23 September 2009

(2)COR leadership1

2 Corinthians is a fascinating piece, not least because it is where Paul asserts six main attributes for evaluating ministry which are relevant to all who endeavor to work as part of the church. A few years ago I worked through these on another project, and now I find it appropriate to do so again. These principles were spoken into the context of a Hellenized first-century culture set on the edge of the Mediterranean, but they are every bit as meaningful and challenging for modern Western evangelicals.

1. Our authority is spiritual; it does not come from the flesh.

(2 Corinthians 10:1-11)

Paul has just been accused of being weak while he was face-to-face with the Corinthians but is able to now be 'bold' when he is away. This is a challenge to his character (that he lacks a backbone), charging him with not saying that which is necessary at the appropriate moment. Paul will not allow such criticism to stand, making clear in v. 2 that he will take whatever steps are needed - bold steps, indeed! - when he does arrive back in Corinth.

The Corinthians are judging Paul based upon a worldly criteria, that true strength is only found in those who are outwardly strong. But spiritual strength is not always found in external appearance, but rather through the strength of spirit which comes to a person now surrendered and broken before the cross. The Corinthians, along with many moderns, believe that they understand strength and weakness even though they are actually missing it all together. And here is the heart of an emboldened and passionate minister of the gospel, for he will do whatever is necessary . . . even in the midst of Corinth.

Perhaps the primary difference between Paul and his opponents at Corinth is that they are relying on human concepts of authority, power and achievement. Paul operates from a spiritual mandate. Their weapons are worldly, his are divine.

Far from being the type of preacher who eagerly seeks to build or maintain an audience for the sake of having listeners, Paul operates from the perspective of the kingdom. For us, the questions are not so different (nor are they easier). How long will we continue to watch Christians build their churches from the captivity of worldly standards of power, success, prominence and strength? Many of our leaders do not realize this, and they prove themselves to be cut from the same cloth as the ancient Corinthians. Sadly, this is why too many churches are not doing all that is necessary for a world which desperately needs them to do so. In other words, too many pastors and leaders walk loudly but carry a tiny stick.

What would happen to us if we were to abandon our earthbound desires and sought first the kingdom of God and its righteousness?

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