Thursday, February 18, 2010


A recent phone call from a friend who was about to go into a meeting to discuss the qualifications for deacons reminded me of the extreme controversy that surrounds the "husband of one wife" qualification listed in 1 Timothy 3:12. He indicated there were several differing views of that requirement and those views had been presented at previous meetings more heatedly than the discussion about any of the other qualifications listed.

Today I want to address that verse. What does it really mean? Someone is going to say "It means what it says." But that is the problem. I don't think it means what it says as much as it means what it means and some interpretation must go into understanding it's meaning. This would mean we need to recognize the possible fallibility of our understanding of it to stay away from the heat in discussing it. Here's my possibly fallible view but it is mine
Some people believe Paul is saying for a man to be a deacon [or an elder] there must be no record of divorce even before conversion. But is that what Paul actually means? To know it is necessary that the Greek text be examined carefully in it's original context.

The words that are a bit difficult to translate in the Greek are, “Mias gunaikos andra” (“Husband of one wife”). A literal translation of this phrase would be “a man of one woman.” There is no word in Greek for our word “husband.” The word for “man” here is aner, which is simply the word for a male individual. The word “wife” simply means a "woman or female individual." It is true that when used in the context of marriage they can be translated "husband and wife." But it is important to see the other nuances in the text to get the full impact of what Paul is saying.

For example, The words “wife” (woman) and “husband” (man) are used WITHOUT the definite article in the original language of the text which would indicate that the character or nature of the man and woman is what is in play here. Therefore the structure of this passage might be best translated "one-woman kind of man.” Kenneth Wuest said it that way in his translation of this passage...“He must be a one-woman kind of man in that he isolates and centralizes his love upon one women.”

It seems clear to me that in a culture where we all know that men were frequently tempted toward unfaithfulness and sexual impurities even in the worship of the mystery religions, that Paul is making it clear that an elder or a deacon of the church was to be a “one-woman kind of guy." Paul is stressing the character and nature of a godly man and that is the quality of character that is to be looked for rather than identifying a single experience or event [divorce] that may have happened in his life especially in the distant past.

The clincher for me in what I've just said is the fact that ALL of these character qualities are in the present tense in the Greek. So it is speaking of a present kind of character quality that would possibly rule out some men who have only been married once but are not at the present a one woman kind of guy. By the same token it could possibly NOT be ruling out a man saved out of sexual promiscuity or a broken marriage but who is now known for his virtuous attitude toward his present wife.

So I personally have reason to doubt that the prohibition of divorce is what Paul intended to say here. In fact, if Paul had merely wanted to forbid a divorced man from being an elder or deacon there are other Greek words which would have easily communicated that thought had he used those words. He did not.

Something else is interesting to me about the construction of these verses and it concerns the use of the word “must.” It should be noted "must" controls the entire section of scripture. It isn't even present in verse 8 but is way back in verses 2 and 7. [Notice the italics in verse 8 indicating such.] This undoubtedly means we are to see the importance of ALL these qualities on an equal basis.

Yet it is often true that this phrase 'husband of one wife' under review in this post is often judged on a harder/higher scale than many of the other qualities. If one holds that a divorce in the past automatically disqualifies a man should we also disqualify a man who has had problems in the past with his children? [v4 and v12] The Scriptures tell us that an elder/deacon “must not be given to much wine. [v3 and v8] Should any past alcoholism then disqualify a man as a divorce does in the minds of many? So while it is true that ALL qualifications are important, we have to question why this one is elevated!! Seeing it the way I'm suggesting the language is to be understood would help that situation.

Another interesting point is seen when we compare the lists of qualifications given to Timothy and Titus. The two lists are virtually the same in all qualities mentioned except one. Paul leaves out in addressing Titus the one forbidding a young Christian from ministering as an elder. Paul does not give this one to Titus who was in Crete. Is this because the church in Crete was a young church and did not have any members who had been believers for a long time? I don't know for sure. But this would at least indicate that these qualities ARE a present day character issue rather than an event in the past that disqualifies and the situation of needed ministry MAY have come into play in Paul's mind. Just sayin....

One other thing. I might as well say it and assure my heretic position in the minds of many. I agree with John MacArthur on this so he must be heretical too. [I do disagree with some other things he says.] I'll let him set the table in his own words. He says..

