For Your Consideration
The Right to Lead and Leading Right
The Pastoral Epistles reveal that in his relationship with Timothy, Paul the apostle assumes the role of father and teacher. Paul speaks and leads as an apostle because he has received a divine call and commission.
With this in mind, it is not unreasonable to envision that Paul’s leader-speak to Timothy would be heavy with emphasis on Divine calling and apostolic authority expressed in a language of ‘requirement’ or at least expectation of follower-compliance. Paul communicates with Timothy in the first person singular with the firmness of apostolic authority and makes it clear he is not suggesting a course of action but expecting a course of action from Timothy. Established by his apostolic call, Paul would certainly have the proper standing to address Timothy in such as way. However, having the right to lead in such a manner does not suggest that such is always the right manner in which to lead. Paul could have written in a heavy-handed fashion to Timothy, demanding that his apostolic instructions be executed. Yet Paul spoke with the loving firmness of a father. For example, Paul addresses Timothy as “my true child” (1 Tim 1:2), “my son” (1 Tim 1:18), and “my beloved son” (2 Tim 1:2).
Authoritative words often take on various shades of expression. To that end Paul speaks to Timothy in words filled with the emotional tenderness and guiding firmness of a father to a beloved son in the household of God, the family of faith. Timothy must be reminded that he has been entrusted with leadership in God’s family. As a leader, Paul speaks in familial terms, and reminds Timothy that he is a steward of God’s family. First and 2 Timothy overflow with the pathos of a father figure who seeks to insure that his teaching is passed down to his son in the faith, and by extension to the household of God and that such tradition will be upheld and perpetuated. Additionally, within the family structure there is concern on the part of the apostle for an orderly “leadership structure based on apostolic succession from Paul” in order to ensure his gospel tradition is faithfully passed on. Thus Timothy “my son” plays an extraordinarily important role in the relay-race of faith. Paul must make sure that the proper baton has been passed on to the proper person.
The right to lead and leading right. Leadership is not just about getting things done. It is also concerned with how a leader makes it happen. And that’s where people are involved; and that is where communication is crucial. Effective leaders learn to utilize the most important implement in their leadership tool-box- an effective language of leadership.
“Paul’s use of patriarchal language should be understood against the framework of the family, the primary social institution in the ancient Mediterranean world.” Stephan Joubert, “Paul as Benefactor,” in Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Newun Testament 2, Reihe, 124 (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 2000), 172.
Richard S. Ascough and Charles A. Cotton, Passionate Visionary: Leadership Lessons from the Apostle Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006), 162.