Given the response to my witchdoctor post and the sociological links Brad discerned between intercessors and shamans I thought a few of you might be interested in this graph I have adapted from “Understanding Folk Religions” by Paul Hiebert, et al.

religious-leadersEssentially it is a cross-cultural model of different religious leadership types.

They write, “… religious leaders can be placed along two continuums: their interaction (or lack thereof) with formal institutions, and the direction of their contact with spiritual power – either speaking on behalf of the people to spiritual powers, or on behalf of those powers to ordinary people … the behaviour of these leaders varies greatly from one society to another, but the attributes set up by the grid are helpful in enabling the outsider, such as a missionary, to determine the basic nature of the practitioners they observe in particular contexts.”

Now, the authors take pains to state the distinctions are not sharp ones, and that the same persons may function in several capacities in different contexts, but hopefully you get the idea.

Now, for some time I have wondered, what if we were to turn that around to look back at evangelical churches? If we did maybe we would find something like this.

christian-leadersNow, how does that fit with the APEST model? I am interested in hearing your thoughts on that. I have a sneaking suspicion that apostles belong with prophets and shepherds belong with teachers but I am still working my way through this and would love your input.

But a few explanatory comments first. To begin with, note the intercessor quadrant. I am thinking this is where healers go, as well as exorcists, deliverance ministers and spiritual warfare gurus. Note my previous posts highlighting how deliverance and prosperity ministries can sometimes descend into something approaching Christian shamanism. Note also my previous calls for more missional approaches to the demonic and the need for a missonal pneumatology that encompasses the unseen creation or “excluded middle”. I truly believe this is a neglected area which the missional church in the west ignores to its detriment and where most holistic and humble thinking is required.

I also draw attention to the worship leader quadrant. Maybe I should have put worship curator instead, but again, hopefully you get the idea.  Note how this division between direct and indirect contact also correlates with distinctions I have drawn between crisis rites and intensification rites.

Anyway, plenty of food for thought there for you hopefully.

4 thoughts on “Types of Religious Practitioners

  1. Nic, yeah that’s fine. As mentioned above its something I adapted from “Understanding Folk Religions” by Paul Hiebert. A word of caution though. It should be noted that Paul himself says these are loose categories and that leaders may cross to different quadrants in different contexts. He uses the example of a pastor, who normal functions as teacher in his home church, going to speak at a revivalist meeting, where he functions more as a prophets. Reflecting that back, there is nothing to say capital “S” Shamans can’t operate out of each quadrant on different occasions so the office and the function of shaman are not entirely synonymous in this schema.


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