Timothy 5:17 (“elders . . . who labor in preaching and teaching . . .”) and Ephesians 4:11 (“pas- tor-teachers”). In Greek traditions, “teacher” is equal to “schoolmaster,” or “choirmaster.” For Greeks, teacher/teaching was an entirely intellectual and rational function of school or choir instructors in which “teacher” refers to one who instructs in specific technical skills like reading, fighting or music, and usually for pay. In contrast, Jewish teachers of Paul’s time were rather Scripture instructors and expounders of its meaning as well as of the derived wisdom and knowledge of the ways of God with man.16 In the New Testament, “teacher” seems to be used mainly for those leaders who expounded Old Testament Scriptures, coordinated the Old Testament with apostolic oral traditions about Jesus (which eventually became the gospels and epistles), and explained the apostolic-prophetic teaching in the churches.
Jesus is called “teacher” in the Jewish sense; instances in Paul reflect the same Jewish usage. The Jewish sense is visible in the Pastoral Epistles, where “teaching (didaskalia)” is thought of as “sound doctrine.” Teachers are church leaders gifted by the Spirit who explain the doctrine of Christi- anity and moral life of believers. An echo of the Greek idea may be seen in Paul’s use of the term since teacher and teaching seem to refer to a rational explanation of Scripture and the apostolic traditions. While “teaching” is a charisma, there are few signs that their words were revealed teaching in the sense that prophecy is direct revelation; still, this is the case when the gifts of apostle or prophet combine with teacher as, for example in Acts 13:1-3 where a specific (prophetic) revelation by the Holy Spirit is noted. References to didaskalia/teaching in the Pastoral Epistles (14x; but only 4x elsewhere in Paul) suggest exposition of Scripture and apostolic oral tradition; 2 Timothy 3:16: “Scripture is inspired by God and profitable . . .”; Romans 15:4: whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction (didaskalia); 1 Timothy 6:3 (cf 2 Thes 2:15): moral teaching of Paul and Jesus (cf 1 Tim 1:10); 1 Timothy 4:3-6: Paul’s teaching about eating with thanksgiving; 1 Timothy 1:10: moral instruction with a list of evils to be avoided. Teaching sometimes takes the form of exhorting andencouraging (1 Tim 4:13; 1 Tim 6:2; Titus 1:9).
These texts suggest the work of teachers was explaining Scriptural or apostolic material, especially moral and doctrinal teaching. The Pastoral Epistles’ warnings about false doctrine/teaching point to the same. The two uses of katacheo in Paul (Gal 6:6; 1 Cor 14:19) do not appear to add any further insight to what was available from the didask- group, although the verb’s meanings tip to the rational side: “report, give information, instruct” (BAGD); katacheo became the regular term for instruction of converts in the second century and beyond. Even though the work of teachers and teaching elders was substantially a reasoned exposition of doctrine and morals or ethics from Scriptural and apostolic oral traditions, it was none- theless a special divine charisma in local churches or groups of churches. Katacheo in Galatians 6:6 may suggest very limited elder functions about the time of Acts 14; only “teaching” is referred to in Galatians. Katacheo in 1 Corinthians 14:19 exemplifies the rational character of its activity: five words with the mind (vous) are better than many words with the “tongue.”
Episcopos. Episcopos (overseer) instead of presbuteros (elder) is paired with deacons in Philippians 1:1 with no clues on function except its com- mon meaning of “overseer.” In 1 Timothy 3:1, however, “overseer” is the object of human seeking/desiring (orego, aspire to, strive from desire, stretch oneself, BAGD). Paul’s expression in 1 Tim 3:1 is capable of the inference that episcopos might be an office to be sought after all. On the other hand, it does not have to be seen this way, but merely as visibly ex- isting in some gifted people and therefore admired, honored and desired by others. Despite this possibility, nothing here requires an inference about a permanent office separate from, emerging from, and higher than elder bishop). In the only other instance of episcopos in the epistles (Titus 1:7), the term is used alone except for the list of moral and spiritual qualifica- tions that follows. The qualifications are substantially the same in Titus 1 and 1 Tim 3:1-7. Conzelmann’s suggestion, that the singular of episcopos might be a hint toward multiple elders under the leadership of a single bishop, seems overdrawn and too much guided by later church tradition. Actually, Paul uses the plural episcopoi in Philippians 1:1 as does Luke in Acts 20:28 (Paul’s speech)—a use which does not favor Conzelmann’s suggestion. No patterned or intended distinction between plurals and sin- gulars seems visible, unless one wishes to infer it from the two singulars for “overseer” in 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus1:7; such an inference seems bothuncertain and unnecessary, however, especially considering the likelihood that Paul is using the singular generically as a rhetorical substitute for the plural. Oversight of a congregation demands that a leader keep his eye open to the whole congregation and its life.
