I have been reading Timothy Gombis’ new book The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God (IVP, 2010), and it has really been doing a number on me, and in me. lol! I LOVE this book! I have a fuller review forthcoming but there has been so much of this book I have wanted to blog on but if I did, there’d be a copyright violation (since I’d quote so much of the book that is worth quoting and talking about)!
Anyways, in reading chapter 5 in this book he is talking about Paul and his approach to ministry and leadership. As I read it, I finally think I understand why 2 Corinthians as a whole tends to be under represented in biblical studies. We love to talk up 2 Cor 5:21, especially in the recent debates going on at this years ETS and other conferences between NT.Wright, Schriner, Theilman and Mike Bird among others (did Wright actually admit despite his writing to the contrary that salvation is not based on merit?!) – but how much of the rest of this theologically under represented and rich letter gets noted in any leadership conference, theological seminar or other venue?
Gombis notes Paul as the Apostle of weakness and that it is only through our weakness and dependency on God that we can experience his power or that God’s power them becomes fully manifest – listen to that carefully: it is only when we are completely and utterly and fully dependent on God and function in our own weakness that God’s power is made complete in us or that his power is fully manifest – this is true biblical and Pauline leadership.
Gombis confronts modern evangelical notions of leadership ability as firmly rooted in idolatry – many have given over to worldly notions of leadership that stand on stark contrast to what we see in Paul the Apostle. Frankly, it is possible and more than probable, Paul would not be most people’s first choice to pastor any modern large congregation in any denomination, anywhere. Why? Well, he wasn’t a strong leader with a strong personality (something modern leaders want, expect, and demand), he operated out of weakness and not strength; he relied completely on God and on the Spirit’s power (most moderns, we rely on our knowledge, understanding, education (proper understanding of the Greek and Hebrew, etc), training and so on, not always on God or the power of the Holy Spirit) – one of the first ministry positions Debbie and I interviewed for, I knew very soon into the interview there was no way we’d be considered as I knew the pastor had it predetermined what he was looking for and that was a strong leader, which I am not.
Let’s face it, probably for many pastors and leaders, a deep sense of inadequacy leads us not to fully rely on God and the manifest power of the Spirit, but to run to the nearest MDiv, DMin or PhD program for better training, afterall we want to be equipped the best we can right? I mean really now, who appreciates the idea that suffering validates true ministry in the Spirit, and that it is primarily through suffering God mediates the gospel to the those whom we minster?
Nien! It is through strong effective leaders God mediates his gospel power! People of good standing and strong character, well dressed and well spoken, well organized and without any flaws, well educated and on and on! No weakness allowed, no flaws, no poor speech or speaking skills, none of that right? And probably too, many of us would not last long in a congregation lead by weak leadership would we? or leadership that was perceived as weak….
Well, that’s what I realized about 2 Corinthians anyways.