Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Acts 20: Paul's Leadership Philosophy


Acts 20:17-38 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and call     ed the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship. 

In Paul's farewell speech to the Ephesian elders, we get a summary of Paul's ministry philosophy: his goals, his strategies and his methods:
  • Ministry Goal: Equip and Evangelize: Paul told the Ephesian elders that he "did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.20-21). There are two parts to Paul's ministry goal: equipping and evangelism. He had taught the elders whatever that was "profitable" (equipping), while also "testifying both to Jews and to Greeks" of the need for repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ (evangelism). By setting a personal example of the twin goals of missional leadership, he gave us a pattern to follow in developing our own ministry priorities. We must avoid setting up a dichotomy between equipping and evangelism by departmentalizing these two arms of the ministry. The goal of Paul's ministry may be summarized as "equipping for evangelism." But equipping for evangelism to Paul involves teaching the "whole counsel of God" (the entire Scripture), and not just the one-day "evangelism seminar" we have become familiar with.
  • Spirit-directed Strategy: Unlike the kind of "strategic" management that many are exposed to in terms of SWOT analysis, Paul's strategic management principle is simple: just listen to what the Spirit is saying and obey: "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me" (Acts 20:22-23). Unfortunately, not many church leaders are taught how to listen to the voice of the Spirit. If we are seeking to fulfill God's agenda in our lives, we have to submit to the Spirit's leadership, believing that He will communicate His plan to us personally, through whatever means He chose. 
  • Clear Ministry Calling: While ministry may have its twists and turns, every leader must be clear about God's call upon his entire life--and I'm not just referring to those who are in "full-time" ministry. While Paul was a tent-maker, he didn't define his call in terms of his tent-making business. Rather, he described it in terms of God's Kingdom work: "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24). While not everyone are called to be "full-time" ministers, we are all called to full-time ministry--as tentmakers, as businessmen, as civil servants, etc. And this call to ministry is not confined only to the weekend activities held on church premises. For some God's call may require them to minister outside the four walls of the church on weekdays, not weekends. We are not called to weekend ministry (like Weekend Cars, used only after office hours)--we are called to minister wherever God has placed us. Paul lists five leadership ministry gifts that define our life-calling in Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry." The goal of all five leadership gifts is the same--to train the ordinary congregation members to do the ministry. But what is this ministry? If everyone inside the church are to be equipped to do the work of ministry, who then are left inside to receive this ministry? I suggest that this "work of the ministry" is what the members of the congregation do wherever God has placed them. Christians congregate on weekends to be equipped by the five-fold ministry of the apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers so that they may be ready for ministry wherever they are scattered on weekdays.
  • Mentoring Leadership: The elders that now gathered to listen to Paul were all mentored by Paul while he was with them: "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God...Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears" (Acts 20:26, 31). Paul took three years to mentor the leadership that would take over him when he left. Leadership mentoring is not a 3-day conference, seminar or workshop--it requires personal interactions with leaders through modeling, coaching, empowerment. Leadership ministry is not just to edify the congregation but to equip them to do the work of ministry outside the church. 
  • Integrity of Character: The foundation of true leadership is a character of integrity. Paul exhibited integrity in his attitude towards wealth: "I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me" (Acts 20:33-34). He didn't work for the money nor to become rich. In fact, he continues to work as a tent-making business to support himself. This way, he kept himself blameless and free from accusation that he became rich from his ministry. His main support came from his own "secular" employment.
Anyone who wants to be an effective leader for God's kingdom should look to Paul as their example.

Father, thank You for the life of Paul, for in him we see the true minister of God. Amen.

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