Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Solving a Corinthian-sized Leadership Problem

How do you know you are "doing it right" as a leader? One way to tell is look at other leaders, such as Paul. Have you ever wondered what happened to all those churches Paul planted? Whatever became of the churches Paul wrote, such as the Corinthian church? They had so many problems.

We read in 1 Corinthians the church: was divisive (chapters 1-4); had misunderstandings regarding Paul’s ministry (chapter 4); fornication was occurring (chapter 5); believers were suing one another in court (Chapter 6); sexual immorality was rampant (chapter 6); there were marital issues (chapter 7); questions about Christian liberty and idolatry (chapters 8-10); The Lord’s Supper was out of control (chapter 11) and finally, doctrinal mis-understandings needed clarification (chapter 12).

So what was the outcome?Whatever happened with the Corinthians church? Well, there is another letter, a 2 Corinthians. Maybe we can find out what happened since the first letter. Here we find Paul appealing to believers to forgive (chapter 2), find motivation for ministry (chapters 4-5), appeal for reconciliation and be clearly defined apart from unbelievers (chapter 6). Paul encourages them to give (chapters 8-9) then spends the next few chapters answering personal accusations and defending his apostleship.

Doesn’t sound very promising, does it? Well, the gospel ain’t called “good news” for nothin’. 

Just like planting a seed in the garden, the harvest takes time. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about 56 years after Christ; then along comes Clement, about 95 years after Christ. Clement writes in his First Epistle to the Corinthians of a church that is: firmly established faith; demonstrates sobriety and moderation in godliness in Christ; practices habitual hospitality; shows perfect and well-grounded knowledge; people acting out of respect for others, walking in the commandments of God; obeying church leadership;  humble; people who are more willing to give than receive, being content with the Lord’s provision; carefully paying attention to God’s word; insatiable in their desire to do good and thus enjoy peace; prayerful and worshipful, making sure they have a clear conscience before God first before giving mercy to others; anxious for the brotherhood and those who were not yet part of the church; sincere, uncorrupt, forgetful of past injuries, considering factions and schisms as abominable; mourning over transgressions of others, even counting the sins of others as their own; not withholding any kindness, ready for every good work; adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, doing all things in the fear of God.

How did this happen? Clement writes summarily, “The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written on the tablets of your hearts.” Overall, these Christians did not simply start living biblically. They were first changed by repentant hearts, being made new creatures infused with new Spiritual life. One key descriptor should not be missed: according to Clement they prayed, they worshipped, they kept short accounts with God and they submitted to leadership who did the same.

Who were the leaders? Nobody, really. We don’t have their names--just the evidence of how they connected with God’s purpose for mankind through redemption. The leaders had been part of that crowd Paul wrote in the first epistle, but when they submitted to God’s authority, He used them to nurture others who submitted to the authority placed on them by God. They took their eyes off themselves, placed their vision on God and saw others clearly. The signs they were "doing it right" were the people being changed all around them.

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