"Notice verse 11, without looking we almost skip by what Paul just dropped in there. I don't know why he put it in before verse 12, I'm not sure there's any way we can explain it, but he did. It's there. And I want you to understand verse 11 because it's such a wonderful one. "Even so" is the word "likewise" or in like manner, the very same word as verse 8, and that indicates to us that we are now coming to a third category of people. Now you will notice that it is translated in the Authorized with some italics, "Even so must their wives." Let me say that I think that is an inadequate translation. In the first place, there's no word in the Greek for wives, this is the word gunaikeios which means women. [Paul--I've said this in my post above.] And it doesn't say "their women," it could say that in the Greek, there is a word for "their" and the Apostle Paul could have said that if the Holy Spirit wanted him to say it. But he didn't. It actually says "Likewise women," that's all it says in the Greek...likewise women. The question is, what women? Are they the wives of the deacons as some interpreters believe or are they just women who also serve in the church in a deacon capacity? That's the question we have to answer. And I think it can be simply answered. The best translation here is "women" because that's the translation of the word."

"The reason that I'm not at all convinced that this could possibly be the wives of deacons is manifold. Number one, why would there be qualifications for the wives of deacons and not qualifications for the wives of elders who have an even more important responsibility? Why would he isolate the wives of deacons and not say anything at all about the wives of the overseers? Secondly, the use of "likewise" in verse 11 means we have a new category because it was used in verse 8 of a new category. First overseers, likewise deacons, likewise women...and this is to say to me that the church is to recognize that there is a group of women who serve in the church. If he wanted to say "their women" he could have used the word "their" but he didn't use it."

"You say, "Well why didn't he use deaconesses?" Because there's no Greek word for that. That's why Phoebe, a woman in Romans 16:1 is called a deacon because there's no feminine form. So the only word he could use if he had used...if he have said "likewise deacons" and meant women, we never would have known he meant women because the word is not feminine. There was no word for wives, so the only word he could use was women and the way he tells us this is a new category is with "likewise." So clearly he's introducing what I believe has come to be the deaconess in the church."

Well I'll be... I agree Dr. Mac.

In conclusion I would say that when setting aside people to an elders or deacon ministry, [I don't believe these are 'offices' in the popular present day meaning at all.] the church is to examine what the needs are in the body and where any people [men and women] who might meet those needs are right now in their life. This includes their personal life, their walk with the Lord, their family, and how they are seen in the community at the present when all the qualifications are considered.

These are to be servants of the highest order and must demonstrate in their character the grace of God at it's highest level. The obvious anointing of the Spirit is to be upon them and that lifestyle should earn a follow-ship from us all where needed and a linking of hearts and hands on an equal basis out of our giftedness to minister with them for the good of the body.

Sorry for the length, but there it is.

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...


I agree, and I'm glad you said it.

And you need to talk to your blogger account. The word verification word isn't very nice. I don't even want to type it here. Really.


Ken Colson said...

The operative thought seems to be Grace and we are all recipients of it...freely given by Jesus....freely passed on by each of us. Just thinking out loud. Hope you are back in the saddle and feeling good.
Ken Colson

Aussie John said...


Well said! Thank you for very timely, clear headed words! I wouldn't try to add anything, except that I'm pleased to see the parenthesis regarding 'office'.

Paul Burleson said...


There are those things about my blog that are not for the faint of heart. ;) Sorry. Whatever it was!


I'm back though the second surgery didn't go quite as well in the healing category as the first. It's getting there however. Thanks.

Aussie J,

Having come to see the Church as an organism rather than an organization and finding the word is ONLY in the KJV and is a bad translation has impacted my ecclesiology forever.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

In many ways a "one woman man" is a much stronger quality than husband of one wife.

I know many men who maybe had a divorce before they were saved or many many years ago and have faithfully been one women men since then.

And I know men who have been married to one woman for many years but their eyes, comments, and actions (even if there is no physical infidelity) suggest that they are not one women men.

Secondly in regard to offices, I too have had my ecclesiology changed with the awareness that "office" is A KJV interpretation

The NT emphasis seems to be on qualities of servant leaders and not "qualifications".

Therefore the working of the body is described not in body parts (ie offices,position, etc) as much as it is in function (pastor-ing, apostle-ing, teach-ing, help-ing, administrat-ing, etc)

Paul Burleson said...


Your comment is spot on in both parts.

What you've said about 'qualities' and 'qualifications' is so good I wish I'd considered it much earlier but frankly it had never entered my mind until you said it.

I think I've JUST sworn off the word qualifications in regards to both elders and deacons. It is their character qualities being spoken of in the passage as we both know and the distinction you've made is extremely valid.

You nailed it here..."Therefore the working of the body is described not in body parts (ie offices,position, etc) as much as it is in function (pastor-ing, apostle-ing, teach-ing, help-ing, administrat-ing, etc)"

Good stuff and keep your insights coming.

Aussie John said...


Your words, "I too have had my ecclesiology changed with the awareness that "office" is A KJV interpretation" reflect my own journey.

That caused me to research much more, and question why other words such as'elder','bishop,'deacon', 'rule', etc., etc., weren't translated into the English.

