Triperspectivalism: More Than Church Leadership Analysis

July 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

9781596381643[This post is part of the Perspectives on Triperspectivalism series]

Triperspectivalism is word that sounds much more complicated than it actually is. My own introduction to the concept was through a talk given by Mark Driscoll (which is available here) at the CCEF national conference a few years back. The context of that lecture was triperspectivalism’s application to church leadership roles. This way of looking at things allows leaders to pinpoint the different types of people in the church. From this vantage point, some people have a love for the message of the church, some for the people of the church, and some for the tasks and mission of the church. Ideally, these groups of people should work in tandem with one another to achieve a balanced approach to ministry.

In terms of a short assessment, this post by Jamie Munson is good place to start to see whether you are more of a prophet (message oriented), priest (people oriented), or king (task oriented). You can see though that as we grow in our Christ-likeness we would grow in all three of these areas. An effective minister of the Word needs to be message, people, and method oriented. Neglecting one or more aspects leads to issues. For instance, pastors who are big on message, but ignore people and methods are the pastors that come off like walking Bible dictionaries. Pastors who are big on people but soft on message and methods will seem shallow and fluffy. Pastors who are big on methods may treat people as means to an end. None of these is a place you want to find your church.

Jamie has a couple of other posts on triperspectivalism in church leadership (here and here), but Drew Goodmanson has written the most extensively on the topic. His most recent post points out that many church leaders have a primary and a secondary perspective. Goodmanson likens it to the delivery method of the primary perspective. So for instance, you could be a priestly prophet (think Tim Keller) or you could be a kingly prophet (think Mark Driscoll). You could be a prophetic priest (think Jay Adams) or you could be a kingly priest (think Paul Tripp). Interestingly, you can double the primary perspective and so could be a prophetic prophet (think John MacArthur) or priestly priest (think David Powlison).

Goodmanson has much more to say on the topic, and a good roundup of various other posts can be found here. What I’d like to explore in this series though is the other applications of triperspectivalism that people who know the word may not be aware of. It’s somewhat safe to say that if you didn’t go to Westminster Philadelphia in the late 60’s and 70’s, Westminster California in the 80’s and 90’s, or RTS in Orlando in the last decade, you aren’t thoroughly familiar with triperspectivalism. The exception would be if you are involved in the Acts 29 church planting network, and then you are familiar with the application of triperspectivalism to church leadership.

I guess the other exception would be me, someone who stumbled on John Frame’s writings my last year of seminary and then wrote my thesis on an application of triperspectivalism to philosophy of film. Because of this, my interests and understanding of triperspectivalism are in its use first and foremost as an epistemological tool that can then be applied to different fields of study (i.e. church leadership, apologetics, Biblical studies, ethics, culture, etc.). The definitive resource for understanding not only triperspectivalism in particular, but Frame’s thought in general is the recent festschrift released last fall titled Speaking the Truth in Love.

Unlike other festschriften, this one features essays on Frame’s thought, includes an extensive interview with him on the background of his thought (and also includes advice to young theologians), a directory of Frame’s major ideas, a directory of his major triads (which like the other directory, includes the key places in Frame’s writings where discussions take place), and a glossary which Frame himself wrote. The directory of triads lists roughly 72 triads, which means seeing the leaders of the church as either prophets, priests, or kings is just one of about 70 ways of applying triperspectivalism.

We certainly aren’t going to go through all of these, but the focus in this series is applying this tool to other areas of study that have a practical significance in the life of the church. I hope that it will lead to greater theological understanding on your part, but also new avenues of ministry as you grow to see your own place in the church in a better perspective.


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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