“Life together” for church leaders

“Life together” for church leaders: Learning from the book of Acts

Be inspired by the examples of togetherness that the New Testament church experienced as reflected in the book of Acts.

Ikechukwu Michael Oluikpe, PhD,is a lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Bugema University, Uganda.

The book of Acts stands out as the only New Testament book containing a clear historical account of the origin and spread of the early Christian church.1 With a prologue addressed to the “most excellent Theophilus” (Acts 1:1), the text is believed to be the sequel to the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:3). While the Gospel focused on the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem to fulfill His mission, Acts focuses on the spread of the church out of Jerusalem.

Based on geographical considerations, the book of Acts can be broadly divided into two major parts: (1) the church in and around Jerusalem (Acts 1–12) and (2) the church beyond Jerusalem (Acts 13–28). This spread of Christianity and its gospel beyond the headquarters of Judaism (hinted at in Acts 1:8)2 appears to be the aim and/or purpose of the author, Luke (the only Gentile among the New Testament writers). By the way the book is structured and narrated, “it seems probable that we are to view this triumphant, joyful, forward-moving expansion of the gospel into the Gentile world, empowered by the Holy Spirit and resulting in changed lives and local communities, as God’s intent for the continuing church. And precisely because this is God’s intent for the church, nothing can hinder it, neither Sanhedrin nor synagogue, dissension nor narrow-mindedness, prison or plot.”3 This, in many ways, serves as a model to the Christian church in every age,4 presenting the potential possibilities when God’s people are led by and filled with the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts is a real picture of the ideal church—a picture that every true pastor and church leader desires for God’s people and work in contemporary times.

Alive together

One prominent feature in the book of Acts is the unity and “togetherness” of the church’s leaders and members. The early Christian community was noted for “praying together (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 4:24), being together (Acts 1:15; 2:1, 44, 47; 5:12), holding everything in common (Acts 2:44), being of one heart and mind in agreement (Acts 4:32; 15:25), and sharing possessions (Acts 2:45; 4:32, 34).”5 Some of Luke’s favorite expressions for the communal unity of the early church include “of one accord” or “with one mind” (omothymadon) (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24; 5:12) and “at the same place” (epi to auto) (Acts 1:15; 2:44, 47; 4:26).6 These expressions are descriptive of the internal state of a church community enjoying peace and harmony.7

One of the most beautiful pictures of this “togetherness” in Acts is seen in the praying, worshiping, and sharing communities of Christian believers found in house churches. Luke’s first picture of this is captured in the “upper room” after Jesus’ resurrection: 40 days of nurturing followed by ascension (Acts 1:1–11). The original 120 members, the initial population of the early Christian church, are praying and waiting for the promise of the Father to be fulfilled (vv. 14, 15). This seeking and waiting together creates the fitting atmosphere for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1), resulting in an explosion of church membership within Jerusalem from 120 to more than 3,000 people in one day (v. 41). After this mass conversion, Luke records what could be described as the ideal church community life. Christian believers are noted to enjoy the experiences of learning sound doctrine, or teaching, together (v. 42), sharing food and possessions together (vv. 44, 45), and worshiping together (v. 46). Acts 4:32–37 presents a similar account of togetherness among the early Christian community. These experiences have become the best descriptions in the New Testament for ministry and mission through small groups today.

In addition, the early church thrived through the “togetherness” experience of house churches. Numerous house churches are mentioned in the book of Acts and Paul’s letters. Examples that possibly include house churches are Jerusalem (Acts 1:12–15; 2:41–47; 5:42; 12:10–17), Philippi (Acts 16:11–15, 25–34), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1–9), Corinth (Acts 18:7, 8; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 16:15, 17), Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1, 2), Ephesus (Acts 18:18, 19, 26; 1 Cor. 16:19), Rome (Rom. 16:3, 5, 10, 11, 14, 15), and Colossae (Philem. 1, 2).8 John Mallison comments on the mention of these churches in the New Testament by stating that “It is almost certain that every mention of a local church or of a church meeting [in the New Testament], whether for worship or fellowship, is in actual fact a reference to a church meeting in a house.”9

The church leaders and members are also noted to have actively used every spiritual gift and ministry to get involved in every aspect of evangelism. Beginning with the earnest prayers and preparation in the upper room (Acts 1:14; 2:1) (“pre-evangelistic campaign”) and the preaching on the Day of Pentecost crowned by Peter’s sermon (vv. 4–11, 14–41) (“evangelistic campaign”), the church leaders and members were involved in active small group ministry (Acts 2:41–47; 4:32–37), healing and health (Acts 3:1–10; 9:33– 35), and welfare (social) ministry (Acts 6:1–7; 9:36–42) among others (“post- evangelistic campaign”).10 Through the power of the Holy Spirit, this active participation of every member of the church together in reaching out to the world brought great increase and progress to the work of the gospel in the first century a.d.

