Spiritual Formation And Leadership In Paul’s Address To The Ephesian Elders (Acts 20:17-35) -- By: Christoph W. Stenschke

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 05:1 (Summer 2014)
Article: Spiritual Formation And Leadership In Paul’s Address To The Ephesian Elders (Acts 20:17-35)
Author: Christoph W. Stenschke

Spiritual Formation And Leadership In Paul’s Address To The Ephesian Elders (Acts 20:17-35)

Christoph W. Stenschke

University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Forum Wiedenest, Bergneustadt, Germany

1. Introduction

While most of the parenetical sections of the New Testament could be summarised under the heading “spiritual formation,” relatively few passages particularly address issues regarding leadership within the Christian community.1 Other fields of leadership—such as Christians as leaders of civic communities—are not directly in view.

One of these passages is Paul’s so-called Miletus speech of Acts 20:17-35, delivered at Miletus to the elders of the Ephesian church when Paul was on his way back to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:16). In this speech Paul first describes his past ministry among the Ephesians (Acts 20:18-27). This section serves as a summary of Paul’s ministry among the nations before his return to Jerusalem, the place where he was commissioned for this task by the risen Christ (Acts 22:21). Paul then outlines the task ahead for these elders (Acts 20:28-35). For good reasons these instructions have received much attention in quests for Christian ministry and leadership. Jacque Dupont’s insightful study Le discours de Milet remains one of the classic expositions.2

Paul’s instructions are particularly interesting when read against the notions of social status and leadership ideals in the Graeco-Roman world. In this essay, I want to examine how Paul challenges

these notions and defines the task of Christian leadership against these all pervasive values.

This exercise indicates that the exercise of good leadership requires the spiritual formation of leaders so that Christian leaders are able to lead in Christ-like manner and not simply behave as would secular leaders in their society. It will also become clear that some of the particular challenges that Paul addressed in his own context (and that had to be overcome) are still very relevant to our day-and-age and analogously reflect the challenges of Christian leadership in a South African context: be it in the church, other Christian contexts or in society at large. These challenges, both ancient and modern, indicate that leadership among the people of God cannot simply follow the culturally dom...

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