Welcome to Leadership in the Church

The Corinthian church is divided based on the various leaders. Some are saying that they follow Paul. Some say they follow Cephas. Others Apollos. They are pointing their fingers at one another saying that they don’t do it like that, but they do it better because they are followers of this one or that one.

But Paul is pointing out that if they are lining up behind the teachers, behind those that are working to plant and found the churches, they are establishing themselves on top of the wrong foundation. The only foundation that they should work upon is Jesus Christ. Only upon him can they establish their faith. Not upon mere men. Not upon their teachings. Not upon simple servants.

Paul takes one more step forward as well, though. He goes further to say that the church is living in a certain sense of luxury. Paul says that they are rich. They are full. And they have begun to reign. Instead of continuing as they, the apostles are doing, and remaining as workers, the Corinthians are acting as if they are kings, passing judgment on others.

And in this, there is a heavy dichotomy because Paul is part of the apostolic band that is sent out, telling others about Jesus, and establishing the churches. The Corinthians have been beneficiaries of his work and yet they are living in luxury while Paul continues on without anything. The apostles are hungry and thirsty, yet the church is fat and full. The apostles are dishonored and the church is honoring itself. The apostles are beaten and homeless and yet the church has everything that it could possibly want.

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.

1 Corinthians 4:8-13

Something is wrong with this picture.

Somewhere the message has gotten lost. Or somehow the culture of the world is seeping into the church. The Corinthians should be imitating Paul and the other apostles, working for the sake of the Gospel in their own hometown, and yet they are living in luxury. This is not how it was drawn up. This is not how the people of God should be living while we are here on the earth. This runs contrary to what Jesus both taught and demonstrated to his disciples. This runs contrary to how Paul lived among them and the example that he gave to the new believers.

So, what about us? Are we following Jesus’s example? Are we following Paul’s example? A friend of mine used to ask us: Are we more like a cruise ship, or more like a battleship? This is similar to the question that Paul is asking the Corinthians. Are they contending for the Gospel? Or are they happy moving through their lives without a care in the world? This is a significant question, especially for the church in the west and the type of faith that we are exporting to the rest of the world. What does our leadership look like? And how are we as disciples leading others?

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