Shared-Team Leadership in Acts 15
Acts 15 records the meeting of the Council at Jerusalem, which was a major defining moment for the early church. The Council of Jerusalem was an assembly called together to settle the greatest conflict of the New Testament Church: the question of the necessity of circumcision for Gentile believers. This early church decision had a major impact on Judaism, providing a decisive dividing line between Christianity and Judaism. The real question of circumcision boiled down to how the Gentiles could be accepted into the Jewish community of believers (Hegg, 2008). The debate over circumcision resulted in the elimination of the required ritual of circumcision that was previously considered necessary for Gentiles to become proselytes, effectively removing the fence around the Law (ibid). Although the narrative of Acts 15 follows particular characters, the passage reveals a pattern of group leadership that is consistently evident throughout the early church. The importance of the representation of a plurality of leadership in the Council of Jerusalem cannot be understated. This document discusses the implications of shared team leadership in Acts 15:1-35, and provides an analysis of this leadership model as a biblical pattern in the New Testament church as well as a plan for modern application.
Inter-textual Analysis of Acts 15
Historical-Cultural Texture: Old Testament
Understanding of the group leadership model in Acts 15 begins with an examination of the Old Testament. On the cusp of the Hebrew people forming an identity as a nation, Moses is called to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10, English Standard Version). It is clear that God Himself was to be the deliverer, guiding Israel out of captivity through Moses (Ex. 3:7-21). Moses, understanding his limitations, requests God to send someone else, but God designates Aaron to go with him and the matter is settled with both Moses and Aaron acting in a leadership capacity throughout the deliverance and wanderings of the Hebrew people (Ex. 4:10-17). Throughout the narrative of Moses as leader, it is clear that God Himself ruled the people with Moses and Aaron acting as mouthpieces (Ex. 4, 7:8; Lev.11:1).
Exodus 18 provides further support for this model of plurality in leadership. As Moses judged the people from morning to night, his father-in-law suggests the wisdom of appointing judges to avoid burn out, yet still provide the necessary functions required to maintain order and leadership (Ex. 11:13-25). Moses again establishes a plurality of leadership to ensure the needs of the people are met and “to be able to endure” (Ex. 11:23-25) because of the personal physical tax of leadership responsibilities.
This model of plurality remained in effect long after the death of Moses until the elders of Israel rallied for a king (1Sam. 8). It is interesting to note that the elders of Israel, the appointed leaders of that day, made this request (1 Sam. 8:4). Scripture reveals that one of their main motivations for this request was so that they could be like other nations (ibid), which was in direct violation to God's desire that Israel be separate from other nations. This passage makes clear that God Himself desired to be the king and leader of Israel and counted their request for a king as a rejection of His divine rule (1 Sam. 8:7).
These instances in Old Testament not only highlight the effectiveness of group leadership, but also reveal the deeper truth of God’s desire to be the sole ruler of His people (1 Sam. 8:4; Ps. 95:3; Isa. 45:5-6). The New Testament Church fulfills this as the primitive church consistently seeks the consensus of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them. Plurality of leadership allowed the Holy Spirit to be the center of attention since no individual was considered the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). The New Testament Church exemplifies the plural leadership model as groups of church leaders joined together looking to the Holy Spirit as the ruling authority (Acts 15:28, Acts 13:2, 4, 16:6, 20:23, 21:11, 28:25; Rom. 9:1: 15:13; Heb. 3:7).
Historical Texture: New Testament
The Hebrew people, although historically small in number, have had the most profound and lasting impact upon western civilization (Adler, 1996). This community of Jews developed a monotheistic religion that was strange and foreign to the ancient world (ibid). Although the concept of having a supreme singular God was not unheard of, the lasting effects of the Jewish religion make it the definitive monotheistic religion of the ancient peoples (ibid).
