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The Missional Catalyst: Reimagining the Role of the Minister

Author: Steve Cloer
Published: Summer–Fall 2019

MD 10.2

Article Type: DMin Project Material

This essay reframes the often ambiguous role of the minister in a local church with the concept of a missional catalyst. First, the author briefly surveys the biblical materials about the role of minister/evangelist in an attempt to ground the minister’s role as an apostolic witness. Then, engagement with literature from missional theology informs an understanding of the role, vision, and behavior of a missional leader. This includes the practice of poetic and prophetic discernment, as well as a “gardening” form of leadership that creates space within the congregation for missional growth to take root. Finally, the author reviews recent social-science research about leadership within congregations of Churches of Christ experiencing missional transformation. Highlighted are key missional practices of various preachers who functioned as missional catalysts for their congregation. The author argues that a pathway through the elder-minister conundrum is to be found in the elders functioning as pastors shepherding the flock and the minister functioning as one sensitive to the mission of God and leading the church to participate within it.

One of the unique challenges of working as a full-time local church leader in Churches of Christ is the sense of role ambiguity often associated with the position. Churches hire individuals to serve as ministers and, on the one hand, expect an evangelistic focus while, on the other hand, demand pastoral attention. Too often, ministers struggle to know what is their original calling. One minister I interviewed summed up the dilemma succinctly, “While my understanding of Scripture is that my primary calling is that of evangelism and outreach, the church tends to expect me to be . . . a pastor.”1

This ambiguity stretches back to the beginning of the Stone-Campbell heritage.2 Alexander Campbell believed that elders should oversee a local congregation and ministers, or evangelists as he preferred to call them, should be itinerant. Later in the nineteenth century, congregations became attracted to settled evangelists, or ministers, whose main duty was to proclaim the Word. J. W. McGarvey argued that elders should have total authority and the hired evangelist should serve under their supervision. And yet the role that a minister was supposed to fulfill was not quite clear. Even Isaac Errett noticed this dilemma in the mid-nineteenth century: “Is he [minister] one of them (elders)? Or is he a ‘helper,’ calling in to their assistance? Does he bear any part in the rule of the church? Does he lead or does he follow? Is he subordinate or is he superior?”3 Also, it became unclear whether McGarvey’s suggestion was the kind of arrangement that Paul shared with the Ephesian elders, Epaphroditus with the Philippian elders, or Timothy with the Ephesian elders. Some have disagreed that it was.4

This article is an attempt to offer a theological reframing of the role of the minister. Through the use of biblical resources, missional theology and leadership, and recent social-science research, I would like to propose a way forward that can offer clarity for the ambiguous nature of the minister’s role within the confusing minister-elder relationship among Churches of Christ.

Biblical Resources

While there is considerable debate on the consistency and normative nature of church leadership patterns in the New Testament, several New Testament texts point to the idea that the key local leaders within the congregations of the early Christians were elders.5 The trajectory of this leadership position stretches back to the Israelite community during the pre-monarchical period and reemerges during the time of exile, as the synagogue appears.6 The early church continued this structure, and elders functioned primarily in a pastoral role for early Christian communities.7 Very little is said in Scripture about the behaviors and practices of elders. Yet, Everett Ferguson suggests the best way to understand the role of elders is by analyzing the various terms used to describe their leadership: overseer (episkopos), shepherd (poimēn), steward (oikonomos), and elder (presbuteros). This body of leaders was to offer oversight to the congregation by providing guidance and supervision. Next, they were to shepherd the people by protecting and feeding the flock. They were to manage the congregation through guarding and watching over God’s household. Finally, they were to offer their wisdom and counsel in the various affairs of the congregation.8 All of these terms imply that elders were to be focused on the local body, providing pastoral attention for the purposes of spiritual maturity.