Leader. The case of prohistami is more complicated. (1) The surest place to start is 1 Tim 5:17-18 where prohistami occurs as an adjectival participle modifying presbuteos—a “ruling” elder. The modifier seems to refer to one function of an elder—to rule, direct, govern, care for17—or perhaps a special class of elders who work the ruling-caring aspect of eldership; it is also modified by kalos—those who do it well, suggesting some practice eldership poorly or ineffectively. The sequel in 5:19-20 follows the impli- cation that some bad elders had arisen and were objects of accusation by congregation members; only with two or three witnesses may such accusa- tions be considered. (2) Other elders “labor in . . . teaching (5:17b).” Thus two elder functions appear. Since prohistami describes one function of el- ders, it would seem correct to recognize prohistami as an elder term when used alone (Rom 12:8), just as it would be to recognize “teacher/teaching” and “overseer” as an elder function. (3) 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “those who govern (prohistami),” also uses a participle form of the verb, now as a noun substituting for presbuteros, but still thinking of a body of elders who govern the congregation(s). Here too, it is puzzling that Paul does not use presbuteros straightforwardly. One wonders if he was avoiding it for one of the special reasons suggested above. 4) Three uses of prohistami in 1 Tim 3 refer to both overseers (episcopos) and deacons in a functional sense. But the function of overseers here is leading (caring for, leading, governing) their own homes, else they cannot “care for (epimelasetai, care for) the church of God (3:4b)”—an obvious elder-function term in con- text. Prohistemi is defined by substituting a specific care-giving synomym, “care for” (BAGD) which is not the case when used in 5:12 for deacons, thus differentiating the two gifts. In using a synonym for prohistami, the direction is toward “caring for,” not the stronger “rule” or “govern.” It is tempting to think that “caring for” is the more dominant meaning of pro- histami elsewhere as well—an implication that would nudge the meaning toward the helpful, redeeming-in-love aspect of leadership and away from the power/ruling sense.18 (5) From these uses, it is a small step to Romans12:8 where prohistami (participle) occurs in a charisma list along with prophecy, deaconing, teaching, encouraging, giving and mercying. It falls next to last in this list—before “showing mercy.” Despite the speculation above about the meaning of the order of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28, 29, the placement of prohistami near the end of the list is probably no more significant than placing prophecy far down a gift list in 1 Corinthians 12:10 (with five gifts ahead of it), and then second in 12:28, 29 and Ephesians 4:11. However this may be, it is certainly a term for eldering in Romans 12:6. The Romans gift list is no exception to Paul’s unexplained avoid- ance of presbuteros in Thessalonians, Galatians and Corinthians. Hence, eldering, whether described with its basic term (elder) or with a functional substitute, is a Spirit charisma arising out of the giving of God, and not from any notion of a predetermined perpetual office, which, if one opts for this sense, can nonetheless be filled by a gifted person.
Pastor. “Pastor” is fourth in the order of gifts in Ephesians 4:11, but does not appear in the three lists of 1 Corinthians 12 or that of Romans 12. Apparently Corinth as yet had no elder-pastors, and the leadership for the moment was limited to people called prophets and deacons (the latter with unclear sense). A functional deacon ministry appears to have been done by the “house of Stephanus (16:15)”; but the text may be speaking in a very general way rather than of deaconing in a more limited monetary or sustenance-distribution sense. There was some leadership “ministry” at Corinth, but there is not enough here to tell us much about it. With the appearance of “pastor” in the gift-list of Eph 4:11, there is solid ground for our thesis: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (poiman) and teachers are gifts, not perpetual offices. The terms pastor and teacher are joined by “and” with a definite article only before “pastors,” but not repeated before “teachers,” indicating that Paul thought of them as a unified function, even if not exactly identical.
Less Frequent or General Functional Leadership Terms
Several terms with elder-like functions appear in more or less isolated texts. These terms depict leader functions even if “elder” is not directly mentioned; some, but not all of the same terms are used in the gift lists while others are associated with elders in the Jewish cultural context; with- in the range of Jewish connotations is the connection of elders with judging and wisdom.19 This enlarged sketch of connotations and social associations opens a window to recognizing the use of such terms as wise man and judge for elder functions.
The most striking and obvious passage is 1 Cor 6:3-5—striking because it deals with a particular case in the Corinthian church and because Paul pleadingly asks whether there is not even one man—let alone several— sufficiently wise among them to judge the situation; he expects the church to be its own judiciary rather than taking the case to a civil court where it does not belong. This expectation, however, does not exclude an elder body in another church for referral; but the chief interest is in the local church as its own judiciary. The prohibition is on adjudication in a civil court. Wisdom to judge was certainly within the realm of elder functions in Judaism in Paul’s time;20 he expects the Corinthians to find a man of wis- dom and justice among them to deal with the case. There is no mention of an elder in the text, but the functions are urged. In a way, this should not be surprising since Paul may not as yet have appointed elders in this church, perhaps for one of the reasons suggested above. The implication is that elder-judges should arise within the local congregations through the work of the Spirit, whether apostolically appointed or not.