What utter foolishness has been perpetuated by the traditions many have embraced under the guise of "standing fast in the traditions"

We've been more like how Paul described himself in Gal.1:14, than what he taught in 2 Thess. 2:15.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

A really good book that has stirred my thinking in this direction is
"They Smell Like Sheep" Shepherding in 21st Century by

Dr. Lynn Anderson

traveller said...

Good words. Further support for your conclusion is the fact that it would have been ridiculous to say to a woman that she should be a one man woman since women were essentially the property of men and only men could divorce or have more than one woman. For me, it demonstrates we need to be careful to understand the cultural context in which something was written before trying to apply it in our cultural context.

As to the idea of servant leadership I have in recent years come to the conclusion we are to be servants, as was Jesus, and that servant leadership may be a contradiction in terms. The whole concept of servant leadership comes from a fellow named Robert Greenleaf who worked for IBM. It is a secular business idea started in the 1960's that was grafted into Christianity as the rise in the use of business methodologies became common in the organized church, particularly beginning in the 1990's.

I am pleased you are recovering from your surgeries but know it must be frustrating at times when it does not progress as quickly as you would prefer.

Paul Burleson said...


Good comment. Your entire paragraph about servant/leadership is as good as I've heard in some time.

I have to confess that the the orgin of it is a surprise to me but...everytime I have heard it used I have had this nagging suspicion in my gut [Could have been the Spirit or could have been the pickle on my hamburger, I didn't really investigated which.] that something wasn't ringing true. You have thrown light on that nagging feeling. I think it was the Spirit. I'm going to look deeper now.

You and Rodney have given some new light on things. As I said, good stuff. Thanks.

Aussie J,

"What utter foolishness has been perpetuated by the traditions many have embraced under the guise of "standing fast in the traditions"

Truer words have not been spoken/written. Thanks.

Aussie John said...


I agree with Traveller. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't recall Jesus teaching anything about the concept of "leadership" as it is understood today.

In fact he taught and demonstrated the diametric opposite e.g. Matt. 20:27-28; John 12:25-26,13:12-17. Paul also,Phil. 2:1-4,2:3-4,2:5-8.

If Jesus is to be our model in this matter, servant-hood and shepherding must be understood in the the cultural context of Jesus day.

I'm inclined to see most leadership in the churches today illustrated in the following true experience of an Irish Baptist pastor I know.

He was in Israel traveling along the road and came upon a flock of sheep being driven. He said to the man driving the sheep, "I thought shepherds always led the sheep from the front."

The fellow answered, "That's true, but I'm not the shepherd, I'm the butcher!"

I think the point is clear. Hope this isn't too long!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

"I'm inclined to see most leadership in the churches today illustrated in the following true experience of an Irish Baptist pastor I know.

He was in Israel traveling along the road and came upon a flock of sheep being driven. He said to the man driving the sheep, "I thought shepherds always led the sheep from the front."

The fellow answered, "That's true, but I'm not the shepherd, I'm the butcher!"

That, my friend, is classic.

Rodney Sprayberry said...


If Traveller is correct ( and I think that he is) and "servant leadership" is a simple business model idea (a good one I might add)..what DOES the NT say about leadership?

Well, Jesus says if you want to be first you must be last... you must not seek to be served but to serve..etc

This reversal of natural thinking is seen in the organic, mutual functioning of the church.

Function is emphasized over position...I think we get that.

But how does leadership function in the church?

If John Maxwell is right (and I think he is) then leadership is simply influence.

So how does influence occur in the church?

Without offering chapter and verse, it seems to me that...

Believers exercising spiritual gifts in the context of spirtual community with a servant's heart tops the list!

So if one's gift is administrat-ing, or help-ing, or serv-ing, or pastor-ing, or teach-ing it is humbly practiced as a spiritual sacrifice flowing from a servant's heart (infused with love)

The functional leadership activities that result:


Dr. Lynn Anderson has convinced me that these are in harmony with the biblical concept of "shepherding"

There are other functions that can be added but you hopefully get the idea.

Now here is where my thinking get fuzzy (or maybe I just have never seen it so clearly before.

Jesus has called us all to be servants in a unique and gifted way (according to the needs of a local body).

We serve Him and each other these various functional ways.

As we grow and mature in our relationship with God and each other, we are all called to mentor,model, equip, and encourage others.. thus replicating the cycle.

It is impossible for a few people to do it all though the church often relegated most of these functions and activities to paid or ordained individuals.

No wonder so many ministers burn out,flake out, or fake it...they are shouldering the bulk of responsibilities...that no individual has the capacity to deal with alone.

The expectations that they put on themselves and those placed on them by some congregations are unrealistic and dare I say it... un-Christ-like?

