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Andrew Clarke: A Pauline Theology of Church Leadership

 

Andrew D. Clarke, A Pauline Theology of Church Leadership (New York: T & T Clark, 2008), 189 pages, ISBN 9780567045607.

This work is important for those considering how best to ‘do church’ and who are also seeking after a Biblical model of leadership. The volume, a theological monograph in the Library of New Testament Studies series, is both theologically up to date and pastorally relevant for today. Clark, a senior lecturer in New Testament Studies in the University of Aberdeen and also the leader of a new church in rural Aberdeenshire, continues and develops the theme of Paul’s understanding of leadership which he addressed in his earlier work, Serve the Community of the Church: Christians as Leaders and Ministers (Eerdmans, 2000). In that work, Clark had noted how Paul’s understanding of Christian leadership should be distinguished from contemporary, social understandings of leadership in the 1st century Graeco-Roman context.

Paul was certainly not an advocate of egalitarian communism, but a believer in levels of authority.

In this new work, Clarke goes on the examine the peculiar nuances of Paul’s description and encouragement of leadership within the church, identifying that Paul was certainly not an advocate of egalitarian communism, but a believer in levels of authority. What is of special interest is how, as a New Testament and Pauline specialist, Clarke approaches this issue.

Andrew D. Clarke

Clarke argues that we can only understand Paul’s perspective on leadership and apostolic authority within the ecclesial context in which he worked. That is, a context of house churches where relationship and transparency was integral to the leadership role. He sees the various descriptors—overseer, elder and deacon not as offices, as they would later become in the Ignatian model, but properly as descriptors, often interchangeable or overlapping, of leadership dynamics within the local churches.

For Clarke, the critical ingredients for Pauline leadership were both an ability to teach and an ability to model Christlikeness to others: functions that necessitated relational accountability of such leaders within the local church communities they sought to lead. Clarke see that an attempt to appeal to Paul for models of ministry that vindicate power structures within larger people groups is to remove him from his context.

What did Paul think was necessary to be a good leader? Both an ability to teach and an ability to model Christlikeness to others.

Of equal value to the observations regarding leadership is the update, in the first two chapters, on methodology and hermeneutics. Clarke helps the reader to come to grips with what can or should legitimately be argued as being as ‘Biblical perspective’. Given the debates over apostolic models of leadership and styles of leadership that can be vindicated as ‘biblical’, Clarke’s work is here both timely and an important aids to those who want to review how the church today can better replicate or reflect the emphases present in the church of the apostolic age.

Reviewed by Jim Purves

 

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2010

About the Author: James Purves, Ph.D. (University of Aberdeen, Scotland), has been serving in pastoral ministry since 1980 and is presently Mission and Ministry Advisor to the Baptist Union of Scotland. He is a research tutor at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague, Czech Republic and author of The Triune God and the Charismatic Movement (Paternoster, 2004). His blog is http://jimpurves.blogspot.com

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