There is another group of church leaders in addition to elders within Scripture who have the task of proclaiming the message of the gospel. They are referred to as a minister/servant (diakonos), evangelist (euangelistēs), or preacher (kērux). For example, Paul refers to himself as a “minister” tasked with a calling of preaching the Word of God (Col 1:25).9 Paul calls Epaphras, who planted the church in Colossae and continued to work with them, a “faithful servant (diakonos) of Christ” (Col 1:7). Also, Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25) and Tychicus (Col 4:7) are referred to as “ministers” in their work with the churches in Philippi and Colossae, respectively. Later, Paul writes to Timothy, referring to him as a “minister of Christ” (1 Tim 4:6) and a “man of God” (1 Tim 6:11), and encourages him to do the “work of the evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5).

A minister’s primary task based on these passages was proclamation of the gospel.10 For example, Paul describes his role as “preaching the word of God,” “making known” God’s glory among the Gentiles, and “proclaiming” Christ (Col 1:25–27).11 Paul also acknowledges the right for this kind of worker to receive support or payment for his work (1 Cor 9:9–14). There is some debate about whether this role was specifically geared only for unbelievers or for believers as well. Was the evangelist/minister more of an itinerant church planter or located church developer? William Combs, in his brief survey of the term evangelist in the New Testament, argues that this is the noun form of the word euaggelizomai, which means “to proclaim the gospel.”12 Most of its occurrences (particularly in Acts) refer to proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers. Thus, Combs argues that the evangelist was an itinerant church planter who focused his work on proclamation to unbelievers and planting and establishing new churches. Once a new congregation is planted and established, the evangelist’s role is done.13

However, Combs’s argument neglects a few areas. First, there are occurrences of euangelizomai within the context of believers—most notably, Rom 1:15, where Paul says, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” It appears that Paul is referring to preaching to the letter’s recipients, the believers in Rome.14 Second, there are occasions of an evangelist doing more than what Combs suggests. For example, Philip the evangelist was situated in Caesarea with a home and four daughters (Acts 21:8). Did Paul just catch him between moves, or was Philip in a more permanent situation with the church? Plus, Paul sends Timothy to Ephesus, an established church with elders. Paul encourages Timothy to stay focused on “teaching the word” while in Ephesus (1 Tim 4:13). This would be done to help mature the believers and guard against false teaching, not specifically to convert unbelievers.15 Third, the gift of evangelist in Eph 4:11–12 is one of five leadership gifts that is given specifically “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Probably, an example of this is Timothy’s role in Ephesus, where Paul encouraged him to train others to be teachers and leaders in the church (2 Tim 2:2). So, it becomes difficult to neatly categorize the evangelist as an itinerant church planter. Certainly this role involved missionary church planting in some situations, but this does not appear to be the totality of the role.

Joe Crisp argues that the foundation for the evangelist/minister role was in the apostolic witness. An apostle was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus.16 The Twelve were foundational apostles, but others such as Paul, Barnabas, even Epaphroditus were also referred to as apostles.17 In some cases, representatives or delegates of various congregations who are sent out are described as apostles (2 Cor 8:23). The role of these servants was to continue to witness to the gospel message of the death and resurrection of Jesus in the various places where they lived or traveled. But this proclamation gathered churches, and these churches needed nurturing and maturing. Paul would send representatives on some occasions, such as Timothy or Titus, to carry on the apostolic work as “ministers” or “evangelists” by continuing to teach and proclaim.18 These representatives helped set up further local leadership to shepherd and oversee the flock, but this did not diminish the representatives’ role of continuing the apostolic witness. Crisp describes it this way: “Though the apostles die out, ‘apostolicity’ can be passed on. Apostolicity is independent of whether a minister is itinerant or settled. It is the authentic witness to the story of Jesus Christ; it is the living relationship of one who knows the Lord. It is an unreserved commitment to hard work and service. It is the genuine expression of the life of Jesus in the church. Apostolicity belongs to the whole church; but the church’s ministers have a special responsibility to maintain its authenticity.”19