I sense on other blogs some animosity towards professional clergy... some of it is justified (because sometimes we actually believe our own press!) some of it is not (because the majority of ministers really are trying to serve God and his church).

However, there is a growing sense of anger/frustration that our religious leaders are not truly spiritual leaders (maybe because no such animal exists..spiritual mentors,yes...spiritual leaders not so much)... and growing sense of guilt and frustration in the hearts of pastors that intuitively know that this is true. We have degrees, ordination papers, a few marketable skills (at least in church work) and a calling...but to what?

Ephesians 4 commands all believers (men and women) to walk worthy (consistent) of the calling each one has recieved...

One cannot walk consistently in a calling without clarity concerning that call.

Aussie John said...


I believe the anecdote about the sheep is applicable to marriage as well as church leadership.

The problem many, maybe most have, is with understanding the context in which our terms "to lead" and "shepherd" were understood in Jesus' day.

Here, in Australia, the shepherds (sheep herders) ride small motor bikes, most often four wheelers now, and fly one man helicopters, occasionally riding a horse. If the dingoes, or wild dogs get a few, although the loss is regretted, it hardly makes a dent in the total value of the flock. There are very few natural hazards.

In Jesus day a man's wealth was tied up in his flock, as well as food supply,material for clothing, etc. The flock was very small.The natural hazards were great; wild animals,such as dogs, wolves, foxes and jackals, as well as feline carnivores. There were thorn bushes in which a sheep, once caught by its wool, starved to death unless found. Crevasses amongst the rocky terrain also claimed sheep.Hence Luke 15:4!

It was absolutely necessary for any good shepherd to walk in front of the sheep. He was first to experience whatever the sheep would encounter, whether a nice green pick of herbage, a ravenous wolf, or a natural trap.

That's what God expects of ALL of those who claim Christ as Lord and Savior, but even more so of those entrusted to oversee His sheep today, whether wives,families or congregations. Nothing less!

That's the humble, self-effacing, foot washing love by which "all people will know that you are my disciples"!

Correct me if I've got it wrong!

Paul Burleson said...



Aussie J,

Right on.

I've got to say that I think this is one of the most insightful comment sections I can remember on this blog. THANKS.

Bob Cleveland said...

Well, Paul, I'll see if I can put a stop to THAT!

I've always gone along with the "One (or first) woman (kind of) man" interpretation. And I've leaned to the "one" meaning, lest we toss out widowers, etc.

I think there's another factor that might play in. The other "qualifications" for "leadership" .. raising kids well .. handling the family .. being filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, seem to be things we don't want to discuss. Perhaps a misguided sense of the old "judge not" thing. We don't want to be judged, so we don't want to judge others on those matters.

Well, we SHOULD be examined on them, especially if we have any desire of such a position, and the bible doesn't seem to preclude such a desire. The sad, sad part is that, when I sat on ordination councils, I asked many candidates if they were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom; I'd think that should be part of one's self-examination if he were desirous of such an "office".

I never EVER heard what I'd consider a reasonable explanation of how they knew they were.

But you know .. that "not remarried" deal is a checklist sort of thing to help us feel as if we've done a thorough examination, without depending on Spiritual perception, or the leading of the Holy Ghost.

I know what I recall from when I became an Elder in the PCA. It was really very good.

traveller said...

Rodney, I appreciate your comments and would agree with the vast majority of what you have written. Perhaps I over emphasize this but the very word leadership connotes the idea of power and the attempt to exert power over others. So, even influence makes me uncomfortable. It is largely because so much of what is called leadership in the church comes from secular business models. Even influence does, it is called influence management. (At one point in my career I had actually was in a course by that name.) It is the idea of influencing people, instead of ordering them, so that the leader can secure people's support for the leader's vision and objectives. I think service, certainly as represented in the New Testament and the life of Jesus, would indicate that it is the giving up of power (Philippians 2). So, to the extent that leadership means influencing people to secure what the "leader" wants, in my view is a form of exercising power over another individual.

It is my view that Jesus never did that. Jesus lived his life in such a way to demonstrate for us what a human could be that perfectly bore the image of God, thus, being fully human. But this was not to exercise power over anyone by doing so. The individuals Jesus came in contact with were given the complete freedom to follow or not. (I fully recognize some may or may not agree with the last statement depending on whether they hold a Reformed or Arminian view.)

You may be meaning something similar to what I have described by your use of leadership. I have become incredibly skeptical of the use of the term leadership, or servant leadership, because it is usually a disguise for a person to exercise power over others in order to get their life objectives satisfied.

I would be interested to read your thoughts and those of others who comment here. If I need to clarify please feel free to ask.

Rodney Sprayberry said...


How would exegete I Peter 5?

