The inaugural issue of Theology of Leadership Journal was an interesting read. I hesitate to use the word “delightful” because I have rarely come across an academic-oriented journal which attempted to combine biblical, theological, and church leadership threads. My inherent eisegesis has become attuned to how each assigned reading will enhance my doctoral research pursuits (the formation and development of coaching networks within church planting organizations). Within this journal, however, I found a source instead to address a current conflict within our local church’s “bumpy” transition with a new lead pastor striving to form his unique team out of an existing staff who have worked together for over ten years. I found Singfiel’s “Paul, The Team Leader,” an excellent article to illuminate our internal staff conflict “management” efforts.
Singfiel focuses on the Acts 15:32-41 pericope where Paul and Barnabas disagree on the personnel (John Mark in particular) who were to be included in the second visit to the churches planted during the first visit (described in Acts 15). The contemporary application of the article is how the teams strategically planned, disagreed, and engaged in conflict, and then formed new subsequent teams. It has been suggested that the lengthy planning took place over the winter months leading up to the opening of spring travel. Paul and Barnabas’ relationship was significant in that Barnabas had acted as Paul’s initial advocate and mentor. Paul’s leadership and ministry development progressed to the point in Acts 13, where Paul came to be described as the “lead” member of the team.
What caught my attention about Singfiel’s article, was not the conflict, but rather how the essential characters (Paul, Barnabas, the sending church, and even John Mark) seemed to respond in the aftermath of the conflict. Heretofore, I perceived Luke’s moderate portrayal of the disagreement as more of a simple difference of opinion. Singfiel proceeds to bring out the kinship of Barnabas and John Mark and the incumbent trappings of patronage, honor, and loyalty. Singfiel reminds the reader that the seeds of disagreement between Paul and Barnabas were probably already present following Mark’s earlier departure in Acts 13:13.
The response of Paul was to form a new team with Silas. The response of Barnabas was to form a new team with John Mark. Both shared the same mission but elected to now move forward independently with two new teams instead of the former singular team. The seeming resolution of the conflict was to move forward in separate directions to carry out the planned mission to visit the earlier church plants.
The response of the sending church was to bless both new teams. Singfiel brings out that Luke chose to utilize the Greek word of Stephen’s selection (epilego) when describing Silas’ inclusion on Paul’s new team. His view is this demonstrates the sending church’s perspective that the newly formed team of Paul and Silas was significant and warranted the blessing of the sending church. In so doing, Singfiel emphasizes that the sending church afforded appropriate honor and blessing to all parties despite the break between Paul and Barnabas.
I mentioned earlier how I found Singfiel’s article helpful to bring theological illumination to my local church’s internal staff conflict response efforts (I forwarded this article to my lead pastor to aid his perspective). My sense is Singfiel brought out that, “Often, what appears to be the main issue is not the main issue.” In our local context, the new lead pastor has elected to provide the incumbent worship pastor three months notice and six months severance (after trying to work with the individual for some thirteen months and yet concluding there remained a trust issue). While no polity or procedure has been breached, not surprisingly, those closest to the affected pastor have taken every opportunity to communicate their displeasure in a disagreeable manner. Typically the much greater focus within the local church is on the conflict; what precipitated it, what are the contributing factors, and which person is more or less right or righteous.
Singfiel’s illumination comes in the form of viewing the conflict between Paul and Barnabas “from the balcony.” Paul and Silas continued the amazing work of the Church. Barnabas and John Mark also continued the amazing work of the Church. Paul eventually viewed John Mark “of great service” (2 Timothy 4:11) and even urged the Colossians to “make him welcome” (Colossians 4:10). Our response to conflict (Romans 12:18 (CEB) “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.”) should be on moving forward with grace and honor for all. The separation terms for our former worship pastor are generous and unprecedented within our local church. We will be honoring the couple with a send-off reception this coming Sunday. Singfiel has reminded myself and others to be gracious and honorable to all (even while sometimes gritting my teeth in the interim).
 Jeffrey Singfiel, “Paul, The Team Leader: Strategic Planning, Intragroup Conflict, and Team Formation,” Theology of Leadership Journal 1, no. 1 (2018): 7.
 Singfiel, “Paul, The Team Leader,” 8-9.
 Singfiel, “Paul, The Team Leader,” 11-12.
 Singfiel, “Paul, The Team Leader,” 14-15.
 Singfiel, “Paul, The Team Leader,” 11.