THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
ISSUES IN THE EARLY CHURCH
Today’s & yesterday’s reading: Acts
There are some interesting facts about life and leadership
in the early Church, as we see in the first-ever meeting of
Church elders, known as the Council of Jerusalem. “The
apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this
matter.” (v.6). It was something like today’s
Vatican synod. Principles arising from these facts are still
relevant today, with regard to servant leadership.
elders had different views, and since the Church was not a
cult, there would be discussions or dialogues. Their directions
came “after much debate had taken place” (v.7).
Disagreements are not a problem, but should be discussed well,
and not lead to dissent, which can lead to division.
there will always be those, including other elders, who cause
disruption due to insistence on their own perceptions, desires,
agenda or priorities. “Some who had come down from Judea
were instructing the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised
according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.’”
(v.1). Such dissent causes debate and even conflict. In this
case, “there arose no little dissension and debate by
Paul and Barnabas with them” (v.2a).
some elders become legalistic or corporate rather than pastoral.
They develop a narrow view and cannot see the larger vision.
Even as Paul and Barnabas “reported what God had done
with them” (v.4b), “telling of the conversion
of the Gentiles” (v.3b), which “brought great
joy to all the brothers” (v.3c), some dissenters persisted.
“But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become
believers stood up and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise
them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.’”
(v.5). Compared to the vastness of the work and the wonders
the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the work, there are those
who persist in just looking to their petty concerns and misguided
after discussion and dialogue, decisions have to be made.
Here it is important that all elders look to those appointed
and anointed by God to be the top leaders of the community.
In this case, it was Peter (v.7), who was the first-among-equals
among the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, (v.2-4), who were the
acknowledged missionary pillars, and James (v.13,19), the
head of the Jerusalem church. Decisions are not by majority
vote. All elders and brethren must then be submitted to the
overall authority. “The whole assembly fell silent”
(v.12a). And they must expand their vision, open their eyes
and ears, humble their hearts, and allow the Spirit to touch
them and change them, just as “they listened while Paul
and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked
among the Gentiles through them.” (v.12b).
We are called to the New Evangelization. Servant leaders are
privileged to lead in serving our Church. We can be at the
cutting edge of renewal and revival in our Church. But it
starts with us, as “God first concerned himself with
acquiring from among the Gentiles a people for his name.”
(v.14). We must be humble and docile to the Holy Spirit, and
not be insistent on our own desires and priorities. Then we
all together can be used by God to help rebuild our Church.
“After this I shall return and rebuild the fallen hut
of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up
again” (v.16). Then a rebuilt 2, strengthened and revitalized
Church can be the missionary Church that God intended her
to be, and do a massive and effective work of evangelization,
“so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord”
to the New Evangelization!