This togetherness does not suggest the absence of conflict within the early Christian community. The book of Acts faithfully recounts episodes of disagreement among believers as a result of the growth and spread of the church beyond the regions of Jerusalem and Judea. Three prominent examples of these include the complaint of unfair distribution of needed supplies among Hebrew and Hellenistic widows (Acts 6:1), the negative reaction to the visit of Peter (a Jew) to the house of Cornelius (a Gentile) (Acts 11:1–3, cf. Acts 10), and especially the debate over the teaching that Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15:1–5). In each instance, the believers (especially the leaders) were willing to come together, carefully listen to the problem and consider the case, prayerfully deliberate, and come to peaceful resolutions (Acts 6:1–7; 11:1–18; 15:6–29).

The quality of “togetherness” in the early church of Acts (especially among the leaders) is worth emulating in con- temporary times. It can be said that this was a key factor that contributed to the successful and prosperous growth of the Christian church across the borders of the then Greco-Roman world.

Fellowship together

The foundational experience of “togetherness” among the church lead- ers of the book of Acts led to the growth and expansion of the Christian movement. This experience can be found in the word koinonia, usually translated “fellowship.” While the word fellowship has become a casual religious word in Christian circles, there is more to it than is practiced in churches today.

In the Christian world today, “ ‘fellowship’ now usually refers to casual conversation, socializing, food, and fun. The question, ‘Where do you fellowship?’ means ‘Where do you attend church?’ ‘Stay after for fellowship’ usually means ‘wait for refreshments.’ Real fellowship is so much more than just showing up at services. It is experiencing life together. . . . Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface level chit-chat. It is genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut level sharing. It happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives. They share the hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses and ask for help and prayer.”11

This koinonia experience, which became the basis of the modus operandi for the church leaders, must have been established in the upper-room experience briefly mentioned in Acts 1:14, culminating on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). In her commentary on the ten days preceding Pentecost, Ellen White describes in some detail what transpired among the neonate leaders of the church of Acts: “Putting away all differences, all desire for the supremacy, they came close together in Christian fellowship.”12

This description is significant in light of the disciples’ continual struggle over who is the greatest among them (Matt. 18:1; Mark 9:33, 34; Luke 9:46; 22:24). Constant quarreling over this issue must have caused hurt and created enmity among them. During this upper room period, the process of deep soul searching, heart-to-heart confession, and reconciliation among the disciples created the perfect basis for authentic fellowship. From then on, the church leaders began to practice koinonia as they gathered to pursue a common purpose for their lives.13

As the early church faced conflict and crisis in its beginning stages, this life of koinonia played a significant role in helping keep the growing movement stable and united. This life of “fellow- ship together” is especially manifested in the gathering of church leaders in prayer and worship to seek the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit for the unity and mission of the church amidst challenges.14 Examples of this fellowship in prayer include the leaders and members praying for boldness after the arrest and release of Peter and John (Acts 4:23–31), the focus of the apostles on devoting themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word in the disagreement between Hebrew and Hellenist Christians (Acts 6:4, 6) and the church praying continually for Peter in prison (Acts 12:5, 12), among others.15 In their selection of missionaries and elders (Acts 13:1–3; 14:23) and in their planning for evangelism and mission (Acts 16:6–10), the church leaders sought for the Holy Spirit’s leading through worship, prayer, and fasting together. “After seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading, they could say of their decisions, ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us’ (Acts 15:28).”16

There is a need to learn from the church leaders in the book of Acts by making earnest corporate prayer an inevitable component of meetings. Like it did for the early church, prayer can bring the group of church leaders together to God, seeking His guidance in making decisions, resolving conflicts, and bringing unity of mind and heart among God’s appointed heads.17 In addition, this kind of fellowship transforms our prayers from focusing on asking God to bless our decisions to directing them [our prayers] toward being willing to open our minds and wills to God’s will. Without fellowship in prayer together, human-made plans (which are more trusted than God’s) emerge and are forced on God to approve.18

