It’s Monday and you know what that means- Moltmann Mondays!
In the first chapter of Moltmann’s latest book, he outlines 3 paradigms of leadership the church can follow. The first is the hierarchical paradigm, in which there is one God, one Pope/Bishop, one Church. He writes, “In the political world, one ruler on earth corresponds to the one God in heaven, and in similar correspondence to the one God in heaven is the one bishop and high priest of humanity.” Moltmann finds difficulty in the way this de-emphasizes the unique role of each follower of Jesus. “If the church is identified in a one-sided way with the hierarchy and its functions, then the task of ‘the laity’ can only be to say ‘Amen’ to the liturgical, dogmatic and moral instructions of the hierarchy. This is in pure form a church for looking after people; it is not a self-confident church of God’s people” (p.21).
The second paradigm is the Christocentric paradigm. Here Christ is the head of the Church rather than a human authority figure, and it is through him that unity is found and held. The congregation members are brothers and sisters who proclaim Jesus in Word and Sacrament. Theoretically, this creates a community of equals, because it acknowledges the priesthood of all believers. The problem, he says, is that “the distinction between trained theologians and people without any theological training has taken the place of the priestly hierarchy” (p.23). Theories don’t mean much when they don’t get worked out in actual practice.
The third paradigm is the Charismatic paradigm, by which he doesn’t mean denominationally charismatic, but rather a broad sense of being led and guided by the Holy Spirit. He uses 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 as a description: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are varieties of service, but the same Lord. There are varieties of powers, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.” In churches that are working in this paradigm, “everyone is an expert in his or her own life and personal calling, and all are experts in their original gifts and powers on behalf of the community and its mission” (p.25). By this Moltmann is hardly arguing for relativism. Instead, he is advocating for churches who take seriously their individual and communal calling to be active followers of Jesus in the world. There is not a class of religious experts that ought to do the work for the “other kind” of people. We are all called to follow, and the church ought to be structured in such a way that encourages and empowers and sends each person to do what they are uniquely called to do to bring life into the world.
As a pastor who hopes to work in this charismatic paradigm, I can’t say I’ve figured out a structure yet that fully realizes this potential, but I hope in our own small ways we are fumbling forward and figuring out how to enliven each community member to practice living into their unique callings more and more each day.