Frank Lide and New Testament Church Leadership

Frank Lide’s Six Principles of NT Church Leadership

Frank was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board and assigned to the North China Mission on June 20, 1920, as an educational missionary. By October, he began preaching to a regiment of US marines stationed in China and thusly began to express his interest in “evangelistic work.”[1] Later that same year he married. He knew that he needed greater preparation for the work God was calling him to do, as an evangelist. By 1923, he was requesting an early furlough to complete his education at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.[2] The Board was reluctant at first to oblige, but took the recommendation of the North China Mission to grant him furlough in 1925.[3]

In January 1928, Lide completed his dissertation for the Th.D. degree under Dr. William Owen Carver on the principle of self-government among indigenous churches in China. Lide divided his dissertation into six chapters. This entry will focus on his first chapter. In this chapter, he provided a brief overview of the NT as it related to church leadership and found six basic conclusions important for native work.

First, he concluded that NT leadership was founded upon a divine call. By divine call, he meant that leaders were bestowed with supernatural, Spirit-empowered gifts.[4] Second, he concluded that “local ministry grew out of an actual life need.”[5] Early, he argued that, in the NT, ministry to the needs of the congregation grew out of the creation of a regenerate body. On the contrary, he identified that ministry in China had become a means to a greater livelihood, not the outgrowth of gifted church members meeting the needs of the new community.[6] Third, he concluded that NT churches were autonomous. He lashed out the following indictment: “The missionaries have been too eager to shield and protect growing churches and have thus stunted their growth.”[7] Fourth, he concluded that NT churches had a simple administrative system. By this, he stated:

Officers were not elected until there was a demand for their services…because some served the church in meeting the inevitable needs, they were soon officially recognized. This service they rendered out of love and devotion to Christ. They were not, at first, appointed because of influence or standing. Their recognition as office-bearers grew out of the service and the capabilities which were proved before the eyes of all.[8]

Fifth, he argued for the support of ministers in the work. However, the key to this point is that it was built on the previous four conclusions. The church supports its own divinely called leaders who have shown themselves servants of the needs of the body. Of great significance to his dissertation, and also a very helpful understanding of indigeneity he stated:

If the ministry is created by a life need, and is chosen by the local church itself to meet that need, it will be essentially indigenous. The church will be self-governing, and if it is thus, self-support will probably follow.[9]

Sixth, and finally, he concluded that “the apostles laid firm foundations.” They established the work to such a degree so that they could “move on as soon as practicable.”[10]

[1] Letter from Frank P. Lide to Dr. T. B. Ray, October 24, 1920, Peking, China.

[2] Letter from Frank P. Lide to Dr. Ray, September 26, 1923, Hwanghsien, China.

[3] Letter from Frank P. Lide to Dr. Ray, July 17, 1924, Hwanghsien, Shantung, China.

[4] Frank P. Lide, “The Training of an Efficient Native Leadership for the Christian Churches,” Th.D. dissert., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1928, 27–8.

[5] Ibid., 28.

[6] Ibid., 19–20.

[7] Ibid., 29.

[8] Ibid., 29–30.

[9] Ibid., 30.

[10] Ibid., 30–1.


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