Wednesday, March 06, 2013

211. Apostolic Ministry and Legitimacy Part 4

In  II Corinthians 3, Paul is looking to contrast his style of ministry with the super-apostles style of ministry. Perceiving themselves as "agents of transformation," they couldn't help but position themselves as central focal points in the community.

Paul comes against this style of ministry not just because it is false, but because it hinders the community from accessing the transformative power of the Glory of the Lord. Their superior rhetoric, manifestations of power, and letters of recommendation may at first seem to be a necessary component of leadership. I mean, who doesn't want to communicate well, demonstrate the power of the Spirit, and accelerate the establishment of our credibility through organizational legitimacy?

Paul does not have a beef with any of these things in themselves, it is HOW the super-apostles are utilizing these things in the community. If your rhetoric, gifts/charisms, or reputation stands in the way of people developing a fascination with the Glory of the Lord, then your style of ministry will ultimately bring death. It is the Glory of the Lord that provides the dynamic power to perpetually transform.

Paul understood this as both a follower and a leader. Notice the "we" language in 3:18 so characteristically debated in the book of II Corinthians. Paul includes himself with the community as one who needs to look beyond himself onto a greater, more glorious object of affection. Both the leader and the follower are perpetually transformed "from glory to glory" by beholding the Glory of the Lord. Notice the diagram below.

Paul is both a leader and a follower. He is both disciple and rabbi. Paul puts himself in front of the Corinthian community as an object of imitation because he too orients himself towards the glory of the Lord. He too is transparent and weak. To imitate Paul is to learn how to look towards Jesus and be shaped by the patterns of the gospel. To imitate Paul is to learn how to develop the patterns life that focus our attention on the Glory of the Lord. To follow Paul as a leader is to pattern ones life after The Pattern which he himself patterns his life...the gospel. So Paul is not just inviting the Corinthians to follow a leader, he is also, simultaneously, asking them to follow a follower. In doing so, the Corinthians would learn how to both lead for, and follow after, Jesus. this is essentially what Paul did with Timothy.(I Cor 4:15-19)

Seeing this logic within the text, I have no problem with leadership, using the language of leadership, or training other people to be leaders. The catch to this is, what style of ministry are we modeling for other people to imitate? Paul knew that superior rhetoric was quick way to establish legitimacy in the Corinthian context. He intentionally scaled back his rhetorical devices so as to side step the Corinthians tendency to be more fascinated with the container than the content. (I Cor 2:1-4)

Paul was quick to deflect attention off himself by exposing his suffering and weakness. When it came up as a point of contention to de-legitimize his apostleship, Paul utilized the gospel to legitimize his ministry. He essentially says "The reason I am legit is because the patterns of my life mirror(imitate) the patterns of the gospel."(II Corinthians 4) Ultimately, it was the gospel that funded Paul's apostolic legitimacy.

So question: what do you tend to lean on when it comes time to "legitimize" your ministry? Numbers, rhetoric, invitations to speak at other churches, charisms??? How we seek to legitimize our ministries will shape the style of ministry we engage in. 

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