The Strategies and Principles Employed by the Apostle Paul as he Developed and Expanded the Church Across Cultural, Political, Economic, and Social Boundaries
There are several strategies and principles that were employed by the Apostle Paul as he developed and expanded the church. These policies and strategies can be divided into cultural, political, economic and social boundaries. One strategy that Paul used was starting where his initial listeners were based. This ties to the social nature of his sermons. In Philippians 4-15, Paul states that when he started preaching, he was welcomed and supported by the Philippians (King James Bible, 2017). He states “Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only” in Philippians 4-15 (King James Bible, 2017). This statement shows the inclusive nature of the society. Additionally, the Apostle confirms that the Philippians also sent him gifts when he was visiting other regions, not just their societies.
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It can be argued that the strategy to start where his listeners were helped Paul spread the gospel better. He not only had support in the stated community but also in other areas he visited. Robbins (1996) argues that socio-rhetorical analysis often relies on the way text is used to communicate to people. In the social context, therefore, one can argue that Paul was appreciative to the Philippians. Not only were they his first audience but also the foundation of his work. Indeed, Paul tells the people in Philippi that he gives thanks to God every time he thinks about them and how the society included him when they did not even know him. One can use this premise to argue that God will always put people who will support his followers in their lives.
Paul’s texts can also be deciphered using a cultural lens. It is important to note that Paul was a multi-cultured individual. He was a citizen of Rome and of Jewish descent. He also lived in Tarsus, which shaped his initial beliefs. The most obvious cultural reference is on circumcision and the rituals that accompanied the same. Paul in Philippians 3:4-16 states, “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless,” (CSB Bibles by Holman, 2018). It has been debated that the fact that circumcision was done on the 8th day was more in line with the Jewish culture than anything else.
Further, it can be argued that Paul used the “all things to all” principle when it came to cultural boundaries. In Acts 15:6-19 Paul states that the Jerusalem Council concluded that Gentiles would not be subjected to the Old Testament rules in order to be saved (Min, 2018). This is significant due to the fact that culturally, laws had not been used to save people but condemn them. One can argue that this decree was important for the Jews and other societies that Paul visited due to the fact that it is an intrinsic part of Christian faith after Jesus Christ saved the world. The principle Apostle Paul used, therefore, allowed for him to grow the church across the different cultural boundaries for not only Jews, but also Gentiles and other communities.
Debatably, Paul was also able to grow the church across political divides as well. An example can be picked from Romans 13:1-7 where he argues that a ruler is a minister of God and people should pay their taxes (Allbaugh, 2017). This same teaching is borrowed from Jesus Christ who also agreed that people should “give to Pilate what belongs to Pilate” as depicted in John 18:38 (Young, 2018). Going back to Paul, one can argue that he believes that government rulers are often ordained by God and due to this, the public should be able to pay their taxes as needed by their governments. It can be argued that from a Christian point of view, failure to pay taxes is a sin. It is critical to note that despite the fact that Paul acknowledges the importance of obeying the government, he in no way agrees that citizens should accept everything that their leaders do. These leaders, despite being ordained by God, have to be held responsible.
One can argue that Paul adopted the quintessential conservative strategy to bridge the gap between religion and politics. Towards this end, one can argue that he was a conservative or a traditionalist. Indeed, through this approach, it is possible that Paul preferred to follow the established political and governance structures as opposed to disrupting the status quo. Interestingly, there are scholars who claim that Paul was apolitical. The argument is that its due to his apolitical nature that he did not want to disrupt the government systems that were already in place. Regardless, it is important to note that Paul did speak about politics in various occasions. Perhaps due to the fact that his listeners were also heavily affected by political decisions such as taxes.
Lastly, there are numerous strategies that Apostle Paul employed to spread the gospel across economic boundaries. The most critical was getting support from his listeners/followers. In Philippians Paul appears to try and relate to his listeners by telling them he was also once poor and lacking basic necessities. Using the theory of socio-rhetorical analysis, one can argue that the apostle was trying to tell his audience that they have several things in common. One can argue that setting such common elements between speaker and audience is critical in ensuring the audience trusts the speaker. The fact that Paul used his own lack to connect more with the audience serves to also highlight and bridge the economic gaps. Further, Paul says that he was supported by the community due to the fact that he did not have means for travel and even food to eat when he was spreading the gospel. The whole of Philippians 4 indicates that whereas a significant number of the people in the community are poor, their culture allowed them to share with one another.
It is important to note that economic boundaries were also exploited through Paul’s content nature. In Philippians 4: 12 he states “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”. He is assuring his followers that the economic times they are facing will not last, as long as they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. Critically, these bridges that Paul seems to build in order to cut across the economic, social, political and cultural boundaries helped him spread the gospel.
Comparison of the Obstacles and Challenges Paul Encountered and Overcame with Those Faced by Leaders in an Increasingly Global Environment
One of the key challenges that Paul encountered as an apostle was linked to his leadership. Flexsenhar (2021) notes that Paul had a difficult time convincing people he was an apostle due to his past. Indeed, there are Christians who believe Paul was the most important disciple but some are not convinced of the same. His leadership concerns were more prominent than the other disciples due to the fact that he had changed his name, and did not believe in Christ from the beginning. Leadership issues often challenge leaders in today’s global environment. This is especially so due to the fact that there are hundreds of people from different backgrounds and cultures that are found in today’s work space. As mentioned, Paul was also multi-cultural and he incorporated this into his leadership in order to both get followers and spread the gospel.