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who will also share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must but because you are willing as God wants you to be, not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears you will recieve the crown of glory, that will never fade away. (5:1-2)

It seems to me that the NT does not do away with human leadership (influence)it just spells out what kind.

I would concur that much of what passes as leadership today even in the church is activity that feeds the ego or advaances the agenda of the "leader"

But what if we take time to examine the Biblical concept of shepherding? I think there is much to explore.I have recently come to the conviction that "shepherding" is the best way to express whatever "leadership" is suppose to be.

Aussie John said...


I'm not sure why we bloggers can't stay focused on the subject the host writes about. I'm guilty I know.

Again I agree with Traveller regarding the terminology.

An interesting fact regarding the concept of shepherding which Peter understood in his day was that the shepherd's major concern, apart from the safety of the sheep was to lead them to good sustenance, food and sweet water. In doing this the shepherd suffered many privations. He lived with his sheep, day and night, whatever the weather. Because he walked in front of the sheep he was the one who was confronted with the most danger. Importantly, his every circumstance was the same as the sheep.

His was not a position of privilege, comfort or prestige. In fact it was the very opposite.

His life, 24 hours a day was controlled by the sheep, he didn't control them. He was as dirty and smelly as his sheep.

As I understand it Now, poimaino is what God calls us to do. It involves much more than shovelling huge amounts of information into their ears each week,like pushing the feed off the back of a truck.

Like with the middle Eastern shepherd it involves heart oriented servanthood. It requires personalized careful service much as a manservant tends to the needs of the master of the house. It is a life dedicated to giving of oneself, not taking authority over.

Again, like the shepherd, it is unrestrained selflessness engendered by total concern for needs of the flock.

There's a good description of shepherding as the model and only Shepherd of His sheep understands it.

"...for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd [poimaino], and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17, NASB).

That's true Biblical shepherding.

I won't be offended if you cut off my long-winded-ness. I can get carried away on this subject.

Rodney Sprayberry said...


Yeah...what Aussie John said! :)

Aussie John,

In a strange way it is still on topic.

In the church, we have spent a great deal of effort and energy focusing on outward, measurable. qualifications in all aspects of our "Christian life"

Though I am a firm believer that authentic faith produces concrete results (the Bible calls it fruit)

I am also aware how easily we become "whitewashed tombs and dirty cups."

But dealing with the "iceburg" aspects of our relationship with Jesus rarely fits into a neat little box!

In my personal life is easier to show how close I am to God by my church attendance, giving patterns, and regular quiet times.

In my family, it is easier to show how good of a family man I am by providing for my them, having well-behaved kids, and an intact marriage!

If I am a pastor is easier to show how good of a leader I am by measuring the buildings, butts, and bucks I produce.

The problem is that I can do all those things whether or not God shows up or not.

Many times those measurements are a sure sign that I am living life in a self-sufficient manner so God is his grace allows circumstances to arise that remove those measuring sticks which hopefully draws me back to Him.

In an ongoing relationship with Jesus...I may struggle but his grace and love is sufficient

Maybe, just maybe...
I learn to cherish the woman, kids, and life that God has given me.

I learn to honor God is my business dealing and interactions with others.

I get the joy and privilege of stepping into the lives of others as a friend, a guide, a mentor.

If any of those things occur it is not because I meet certain qualifications but it is because Jesus has produced certain qualities in me.

Aussie John said...


Yes! Yes! to everything you said.

If you were present when I read those words, I'd have hugged you!

And thanks, Traveller!

Paul, you so rightly said,"The problem is that I can do all those things whether or not God shows up or not."

Most congregations,because they haven't been taught, or experienced otherwise, haven't a clue whether God is there or not.

Sadly, those leaders, who are just as ignorant as those they stand before,forcefully, and knowledgeably preaching messages which accord with their systematic theology,demonstrating their ability to "buildings, butts, and bucks", are those who are held up as great examples of leadership. In reality they are like those who know all the information about piloting a 747, but never gained the understanding which can only come in the pilots seat.

Only the living presence of Christ, His Holy Spirit, can begin that understanding. Certainly being given an "official office" cannot!

And we wonder at the graceless blog comments which are recently very prevalent around the blog-a-sphere??

Aussie John said...


Please allow me to apologize to Rodney. You and he may be one in Christ, but not in person :) Yep! I'd have hugged him too!

Paul Burleson said...


I've been away for a couple of days. Boy the comments have been good while I was away.

Aussie J, that was hilarious. I think we're all ready for a group hug. ;)

Rodney Sprayberry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rodney Sprayberry said...

AWWWWWWW...Back atcha!

A big warm fuzzy group hug to you guys as well.

Aussie John said...


I'm unpredictable when I get a bee in my bonnet! :)

traveller said...