The timing of both Jesus Christ and the rise of humanity fit into a perfect ecosystem (Cairns, 1996). With the rise of Caesar Augustus, free movement around the Roman Empire became relatively easy and safe (ibid). The road system developed, the protection of the Roman army, and the destruction of many religions by both force and assimilation created a ripe environment for the birth of the early church (ibid).
The Romans had an obsession with Greek culture that culminated in the Greek language becoming the universal language of the Roman Empire (ibid). Greek philosophy was promoted and thereby aided in the destruction of many older and well-established religions (ibid). Although the Romans were the military conquerors of the Greek government, the Greeks conquered the Romans culturally (ibid).
All of this political upheaval affected the early church and indirectly, the council of Jerusalem. The early church believed that the Word was made flesh at the precise time of God's choosing (Gonzalez, 2010). They understood divine timing and therefore made sure to stay connected to the world around them (ibid). Consequently, one can see a rise in number of Hellenistic Jews (Acts 6), and philosophies of Greek origin began to make their way through the church (Gal. 5:23, 1 Cor. 1:18-31, Col. 2:8). This became more evident as the Holy Spirit began to be poured out on Gentiles.
Judaism Benefits from Political Environment
The environment of free thought brought about by Greek influence was favorable to the ethical system propagated by the Jewish faith (Cairns, 1996). This ethical system was recorded in the Old Testament and painstakingly preserved by the scribes and priests (ibid). The Jews stressed the importance of history and promoted a philosophical approach that rejected the notion that history was merely a linear evolution (ibid). These ideas were taught in the Synagogue, a perfect receptacle to promote and spread the idea of Christianity (ibid).
Social & Cultural Intertexture: Jewish Resistance to Gentile Conversion
While the political environment initially seemed in favor of Christianity, upheaval lurked just beneath the surface as the war between Judaism and Christianity was about to be set in motion. Part of the conflict in Acts 15 relates to the Jewish idea of dividing humanity into an "us" and "they" categorization of people (Adler, 1996, P. 50). The Jewish people believed they were God's chosen children and those of other nationalities were lesser people (ibid). The idea of separation from other peoples was steeped in tradition and the Law of Moses (ibid) and as a result many Jewish converts to Christianity had difficulty accepting the idea of Gentiles being saved without obedience to the Mosaic Law; specifically, the law of circumcision, which was a sign of covenant (Gen. 17:11).
Social & Cultural Intertexture: Structural Influences for the Council of Jerusalem
There are many social and cultural instances had influence on the way the Jerusalem Council was organized. Rome, as the governing power, had created a more democratic way of ruling (Goldsworthy, 2014). The early church also looked to the pattern of leadership left by Christ Himself (Matthew10). The Sanhedrin was a large part of Jewish society at the time (Marshall & Wiseman, 1996). In addition, the influence of the Old Testament government that was still very much a part of Jewish culture reveals itself in the church’s use of elders to help decide issues (ibid). These four influences had a probable hand in bringing about an actual council to work through the issue instead of creating a church split.
Rome could be considered a republic until around 27 BC (Goldsworthy, 2014), however the roots of republicanism and democracy can be traced farther back to the Greeks in ancient Athens. The sovereign governing body in Athens was known as the "ekklesia" (A&E Networks, 2016). This word was later repurposed to describe the New Testament church ("Ekklesia," 2016). Evidence of the influence of this form of government may be seen in the transfer of this word to be used exclusively when referring to the Church.
Jesus and His Apostles
The Apostles were those who personally walked with Jesus and were the first to be imbued with power from him (Marshall & Wiseman, 1996). Jesus gave these men the power to forbid and to permit, or to bind and loose (ibid). This a powerful notion. It is from the writings and teachings of these men that the foundations of Christianity were shaped. Matthew 18:18 sheds light on the Apostles power within the early church (ibid). Here, Jesus gives the Apostles power to forbid and permit, essentially to lay down doctrine, for the entire earthly mission. However, there was one caveat: there had to be at least two in agreement (Mt. 18:20). In light of this requirement, it is clear why the apostles took great care to council with one another about major doctrinal decisions. In addition, Christ’s action of sending His apostles out in pairs instead of solo speaks to the value of ministry in multiples (Mk. 6:7, Lk. 10:1).
