Part I - Foundations
This introductory section describes the learning process I've been involved in with my fellow elders at Fellowship Bible Church North. You'll be introduced to our basic research paradigm as well as our “frame of reference” — our “basic assumptions” and the way we “defined our terms.”
To help you evaluate the final results of our study, we'll explain “up front” the guidelines we've used to determine and formulate supracultural principles — those biblical truths regarding local church leaders that we believe are normative for local churches in every culture and at any moment in history.
Part II – The Biblical Story
The following chapters tell the “biblical story” of local church leadership. We begin with a foundational chapter that explores what New Testament writers meant when they referred to the “church” (ekklesia).
From that point, we'll look at what we can learn from the “elders” in the church in Jerusalem. As we follow this unfolding story regarding the expansion of the church, we'll journey with Paul on his missionary travels and, at the same time, consult the letters he wrote that correlate with his church-planting efforts. We'll also look at other New Testament epistles that address the subject of local church leadership.
Part III – Structural Observations
The following chapters look back on the biblical story that we've unfolded chronologically in Part II. We'll comment on fourteen specific observations that will help to crystallize our thinking in several important areas regarding the ministry of local church leaders: their titles, their functions, leadership selection and appointments, the concept of plurality of leadership, and the need for a primary leader. Part III serves not only as a systematic summary but also gives additional biblical data to help clarify more fully what we've looked at in the biblical story.
Part IV – Supracultural Principles and Practical Applications
These final chapters are designed to help all of us move from first-century to twenty-first century church leadership in order to create appropriate forms that (1) harmonize with biblical principles, (2) apply lessons we've learned from history, and (3) utilize both past and present cultural insights.
To practice a biblical approach to leadership, this must be a dynamic, ongoing process — reviewing the biblical story, evaluating past performances as reflected in history (including our own), and understanding our cultural milieu. What God has said, of course, is foundational. Hopefully, the principles we've outlined accurately articulate God's will as revealed in Scripture.
Part IV represents not only what we believe these principles are but our efforts in practicing some of these scriptural guidelines. As you'll see, I've chosen to focus on what we've learned from our church-planting experiences over the last number of years. Though I'm gratified and rejoice regarding what we've “done right,” I believe my most helpful illustrations will be those things we could have done better.
As you read the fourteen leadership “principles,” you can begin the evaluation process in your own ministry by answering two questions:
As you understand the biblical story, are these principles articulated accurately?
Assuming these principles are articulated accurately, how does your own approach to leadership reflect these principles?