Rodney, I think we are not far apart in our thinking. There are some nuanced differences but substantial. One of my concerns is that using the term "leadership" usually conjures up totally different ideas in people's minds than does "servant" or "shepherd" so I personally am hesitant to use it. But your definitions of "leadership" would not be far from mine.

However, to the extent that there is even a smidgen (is that really a word?) of exertion of power in "influence" then I do not believe it is of God. But if a person sees the work of the Holy Spirit in another life and understands that transformed life is the work of God, which "influences" them to seek the same transformation, then we are in agreement.

Thank you, all, for a good conversation.

Paul Burleson said...


This is my first real opportunity to reply substantively to all you have said. I've just quickly read and enjoyed the on going discussion. Thanks to all of you for good insights all the way around.

I'm wondering about leadership in some fresh ways and need to clarify some things for myself even. In order to be clear in what I'm saying and I'm thinking, I'll give things in a numerical order.

1) I DON'T see leadership in the Church as elevated in positions anymore. I DO see certain ministries elevated in importance to the whole Body. [The ministry of the word or teaching for example.]

2) I DON'T see offices expressed in the text at all with proper interpretation of the language. [that brings about of number 1 above.] But that means, for me, I do not see gender as restrictive for ministry to the whole Body either. [This presupposes my being correct in my interpretation of 1 Tim. 2 and 1 Corinthians with regards to women in authority and speaking.]

3) Thus, again for me, leadership is not a matter of leading at all but of serving in a biblical manner.

4) So.. what that manner is.. is the real question for me at this time. [That brings your concept of "influence" to the forefront of my thinking Rodney.]

5) I'm right now of the opinion that the word "agenda" is of more importance than most think. [Even an agenda of influence.} If a person's agenda, even in serving, is to get another person to do, think, accomplish, perform, I'm not sure but what it is invalid scripturally. Maybe my ONLY agenda is to 'BE" to them rather than what they are to do or be because of me or even for the Lord.

To minister [serve] out of giftedness [As an elder for example supposing the Church sees that in me.] might mean I am to have no agenda but to "be" whatever my giftedness enables me to be to all.

I can teach, help, [encourage] prophesy, shepherd, give a word of wisdom, pray, or whatever as an elder to all Body members and be helped by those leading/serving the Body in ways I am not. There is a reciprocity in body members under the ONLY head, the Lord Jesus.

Each one serving would certainly be RECEIVED differently by those making up the Body. But if my focus is on their response I think I may have ceased being a leader/serving biblically and have become something else.

Someone will immediately say "How will you ever know, if your leadership is effective?" I'm not sure that is a legitimate goal for a leader be effective. It may be that a whole new system of Body-life will have to be developed in the years ahead that will not resemble anything of the business world of the 21st century if we become what I see in the scriptures.

There is the need of ministry in the Body that brings about growth in all, helping all who are weak, confronting sin in all, teaching the word to all, healing wounds of all, encouraging all. [Coming alonside one another.] But somehow that has NOT been represented by ANY business model I've seen or even the present day church models with which I'm familiar.

I think it is more of an annointing of the Spirit and a willingness to recogize such and a desire to become what the Spirit is showing through His gifted ones in the Body. If someone is NOT influenced by what I say or do in my ministry/serving that is not my focus. [Idealism run amuck here I know.]

I'm way over my head now and will defer to some comments from you guys on this. Glad I can join the time.

traveller said...

Paul, I think you have captured my thinking very well in coming at it the way you have done in this last comment. The issue in serving is to serve, not to achieve a particular outcome. Any outcome is God's work through the Holy Spirit in the person's life, along with that person's response to that work.

Will I rejoice if my life has some part in cooperating with the Holy Spirit in another's life? Absolutely! But my rejoicing will be in the transformation of that life, not in my "influence" or in my serving even. Ultimately, serving is, as you have suggested, the being. It is who we are when we are a life that bears God's image as he intended, thus being the fully human person he created us to be.

In your point one an interesting matter is raised. Are certain gifts more important than others? I am still wrestling with this personally. It may be true but I also wonder if Paul is trying to make a point that the Corinthians have incorrectly placed tongue speaking as the most important gift and is merely trying to point out with some exaggeration that really all gifts are important. This would be a typical rhetorical approach in his day. In that same context he speaks of each person as a part of the body and their giftedness, no matter what it is, is important (1 Corinthians 12).

I recognize you could be correct on this and my thoughts not correct. If this had not been one of the ways there has been justification for the lay/clergy divide I would even say it is a meaningless distinction.

I am certainly open to further thoughts on this as I am still sorting through this.

Again, what an enjoyable conversation. It is pleasant to be able to discuss and "iron sharpen iron" without any rancor. May God increase the number of such conversations.

Aussie John said...


What a breath of fresh air this conversation is!

