Tuesday, October 18, 2005

pneumetaphors: a sextant for sacred leadership

When I feel a cold chill hit the back of my neck, I twitch. When I catch myself falling asleep in church, I twitch. When I am startled, caught unawares, brought back to attention, or am suddenly caught up in a moment of existential awareness, I twitch. “Twitchery”, then, is a physiological reaction I cannot seem to control when confronted with something that needs to change immediately, be it as trivial as warm air on my neck or as serious as a rethinking of the way we understand leadership in church. I twitch every time I meet a self-proclaimed Apostle. I twitch when a Prophet introduces them self to me on the street, or a man presumes to Teach me or Pastor me whom I have never met. Too many corners still support soap-box Evangelists.

Of course, these examples are extreme – not representative of the most noble portions of our faith; and yet, they are consistent in one regard: our perspective on church leadership – specifically on the five fold Leadership gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 – have not changed much in the last several thousand years. There is something very positive about this, but also something profoundly disturbing. On the one hand, we believe our theology and understanding of authority should not be swayed by time and by popular culture. On the other hand, we are intelligently served when we discover new ways to express old truths. Creativity Engineer John Kao put it this way: “the trick for every leader is to find a motivational metaphor for the organization.”[1] If we take Kao at his word, and apply his reasoning to churches, we’re confronted with the fact that our perspectives have not evolved.

Consider Jesus’ decision to compare His ministry to that of a Shepherd watching over sheep.[2] This was an Agrarian metaphor designed to communicate to people immersed in a society of farming and agriculture. Today, however, we live after the Agrarian Age, after the Industrial Age, after the Information Age, and in the Age of Creativity.[3] If Jesus were to have lived throughout these epochs as a man, His genius would undoubtedly have reframed itself to best fit the current context. In the Industrial Age He may have referred to Himself as the Good Factory Manager, or in the Information Age as the Good Web Master. Everything we see of Jesus Christ in the New Testament tells us He was a masterful communicator, gifted in supplying new ways to see, so our question must be “How would Jesus choose to represent Himself in a culture with no sheep?”[4]

My intention here is not to replace the images and metaphors supplied in scripture,[5] but to offer additional[6] metaphors that may help us to twitch our way into a new perspective that will serve to broaden and deepen our understanding of why God has placed us on the earth and appointed us to minister. Indeed, our Christian commitment certainly involves a “commitment to clear perception”[7] and if we can further our sense of alignment with the biblical text through a generous acceptance of new models, then we are another step closer to sacred, or biblical, leadership.

Walter Breuggemann makes a solid argument for the need of new metaphors, stating “People do not change, or change much, because of doctrinal argument or sheer cognitive appeal…or because of moral appeal…people in fact change by the offer of new models, images, and pictures of how the pieces of life fit together.”[8] This is why I have chosen pneumetaphors. Pneumetaphors, joined from the Greek “pneuma” which means “spirit”[9] and the English word “metaphor”, are literary devices used for seeing the spirit in new ways. In our bio medically enhanced, technology-as-pet world, the church must find new metaphors to advance our aptitude for leadership. John Kao writes:

…this [is] the new creative era, dramatically expanding the space for speculative thought. Information technology is evolving into the technology of relationships, facilitating the flow of creative interaction through computer-based communication networks, groupware, increasingly intelligent agents, knowledge representation and management systems, videoconferencing systems, and the convergence of different forms of traditional media.[10]

It is left to us to “bow to the invitation”[11] given us by God to redefine our roles in Sacred Leadership through energy, unity, and mission. Indeed, what is yearned for is not new doctrine or new morality, but a “new world, new self, and a new future.”[12]

Lastly, I think it is important to answer the question “Why leadership from Ephesians chapter four?” As a pastor in a local church, I found the knowledge based on Ephesians to be tremendously liberating. Not only was this multi-dimensional schematic of leadership supported biblically,[13] but also because I found the lives of the biblical characters inspiring.[14] Service in a church exposes one to all manner of expectations, demands, and suppositions about what a pastor should be. Once I discovered that there were multiple paradigms for ministry presented – even required – in the New Testament, I experienced a sense of personal freedom and destiny. I was emancipated from the shame of not living up to the expectations of parishioners. This was a change wrought about by the offering of a ‘new model of how [my] ministry may fit.’[15] This kind of thinking has since been reinforced through my understanding of Gardener’s Multiple Intelligence Theory,[16] Weston’s Spiritual Gifts Inventory,[17] the DISC test,[18] Thomas’ Sacred Pathways to God,[19] and the collision of several scriptures about God’s knowledge and love for me personally.[20]

Much has been made of the Ascension Gift Ministries, particularly in Pentecostal-Charismatic settings, and I do hope to provide fresh insight into this environment while staying true to the biblical text and honoring Christian tradition. The purpose of the Ascension Gift Ministries, as outlined by the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Ephesians, is for the “perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”[21] It is with this end in mind that I offer these five pneumetaphors as a sextant for sacred leadership.

[1] John Kao, Jamming. (New York: Harper Collins, 1996), 103.
[2] John 10.11
[3] John Kao, Jamming. (New York: Harper Collins, 1996), 4.
[4] Of course, I am speaking from the standpoint of living in a large urban metropolis and I am aware that sheep do still exist; however, the point remains that shepherds and sheep are neither common, nor accessible to the general populace in North America, in the way they were BCE.
[5] Of course not! Any such attempt to replace anything in scripture should be highly criticized, to say the least.
[6] Again, the point is not to supplant scripture, not to find equality with scripture, but to foster continued conversation about what the Bible has to say about leadership.
[7] Reginald W. Bibby, Restless Churches. (Kelowna, Wood Lake Books, 2004), 29.
[8] Walter Brueggemann, Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and the Postmodern Imagination. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 24.
[9] Crosswalk New Testament Greek Lexicon, Strong’s Number 4151. http://www.biblestudytools.net/Lexicons/Greek/grk.cgi?number=4151&version=nas
[10] John Kao, Jamming. (New York: Harper Collins, 1996), 4,5.
[11] Leonard Sweet, Summoned to Lead. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 82.
[12] Walter Brueggemann, Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and the Postmodern Imagination. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 25.
[13] Support for the New Testament and post-Ascension biblical basis of each of the five ascension gifts will be given section-by-section in conjunction with the pneumetaphors. It should be noted, however, that there is debate about the post-Ascension ministries of both apostle and prophet in the Church today. I believe I will supply sufficient evidence to support my personal views in the sections to follow, but the fact that there are sharply defined divisions on the issue is worth mentioning.
[14] Specifically the Apostles Peter, Paul, Timothy and Barnabas.
[15] Walter Brueggemann, Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and the Postmodern Imagination. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 24.
[16] Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind. (Cambridge: Basic Books, 1993).
[17] Owen Weston, Spiritual Gifts: Your Job Description from God. (Bethany: Lifesprings, 1996)
[18] http://www.discprofile.com/
[19] Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).
[20] Namely Jeremiah 1.5, Jeremiah 29.11, Matthew 6.34, and Ephesians 4.4, 1 Corinthians 12.28,29.
[21] Ephesians 4.11-13 KJV.

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