There is some debate on the permanency of this leadership role within the early church, but Ferguson argues that the New Testament portrays a slow transition from itinerant evangelists/ministers to settled evangelists/ministers. The usage of evangelist in Paul’s charge to his representative Timothy (2 Tim 4:5) is probably a technical term at this point, describing this role.20 Ferguson notices the amazing fact that in the second century, mention of the evangelist/minister role becomes silent.21 The universal ministry of evangelists and prophets probably ceased because of threatening heresies, and the focus of the church leaders shifted to protecting local communities of faith. For example, the Didache, a second century document, suggests that the role of teaching and preaching was subsumed under the local eldership.22 However, Ignatius advocates later on in the second century for a single-bishop polity, where one bishop oversees the church separate from the elders—a structure not seen within Scripture.23 Ferguson speculates that this polity change might be because of the loss of the evangelist/minister role.24 Could it be that without a church leader carrying forth the apostolic witness, which balances the pastoral oversight of the elders, the church reverted to a hierarchical structure of a single bishop?

Thus, there are two distinct leadership roles of elder and minister/evangelist within Scripture.25 Their roles certainly overlap and are connected, yet they provide two different components for church leadership: shepherding/oversight and proclamation/apostolic witness. The local minister is fundamentally responsible for the proclamation of the gospel. Certainly this is done through preaching and teaching regularly but also through leading the congregation to engage the world in demonstrating by word and deed the redemptive love of God manifested in Jesus. The evangelist may assist the elders in their pastoral ministry, but the primary intent of this leadership position is not pastoral but apostolic.

Missional Theology and Leadership

One of the deficiencies in the discussion of church leadership roles has been an absence of a theology of the mission of God.26 For Restorationists, the focus has often been on the duplication of New Testament patterns. We determine what the early church did and then discern how to replicate this in the present. Yet, this often leads to division and confusion as there is very little said in Scripture about how the elders’ role coordinates with the minister’s role. But recently, there have been several attempts to demonstrate that Scripture has a missional origin and function.27 The purpose of Scripture was to equip the early Christians to be agents of mission who, by following the Spirit’s lead, could be witnesses for Jesus as a part of the broader mission of God.28 This missional purpose of Scripture changes the goal of biblical restoration. Restoration becomes less about duplicating biblical patterns and more about participating in God’s redemptive mission inaugurated by Christ and carried forth by his early followers. So while the structures of early church polity do inform contemporary church leadership, the guiding principle becomes the missional and restorative vision of the early church, empowered by the Spirit and recorded in the Scriptures. This missional vision informs how leadership is to be carried out, what the result of faithful leadership should be, and the kind of leadership practices one should perform. This focus prompts various questions about the role of minister, such as, how does the minister faithfully live out the missional theology of the early church in their role and practices? What behaviors of the minister lead the church to adopt the missional vision of the early church? What is the role of the minister, alongside the elders and their pastoral focus, within a missional ecclesiology?

Craig Van Gelder gives a brief review of how church leadership has been perceived over previous decades.29 The identity of an “entrepreneurial leader” has been dominant most recently among evangelical churches. This approach relies on business models and puts strong emphasis on vision-casting and goal-setting. Elders and ministers, in this perspective, function more like a board and chief executive officer.30 Yet, a missional ecclesiology suggests a different kind of church leadership: a missional leader. This leader is “deeply formed by living into and out of the fullness of who God is, what God has done, and what God is doing with respect to both the church and the world.”31 Terri Elton defined missional leadership in this manner: “Persons who understand their calling as disciples of Jesus Christ, see themselves as equipped by God with certain gifts to be shared with the larger body of Christ, and believe that they are empowered by the Spirit to engage the world by participating in the creative and redemptive mission of God.”32 They are leaders who are called, equipped, and empowered to lead the congregation to engage the world.