Another way of koinonia for church leaders today is to be involved in small groups that go beyond superficial, impersonal conversation and “learn to trust one another, openly expressing their thoughts and feelings, confident that what is shared within the group will not go beyond the group. They must also learn the art of respectful disagreement, challenging each other when necessary.”19 Church leaders, including pastors, need a support system.20 They need a place with a group of fellow church leaders and members, a twelve-step group program for recovering sinners.21 They need a place where they can share their weaknesses, be prayed for, and grow in grace and acceptance.22 Apart from a small group, this support can also be found in the form of individual confidant friendships that promote personal, spiritual, and professional accountability.23 Though such friendships develop with much time and sacrifice, it is a critical need that church leaders find people in their lives whom they can trust and with whom they can bare their souls, challenging each other to live holy lives.24

Indeed, such support systems will create an atmosphere for church leaders to experience koinonia—that “life together” of “God-given unity of heart and mind . . . [that] signifies a close connection among the believers for mutual support and involvement in each others’ lives, both spiritually and materially.”25

The life of fellowship together, practiced mostly in the first half of the book of Acts (chapters 1–12), established a mode of operation for the leaders of the church, providing a foundation that led to consolidated, united church leader- ship and membership throughout the rest of the book.

Teamwork network

The second half of Acts (Acts 13–28) focuses especially on the Christian church going beyond Jerusalem, especially through Paul’s missionary journeys.26 Though Paul stands out as the prominent, ideal evangelist or missionary in the book of Acts, he manifests another very important aspect of “life together” often overlooked: teamwork.

It is interesting to note that in the accounts of Paul’s evangelistic and ministry activities in the book of Acts, he was never a “loner” but lived, traveled, and worked together with other leaders and believers (Acts 9:28–30; 13:1–5, 13–16, 44–46; 14:1, 7, 20, 21, 25; 17:1–15; 18:5–8).27 A simple survey of the book of Acts makes Paul’s emphasis on togetherness clear. Some prominent coworkers of Paul in Acts include Barnabas and John Mark (first missionary journey—Acts 13:2–5); Silas and Timothy (second missionary journey—Acts 15:40; 16:1–3); Luke (Acts 16:10); Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:1–3); Erastus (Acts 19:22); Gaius and Aristarchus (Acts 19:29); and Sopater of Berea, Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia (Acts 20:4). While others are mentioned in Paul’s epistles, the book of Acts makes it clear that Paul never worked alone.28 He enjoyed “life together” with other church leaders and members in a teamwork network.

Paul’s example in Acts serves as an encouragement to contemporary church leaders to experience “life together” by working with others. The human tendency to compare and compete with other church leaders based on worldly standards creates pride and disunity that prevents the steady progress of God’s work in ministry. The book of Acts shows that the missionary spread of the gospel farther and faster across the Greco-Roman world was the result of teamwork under the leadership of the apostle Paul. In order to accomplish the same result, church leaders today must reject competitive comparison and embrace collaborative cooperation. Creating a teamwork network by inviting and involving the spiritual gifts and ministries (specialization and expertise) of other church leaders in ministry and evangelistic efforts within and without the church will always be as effective and productive for the gospel work today as it was for Paul and the church in Acts. 29 It is another manifestation of “life together” for contemporary church leaders.

Bridging the gap together

As a result of meaningful fellowship and networking, the church leaders of the early church mentored young leaders and prepared them for ministry. The book of Acts briefly mentions three young men who later became church leaders and played a very significant role in the growth of the early church. They are John Mark, Timothy, and Apollos.

Barnabas saw potential in his cousin, John Mark. Consequently, he invited him to join in on the first missionary journey of Paul (Acts 12:25). He was doing fine until he suddenly deserted the mission, leaving the missionary team and returning to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13, 14). When an opportunity arose to take him on another trip, Paul vehemently refused because of John Mark’s previous abandonment. This led to a serious disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36–39). However, Barnabas never lost faith in John Mark and took him along (v. 39). In later years, the epistles of Paul and Peter testify that Barnabas’s effort in mentoring John Mark paid off, making him useful and valuable in ministry (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; 1 Pet. 5:13). He eventually became the author of what is believed to be the very first Gospel of Jesus: the Gospel of Mark.

