Acts 20: 13-19: Paul, the leader of leaders.
“13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. 17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.” NIV UK
During the next few days we are going to think about certain leadership qualities exemplified by the apostle Paul. These lessons will emerge from his farewell speech to the elders in Ephesus.
- Leaders need to be led. Ultimately, of course, they are to be led by Christ Himself; but the Lord has put different kinds of leaders into the church (Ephesians 4), and some of them He uses to shepherd the shepherds. Paul gathered the Ephesians elders together and gave them significant input. He said encouraging things to them; he also said some tough things. Elders in a local church must not stand still. They need teaching and training. They must be committed to being ‘lifelong learners.’ No-one knows it all; nobody has ‘arrived.’ There is not one leader who has gone beyond the need for challenge and rebuke. We need some straight talking into our lives; at times we need words that will act like a slap across the cheeks to wake us up;
- There are leaders of leaders. This was a part of Paul’s ministry. He didn’t oversee one congregation, but cared for many, in a roving role. He had a world-wide ministry, and carried a special apostolic responsibility for churches he had planted and elders he had appointed (2 Corinthians 11:28). Having recently attended the ‘Elim Leaders’ Summit’ in Harrogate, I can say I am truly grateful for those leaders with wider responsibilities who can speak powerfully into the lives of local church pastors;
- Leaders, make sure you get the input you need. Don’t mark time. Look to improve. Especially if the ‘dials’ are heading downward towards zero, look out for a ‘filling station’ and pull in. For me, this kind of ‘refuelling’ comes through attending conferences/seminars etc. I also get it by regularly listening to, or viewing, talks given in other places. They can be found freely on the web. In particular, I receive it through reading, and more reading. I identify with the evangelist Roger Carswell who once described how books had been among his ‘mentors.’ I believe C.S.Lewis said something like this, ‘There isn’t a book long enough, or a cup of tea big enough for me!’ I can see that. I also find it helpful to spend time with fellow-leaders in other churches. The simple sharing of thoughts, ideas, and sometimes burdens can be like a table spoon full of tonic – medicine for the weary.
So, Paul was a leader of leaders, and all leaders in Christ’s church need to be led.
First and foremost, Paul led by example, and we will pick up this thought next time.
PRAYER: We pray for our leaders. May they always feel their need to be led. We ask that you will generously provide them with refreshing input, that even as they give out they may also receive.