The qualifications of becoming an apostle, in context of the twelve, were framed in such a way that apostleship would die out with the twelve (Marshall & Wiseman, 1996). The apostles had to have witnessed the resurrection and been personally commissioned by Christ (ibid). Through the apostles, elected officials were chosen by the people and ordained to assist in the daily administration of the early church (ibid).
Old Testament Government: Elders
Although the Bible does mention elders before Numbers 11, this Old Testament passage denotes a special, governmental role that elders were asked to fill (Marshall & Wiseman, 1996). After the Hebrew people had settled in the Promised Land, the elders were the leading body in every Hebrew city and responsible for many administrative tasks (ibid). It was this body of elders that persuaded God and Samuel to create the monarchy in order for the Hebrew people to resemble other foreign nations (ibid).
By the time of the New Testament, the elders held equal power with the High Priest with respect to determining religious affairs and expulsion from the synagogue (ibid). In New Testament writings, the word presbyteros is often translated as elder (ibid). Elders tended to be older men, but there were exceptions to this generality (ibid). Within the Old Testament, the elders, along with the priests, were required to keep and teach the word to the next generation (ibid).
It is important to note that the Sanhedrin, at the time of Acts 15, was comprised of both the priests and the elders (ibid), along with Jewish nobility (e. D. Carson & et al., 1994). In Palestine, at the time of the New Testament writings, the elders were almost solely responsible for teaching within the synagogues (Marshall & Wiseman, 1996). However, in rabbinical literature, the elders were still to act as the judges and executioners of such judgments within the synagogues (ibid). These synagogues often had a plurality of overseers who kept order within the synagogue and chose those who would teach and preach (ibid). These overseer's appointments were attached to a local building, whereas the elders were ordained by their teacher and often had a wider ministry within and without the synagogue (ibid). Due to a wider ministry, elders were bi-vocational, working a trade for a living along with ministry (ibid).
Elders, in the New Testament, were responsible for teaching, preaching, judging, and general oversight of the local assembly (ibid). The title of elder and the office of bishop were not separated until the second century, making the office of bishop lean more to the judicial side of church government (ibid). As the church centralized power, monarchy and bureaucracy began to infiltrate the organization.
The Sanhedrin was the highest court/tribunal of the Jews which met on matters of greater and lesser importance (Marshall & Wiseman, 1996). The Sanhedrin used a voting system in order to determine the outcome of various issues and arguments (ibid). Any member was allowed to speak for or against the subject matter, but the matter was ultimately decided by voting (ibid). Although in the inception of the Sanhedrin the High Priest had absolute control, the authority of the individual was curtailed by the time the New Testament was penned (ibid). In this manner, the High Priest acted as the president of the Sanhedrin and not the monarch (ibid).
Acts 15: 1-6
It was the success of Paul's mission to the Gentiles that sparked the circumcision debate (e. D. Carson & et al., 1994). The conflict boiled down to clarification of requirements of the Gentiles to join the Jewish community (Hegg, 2008). The clash between the Gentile mission and the Jewish tradition had come to a head.
"Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). Acts 15 opens in controversy. The Jewish Christians were struggling with the question, how can someone accept Jesus as the fulfillment of prophetic scripture and not obey the Mosaic law (e. D. Carson & et al., 1994)? The Jewish believers who came from Judea to Antioch were passionate in their assertions that Gentiles needed to follow the Law of Moses. Verse 2 describes "no small dissension " between these men and Barnabus and Paul. The Greek word for dissension is "zétésis", meaning "a subject of questioning or debate, matter of controversy"("Zetesis," 2011).
