1 Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet. 3 Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards? 4 When someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and someone else says, “I belong to Apollos,” aren’t you acting like people without the Spirit? 5 After all, what is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants who helped you to believe. Each one had a role given to them by the Lord: 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. 7 Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor. 9 We are God’s coworkers, and you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Cor 3:1-9 CEB
-Rev Melissa Fain-
In this brief scripture, we have a great example of knowledge as it pertains to leadership and taking in knowledge.
That's a mouthful of words. Let me simplify it. The scripture for today shows us what we should expect from our leaders, and how our leaders should educate us.
I'm going to do this by focusing on three points The person helping Paul in Corinth: Apollos, the analogy of milk, and God the Grower:
Apollos: If you clicked on the tab "about the pastor" you would see I linked a meditation I wrote over a year ago about female ministry. When I first wrote it, I was trying to understand Paul's thoughts in 1 Cor 14. My work was met with mixed reaction. Basically anyone who already agreed women should be ministers praised it. To everyone else it was a mixed bag. "Isn't this explaining away?" "You are putting what you want into the text." "But TIMOTHY!!!" What I didn't know then that I do know is Apollos.
Apollos was zealous in just the right ways. He was called, and really understood the limited information he had regarding Christ. Only he didn't have much of it. That's when Priscilla and Aquila stepped in and expanded his education. The first less important point is that Apollos was taught, in part, by a female. The more important point is this: The call was not enough. Being correctly educated was an important component to the call.
What does that mean? I'm glad you asked! It means the call needs tools! Called to build a house? You need lumber, nails, saws and other basic building equipment. If you are called to be a minister you need a good education. Some like to believe that the call gives some secret wisdom, like tapping into a well. There may be truth in that, but without education there is no way to refine that Spirit.
This is where I reiterate the point I made in the female ministry meditation. We are called to be educated leaders, not exactly a gender-specific leadership. I suggest you read it if you haven't already.
Milk: The first year of seminary shapes the future two years for a seminarian. For some they completely lose it and drop out. Some decide they are going to remain unmoved and learn nothing. I was livid. I mean it. I was seeing red. Why? I'm glad you asked. The ministers who raised me up in the church hid the truth. I was asking some pretty tough questions leading up to seminary and those questions were not being answered. I assumed it was because those questions didn't have answers. Nope. In seminary I learned my questions had answers, and new questions had answers, and completely different questions had no real answer, or no answer yet. I was ready to eat the Word up! Yet, it was so difficult to be excited when I knew I could have had my answers years before if the various ministers just trusted me with the truth.
That's what makes the milk so difficult. One doesn't give a baby milk it's entire life. At some point you begin to introduce new food. I've had two babies, a know a thing or two about this subject. As Paul wrote, the Corinthians were not ready for anything but milk, but that didn't mean they wouldn't some day be ready for a thicker food, something they could begin to chew on. Also, easy to digest doesn't mean watered down.
We also need to realize everyone should start out on milk. I've seen the look on the face of someone who wasn't ready for meat and potatoes theology. Their eyes grew wide, they fought back, and then dropped out. Wanna kill a baby Christian? Give them meat and potatoes theology instead of milk. A good leader realizes what the congregants need and gives them that need. A good leader also knows when to begin adding new food options.
The Grower: I pulled a valuable lesson from The Hope Partnership's leadership training. We should see faith and the Spirit from a mindset of abundance over and beyond scarcity. When we think of scarcity we see limited resources. It brings the idea that there are limited positions and tools at our disposal, Scarcity pits us against one another when we should be the Body of Christ. (Dying institutions live through scarcity economics.) Coming at faith and the Spirit from a mindset of abundance means there is more than enough for everyone. We are not frightened when someone succeeds. We are more willing to give credit where it is due.
In the case of our scripture, Paul and Apollos were beginning to gain separate fan bases. Some were Paul fans, and some were Apollos fans. Now if Paul shut it down and told everyone his opinion trumped all others, it might have crushed Apollos and it would have been a lie.
Paul knew the abundance of the Spirit and was not afraid to give credit where credit was due. Paul was the planter, Apollos watered the seed, and most importantly God grew the seed. All the power and glory went to God, as it should.
What does this mean? Well, I'm glad you asked! We are at the age of the "Self-Help Minister." This makes perfect sense because the church is always 20 years behind society. Twenty years ago we were seeking books and DVD sets from Self-Help Gurus. People wanted to know how to live a happier life in 5 easy steps! The guru had the answer. Society mocked the self-help guru as being fake and moved on, but kept the desire for quick answers with no work involved. Now twenty years later Christians are working through their own Self-Help fad.
A guru could claim the answer to a specific problem he/she overcame. He or she did it all by themselves. What sounds amazing from a Self-Help Guru sounds fishy from a minister. The minister became the answer and God became the product being sold. Paul tells the truth: A planter delivers the truth, that truth is watered, and God is the one who decides whether it grows. God is the answer. There is no product.
What do you think? What are you drawn to in the scripture? We want to know!