Constructing A Pauline Theology Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Leadership, Religion, Church, Community, Christians, Authority, Spirit, Holiness

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/02/08


The foundations of most of the churches in the world are based in the Acts of the Apostles. The first gathering took place in the upper room where the disciples and other followers awaited the outpouring of the Holy Sprit. It has kept a certain structure and organization throughout the persecution period when Christians were meeting in secret. The Apostle Paul was one of the later apostles as a convert from, what is assumed, Judaism. He had been enrolled in Hebrew school, as was the rule, since the age of five. The assumption was that he came from a well-to-do family, and that he was a Roman citizen (being born in Rome) (Longenecker 1971, 21-23). This is where Saul of Tarsus became Paul (Acts 9:1-19). Thus, an important issue is to look at the way in which he became a leader in the church, as he was one of the most persecutors of the Christian church at the time, essentially officiating at the stoning of Stephen, capturing and returning escaped Christians back to Jerusalem, and having them imprisoned (Longenecker 1971, 26-27). It is against this backdrop that the discussion here will revolve around constructing a Pauline theology of leadership that will establish how the leadership was formulated, what the impact Paul’s leadership has had on the church from then to now, and how it was and can be applied in a specific context.
In order for the Pauline theology of leadership to be established, the first step is to identify which direction one would take. In this instance, it would have to be an analysis of how Paul dealt with power and authority, and specifically how he addressed the issues he had to face as a church leader. This would be seen in the light of how the leadership was formulated.

How the Pauline Leadership was formulated

Paul’s background is vital to the understanding of his “leadership.” One must realize that Paul stepped out of his Jewish background to persecute Christians from the perspective of a Roman citizen, and stepped into Christianity. His dramatic salvation (repentance) could be what the current church calls “his calling.” It would, therefore, be quite appropriate to look at his “leadership” as egalitarian, because the need was to be fair to all, and not to dominate. However, Clark (2008, 135) would rather have Paul’s leadership reflecting a “mutual dependence” of all the members in the community. Throughout his ministry, though, he gave equal status to women as in the example of the “leaders” at Rome – Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. Timothy was a young man, whom he instructed and told “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” The latter again speaks of the “leadership” by example and speech, as opposed to being authoritative or it being a hierarchy (Clark 2008, 1-4).
The reality is, therefore, that the authority or hierarchy of “leadership” did not exist during Paul’s period of “leadership.” Again, it is important to note that there is no particular style that would be adhere to here even though it is good to mention the styles that some scholars do adhere to. Some examples are from Green et al, where there is discussion around different styles of Pauline “leadership.” These authors ventured as far as to refer to Paul’s leadership” as a growing “leadership” (Green et al 2009, 4). Because of the position taken here that Paul’s “leadership” was not conventional, the attention is not on styles of “leadership” as Green et al discusses. Paul’s “leadership” garnered from all the sources of information (from his background), his experiences, and even his “co-workers.” The mere fact that he calls Priscilla and Aquila his “co-workers’ is an indication of the lack of conventional leadership. It is definitely a far cry from the list of “leadership” styles Green et al discusses in their article, Assessing the Leadership Style of Paul and Cultural Congruence of the Christian Community at Corinth Using Project Globe Constructs. It is worthwhile to see what the impact of the church “leadership” approach has had on the churches from then to the current age.

The Impact Paul’s “Leadership” has had on the Church from then to now

Paul’s “leadership” dealt with training, and specifically in discipleship in the early churches. The most important part, not mentioned yet, was the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Clark (135) mentions that, “the Spirit equips all within the community and for the sake of all the community.” This means a wide distribution of abilities equip the church with various ministries. Clarke further reiterates the fact that there is no need for “the same authority within the community.” He states that it is essentially for the reason that “leaders” who are dominant, would ignore the vast ministries of the rest of the believers in the community. This is especially in the light of the different ministries that existed and still exists within the church.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. (1 Cor. 12:12-14)
Ascough, with his chaos theory message regarding leadership has given some insight (or a different perspective to the norm) into what the Pauline “leadership” was all about. The early church was influenced by the Paul’s “chaordic organization” (Ascough 2002, 27). He, Paul has seen the need to give each person (young, old, male, female, Gentile, Jew, and so forth) the freedom to use his or her "talent, drive, values, and passion" (Ascough 2002, 27). Each person had a role to play for the good of the Gospel. The reality then is that there was no authority or hierarchy in his “leadership.” Ascough further establishes that there was no mention of offices, but that there were those who were busy with activities amongst the people. He reiterates that the mention of those in charge, are not the conventional leadership we have today. The Apostle Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 – “ acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.” none of the “leaders” were named, which does not mean that they were unknown to Paul, but it is for the reason that there are different leaders for different tasks. Hence, he addresses all who might be in a position of doing the work of the Lord. As Ascough says: “This minimalist approach to overseeing the leadership of a group is a true mark of a chaordic leader.” In his letters, Paul addresses the community as a whole that would, therefore, include the “leadership” as well. An outstanding leadership would also be the one that would be most responsive to the Gospel, and furthering its cause through a recommended lifestyle. This is seen in how Paul had admonished the various communities through his letters.
In recent centuries, the churches have adopted a different kind of leadership to that of Paul, and these are in fact that of authoritative and hierarchical types of leadership. They do claim that haul instructed them to choose leaders as well as have a hierarchy. It stems from the fact that most churches (especially the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches) believe in a secondary infilling of the Holy Spirit. What this means is that, as with the day of Pentecost, Christians receive the Holy Spirit after salvation, and that it is accompanied by “the speaking in tongues.” However, the Bible tells of a different story, especially when it comes to Paul’s conversion. With his conversion, God spoke directly to him and gave him instructions to follow Him – God spoke directly to Him. In terms of this, some churches believe that only certain people are filled with the Holy Spirit, and thus, given “leadership, to as with Paul, they are being called to such “leadership. Furthermore, Paul gave instruction to the overseer as well as to deacons, and this gives the impression that their were several positions in the church that needed to be filled by a few.