How does missional leadership occur? Scott Cormode offers one image: gardener. He suggests that typically the church leader is viewed as a builder (focused on structure, goals, etc.) or a shepherd (focused on relationships, empowerment, etc.). Cormode acknowledges the importance of these roles, but he suggests that missional leadership calls for a gardener. A gardener is distinct in that he recognizes that he cannot produce growth, but merely “evoke growth.” His role becomes one who tills the soil, cultivates an environment, and provides room for missional growth to happen by the Spirit of God.33 Alan Roxburgh offers a similar image for a missional leader, “a cultivator of an environment that discerns God’s activities among the congregation and in its context.”34 The missional leader will work the soil of the congregation to develop an environment where the church can “discern what the Spirit is doing in, with, and among them as a community.”35

Participation in this gardening kind of leadership requires a different set of skills and practices than are often used in church leadership. First, the leader needs to be adept at discernment and noticing God’s Spirit at work among the church and the community. Roxburgh refers to this function as being a “poet” who names for the congregation what God is up to in their midst. They articulate the experience of the congregation by listening, observing, and giving voice to the people’s desire for renewal. When done correctly, the people respond, “Yes, this is who we are!”36 Second, the leader needs to be capable of engaging God’s word and helping the congregation “indwell” the Scriptural narrative and let the text cast a missional vision and future for the congregation.37 Roxburgh refers to this function as that of a “prophet” who calls forth an alternative story for God’s people and who pushes the people to journey with God in His mission within the world.38 When done correctly, the people respond, “Yes, this is where we should go!” Both of these skills become critical for the minister, as it is through the poetic and prophetic functions that the minister can assume the role of apostolic witness by empowering the congregation to engage the world.39

Spiritual discernment in decision making becomes a critical skill for both elders and ministers as missional leaders. David Forney suggests that a key complexity of a missional polity is recognizing the Holy Spirit’s work in decision-making activities.40 Van Gelder uses the phrase “keeping God in the conversation” to describe this practice.41 Often elders and ministers use good, sound business sense in making decisions about personnel, finances, grounds, and long-range planning. But missional leadership asserts that God’s Spirit is active in pushing the church in the direction that God wants it to go. Elders and ministers are therefore called to let the Spirit guide the direction, and they use discernment to ascertain what God is doing and what God wants to do. Engaging in this discernment requires attentiveness to the local body as well as the local context.42 Often it is the minister’s role to be a prophetic voice in the conversation, reminding the leadership team of the apostolic calling that the church has received. While elders must stay aware in a pastoral sense, ministers must stay in step with the Spirit in an apostolic sense as they seek to lead and guide the congregation.

These skills and practices are often not encouraged or recognized among ministers or elders. Safe decision-making, pastoral care, and steady leadership are often the normal practices for effective elders. Sound teaching, uplifting preaching, and organizational skills are encouraged for ministers. Most of those skills are used with an inward focus on the church body. But missional leadership requires discernment, missional cultivation, and risk-taking leadership, with an outward focus on the world. These are the kind of leadership practices and behaviors for a minister that arise from a missional theology.

Ministers as Missional Catalysts

Recent research has been done on the role of the minister in the setting of a congregation experiencing missional transformation. A few years ago, a study was done on ministers and elders within congregations of Churches of Christ labeled as “Churches that Work.”43 These were twenty-five reputable congregations selected by The Christian Chronicle for their demonstration of a unified, evangelistic, and healthy approach to ministry and mission. The study of the leaders in these churches involved two phases. The first phase included a survey of the elders and ministers of these congregations regarding their individual leadership practices, their collaborative practices, their role understanding, and a brief analysis of the congregation’s missional behaviors. Based on the results of the survey, four churches were selected for further study. This second phase involved on-site visits of the four churches, which included interviews of elders, staff members, and the preacher, attending worship services, and sitting in on elders meetings. The results were combined in order to discern patterns within the leadership roles and practices. Five patterns were noticed. One of those patterns was that the minister in each of the four studied congregations had assumed the posture of missional catalyst. Because the elders in these congregations were squarely focused on pastoral obligations, the minister was free to cast a missional vision of God’s calling for the church.

