Monday
Oct242011

Bennett, Metaphors of Ministry

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David W. Bennett, Metaphors of Ministry: Biblical Images for Leaders and Followers. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004.

Referenced in: Pastoral Theology

LifeandLeadership.com Summary

This is an often referenced scholarly work on the images used in the New Testament for leadership and followership.

In Part One, Bennett examines virtually every term (over 30) Jesus used in the Gospels to refer to his disciples. He then classifies the terms and describes the larger themes of Jesus’ teachings about leadership.

In Part Two, Bennett considers how these terms are used in the New Testament. From this he concludes that the terms may be divided into those that emphasize relationships such as brother, sister, child friend, and those that emphasize tasks, such as shepherd, worker, witness, apostle, etc. The main contribution of the book is his seven themes with regard to leadership and followership.

  1. Function – The disciple must integrate both task and relational functions.
  2. Authority – The disciple is both under God’s authority and must exercise authority to steward their responsibility
  3. Responsibility – The disciple must always realize their responsibility is ultimately toward God;
  4. Derivation – All disciples, regardless of their role and degree of responsibility, are on the same level in their relationship to God;
  5. Status – Disciples must not rely on the structural authority of their role, but must focus on attitude and character;
  6. Identification – The disciple must identify with Jesus in his pattern of life and in his life of suffering;
  7. Accountability – The disciple will be judged by the Lord relative to character and service.

In the last chapter, Bennett lays out his challenges to the church in terms of how we use these images. He asks questions like:

Do our leaders think of themselves first as brothers/sisters and as servants or as rulers and bosses?

Does their emphasis on equality for all in the fellowship blind them to their own need to be willing to come under the authority of a fellow-servant or perhaps to exercise authority as a fellow-servant?

Throughout, Bennett points out that Jesus was very judicious about his selection of terms. For example, Jesus’ teaching about the leader/follower dynamic should not be understood simply by the terms he selected, but by the terms that were available to him which he did not use, such as all of those containing the root arch which points to significant ruling authority. Also, note that Jesus never used terms like leader, commander, supervisor, manager, etc.

From the Publisher

Down through the centuries church leaders have studied the Gospels to discover patterns of leadership development that can be applied to their own context. Yet the word “leader” does not appear in the Gospels…Could it be that leadership has more to do with learning to follow than learning to command, supervise, or mange? On right attitudes than on mastery of certain skills?…Many of the insights we need are embedded in the images which Jesus used to describe his followers.”

So David W. Bennett introduces his stimulating and scholarly study previously published under the title ‘Biblical Images for Leaders and Followers.’ He examines the many images and metaphors in the Gospels relating to how disciples follow Jesus, and in turn influence others. Then he moves on to survey much of the evidence to be found in the images of the rest of the New Testament. Finally, he draws some judicious conclusions for an understanding of Christian leadership in our own day.

The author has considerable cross-cultural experience, having taught church leaders in Japan, India, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Tanzania, and Kenya, in addition to pastoring churches in California, Oregon and Massachusetts. He has also traveled and done research among church leaders in Malawi, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Korea, Thailand, Russia and the Czech Republic. His aim is to stimulate thought on these questions in churches all over the world, not just in the west.

About the Author

David W. Bennett is Senior Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hudson, Massachusetts, having pastored churches in California and Oregon. He holds Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as a Bachelor of Science in biology from MIT. He has traveled and taught extensively overseas, including Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, and has conducted extensive research on Christian leadership in India. His ministry passions include practical Bible teaching, leadership development, church growth and missions.


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