Secondly, it can be argued that Paul faced and overcome the challenge of competition. The issue of competition can be viewed in two ways. The first, Paul was in competition with other religions and beliefs. The Gentiles and Jews had indigenous religions and beliefs. Paul had to ensure that they appreciated the new Messiah more than their old gods. The second, to some extent, Paul had to compete with other disciples and apostles. This competition is not negative as all the disciples were working towards achieving the same goal. It is common to find both positive and negative competition in the corporate world these days as well. Critically, it is the positive competition mentioned that motivated Paul to work even harder to spread the gospel. It is debatable that the other disciples/apostles also had the same motivation and is one of the reasons why Christianity is the most common religion in the world.
Third, Paul faced the challenge of acceptance among his own people. Indeed, as Holloway (2017) notes, Paul was rejected several times. Yes, this can be tired to the other challenges mentioned but it had a significant contribution to the overall spread of the gospel as well. One can argue that the Philippians chapter delves into some of the struggles Paul went through after being rejected. For example, since the communities did not welcome him, he did not have a place to stay or food to eat. It is this very reason that makes him appreciative of the Philippians as they supported him even when he was visiting other communities. The apostle was also rejected by friends and family due to his change of faith. They not only believed in Christ but also did not see the need for Paul to change his name.
Last but not least, Paul also faced financial hardships. It is important to note that the apostle was not wealthy to begin with. He then left everything he had and followed Christ – becoming his disciple. Further, spreading the gospel meant that he had to be housed, fed and even clothed by the community. The only way he could manage to survive through the financial hardships was through donations and receiving gifts from the community as expressed in Philippians 4-15 (Young, 2018). Indeed, one can argue that leaders in the corporate world also go through financial hardships. These are often affected by various elements such as economic meltdowns, the stock market and even socio-cultural events.
Ways Today’s Global Leaders Can Apply Paul’s Approach
One of the ways today’s global leaders can apply Paul’s model is through listening to their people. There are numerous things that can be solved by simply paying attention to what their employees are concerned about. It can be argued that employee issues can stall performance and negatively affect the bottom line. The same employees can offer solutions to some of the challenges that they are facing and increase their productivity. Paul was also appreciative of his listeners and even, to some extent, appears to be giving feedback. This approach also ties to better employee management by corporate leaders. Further, the appreciation motivates the employees to do better. It is easier to draft approaches that will help motivate employees but harder to maintain the same motivation throughout the career cycle. This can be changed by Paul’s approach.
Additionally, as stated earlier, corporate leaders often face financial issues. Currently, the year 2020 was a devastating one for many corporate leaders due to the global pandemic that affected every single aspect of life. Many institutions had to strategically fire people and even close down due to lack of opportunities and funds. As explained initially, Paul also faced financial hardships. Leaders can learn how to adjust with changing times in order to survive the financial hardships, just as Paul did. Indeed, for the apostle, the most strategic way of dealing with the stated challenge was through donations from the communities. For the global leaders, a reduction in overall expenditure and use of innovation to save on costs would also help lower financial strains.
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One can argue that global leaders in this day and age can also apply Paul’s all things to all approach. For Paul, this meant respecting structures that were already in place with a keen focus on also improving their efficiency. Therefore, as stated previously, he urged his followers to pay taxes to the government as this structure or leadership was also ordained by God. Today, leaders should also be aware and appreciate the importance of structures. This is usually a problem during transition of power. New leaders should understand the systems that their companies have in place and how these systems affect their employees and their bottom line. Once this is determined, the global leader involved should improve the same without necessarily negatively affecting the entire organization.
On the same note, culture was an important aspect of Paul’s approach to spreading the gospel. Organizational culture should always be considered by the global leaders as it affects productivity directly. Arguably, an organizational culture that is not only progressive but also inclusive would solve several challenges that workers face in their organizations. Critically, it can be argued that it would also lower employee turnover and enhance the staff’s acceptance of the management.
Allbaugh, J. (2017). Paul’s rhetorical leadership in an arena of cultures: A Socio-rhetorical and content analysis of Acts 21-26 and Romans 13:1-7 that provides guidance for presidents of Christian colleges during challenges to religious liberty. Regent University.
CSB Bibles by Holman. (2018). CSB (in)courage devotional bible. B&H Publishing Group.
Flexsenhar, M. (2021). Paul the Trojan horse: The legacy of triumph in Philippians. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 2021, 1-13.
Holloway, P. (2017). Philippians. Fortress Press.
King James Bible. (2017). King James bible online. Web.
Min, G. (2018). Mission to the Gentiles in Luke-Acts as fulfilling God’s promise to Israel: A critical reading of the Apostolic Decree of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1-29. Boston College.
Robbins, K. V. (1996). Exploring the texture of texts: A guide to socio-rhetorical interpretations. A&C Black.
Young, N. H. (2018). “The king of the Jews:” Jesus before Pilate (John 18:28-19:22). Australian Biblical Review, 66, 31-42.