1.“I DO see certain ministries elevated in importance to the whole Body”.

Hmmm! “Ministries”? “Elevated in importance”? How can we hold to this idea in the light of 1 Cor.12? (Romans 12:1)

The term “ministries” holds too many connotations of levels of importance? I would personally prefer “serving” as you mention in #3.

2.As I understand you, I am with you all the way.


4.Not too keen on the word “influence”. After a most of my lifetime in churches where “influence” is the operative word; influence of wealth, influence of position in the secular community, influence of perceived spirituality by the number of letters after ones name, ad infinitum, but even worse influence by domination, vested authority.

A shepherd walks in front of the sheep.does what he expects the sheep to do. I’d rather use the term “example”. (John 13:15; Acts 20:35, etc).

5.Servants don’t have agendas. The Master does! I love your “BE”. Spot on! That coincides with servanthood. It certainly coincides with making disciple, speaking the truth in love.

“To minister [serve] out of giftedness [As an elder for example supposing the Church sees that in me.] might mean I am to have no agenda but to "be" whatever my giftedness enables me to be to all.” Sounds just right!

“There is a reciprocity in body members under the ONLY head, the Lord Jesus.”

I regret that my denominational loyalty didn’t allow me to see this in my early days. It’s amazing how, as our brethren get to know each other individual gifting is gradually revealed/recognized and those needing the service of such a gifted person will gravitate to that person to be served.

I have seen pastors get their knickers in a knot because a person went to a member of the congregation rather than the salaried one, which brings us to your great words,” if my focus is on their response I think I may have ceased being a leader/serving biblically and have become something else.”
Oh. YES!

To cut it short, I think your summation is terrific, as is this statement, “If someone is NOT influenced by what I say or do in my ministry/serving that is not my focus.”

For me, it boils down to our Master’s example, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Paul Burleson said...

Traveller, Aussie J,

Wait just a minute. You guys are not suppose to make me stop and think about things in a way that is new to me. I'm too old for that and besides at my age I'm suppose to have all the answers Right?

Just Kidding. Now seriously.

I think, without having given any thoughtful biblical research to it as of yet, I may be stuck in the LOGICAL thought/assuption that the scriptures using the metaphor of the body for the Church would have to mean that the hand/foot, ear/eye, while being important to the whole body, would show the idea of one being MORE IMPORTANT than the other as I've logically thought I'd rather be without my hearing than my seeing for example.

You can see my thinking has not been about elevated offices but elevated importance of ministries needed. Two or three things in light of my previously unchallenged thinking...

1)I know better than to allow logic to trump scripture.

2) 1 Corinthians 12:31 with a surface reading at least kept me in that ballpark.

3) Someone [I don't remember who] has said "heresy is simply a truth taken too far." If, in fact, the scriptures elevate some gifts over others in the realm of significance, [And I'm no longer sure they do] it could still be the beginning to the sad shape we're in of elevating the clery over the laity simple because we tend to ultimately associate the importance of who a person is by what a person does. That IS sad.

But to assist my research what do you see in 1 Corinthians 12:31?

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Aussie John,Paul, and Traveller

Servants have agendas and so do shepherds! But they are not self-serving agendas!

When Paul writes:

Imitate me (I Corinth 4: 16)

I urge you brothers (Romans 12:1)

When James writes:

My dear brothers take note (James 1:19)

Now listen you rich people (James 5:1)

When Luke tells Theophilus that he wrote Luke-Acts so that he may "know the certainty of the things he has been taught." (Luke 1:4)

They are all making a conscious attempt to influence others

The problem is that there is no modern equivalent to the shepherd metaphor and moderns balk at servanthood!

So leadership (influence) in that context is hard to conceptualize.

Maybe that is why some have attempted to describe it in terms like "servant-leadership"

Leadership, influence...whatever we call it is NEVER the is the result.

The Bible calls ALL to be servants of Christ/each other (although a Seven Day Adventist friend of mine reminded me that Jesus said I no longer call you servants but friends!) and some to be shepherds, some to be teachers, some to be encouragers, some to be evangelists, etc (not in an official way of course...but a functional way.

This is no way an elevation of any particular functionn, just an awareness that all are needed for the body to function in a healthy way.

However, no function is indispensible, the body can function without an eye, or a hand, or a foot (as long as the head is intact!)...because the rest of the body compensates...but that is a discussion for another day!)

Paul Burleson said...


Interestingly, I agree with every thing you have said, especially this..."However, no function is indispensible, the body can function without an eye, or a hand, or a foot (as long as the head is intact!)...because the rest of the body compensates...but that is a discussion for another day!)" Good stuff.

But I still have a.."However"..inside me. I'm sitting here at the keyboard trying to figure out this nagging 'however' in my mind. I'll attempt to put it into words.