The brothers claimed that they spoke with James' authority (Bruce, 1988). There is some controversy on whether or not James had sent them and they over-stepped their commission or if they were the false brethren alluded to in Galatians 2:4 (ibid). One thing is certain, the rapid expansion of the Antioch church and the liberty with which those Christians operated chaffed some of the more conservative Jewish Christians (ibid). When the matter could not be resolved within Antioch, the church sent Paul, Barnabus, and other members to Jerusalem to seek a definitive answer (ibid). Here one can see an example of a plurality of leaders debating, seeking, and finally appealing to another pluralistic group of leaders. The church of Antioch sent Paul, Barnabus, and other responsible members to Jerusalem (Acts 15:2), not a single, spiritually monarchial potentate. If a spiritual monarch would have existed, one should preclude that the monarch should have made the spiritual decision.
Acts 15:6 illuminates the way doctrinal issues were resolved in the New Testament church. The Apostles and elders came together to consider the matter of circumcision (Acts 15:6). The word for elders in verse 6 is transliterated as presbuteros which can include both a Christian leader within an assembly or a member of the Sanhedrin (Strong, 1995). While the New Testament version of the elder did borrow from both the Old Testament and the Sanhedrin, the office was unique and peculiar to the Christian faith (Merkle, 2008).
Verse 7 speaks to the seriousness of the situation, but also reveals an element of debate. While it is not known exactly how the Council handled the debate, it is clear that both sides were discussed in great detail and at great length (Acts 15:7). Paul, in verses 7-11, appeals to the decisions of God, reminding them that the outcome should be hinged on the will and decision of God which was evidenced by the pouring out of His Spirit on the Gentiles. At this juncture, the debate ceases as Paul and Barnabas relay the evidence of God’s affirmation on the Gentiles through the “signs and wonders” that were accomplished through them (Acts 15:12). Acts 15:12 says that “all the assembly fell silent” which indicates that, at some point, they were not silent, but may have all been engaged in the debate. While the Council of Jerusalem consisted of many leaders, it is clear that they were still subject to the Holy Spirit and looked not only to each other, but ultimately to the Spirit to resolve issues (Acts 15:7-27).
This passage has been called one of the most vital passages in the entire New Testament (Scofield, 1945). James equated the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles with God's promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3 (Kaiser Jr, 1977). Furthermore, Paul also preached the same doctrine in Gal 3:8 (ibid). It was through this argument that James was able to persuade the elders in Jerusalem and settle the issue of Gentile circumcision.
James, well respected in the church community, has long been labeled as the champion advocating for the side of the circumcision in Acts 15. However, after hearing the evidence from Paul and Barnabas, James speaks in verse 13 and pulls from the prophecy in Amos 9, a passage known and trusted by the Jews, to explain the events that occurred to the Gentiles. This reference to scripture no doubt lent credibility to the story of Paul and Barnabas.
An interesting observation about how the early church handled matters of great importance is noted by the lack of casting lots, the use of prophets, or the assertions of a single decision maker; rather the early church called for a meeting and a debate (e. D. Carson & et al., 1994). Concerning issues of salvific importance, a plurality of leadership was assembled and debated the best course forward. Even though James held authority with the assembly, it should be noted that the Apostles, elders, and the entire church chose men to send with Paul and Barnabus to the church in Antioch (Acts 15:22).
In light of the prophecy, James alluded to in verses 16-18, the decision was made against the keeping of the circumcision among the Gentiles (Acts 15:19-21). The idea that James arbitrarily made the decision concerning circumcision would seem to run counter to Jesus decrees in Luke 22:25-27 (Merkle, 2008). Both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were written by the same author: therefore, one can conclude a certain level of consistency within the author's narrative. This notion does not discount the pre-eminence of James in the early church. James was the most authoritative individual in Acts 15, and through his chairmanship, decisions made were binding upon other churches (Mathew, 1981). Mathew (1981) argues James' influence was due to his kinship to Jesus and his position in the mother church of Jerusalem (ibid).
