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Three key aspects of ancient Mediterranean cultures joined together to shape the early churches and those who led and ministered within them : * Stewards were often servants appointed to act on behalf of their elite masters * Prophets sought to discern the divine will for the human community and its projects * Keepers of the word characterizes those who preserved and transmitted tradition in the predominantly oral cultures in which Christianity emerged. Ritva Williams carefully explores how early Christians struggled to find a balance between the sometimes conflicting roles of hierarchical social structures, religious experience, and faithfulness to the remembered word. For instance, the development of church leadership in early Christian texts dating from the mid-first to early second centuries turns out not to be a linear progression from apostles to bishops or apostles to presbyters, or charismatics to office holders, or any other similar pattern that has previously been suggested. Instead, the evidence she presents demonstrates a diversity and plurality of approaches to the community dynamics at work. Avoiding justifying any one particular type of church structure over another, she explores the ways in which social relationships and hierarchies, religious experience, and tradition shaped a variety of ministries within the early church. Contemporary church leaders who seek a similar balance will find this study an exceptional resource for applying the lessons of history to the swiftly-changing contexts of modern ministry.
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