Paul took interest in Timothy when he met him in Lystra (Acts 16:1–3). Though Timothy’s father was a Greek, he grew in knowledge of and love for the Holy Scriptures through his Jewish mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15). In time, Paul took Timothy along in his missionary journeys and mentored him in church leadership (Acts 17:14, 15; 18:5). The result was that Timothy shared the Gospel in Ephesus as evidenced by Paul’s injunctions and admonitions to him in the pastoral Epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy (1 Tim. 1:1–4; 2 Tim. 1:6). Timothy also joined Paul to write letters of encouragement to other Christians as recorded in some of the Pauline Epistles (2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Philem. 1).

Aquila and Priscilla, a couple involved in the leadership of the early church (Rom. 16:3–5; 1 Cor. 16:19), met Apollos, a Jewish young man from Alexandria, when they heard him in Ephesus. He is described as competent and eloquent in Scripture and as speaking boldly in the synagogue (Acts 18:24, 26). Though he knew only the baptism of John and preached it with fervent spirit, Aquila and Priscilla took time to take Apollos in and explain to him the truth as it is in Jesus (v. 26). This growth in knowledge and brief mentoring resulted in the conversion and discipleship of many to the faith (Acts 18:27, 28). Apollos became a notable leader in the work of the early church and brought many to the faith as confirmed by the mention of his name in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:10–12; 3:1–9, 21–23; 16:12).

These three examples clearly illustrate that leadership of the church in Acts intentionally worked to “bridge the gap” between the older and younger generations to provide continuity for church life. Contemporary church leaders need to prayerfully and strategically mentor and train young leaders to become potential successors in the Lord’s work. There is a need for church leaders to be comfortable and confident in involving and delegating leadership responsibilities to the young members of the church. This can also include giving them the freedom to create and lead their own ministry for the church.30 Pastors as leaders of the church should not be left out in this process. Older and more experienced ministers should intentionally make available time to mentor young ones as they struggle with the vicissitudes of the ministerial life and work.31

In the twenty-first century, the work of church leaders as they seek to reach out to the youth and involve them in leading the church can be summarized in these words: train them and trust them.32 Bridging the generation gap by mentorship, involvement, and delegation is another important aspect of “life together” for church leaders.33

Needed: Life together

During the Nazi years in Germany, a young minister sought and worked to train young seminarians to live in genuine Christian community as they prepared for ministry and leadership.34 Dietrich Bonhoeffer “led a fugitive community of seminarians, living with them in a daily quest to discover for themselves the meaning of being a family of faith in Christ and training them in the pastoral ministries that would lead others into that fellowship of a common life. It was during this period that he wrote [the book] Life Together.”35

“At a time when hatred and suspicion were on the rise due to the world wars, . . . [Bonhoeffer] was able to articulate what he saw as the gap in reality between what the Church should look like according to the Book of Acts, and what the Church actually looked like before the eyes of the world.”36

As exemplified by the leaders of the early church in the book of Acts, “experiencing life together” should be a key emphasis for church leaders in the twenty-first century. In an age where division and competition are rife, where racism and tribalism abound, lethargy and hypocrisy thrive, “life together” is an essential component for Christian leadership today.

One of the greatest weapons of the devil against the church is to cause disunity among members, and unfortunately, many times it begins with the church leaders. When leaders are divided among themselves and attack each other, the church members follow and factions form. This definitely affects the mission of the church in the community by misrepresenting the character of Christ and depriving the church of united strength and focus in outreach.

The solution to this is “life together,” first among the church leaders. This will also extend to the members, leading to a united church.38 Church leaders need a community where they can enjoy each other in a common life (fellowship), serve each other in common commitments (accountability), and commit to doing good with a common vision for mission (partnership).39 In order to experience this, they need to commit to investing time (commitment), investing energy (intentionality), and risking vulnerability (authenticity).40 These, among others, are essential factors for the “life together” experience needed by church leaders for personal and corporate progress of God’s work in the church and in the world. 41

Conclusion

The book of Acts “reminds us what it means to be the church: a Spirit-filled and Spirit-directed body of believers whose purpose is to cross every ethnic and geographical boundary to take the message of salvation to the ends of the earth.”42 Though the book of Acts was not written as a handbook on how to run the church and not everything that happens in Acts is meant to establish the pattern for the church today,43 the unity of the church and the “life together” of its leaders are definitely worth emulating for contemporary church life and mission.