The only thing I can come up with is the idea of a "prisim." [refracted light that breaks up into rainbow colors.] I may just be talking about another hue or color of the servant/friend.

Or better yet the old fashioned kaleidoscope. [That gizmo held to the eye when end twisted the inside changes shape.] I may be twisting to a differing shape of the same thing . [The idea of having an agenda]

So..maybe I'm saying Paul's only agenda was to "be a teacher of truth, a confronter about sin, etc., and the influence he had as a result was something of the Spirit's work. That would fit the verses you mentioned Rodney.]

Maybe also..there is a slight difference between having a desire and having a goal/agenda. It might be one could have a desire for another "to be" without making it their goal for the other "to be." [Even to be influenced.]

Why is this so important in my mind? A couple of things...

My personality is one of controlling things. I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of being able to work toward a good outcome. [It's self protection I know. I was raised in chaos.] But, I would say I was doing [whatever I was doing in controlling] for others sake. [selflessly.. [After all they need to_______.] This has been the story of my life.

The evidence I had a goal for them instead of just a desire was I would get angry when they didn't________. So anger was my preferred MO.

An illustration would be a fourway stop sign intersection. It's my turn, my goal is fairness, someone doesn't wait, I'm mad as fire at them. I had a goal for them..they failed..I'm mad. So I learned to be sure I knew the difference between goals and desires. [Larry Crabb first introduced this to me.]

Why the big deal about this in my mind?

I found when my goal was ONLY something the Spirit could do within me disregarding anyone's response to me [That's me having a goal "to be."] I could continue to be to them [whatever] wherever they were in their own life. [Thus anger dissipated.]

I also believe I'm speaking of a relational skill few people understand [especially leaders] and if the Church is really a relational organism each member relating to the others, this is far more important than some might think.

I honestly believe it is the key point of learning for my own life in the last 25 years of my ministry.

There. I've said it. I'm not sure I understand it and I'm REALLY not sure it's worth all the words. But, what the heck, that what a comment section is for..right guys?

Aussie John said...


I love Rodney’s last paragraph. Probably because it fits well with what I have in my mind, at 3.00 am Monday March 1. Blame Paul :).

Although I have a different mind regarding the term “agenda”, which, as I understand it, is a plan, a blueprint or schedule, usually by one party, or group of parties, for others to follow. I took me far too long, and too many bruises, to realize that the Holy Spirit operates much differently. The wind doesn’t have an agenda (John 3:8).

Now to offer a brief ramble regarding your question regarding 1 Cor.12:31! By the way, I’m suspect of your motives with this question, you old Barnabus, you :).

I suggest that ‘kreitton’ ought to be translated as ‘best’ (KJV), or ‘better’ (NAS), rather than ‘greater’ as several others have it, meaning “more useful, more serviceable, more advantageous” rather than ‘greater’. In the context of Paul's letter, and the functioning of the Body, this makes more sense.

I think that is also born out by 14:1, and 39.

Here was a troubled church whom Paul loved, and are well equipped for service (1:4-7) but troubled by inappropriate behavior, not only morally and ethically, but in their personal priorities, especially regarding the use of gifts.

We tend to treat the Epistles as something separate from the Gospels, but I think we need to remember that Paul’s ministry was simply an expression of obedience to the Great Commission, not about developing theological, denominational, and/or personal fame, dominance etc., as we have done today. Now that’s an agenda :).

Individuals speaking, or prophesying, motivated by the Holy Spirit, to teach (including the Gospel message), refute, reprove, admonish, comfort others, are well and truly fitting in with this Great Commission function of the apostle. In this regard prophesy is the more useful gift, but does not deny the utter necessity of the other parts of the Body. As Paul actually tells us, every gift is indispensable or necessary, even the weaker gifts. There is simply no order of greatness, but simply of usefulness in the great scheme of God’s plan for His people.

I submit the use of terms such as 'higher' or 'greater' are good for some ego's, but regrettable, and I think, harmful.

I guess that brings me back to what Rodney’s paragraph: ..."However, no function is indispensible.......", including yours truly!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Excellent thoughts. This..."There is simply no order of greatness, but simply of usefulness in the great scheme of God’s plan for His people"... encapsules what I hear you saying and I am in REAL agreement.

My use of "agenda" is what my dictionary simply says..."a list of things to do." I'm using it as either having a list of things to do for another or a list for another to do because of my influence or impact. I agree that definitions ARE extremely importand for understanding.

Also, my idea is one of importance for use or for good function of a body but none non-necessary for ultimate healthiness. Higher or elevated is probably not a good expression. I'll some more thought here and I haven't yet done a fresh study of 1 Corinthians 12:31.I will. Thanks and..get some sleep. :)