The minister of each congregation fulfilled this missional catalyst role in different ways. One minister used his preaching as a means of telling stories of what God is doing among the people. As a storyteller, he drew people into God’s work and invited them to participate. The second minister, who went by the intentional title of evangelist, was an equipper. He saw his role in training, equipping, and empowering disciples to minister either locally or wherever they were sent. He helped shape the congregation’s kingdom vision by reframing current situations to help the congregation see what God is doing. His passion for making disciples helped set the tone for the congregation to have a passion and concern about the lost. A third minister was a catalyst by being an administrator. The elders empowered him to set the agenda, communicate with leaders, and to keep the church moving forward. Also, he was encouraged to be a visionary who would plant ideas slowly that would eventually come to fruition. His evangelistic identity helped push the congregation towards a missional identity. The fourth minister functioned as a catalyst through the process of aligning. At the time of the interview, he was new to his role, but he immediately went about the task of getting everyone on the same page and aligning ministries under a common theme. Each of the ministers had different spiritual gifts, yet they used them to cultivate an environment where the church could grow towards being an apostolic witness and living into a missional identity.

Analyzing these ministers’ practices more deeply, one notes the theological and theoretical frameworks that govern the role of a missional catalyst. First, the ministers embraced the theological framework of the minister as apostolic witness. The ministers understood that their primary role was to lead the church to engage the world, which provided balance to the elders’ role of pastoring the flock. Two of the ministers consistently referred to themselves as “evangelists” to capture the apostolic witness aspect of their role. They tried to assist the elders as needed in pastoral roles, but they believed their first calling was to proclaim the gospel. They became catalysts who gently prodded and encouraged the elders and the congregation toward engaging the world.

Second, the ministers utilized the theological framework of missional theology. Rather than leading like an entrepreneur or shepherd, these ministers functioned more like “gardeners” who planted seed, tilled the soil, and provided room for missional transformation. One minister used the practice of telling the stories of God’s activity within his church in order to evoke missional transformation within the congregation. His role was similar to the “poet” role described by Alan Roxburgh, in which the church leader names for the congregation what God is doing in their midst.44 The youth minister at his church remarked that there is great spiritual power when the preacher is saying, “Hey, look what God is doing here.” It was this poetic function that helped shape their culture toward a missional identity.

Third, the ministers engaged the theoretical framework of interpretive leadership. Mark Lau Branson describes this leadership approach as the ability to interpret what is taking place within the organization, in order to offer imagination to help the organization move forward.45 Often, ministers do not have the structural authority that other leaders possess, but they do have cultural resources that can be used to become “theological interpreters” for their congregations in cultivating a missional imagination.46 One minister did this by using the practice of “reframing” as a means for cultivating an environment for noticing the work of God. Often he would take a current situation—such as a moral failure, a shift to multiple service, a nearby military base—and reframe it in such a way that the congregation could see God at work in their midst. This served not only to offer a missional lens for the current issue, but also to informally train the congregation to view all of life in this manner.47 Another minister engaged in interpretive leadership through the practice of “getting on the balcony” to provide perspective for his church. Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky coined this term to describe when a leader steps away from the floor of action and gets above it to catch a glimpse of what is going on. By distancing oneself from the immediate situation, the leader seeks a “clearer view of reality.”48 This minister acknowledged that his role was to help the elders understand the big picture of what God was doing and what God wanted to do.

Often the best tool the minister has to accomplish this goal of interpretive leadership is the sermon. Scott Cormode acknowledges that in no other organization does the leader have the opportunity to speak to all the constituents each week to share what he or she believes is important.49 And yet this is the luxury of the minister. The ministers in this study recognized the value of preaching to shape a congregation, to share the work of God, and to cultivate an environment where God’s people can develop a missional imagination.

A missional catalyst should seek to be aware of the Spirit’s work among God’s people and the world. All the ministers engaged this skill by encouraging their congregations to take risks for the mission of God. Often, the ministers were helping other leaders to discern what God was actively doing and calling the church to be. They emphasized looking for God’s work among them and then sought to provide opportunities for the congregation to experience God’s mission in the world through various ministries.


