Leadership through the Lens of Romans 12:8- Dr. Bill Victor@121Forum

Leadership through the Lens of Romans 12:8-Dr. Bill Victor

Gifts in Romans 12:8-

7 Gifts listed: 5 of these are expected from Senior pastors (the bold ones):

Prophecy, Service, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leading, Showing Mercy.

This will frustrate, burn out pastors, cause isolation, fostering “professional ministry” list.

What if though we focused on “leading” for those called as pastors?

What does “leadership” mean?

Too many times, definitions are 20th century definition of leaderships shoved back into this passage.

What did Paul intend his readers to hear by “leadership”?  What would his audience have heard by it?

The NT does not give a definitive view of church leadership in the early church. Remember that each church could not read the other texts already written.  ( You don’t find the church at Rome reading Galatians while hearing Romans for the first time!)

Were there two levels of Leadership in the Early Church?

Spiritual: Apostles, prophets, teachers

Practical: those who give, those who lead, those who show mercy

Two types of associations Paul’s readers were familiar with had these Spiritual/Practical divisions:

Voluntary association (Guilds, etc.)- Spiritual- Priests/Practical-Patrons (provided meeting places, representation, wealthy people who offered resources to lesser members in the society)


Spiritual Leadership- rabbis, scribes

Practical- Synagogue Rulers (very similar to patron)

The term “prostomenous”

The difference for Paul is that wealth and prestige alone were not enough to be a ruler; Paul believed that it was a spiritual gift!

Primary meaning- “Be at the head of…rule and direct..” “Standing before or going before someone for protection”, used in LXX for household manager, used for governing, Apostolic use in the early church equivalent to “elder”, most commentators view this as one who presides, protects.

“A gifted person who by virtue of wealth or  position was able to “act as a champion” of the rights of the congregation and its socially vulnerable members.”  But Paul demanded sign of God’s Spirit working.

Survey of Pauline View of Church Leadership

Early Paul

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: “those who diligently labor, have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction…”

Meeks- The First Urban Christians:

Same root word as the noun for “patron”, informal, brotherly patronage though, called a “love patriarchal” system, led by an example of hard work providing protection and leadership

Romans 16:1-2: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe…for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”

Prostatis: most translations have “helper” or “support”, ESV- patron; HCSB, NRSV- benefactor.  Two feminine forms of this word are found in Jewish inscriptions in Rome, referring clearly to patrons.

1 Corinthians 16:15-16- Paul urges the Corinthians to submit to the household of Stephanus, who have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints.  Position is not the basis of his respect.  It is the example of servanthood.  They appointed themselves, not in a spirit of self-assertion but one of service and humility.

Later Paul

Romans 16:1-2: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe…for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”

Prostatis: most translations have “helper” or “support”, ESV- patron  HCSB, NRSV- benefactor.  Two feminine forms of this word are found in Jewish inscriptions in Rome, referring clearly to patrons.

Philippians 1:1- Elders/Overseers Part 1

Overseer: episkopos

Overseer or guard.  Connotation of someone as a “watcher”, “protector” or “patron.” Duties were to govern, administer, and oversee the affairs of the community.


Leadership/care of overseers/elders. 1 Tim. 3:4, 5:17

Choosing suitable people to care for the congregation.

General thoughts:

No “fixed” pattern of leadership in Pauline churches.  Waited to see leadership emerge and affirmed it.  The most obvious quality was a willingness to serve and care for the church and its needs.  These people were uniquely situated with resources but also had to be gifted and called by the Holy Spirit.

“The one who leads”- possible roles of a “gifted” leader (Remember the separation of Spiritual/Practical roles within the church!)

-See to it that the words of the prophet, teacher, or exhorter were carried out in the day-to-day life of the congregation.  Other duties: providing or securing meeting places, representing members before civil authorities and perhaps overseeing the provision of material goods to those in need.

Some questions for us…

Is there a place for this type of “patron” leadership in our churches today?  Do we need wealthy/powerful people to step up and fulfill these roles today?  Room for wealthy churches to “patron” poorer churches and advocate them in society?”

What about the temptation to put the wealthy and powerful into leadership?

Remember Paul’s observation of willingness to serve!

Is there a place for spiritual/practical leadership distinction?

Does this give hope to gifted communicators/thinkers, etc. who aren’t administrative or leadership, or leaders who can’t teach?  Can we even admit we might be deficient in one of these areas?

My Thoughts:

Dr. Victor’s study of the term “leadership” certainly had the right focus and methodology.  A proper exegetical/Biblical theology seeks to define terms in their  context before systematizing them, and Dr. Victor provides a helpful survey of “leadership” in this regard.  We certainly have provided many ministry situations where the pastor is supposed to be “Superman” and have every spiritual gift essentially.   We don’t!  Feet simply don’t function well as hands or mouths in the Body.

One of the limitations of the time for this session was that we didn’t find out very much about places where Paul such as Titus where Paul commands the appointment of elder(s) in each town and how the leadership functions relate to the character lists given in the pastorals.  I was glad to see though that this session was not a John Maxwell speech plugged into a Biblical prooftext!


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