How was and can Paul’s “Leadership” be Applied in a Specific Context

The discussion thus far has revealed the stance of a Pauline “leadership” that leans toward Paul being in a chaordic “leadership.” It is, therefore, important to attempt to answer the exact question Claire Smith asks: “Was Paul into ‘leadership’?” ( This would enable one to establish whether there is in fact a “leadership” to apply. In answer to the question here: How was and can Paul’s “leadership” be applied in a specific context? there are a few aspects to look at.

How was Paul’s “Leadership” applied?

It is important not to repeat here what was already discussed. To look at the reality of the early church organization, is to conclude that there was no definite organization. Many of the communities were either a “singular” community in that they were either Jewish, or Hellenistic Greeks, or they were a mix of various nationalities together, as was the case at Jerusalem. This meant that there would have had to be possible adaptation to the various cultures in order for the Gospel to be heard by the masses. There would have been a need to adjust to draw “people together to influence and ‘lead’ them in a certain direction” (Smith 2014).

The way in which Paul’s “leadership” worked was exactly the way in which Smith recommends via Wade Berry:

“Leadership’ is understood here not as dealing with how a particular leader understands and develops the organizational structure of her or his group, but as how a leader interacts with the members of the group in order to get individuals within the group or the group as a whole to adopt certain values, goals, practices, or behaviors.”
This kind of “leadership” can and should be applied in the current church, especially in light of the fact that many churches are closing their doors due to the lack of members.

How can or should Paul’s “Leadership” be applied?

The hierarchical and authoritative church organization is one reason one might assume that the church attendance have dropped, although there could be many other reasons for this. Too many people attend church as a people who could never become part of the top structures of the church unless they qualify in some way in terms of the leadership norm. Should Pauline “leadership” be applied, their might be a way for the “ordinary” folk to become part of the “leadership” though the use of their “talent, drive, values, and passion” (Ascough 2002, 27).


Clark reveals further that there was a definite distinction between the leaders of the day and Paul’s “leadership.” The most important aspect is that one or more colleagues always accompany Paul (for example, Barnabas and Titus) (Clark 2008, 121). This meant that he believed in equal sharing of “leadership.” Paul’s focus was on the spreading of the gospel, and not on drawing attention to his own accomplishments. His “leadership” was formulated form the very moment he met Christ on the way to Damascus, breathing murderous threats to capture and imprison Christians. It is also important to consider his background and his experiences at all levels of society in order to understand his “leadership.” Furthermore, he had been and avid supporter of the example that one should set, as opposed to laud it over others. Clarke discusses Paul’s Model of “leadership” in the article: ‘Be Imitators of Me’: Paul’s Model of Leadership. This would be an excellent document for the physical church of today to study and follow its guidelines. Applying Paul’s model for “leadership” would be a way in which the entire global church could benefit.


Ascough, Richard S. Chaos Theory and Paul's Organizational Leadership Style. Journal of Religious Leadership. Vol. 1, No.2 (Fall 2002), accessed April 8, 2015,
Clark, Andrew D. A Pauline Theology of Leadership. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2008
Clark, Andrew D. “‘Be Imitators of Me’: Paul’s Model of Leadership.” Tyndale Bulletin, Volume: TYNBUL 49:2 (NA 1998). accessed April 8, 2015,
Green, Mark et al. “Assessing the Leadership Style of Paul and Cultural Congruence of the Christian Community at Corinth Using Project Globe Constructs,” Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership 2, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 3-28, accessed April 8, 2015,
Longenecker, Richard N. The Ministry and Message of Paul. Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971.
Smith, Claire. “Paul and Leadership.” The Briefing, 3 February 2014, accessed April 8, 2015,

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