In this paper, I have tried to reimagine the role of the minister within congregations of Churches of Christ. Often the minister can suffer from role ambiguity, not knowing exactly what their original calling is and what behaviors or practices they should manifest. First, I examined biblical resources to determine that the role of minister, evangelist, or preacher was grounded in an apostolic calling, or one that serves to bear witness to the gospel. Second, I mined missional theology for insights into missional leadership. The dominant image of leadership promoted was a “gardener”: one who tills the soil, cultivates the environment, and seeks to create space for the work of God to be discerned and experienced. The minister functions between the twin poles of poet and prophet by weaving together the work of God within the community in order to cast a missional vision for the congregation. Finally, I reviewed a recent social-science research project of ministers within congregations experiencing missional transformation. The ministers were utilizing various behaviors like storytelling, equipping, administrating, or aligning to function as missional catalysts for their congregation.

Local communities of God’s people need two kinds of leaders. First, they need leaders with a pastoral sense and shepherding heart. These leaders serve to heal brokenness and bind up wounds that disciples experience along the journey of following Christ in a secular world. Second, another kind of leader is needed. This leader is one with a sensitivity toward the mission of God. They are aware of the Spirit’s work around them and feel the burden for the gospel to be proclaimed in the local community. They are to be the missional catalyst calling the church to join God in his work. If this role is unfulfilled, the church may become unbalanced and internally focused. But when the minister fulfills the role, the church begins to live more fully into her calling of being an instrument of God’s redemptive mission for the world.

Steve Cloer has been the preaching minister at Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas, since 2006. This historic congregation is located two miles south of downtown Fort Worth. Steve is married to Lindsay, and together they have three children: Joshua, Bethany, and Lydia. They live in an urban neighborhood near the Southside church building. Steve graduated from Harding University with BA degrees in Bible and Math. He received his MDiv in New Testament from Harding School of Theology and graduated with his DMin in congregational mission and leadership from Luther Seminary in 2015.

1 To find further interviews and a more expansive version of this article’s content, see Steve Cloer, “Missional Polity: The Minister-Elder Relationship in Churches of Christ Experiencing Missional Transformation” (DMin Thesis, Luther Seminary, 2015).

2 For a brief survey of the role and relationship ambiguity of elders and evangelists, see Steve Cloer, “The Elder-Evangelist Relationship Through the Stone-Campbell Movement,” Restoration Quarterly 58, no. 4 (2016): 229–39.

3 Isaac Errett, The Christian Standard 5 (June 5, 1869): 180.

4 For example, R. N. Hogan, “The Relationship between the Evangelist and the Elder,” Christian Echo 87 (March 1, 1990): 2, 7.

5 For example, see Acts 14:21–23; Acts 15:4–6, 22-23; 16:4; 20:17–31; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:17, 20; Tit 1:5.

6 Notice Exod 24:1–14; Num 16:11–19; Deut 21:2–20; 1 Kgs 21:8–11 and intertestamental writings as 1 Macc 7:33; 11:23; 2 Macc 13:13; Sir 38:33–34. See also James Tunstead Burtchaell, From Synagogue to Church: Public Services and Offices in the Earliest Christian Communities (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 228–30.

7 For further discussion on the pastoral and oversight ministry of elders found in the New Testament, see I. Howard Marshall, “Congregation and Ministry in the Pastoral Epistles,” in Community Formation in the Early Church and in the Church Today, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 118-119; Benjamin L. Merkle, Why Elders? A Biblical and Practical Guide for Church Members (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2009), 18-24.

8 Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 319–23.

9 Also see Rom 15:15–16. In 1 Tim 2:7, Paul uses the term preacher to describe his role.

10 Joe Crisp, “Toward a Theology of Ministry for Churches of Christ,” Restoration Quarterly 35, no. 1 (1993), 17. Crisp argues that the ministry of the word is the organizing center for preachers in Churches of Christ.

11 See a similar declaration in Rom 15:16. His duty as a “minister” is to proclaim the gospel of God.

12 William W. Combs, “The Biblical Role of the Evangelist,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 7 (2002): 27–28.

13 Ibid., 40–43.

14 Ibid., 27–28; see also C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans: A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 16. Combs disagrees, suggesting that the “you” in the verse refers to general Romans and does not include Roman Christians. Yet, this perspective seems untenable within the context. For example, Cranfield writes, “The preaching of the gospel referred to here is . . . to those who are already believers, with a view to the deepening of their understanding and strengthening their faith and obedience.”

