So, how do the gifts of leadership and teaching line up? They are definitely two different gifts, after all. In Romans 12, Paul gives them both a separate spotlight:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[ faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Rom 12:6-8)
Clearly, there is a teaching gift. Slightly more opaque is the gift of being able to lead, because the word (proistēmi)might mean more widely ‘to provide for others’ or ‘to be generous.’ But two issues push me away from that wider meaning: first, that makes it very close in meaning to either giving or to show mercy here, and that would make it redundant in this context. It needs a sharper, more individual flavour. Second, in 1 Thess. 5:12 it occurs in a sequence of three activities linked with church leadership : Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.
So, two separate gifts, and you probably know people with one or the other. I know a brilliant bible teacher who couldn’t organise a group bible study without someone else’s help. And I know a really good organiser, a government planner, whose bible teaching would send you to sleep. Clearly they are separate.
But look again at that 1 Thessalonians passage: Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Do you see how both leadership (care for you – that’s the proistēmi word again) and teaching (admonish) sit together?
We saw the same pattern in Hebrews 13:7: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Leadership and teaching go together.
A double helping
This double gifting is even more obvious in 1 Timothy, where Paul uses the same words as in Romans 12, but he applies them not to two people, but to the one person, a potential elder:
Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Tim 3:1-7)
This is mostly a description of a mature Christian, and of course the one characteristic that sticks out as giftedness rather than maturity is able to teach. But look at manage his own family, which crops up twice here (and again for a deacon in v12); that, once again, is proistēmi.
In Paul’s mind, then, the potential elder must show a double gifting from Romans 12: an ability to teach must be partnered to an ability to lead. And he makes that even clearer in 1 Tim. 5:17 The elders who direct the affairs (proistēmi) of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
(Two quick translation notes: ‘double honour’ is a financial term, not meaning that elders who teach get paid twice as much as everyone else, but that they get paid an equivalent amount as anyone else. And the word especially (malista) is why some churches, mostly Presbyterian, have ‘ruling’ elders and ‘teaching’ leaders; the Greek seems to lean that way, although it’s quite possible to translate it ‘namely’, so that Paul is explaining what one group of people do, rather than identifying two of them).
So, it is not good enough to recruit potential leaders, pastors, overseers (the titles refer to the same people) simply because they are good preachers and teachers. By the same token, it is short-sighted to appoint people simply because they have a good management brain.
Those who lead churches need a double gifting, and in the next post we’ll see how that works out.
- Do you know Christian leaders who can lead but not teach? How could you support them?
- Do you know Christian leaders who can teach but not lead? How could you support them?
- How can you help your pastor (or, if you are a pastor, how could you help yourself), to grow in both areas?
- Do you think the two gifts fit easily together?
I wrote a ton more about elders/overseers/pastors in The Message of the Church
You can order it (discount) from 10ofthose here,
Aussie? Koorong has it here.