Church Unity: The Spirit’s Gift of Leadership

SS Peter and Paul

Some modern Christians like to believe that the early Church was constant charismatic experience with no order to it.   However, history shows a different reality:  along with charismatic experiences, there was an order emerging in church life.  Leadership and order were part of the gifts of the Spirit to the growing Christian communities.

“Despite the increase of the number of local churches, the unity of the Church remained undisturbed, for they did not have different eucharistic assemblies but one and the same…No single church could separate itself from the others for it could not separate itself from Christ. All were united to one another through love…The historical direction of ecclesial organization went from internal toward external universalism…The opposition between the Spirit and order in modern theology stems from a false conviction that it is human will that serves as the organizing principle in the Church. Rather, it is the Spirit who serves as the guiding principle of organization and order in the Church…The gifts of the Spirit are given not for their own sake but for ministry in the Church and for its building up. This Spirit in the Church is a principle not of anarchy but of organization. For this reason it is hard to imagine anything that would contradict the basic principles of ecclesial life as much as the hypothesis that distinguishes charismatic from no-charismatic ministries…We readily acknowledge that the Church possesses the fullness of grace but we flatly refuse to recognize that in the primitive Church there were no principles other than grace.”          (Nicholas Afanasiev, The Church of the Holy Spirit)