15 See 1 Tim 6:3–11; 2 Tim. 2:24–25; Ferguson, The Church of Christ, 331. For a possible historical reconstruction of the situation in Ephesus, including the false teaching threats, see Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 37–50.

16 Crisp, “Toward a Theology,” 14.

17 For example, Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Andronicus and Junia(s) (Rom 16:7), and Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25).

18 E. Earle Ellis, “Paul and His Co-Workers,” New Testament Studies 17, no. 4 (1971): 442–43. Ellis writes about these representatives, “In short diakonoi appear to be a special class of workers, those who were especially active in preaching and teaching. They appear in Paul’s circles not only as itinerant workers, but also workers in local congregations.”

19 Crisp, “Toward a Theology of Ministry for Churches of Christ,” 15–16.

20 Everett Ferguson, The Early Church and Today, vol. 1, Ministry, Initiation, and Worship (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2012), 26.

21 Ibid., 29.

22 See “Didache, or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” The author writes, “Appoint therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord . . . for they also minister to you the ministry of the prophets and teachers.”

23 See Ignatius, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans,” Ignatius writes, “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles.”

24 Ferguson, The Early Church, 31.

25 For further argument on the two distinct roles of minister and elder, see Robert S. Rayburn, “Three Offices: Minister, Elder, Deacon,” Presbyterion 12, no. 2 (1986): 105–14.

26 Cloer, “The Elder-Evangelist Relationship,” 237–38.

27 Darrell L. Guder, “Missional Hermeneutics: The Missional Vocation of the Congregation—and How Scripture Shapes That Calling,” Mission Focus Annual Review 15 (2007): 125–42; Darrell L. Guder, “Missional Hermeneutics: The Missional Authority of Scripture,” Mission Focus Annual Review 15 (2007): 106–21; Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006).

28 I. Howard Marshall, New Testament: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), 34–37.

29 Craig Van Gelder, “Theological Education and Missional Leadership Formation: Can Seminaries Prepare Missional Leaders for Congregations?” in The Missional Church and Leadership Formation: Helping Congregations Develop Leadership Capacity, ed. Craig Van Gelder (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 12–32.

30 Ibid., 40–41.

31 Ibid., 42–43.

32 Terri Elton, “Congregations as Systems for Empowering Missional Leadership: A Lutheran Hermeneutic for Leading in Mission” (PhD Diss., Luther Seminary, 2007), 10.

33 Scott Cormode, “Muti-Layered Leadership: The Christian Leader as Builder, Shepherd, and Gardener,” Journal of Religious Leadership 1 (Fall 2002): 71.

34 Alan J. Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World, Leadership Network Series (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 27.

35 Ibid., 28.

36 Alan Roxburgh, The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 58–59.

37 Roxburgh and Romanuk, The Missional Leader, 33–34.

38 Roxburgh, The Missionary Congregation, 61.

39 Ibid., 64–65.

40 David Forney, “To the One Outside the Gate: A Missional Approach to Polity,” Journal of Religious Leadership 5, nos. 1 & 2 (2006): 55–57.

41 Craig Van Gelder, The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 99–104.

42 Forney, “To the One Outside the Gate,” 55–57. Forney suggests that attentiveness to the local context will encourage one to abandon a desire for the “perfect” polity but will help shape the approach for how the leadership structure should best fit in this contextual situation.

43 For a full description of this research, see Steve Cloer, “The Minister-Elder Relationship within ‘Churches that Work,’” Discernment: Theology and Practice of Ministry 2 (2016): 1–15,

44 Roxburgh, The Missionary Congregation, 58–59.

45 Mark Lau Branson and Juan Francisco Martinez, Churches, Cultures & Leadership: A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 55–56.

46 Scott Cormode, Making Spiritual Sense: Christian Leaders as Spiritual Interpreters (Nashville: Abingdon, 2006), 64–66.

47 For more on the power of reframing, see Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015), 96-97.

48 Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership without Easy Answers (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994), 53; cf. Bolsinger, 111–20.

49 Cormode, Making Spiritual Sense, 63–64.

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