The book of Acts is clear that church unity is the work of the Holy Spirit, but it requires human effort (cf. Eph. 4:1–3). Leaders need to create an atmosphere for unity by being united and supporting one another in such a way that church members can follow and all experience life together.

 

1 Without the book of Acts, there would be no clear information from the biblical records on the early Christian church apart from the letters of Paul. Therefore “in one sense, it is true to say that the book of Acts is the most important book in the New Testament.” William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible: The Acts of the Apostles (Edinburgh, UK: The Saint Andrew Press, 1955), xiii.

2 Acts 1:8 is the programmatic statement of the book of Acts. The gospel begins in and revolves around Jerusalem in Acts 1–7, then it expands to include Judea and Samaria in Acts 8 and 9. Finally, the Christian movement spreads across the Jewish barriers into Gentile territory (“the ends of the earth”) from Acts 10 to 28 until it gets to Rome, the capital city center of the Roman Empire. David A. de Silva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Context, Methods and Ministry Formation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 356.

3 Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 114.

4 Much of the book of Acts is intended to serve as a model for the church today. “But the model is not so much in the specifics as in the overall picture.” Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible, 114.

5 Alan J. Thompson, “Unity in Acts: Idealization or Reality?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 3 (September 2008): 523.

6 The Greek terms describing the unity of the early church appear almost exclusively in the book of Acts among the writings of the New Testament. Bernhard Oestreich, “Preserving Church Unity: Lessons From the Jerusalem Church,” Ministry, October 2011, 10; J. Lyle Story, “The Jerusalem Council: A Pivotal and Instructive Paradigm,” Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership 3, no. 1 (Winter 2010): 46, 47.

7 Story, “Jerusalem Council,” 47; Oestreich, “Preserving Church Unity,” 10.

8 Kwabena Donkor, “New Testament House Churches: A Model for Today’s Complex World?” Ministry, April 2008, 6. See also Wolfgang Simson, Houses That Change the World: The Return of the House Churches. (Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Lifestyle, 2001), 92–94.

9 John Mallison, The Small Group Leader: A Manual to Develop Vital Small Groups (Adelaide, South Australia: Openbook Publishers, 1996), 6.

10 Marlon Robinson, “Evangelism in the Book of Acts: A Biblical Model for Churches” Elder's Digest 18, no. 2 (April/June 2012), 24–26.

11 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 138, 139.

12 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), 37.

13 “The gathering for pursuit of common purpose and life together is affirmed in the New Testament. This gathering for common life is called koinōnia.” Gareth Weldib Icenogle, Biblical Foundations for Small Group Ministry: An Integrational Approach (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 14.

14 Robert L. Gallagher, “From Doing to Being: A Missiological Interpretation of Acts 4:23-31,” Journal of Asian Mission 5, no. 2 (2003): 173n54.

15 Ibid.

16 Ikechukwu Michael Oluikpe, “Biblical Principles of Spiritual Leadership: The Early Church of Acts as a Case Study,” Journal of AIIAS African Theological Association 3 (2012): 28.

17 Ben Maxson, “Where Are the Spirit-Filled Leaders?” Ministry, January 1993, www.ministrymagazine .org/archive/1993/January/where-are-the-spirit -filled leaders.

18 Oluikpe, “Biblical Principles of Spiritual Leadership,” 30.

19 Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 75.

20 “Participating in a genuine spiritual community as an equal is very important for a cleric’s health and well-being. Clergy, like other human beings, need to be known and loved in a circle of face-to-face relationships with peers. . . . “The need is to be honest about one’s own life, to give and receive affection, to give and receive forgiveness, and to express one’s personal faith and faith-struggles. In the long run, no one—clergy or lay—can live a healthy spiritual life without that kind of a life-context for his or her journey. “Clergy who recognize that they are relatively isolated need to take the initiative to find or create the kind of peer spiritual community in which they can live and grow.” Donald R. Hands and Wayne L. Fehr, Spiritual Wholeness for Clergy: A New Psychology of Intimacy with God, Self and Others (Washington, DC: The Alban Institute, 1993), 67. In his list of eight things that can improve pastoral ministry and leadership, Ivan Blake suggests in the fifth point the need to establish local ministerial support groups that provide a nonthreatening environment for spiritual and professional growth, including peer accountability. See Ivan Charles Blake, “Pastor for Life,” Ministry, July/August 2010, www .ministrymagazine.org/archive/2010/07-august /pastor-for-life. See also Benjamin D. Schoun, Helping Pastors Cope: A Psycho-Social Support System for Pastors (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1982), 174–176, 178–181; Derek Morris, “Building a Support Network,” Ministry, May 2015, www .ministrymagazine.org/archive/2015/05/building-a -support-network.