Among other terms for congregational leadership, the most frequent is “labor” as in “those who labor among you (kopiontes [present partici- ple of kopioo]).” Its close association with presbuteros (1 Tim 5:17) and prohistami (1 Thes 5:12), and its repetition to denote a group of leaders distinguished from congregations—in one case by a named individual (Stephanus in 1 Cor 16:15-16)—indicates its importance, despite lack of functional clarity. The verb means “work hard, toil, strive, struggle,” and sometimes “become weary, tired.” Paul knows that leadership of congre- gations is arduous and wearisome when done in practicing the multiple functions of elders. Beyond this generalized meaning, however, it is not a particularly telling term for leadership if judged by whether it furnishes a clear functional picture.
The earliest use of kopioo is in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 where it is followed by a form of prohistami (lead, care for)—the elder term of Romans 12:8 and 1 Timothy 5:17 discussed above. The two terms are joined by “and (kai)” without a repeated definite article, suggesting that prohistami is a further, perhaps clearer description of kopioo. In Romans 16:6, 12 kopioo occurs 3x referring to the labors of four women (Mary, Tryphaena, Try- phosa and Persis) in the Roman churches. In 1 Corinthians 16:16 kopioo and sunergeo (work together) refer to Stephanas, the “firstfruit” of Asia to whom the Corinthian church owes subjection along with other workers and “laborers” among them. This thought suggests elder-leadership even though “elder” is not used. Finally, the appearance of kopiao in 1 Timothy 5:17 meaning “those who labor” as elders (both presbuteroi and proestotes [perfect participle of prohistami] used with it) of the Ephesian churches shows its importance. This elder-function use in direct overlap with two other elder terms is suggestive for the elder-connection of kopioo. Elders and leaders labor in the word and in teaching (1 Thes 5:12). What form of “the word” he has in mind is not clear, but we may rightly think of the Old Testament, and the apostolic preaching and teaching traditions. The mean- ings of kopiao suggest something of a vocation and its labors; no reference to compensation is visible in connection with these terms, although com- pensation issues are discussed by Paul in other contexts. Still, this concept of elder work refers to its cost in time and energy.
There are other terms in leader-versus-congregation contexts. Closely related to kopioo is the term sunergos and the related verb, sunergeo. These words also denote work, but connote work as purposeful; they suggest pro- ductivity and human gain for both agent and beneficiary. Still another term with “the word” as direct object is apodosontes—those who “give out” or “give account” of the word (Heb 13:17). Since this term includes teaching “the word,” it also appears to refer to elders, even though “elder” does not occur in Hebrews 13:17 either. 1 Timothy 5:17 recognizes this as another term of elder teaching activity. Also denoting the ruling and governing side of elder activity is hageomai meaning “govern,” “manage,” or “rule” as in its use for Roman provincial governors. The verb hageomai (govern, rule) is used twice in Hebrews (13:7, 17) and overlaps with the ruling sense of prohistami (rule, take care of, care for).
On the caring side are three more terms which move the practice of eldering toward the loving, helping and supporting work of elders; they are close in sense to episkopos. The three, each used once for leaders, are noutheteo (1 Thes 5:12 [with prohistami]: admonish, warn, instruct), agrupneo [Heb 13:17]: keep watch, guard, take care of/for) and epimeleo- mai (1 Tim 3:4: take care of). Another term related to this group is parakla- sis (comfort, exhortation, urging, encouragement, admonishing); it occurs in the gift list at Roman 12:8 with its verb; cf 1 Tim 4:13; 6:2). These three elder-caring terms describe a mollifying and comforting side of elder ministry. This language too seems to describe elder-ministry, even if one cannot strictly prove the terms are interchangeable with other elder terms.
Some older European treatments of church “offices” and leadership make the “power” of the church the primary description of its nature as does the classical Presbyterian ecclesiologist, James Bannerman.21 Ban- nerman’s title itself conveys how firmly he thinks of the church as a power structure—a kind of government within civil government, to which he also devotes much space in the first of his two volumes on the church. The present essay on leadership and charisma points rather to a charisma-driv- en leadership of the church in which its ministry balances Spirit-guided elder rule with Spirit-guided elder care, each with its own array of syn- onym-functions. The New Testament picture seems closest to the Presby- terian style of eldership, but it is not strong on Bannerman’s power con- notations. In this kind of church administration, a body of elders emerging within local churches ministers in each local church. Their larger activities include meetings with regional elders to discuss theological and practical issues affecting any larger fellowship of churches.
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