It can be reasonably assumed that due to his influence, the Jerusalem council acquiesced to his wisdom. Although some have suggested James ruled the early church as a quasi-monarch, other churches adopted the Presbyterate and not a monarchial rule (ibid). This tends to support the notion that James acted in more of a chairmanship role and not as a monarch. Furthermore, Acts 6:1-6 exemplifies the need for the congregation to elect deacons (ibid). Congregational elections would undermine the very nature of a monarchial leadership structure. These elections were typically ratified by the laying on of hands, originally done by the Apostles (Acts 6:1-6), but later by the local congregation (Acts 13:1-3).
Presuming the Galatians 2 incident was the same incident arising in Acts 15, sending not only a letter, but a plurality of witnesses would ensure that the decision of the council was affirmed (e. D. Carson & et al., 1994). One of the issues in Galatians 2 was that Judaizers claimed they spoke with the authority of James (ibid). In Galatians 2, Paul seeks to clarify the decision of the Jerusalem Council and affirm that Peter, James, and John recognized his charismatic ministry and treated him with respect and equality (ibid). In this passage, Paul did not try to legitimize his ministry by appealing to the authority of the three, rather it was the illegitimate Judaizers who attempted an appeal to James in order to substantiate their claims (ibid). Paul, as recorded in Galatians 2, openly rebukes Peter for his double standards concerning the Gentiles (ibid). This is a sign of the equality and respect shown to the charismatic leadership dynamic in the New Testament church.
In the New Testament, church conflict requires a plurality of witnesses in order to achieve a resolution (Mt 18:15-17). Jesus’ teachings stress that two or three witnesses are needed in order to handle a serious conflict (Mt. 5:23-25; 18:15-17). The conflict in Antioch had grown to a point where witnesses were needed and arbitration was required. When the verdict was concluded, two witnesses were chosen to return with Paul and Barnabus in order to clarify the resolution (Acts 15:22).
Examples of Pluralistic Leadership
The very roots of the New Testament church were established in pluralistic leadership guided by charisma (Mathew, 1981). When Paul wrote to the Philippians, local church leadership consisted of a plurality of bishops and deacons (ibid). The same holds true in 1Timothy, Galatians, and various parts of Acts (ibid). The New Testament church was a conglomeration of loosely coupled churches with a plurality of leadership (ibid).
Ignatius of Antioch later asserted divine right to rule as a monarchial episcopos (ibid). Through his writing, the three-tiered church government structure was born (ibid). This form of church leadership deviated from both the teachings of Jesus (Lk. 22:25-27), and the pattern observed in the book of Acts.
Goldsmith (2010) defines shared leadership as involving the “…maximizing all of the human resources in an organization by empowering individuals and giving them an opportunity to take leadership positions in their areas of expertise" (n.p.). The author continues to speak of the complexities of modern culture and the need for a plurality of leaders (ibid). Although he admits the sharing of power is not easy, he argues that it can be far more effective than singular authority (ibid). By splitting leadership, individuals have the ability to focus on the areas at which they are most competent and capable (ibid). Organizationally, shared power allows for a more flattened and less hierarchical structure (ibid).
There are a host of traits that act as "currency" between a leader and a follower (Pearce & Sims, 2002, p. 176). Followers who need direction and desire the most bang for their buck should therefore seek out leaders who are capable, knowledgeable, and who have strength in the particular area a follower needs (ibid). Team members who have a plurality of leaders have more opportunity to gain assistance from an individual who is competent in a specified problem area and able to help resolve the issue (ibid). Pearce and Sims (2002) demonstrated the enhancement of both performance and happiness of small teams with a plurality of leaders. A plurality of leaders showed a greater predictor of team effectiveness than more traditional leadership models (ibid).