21 Jackie Bishop, “Grace and the Twelve-Step Group,” in We Can Keep Them in the Church: How to Love Our Children so They Won’t Leave: Success Stories and Ideas That Really Work, comp. Myrna Tetz and Gary L. Hopkins (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2004), 206–213.

22 Bernie Anderson, Breaking the Silence: A Pastor Goes Public About His Battle With Pornography (Hagerstown, MD: Autumn House Publishing, 2007), 134; Dwight Nelson, The Chosen (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2012), 329.

23 Matthew D. Kim, “Creating Healthy Habits,” Ministry, September 2016, 12.

24 Ibid.

25 Donkor, “New Testament House Churches,” 6.

26 “Virtually the entire second half of Acts is dedicated to Paul’s catalytic role in the advance of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.” Dean Flemming, Contextualization in the New Testament: Patterns for Theology and Mission (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 56.

27 George W. Murray, “Paul’s Corporate Evangelism in the Book of Acts,” Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (April–June 1998), 190.

28 Murray, “Paul’s Corporate Evangelism,” 191–193.

29 Schoun, Helping Pastors Cope, 181–183.

30 “So give your young people opportunities for real leadership and not just token involvement. Nominating committees are notorious for wanting to ‘get the young people involved’ by putting one or two on every committee. In this way members appease their consciences by saying that their kids are involved without really releasing to them the possibility of changing something. What if we monitored our young people’s growth, helped them understand their spiritual gifts and special abilities, and then gradually mentored them into the leadership of some ministry? Or better, what if we helped them develop a new ministry that is close to their heart?” Ryan J. Bell, “The Whole Body of Christ” in We Can Keep Them in the Church, ed. Myrna Tetz and Gary Hopkins,39.

31 Schoun, Helping Pastors Cope, 166–168.

32 Jan Paulsen, “The Openness That Lies Before Us,” Ministry, September 2006, www.ministrymagazine .org/archive/2006/September/the-openness-that -lies-before-us.html. See also Tom Grove, “Developing Spiritual Leaders Like Jesus,” Ministry, December 2015, 14–16.

33 The close association and interaction between the youth and the older members of the church congregation can be described as intergenerational relationships. As youth transition from the teenage years to the young adult years, they need committed mentoring relationships with older members more than they do with their peers. Contemporary church leaders should actively initiate, facilitate, establish, and encourage more relationships that bridge the generation gap in the church. “Bridging the gap” together plays a major role in keeping the youth from leaving the church. Clint Jenkin and Allan A. Martin, “Engaging Adventist Millennials: A Church That Embraces Relationships,” Ministry, May 2014, www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2014/05 /engaging-adventist-millennials.

34 After his license for teaching at Berlin University was taken from him, Dietrich Bonhoeffer served as pastor, administrator, and teacher at an underground seminary in Finkenwalde, Germany (now located in Poland), from 1935 to 1937. Stephen J. Nichols, Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway: 2013), 23, 24; Dale Ziemer, Life Together: A Study Guide (July 2006), 9.

35 Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, 2nd edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 184.

36 “Life Together,” Wikipedia, last modified January 21, 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_Together.

37 Ibid.

38 Bonhoeffer’s “life together” experiment with seminarians was built on the premise that the spiritual life of the pastor was not different from that of church members. Therefore if the pastors as church leaders will faithfully nurture their faith life through the regular practice of Bible study, prayer, and worship, they will be an example to the church members and have authentic experiences of spiritual growth to share with their congregations in the shared life of discipleship. Ziemer, Life Together, 9.

39 Richard Lamb, The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 202.

40 Ibid., 208, 209.

41 Some other key factors essential for community include mutuality, sympathy, mercy, honesty, humility, courtesy, confidentiality, and frequency. These are mentioned and described in chapters 18 (“Experiencing Life Together”) and 19 (“Cultivating Community”) of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life.

42 Mark Strauss, “Acts” in IVP Introduction to the Bible: Story, Themes and Interpretation, ed. Philip Johnston (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006), 213.

43 Strauss, “Acts,” 212; Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible,114.


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Ikechukwu Michael Oluikpe, PhD,is a lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Bugema University, Uganda.

April 2017

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