The Centrality of God’s Word for Church Leadership

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Ephesians 4:11

These days, you can read dozens of books on church leadership. You can attend dozens of conferences each year that will give you the "secrets" of how to lead churches effectively. Different leadership models and emphases abound in these books and conferences. Some are taken from business. Some emerge from psychological or sociological perspectives. Others are based on personal experience or biblical exposition.

Ephesians 4:11-12 offers inspired insight into the unique role and function of church leaders. As we saw in yesterday's reflection, Christ gave gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to the church so that the church might do its ministry (4:11). It's not too much of a stretch to say that people serving in these different roles are all exercising church leadership. Yet, we wonder, what exact roles do these leaders play in the church? Is there is a common thread that runs throughout their service to Christ and his church?

You would rightly guess that commentators differ on the precise roles and functions of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. It seems clear to me, at the least, that apostles are what we might call authorized church planters. Prophets speak God's word to the church. Evangelists communicate the Gospel to those who are not believers. Pastor-teachers (literally, "shepherds and teachers") care for the flock of God, in part by teaching God's truth.

As we'll see in an upcoming reflection, all of these church leaders join together in the shared assignment of equipping God's people for "works of service" (4:11). This is one thing these folk have in common. Another would be a necessary connection to God's word. Apostles plant new churches by preaching the Gospel. In this sense, they share in the role played by evangelists. Prophets speak God's word to their churches. Pastors shepherd their flocks primarily through teaching divine truth, which is why they are called "pastor-teachers."

Ephesians 4:11 establishes the centrality of God's Word for church leadership. Those who serve in a variety of leadership roles share in common a dependence upon and a commitment to communicate God's truth, both to those within the church and to those outside of it. For us, this means that we can surely learn from a variety of disciplines how better to lead God's church. But, whatever else we do, we must proclaim and teach God's truth as revealed in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and Scripture, the Word in written form.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In your experience, how central is the Word of God to church leadership? If you are a church leader (pastor, priest, elder, deacon, Sunday school teacher, etc.), how central is the Word of God in your work? How might your leadership be more informed by and centered in Scripture?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the gifts of leaders for your church. And thank you for the gift of your Word, made flesh in Jesus, written down in Scripture.

Today, I pray for all church leaders, including me, that we would be anchored to your truth. Help us to base our decisions on your revelation. May the communication of your Word–whether in teaching, evangelism, training, or shepherding–always be central to our leadership. May we never replace the centrality of your Word with something else, no matter how valuable it might be when rightly discerned and exercised. Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.

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