Rose Madrid-Swetman

— Random Thoughts, Stories of Life, and Questions about the Journey —

January 21, 2008

Newbigin on Leadership

Category: All Posts,Leadership – Rose – 10:48 pm

As I work on my dissertation proposal (actually a course that helps me prepare and hone in on what my proposal will be) I am rereading some thoughts from Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Some of my thoughts surrounding my working topic –
The Practicing Church – morphing from traditional to missional — what are the practices of:
Spiritual Formation

With regard to leadership I find the following from pages 234-241 helpful:

“If I am right in believing, as I do, that the only effective hermeneutic of the gospel is the life of the congregation which believes it, one has to ask how such congregations may be helped to become what they are called to be.”

“…,the Church in the New Testament is represented by visible communities of men and women located in places which can be visited and to which letters can be written.”

“…they are represented by visible congregations which have a specific location–whether in the primary geographical sense, or in the sense of location within one of the sectors of public life in a complex and multisectional society. I have already said that I believe that the major impact of such congregations on the life of society, as a whole is through the daily work of the members in their secular vocations…but the developing, nourishing, and sustaining of Christian faith and practice is impossible apart from a believing congregation. It is therefore important to my thesis to consider, however briefly, the question of the leadership of such congregations.”

“In some Christian circles it is unfashionable to talk much about the ordained ministry, because of the fear of being guilty of elitism, one of contemporary society’s catalogue of unforgivable sins. Without going into an elaborate discussion on this fear, I will make two simple points. First, I hope I have made clear my belief that it is the whole Church which is called to be—in Christ—a royal priesthood, that every member of the body is called to the exercise of this priesthood, and that this priesthood is to be exercised in the daily life and work in Christians in the secular business of the world. But this will not happen unless there is a ministerial priesthood which serves, nourishes, sustains, and guides this priestly work.”

“Men and women are not ordained to this ministerial priesthood in order to take priesthood away from the people but in order to nourish and sustain the priesthood of the people.”

“The business of leadership is precisely to enable, encourage, and sustain the activity of all the members. To set “participation” and “leadership” against each other is absurd. Clericalism and anticlericalism are simply two sides of the same coin.”

“The minister’s leadership of the congregation in its mission to the world will be first and foremost in the area of his or her own discipleship, in that life of prayer and daily consecration which remains hidden from the world but which is the place where the essential battles are either won or lost.”

“…in the person of Peter—we have given to us a picture of apostolic leadership in the Church. Peter is first presented to us as an evangelist. He is a fisherman who, however, catches nothing until he submits to the Master’s instruction. When he does so, there is a mighty catch which he brings, with the net intact and as the fruit of his work, one undivided harvest to the feet of Jesus. Then the image changes and Peter is a pastor to whom Jesus entrusts his flock. He can so entrust it because Peter loves him more than all. But then, finally the image changes again. Peter is a disciple who must go the way the Master went, the way of the cross. He is not to look around to see who else is following. He is to look one way only—to the Master who goes before him. Ministerial is first and finally discipleship.”


  1. Rose,

    Thanks for putting those thoughts together publicly.

    I have enjoyed watching your dmin dissertation come together.

    I have been thinking through “church” as in ecclesia at the point of Pentecost recently and was flipping through Ray Anderson’s Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches today (mostly missed I think) and I was thinking precisely about how the church is and will always be about “moving from tradition to mission to tradition to mission.” As Anderson puts it from Jerusalem to Antioch. The ecclesia settles in and gets comfy and the spirit moves it on to Antioch.

    Anyway, your thesis thought made me think of that.


    Comment by jason smith — January 22, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

  2. ahhh, my friend newbigin…i read the same not two years ago and i still wrestle with the implications of such wisdom and insight…

    i can but pray the same for you…

    i hope all is well with you


    Comment by steven hamilton — January 23, 2008 @ 9:58 am

  3. I love Newbigin. Funny how two or three sentence quotes can still generate so much deep thinking.

    Comment by Pat — January 23, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

  4. Jason,
    Welcome, I have not read Anderson’s book, thank you, I will check it out.

    Steve and Pat – yeah I revisit Newbigin every so often. He is helpful on so many levels for today…as a practitioner on the ground – where I live life, his thoughts on the congregation and leadership help me discern in the midst of so much change and so many voices a way forward for my context.

    Comment by rose — January 23, 2008 @ 9:31 pm

  5. Rose,
    Can’t wait to see what the focus is of your dissertation — are you close to nailing it down yet? Reading Lesslie Newbigin makes me feel sane again.

    Comment by Ellen — February 5, 2008 @ 8:47 pm

  6. Hi Ellen!
    I am in the middle of a course that helps nail it down. It is called the “Bridge” course – four months of working on the subject, problem, research etc
    I am pretty sure it will be on The Practicing Church
    how to morph a traditional church into a missional community…my project from this course will be a dissertation proposal so we will see.
    See you soon, I can’t wait!

    Comment by Rose — February 7, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

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