By virtue of being a founder, there exists a certain degree of authority built into the relationship between the founder and the community that was founded. It is built into the nature of founding things. Said another way, it is axiomatic to Pauline forms of apostolic ministry.
Paul frames the nature of this relationship with the of parent/child metaphor in I Corinthians 4:14-17 when he says:
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul uses this metaphor of father/child to describe his role as the catalyst of planting the seed of the gospel that gave birth to their community. Paul is a parent to the Corinthians in this respect. By virtue of Paul's role in the development of the community, he occupies a sphere of influence that only a founder(s) can occupy. This sphere of influence is, it should be noted, only reaches into the communities he founded. So Paul does have this kind of relational currency with those communities he has not founded. Looking at some of the metaphors Paul uses to describe his role in the communities, we can discern a certain relational terrain associate with the landscape of apotolic ministry. Some of these metaphors are:
1. Foundation Layer - I Cor 3
2. Father - I Cor 4
3. Ambassador - II Cor 5
4. Founder - I Cor 4
5. Worker - II Cor 6
It is important to recognize that while Paul occupied a unique sphere of influence in his communities, he did not lord it over them. So for example, listen to what he says in II Corinthians
Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand...
So while Paul is a parent to the Corinthians, he is not paternalistic. While he occupies a sphere of influential authority in the communities he founds, his posture towards them is not authoritarian. Paul was able to find, as Michael Gorman would say, a way of exercising authority in a cruciform way. That is, his authority in those communities originated in the gospel, and was expressed in alignment with the values of the cross - weakness, humility, sacrificial love etc.
The next post will attempt to outline how some of these metaphors relate to one another with respect to spheres of authority.