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I Understand
Volume 1.1 / Local Church Leadership: The Christian Leader in the Graeco-Roman Culture of Ephesus


Local Church Leadership: The Christian Leader in the Graeco-Roman Culture of Ephesus

Jens Möckel

This thesis is an attempt to provide an answer to the question: "Should Christian leadership be informed and shaped by other, non-biblical sources?" To achieve a biblically informed opinion, this thesis seeks to elucidate Paul's perspective on leadership for the Christian leader in the Graeco-Roman culture of Ephesus by investigating three spheres of leadership within Graeco-Roman society, the socio-historical setting of first-century Ephesus with its cultural forces, and Paul's response (1-2 Timothy) in relation to the challenges faced by and within the leadership of the Ephesian Church. In choosing a dialectical approach for this work, it becomes clear that Paul contextualized his views on leadership by adopting, adapting, and abandoning cultural values, perspectives, and tools which run throughout Graeco-Roman society including its spheres of leadership.

To demonstrate the relevance of this study, current trends of Christian leadership in the western evangelical church are analyzed. In short, new professionalism, status consciousness, and neglect of character are increasing. As a spectrum of approaches toward leadership exists, two popular magazines serve as an example that Christian leadership is increasingly, one-sidedly discussed and shaped by psychology and corporate managerial principles.

Chapter one and two provide the cultural background for the biblical analysis in chapter three. Chapter one focuses on the concept of the leadership post in the civic government, voluntary associations, and the Graeco-Roman household. In addition to certain values and perspectives, the visibility of each setting and the mutual influence in part become apparent. Chapter two elucidates the socio-historical setting of the cosmopolitan city of Ephesus. As somewhat coherent and energizing dynamics throughout the Empire, the social fabric of honor, patronage, rhetoric, and imitation one applied also to Ephesus. Especially, the Second Sophistic movement enjoyed much popularity and promoted distinct attitudes. The evaluation of the text in 1-2 Timothy provides Paul's perspective in rejecting Sophistic practices, withstanding the sway of patronage. However, he used the tool of imitation, embraced the structure of the Graeco-Roman household, and adapted the device of rhetoric as a tool to convey his corrective clearly rather than to use it in an anthropocentric and self-promoting way.

This thesis speaks to current and future leaders in the body of Christ to faithfully model the gospel in word and deed, recognize the importance of character for being a godly leader, and take on the task of faithfully contextualizing leadership for the advancement of God's kingdom.


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