In the study, higher performing teams displayed greater levels of leadership than did lower performing teams (ibid). Of the higher performing teams, shared leadership was more often employed than a traditional monarchial approach (ibid). Conversely, of the poorly performing teams, vertical leadership was displayed more often than team leadership (ibid).
Based upon Acts 15, one could ascribe shared leadership to that of the Council of Jerusalem. As there was no formal leader recognized as supreme in the New Testament, save Jesus Christ, a shared or team version of leadership was employed. Shared leadership leads to a strength based leadership style where individuals were free to work with the gifts the Holy Spirit bestowed upon them without neglecting other needs individuals or churches might have.
J. B. Carson, Tesluk, and Marrone (2007) defined shared leadership as "leadership distributed among team members rather than focused on a single designated leader" (p. 1217). During the Council of Jerusalem, and including other writings from Paul (Gal. 2), three pillars emerge; James, Peter, and John. Both James and Peter are recorded as spokesmen during the council (Acts 15:7; 13). Much like today, the decisions that faced the New Testament church were often more complex than one individual could handle. Modern problems that arise from complex team environments are often more complex than a single individual can handle alone (ibid), therefore a distributive form of leadership creates a greater possibility of successfully handling a problem.
Shared Leadership in Teams
Both "complexity and ambiguity" are regularly experienced in leadership, making the high performance of a team less likely when directed by a single external leader (J. B. Carson et al., 2007, p. 1217). Modern team structure focuses on high expertise and autonomy in the application of skills in order to achieve a mission, project, or goal (ibid). The new trend toward a flatter structure calls for a higher reliance on self-managing teams (ibid). With this form of structure, a situational leader, arising from inside the team, often has more positive impact on performance than one who has been commissioned outside of the team (ibid).
Spontaneous leadership arising from a team will often provide a competitive advantage over the traditional vertical leadership chain (ibid). This type of leadership is sometimes referred to as charismatic leadership (Wilson, 2016) when pertaining to spiritual or religious teams. This spontaneous leadership creates a level of buy-in that traditional forms of leadership fail to generate, allowing more organizational resources to be brought to bear and thereby increasing effectiveness and results (J. B. Carson et al., 2007).
Research seems to indicate that the longer an individual has been engaged in traditional, hierarchical leadership, the harder it is for that individual to use a shared team method of leadership (Druskat & Wheeler, 2003). The concept of shared leadership can promote dynamic and productive environments when configured properly (ibid). These teams should have some person or group to report to for both accountability and guidance (ibid). The effectiveness of the shared leadership team is greatly impacted by the competency and engagement by those to whom the team reports (ibid). The church in Antioch is a great example of shared-team leadership reporting to an external leadership group.
The research done on traditional teams verses shared team leadership shows that both internal team dynamics and performance is better with a shared leadership structure (Cohen, Ledford, & Spreitzer, 1996). Druskat and Wheeler (2003) make the assertion that "leadership is synonymous with decision responsibility" (p. 437). They argue that due to the increase in performance and cohesiveness, shared leadership creates powerful flexibility and more effective decision making than traditional models (ibid).
Refinement of the Shared Team Pluralistic Model
Shared leadership can offer a competitive advantage to dynamic growing organizations (J. B. Carson et al., 2007, p. 1217). The narrative of Acts 15 describes a quickly growing, dynamic organization built upon pluralistic shared leadership. When a situation arose that was larger than the church of Antioch could handle, the leaders of the Antioch church appealed to a more authoritative group. A pattern of two is seen to repeat itself in both the book of Acts and the greater New Testament as a whole. Typically, shared leadership promotes situational, charismatic leadership (ibid), however the New Testament and Acts 15 tends to support a minimum of two leaders for every situation (Lk. 10:1, Mk. 6:7, Acts 2:14, 37, 13:2, 15:39-40, etc.).
