Friday, April 04, 2008

Emerging churches - second century-style

Today I am trying to get a structure for a paper for my supervisor on leadership in the New Testament and immediate post-apostolic period. I've narrowed it down to looking at Rome and Philippi and trying to trace the trajectories of leadership development as those communities matured.

I think I'll call my paper The matrix of leadership: location, social order and authority in Rome and Philippi because that sounds suitably impressive (even if it masks the fact that I might not have anything intelligent to say!) and does touch on all the issues I think I want to address (albeit at a fairly superficial level).

I'm particularly interested in teasing out the evidence for the so-called three-fold ministry - bishops, deacons and presbyters - and reasons why it appeared/is appearing. And I am especially keen to see if there's any evidence for the assertion that the church was already moving out of homes into larger buildings and that many communities in a city were becoming one led by a singly bishop, assisted by presbyters and deacons.

We have good evidence for Rome because of literature having been left to us that was written from the city - namely 1 Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas. It seems that these two documents reflect different Roman Christian communities, thus suggesting that multiple churches were not at this time (the turn of the second century) becoming a single church with a unitary leadership.

Sadly we don't have similar evidence for Philippi - that I can find anyway - but we do have two letters: Paul's from the mid-50s and Polycarp's from the first third of the second century. A lot of good research has been done on what the Christian communities were like in Philippi when Paul wrote but sadly nothing like that wealth of information exists for the church/churches that Polycarp wrote to 80-ish years later.

What we do find across the second century literature, however, is considerable difference of opinion over how churches should be organised and what authority church leaders had. Teasing out the reasons why this was the case looks as though it's going to be quite interesting.

I'm hoping to get the structure done and map out the argument for each section ahead of going away. Because we're off to Spring Harvest in the morning. Five days in Skegness just as the winter returns - great!

But we're looking forward to meeting up with old mates and working with a whole range of people on the pastoral team. I'm also doing a seminar on self-esteem (though I'm not sure I'm good enough to be doing that, really...)

And inbetween all that, I'll be doing bits and pieces of writing with a view to editing it when I'm back and getting it off to my supervisor before we meet in a couple of week's time.

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