The model most used in the Acts 15 was a hybrid of shared and team leadership models, emphasizing a plurality of leadership. Perhaps the biggest critique of the shared leadership theory comes from the way the Holy Spirit sanctioned leaders. Although the council of Jerusalem could have been considered both team and shared leadership, a principle of Christianity holds that leaders are both sanctioned and gifted by God (Rom. 13:1, 12:8). A large group is often cumbersome and unsatisfactory (J. B. Carson et al., 2007), Acts 15 portrays a hybrid of team-shared leadership.
Acts 15 Model Applied
Both churches and secular organizations can benefit from the Acts 15 model of leadership. The early Church could be described as a loosely coupled system (Orton & Weick, 1990). It appears that the church in Antioch was fairly independent from the nucleus church of Jerusalem, capable of decisively handling daily operations. Only when doctrinal questions arose that had larger implications, did the Antioch church appeal to Jerusalem. The leadership in the church of Antioch was most likely a shared team based leadership of a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23-24).
Goal oriented shared team based small groups can be utilized to bring greater effect than larger groups or even classical vertical leadership models (Pearce & Sims, 2002). By creating multiple team-based shared leadership structures, organizations can become flexible, adaptable, and steady (Cohen, Ledford, & Spreitzer, 1996).
To apply these concepts of plurality of leadership in modern local church assemblies, a plurality of qualified elders should oversee the congregation, working both independent and alongside diverse specific ministries within the church. For example, an elder should both serve the church with the other elders and work within sub-teams in specific ministries. If a sub-team has to make a decision that would affect the body as a whole, they would appeal to the elder’s council. However, for the most part, the sub-team would function independently, without oversight from the elder council as a whole.
In a secular organization, this concept may also be readily applied. Logistics, sales, accounting, and production should all be separated and relatively autonomous groups. The board should consist of a shared-team based leadership structure. The board members would serve on a team, perhaps three, within a specific division of the company. For the most part, the members of the division would run the operation, and the board member would step in to resolve issues that cannot be agreed upon by the members of the division and provide council. If a problem arose that a division could not handle, the board member would take it to the entire board and thereby resolve the issue as a group. This method maintains a group mindset throughout the entire process and allows the company to profit by taking advantage of the mental resources of many instead of one.
The greatest decision of the early church was settled by a shared team leadership model debating the fate of Gentile believer's acceptance into the Jewish community (Higgs, 2008) and the overall salvific requirements for new believers. The Sanhedrin (Marshall & Wiseman, 1996), various forms of synagogue (ibid), and Greek representative democratic thought (A&E Networks, 2016) made pluralistic leadership a social norm for the Jewish believers at the time of the birth of the New Testament church. Furthermore, the Old Testament foreshadows the time when God's law would be written on the hearts of His believers (Jer. 31:33), creating a pluralistic leadership model with God as the sovereign head (1 Cor. 11:3).
Applying the Acts 15 model to modern leadership teams would require two things: the Holy Spirit's guidance and a pluralistic leadership structure in the executive suite. In these ways, leadership systems everywhere could be enhanced. Both inside and outside of the Christian world teams and leaders can benefit from the leadership models displayed in Acts 15.
Shared team leadership in the early church reflected the pattern Jesus used when sending out missions two by two (Mk. 6:7; Lk. 10:1; Mt. 10). Studies have shown that shared leadership leads to better results (Cohen, Ledford, & Spreitzer, 1996; J. B. Carson et al., 2007) and is therefore a contributing factor to the dynamic growth of the early church. Because shared leadership maximizes the use of organizational resources (Goldsmith, 2010), both leaders and followers benefit from engaging in a pluralistic form of leadership. When synthesizing shared leadership and team leadership, a more fruitful and dynamic approach to leadership emerges, creating a hybrid that is greater than the sum of its parts. The passage in Acts 15 indicates that the early church used a shared-team form of charismatic leadership emphasizing the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit and this effectively diffused the issue, providing direction and contributing to the continued growth of the New Testament Church with the Holy Spirit at the helm.
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