by Dr Gavin Williams Lth. DPMin.

Leadership is one of the great challenges facing the Christian Church today. Pastors and leaders have many resources to guide them in fulfilling their calling. Despite these resources, many Christian leaders choose to follow the ways of the secular world rather than the principles of the Word of God.

Secular leadership is often about position, power, status and personal benefit. True spiritual leadership is about humility, servanthood, sacrifice and the good of others. The godly leader is concerned with giving rather than receiving; serving rather than being served; blessing rather than being blessed. The worldly leader looks to reward now. A godly leader is prepared to wait to receive the ultimate reward, their Master's 'Well done!"

Scripture has many examples of godly leadership. In the Old Testament we read of men like Moses, Joshua, David, Jehosaphat and others. In the New Testament we have the paramount example of the Lord Jesus Christ and others like the Apostle Paul.

Jesus is our ultimate example of godly leadership. Listen to His words:

"...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28 NIV)

"For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." (Luke 22:27 NIV)

In Philippians 2:7 we read of the Lord Jesus in these terms; "...but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,...". We can learn so much from His example.[1]

In this article we look to the leadership example of the Apostle Paul. Although often described as the "Greatest of the Apostles", he spoke of himself as "the least of the apostles".[2] On several occasions he introduced himself as "the servant of Christ."[3] We will discover other dimensions of Paul's godly example as a leader.

Model, Teach, Mentor

As we look at Paul's life and ministry, three foundational principles of Christian leadership stand out: his model or example; his teaching and instruction; his mentoring encouragement toward those to whom he ministered. We begin by defining these foundational principles.

Model: To demonstrate an example of godliness that people can see being lived out in front of them. It speaks of a leader's lifestyle.

Teach: From the basis of a godly model, to instruct God's people in faith and living. This teaching must be firmly founded on the Word of God. It speaks of the leader's message.

Mentor : Building on the basis of the leader's example and instruction, to help those we lead apply the principles of the Scripture to their daily lives so that they move toward spiritual maturity. It speaks of the leader's ministry.

We will examine the life of the Apostle Paul and see how these principles are worked out in his life and ministry

Model - Our Lifestyle.

The Apostle Paul considered living a godly example to be one of his personal priorities. It is obvious from his writings that he regarded personal holiness as being of paramount importance.[4] For this reason, Paul did not hesitate to invite others to consider the way he lived and to follow his example. Consider these passages from his letters:

"Therefore I urge you to imitate me." (1 Corinthians 4:16)

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9)

"For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example." (2 Thessalonians 3:7)

A person can only take this kind of stand when they are walking closely with the Lord Jesus in the very deepest places of their lives. This is the kind of godly model the Christian Church needs from her leaders in every generation.

Recently I read these words: "People are always much more impressed by your actions than by your words. Always! Edgar Guest says, 'I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I'd rather you walk with me than merely show the way. I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give, but there is no misunderstanding how you act and how you live."[5]

There's great truth in those words. If people do not see spiritual and practical reality in the lives of we who are called to leadership, our homes and our dealings with others, then no matter how profound our teaching, it will fall on deaf ears. I would go so far as to say that our life model and example speaks far more loudly than our well crafted sermons.

Let me put this to you another way: 'Who we are is more important than what we do or say.' It is the model and example of our lives that people remember long after our words are forgotten. Our life becomes our message.

Teach – Our Message.

The Apostle Paul was an excellent teacher. Although we do not have the privilege of listening to his message, his letters speak constantly into our lives. As he wrote to churches and individuals, his words brought vital instruction about the whole spectrum of Christian life and ministry. Paul also saw the ability to teach as a vital qualification for those called to the spiritual oversight of congregations of God's people. [6]

But it is not simply the ability to teach which qualifies a person for leadership. More important is the heart behind their ministry and the content of that which they teach. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes to young Timothy, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. [7] This verse speaks of holiness of life before God as much as the content of our teaching.

When it comes to the content of the leader's teaching ministry, there are a number of principles for the godly leader to remember. Our calling is to be faithful servants who minister the Word of Truth with honesty and integrity and without the distortions that favour our own points of view, reputation, status or ambitions.

There are several questions we must ask as we approach the ministry of the Word of God:

What does the Word of God say? (Not, what do we want it to say?)

What are the life principles to be communicated to God's people?

What is on God's heart for this particular message?

How do I communicate these truths so that God's people hear His voice and receive that which is on His heart for them?

In my own teaching and preaching ministry, I have found it helpful to keep a picture in my mind. My role as a teacher is to facilitate communication between the heart of God and the heart of His people. At the same time my role is to stand out of the way as much as possible. I am reminded of the word of the old hymn; Make me a channel of blessing. I will never be a channel of blessing while I am in the way of God's ministry to human hearts.

I am frequently challenged by the story told in John 12:20-21. A group of Greek enquirers came the disciple Phillip with a simple request. "Sir", they said, "we would like to see Jesus." My role as a Christian teacher is to take my hearers into the presence of Jesus and invite the Holy Spirit to minister the Word of God to their hearts. I am looking for responses such as "God spoke to me!" not "great message preacher!" Surely the results of such ministry will be radical life transformation.

If those who are called to the ministry of the Word of God are faithful in their exercise of their calling, Christ will be honoured and His people enriched, encouraged and blessed. In His own way and in His own time, Jesus will honour His faithful servants who minister the Word. In that, I have great confidence.

Mentor – Our Ministry.

The Christian leader's work is not completed when the message has been delivered. Often that is only the beginning. This is where the leader's role as discipler and mentor begins. Helping our people build the principles of Scripture into their lives takes far longer.

The Apostle Paul's relationship with Timothy is one of the great mentoring relationships of Scripture. Paul met the young disciple when he visited Lystra on his second missionary journey.[8] Throughout the remainder of Acts we watch this young man's progress. He is mentioned in many of Paul's epistles. He is variously referred to as 'my true son', 'my fellow worker' and even as co-servant with the Apostle.[9] Finally, Paul wrote two personal letters to Timothy who was, at that time, serving as the pastoral elder of the Church in Ephesus . These letters are a study in the discipling, mentoring process.

This is an example to every Christian leader. Watching the Apostle we realize that it is not sufficient to simply teach the word and bring people to faith. We are also called to stand beside them and help build the principles of the Word into their lives. This is what we observe in the Gospels as we see Jesus' relationship with His disciples. This is the heart of the Great Commission when Jesus commands us to "... make disciples..."[10]

The whole subject of helping people to become lifelong disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ is a major field in itself. Here we can do no more than provide a brief overview of the subject.

It will come as no surprise that the ministry of disipling and mentoring involves the same two principles which we earlier in this study. Effective mentoring requires that the mentor live a godly example and model for the disciple to follow. In the ongoing relationship, the mentor will further instruct the disciple in the teachings of the Word and the practicalities of life and ministry. Finally we hope to see the disciple move on to disciple and mentor others.

Here are some of the elements involved in the discipling and mentoring relationship. The level to which each of these will be applied depends on the quality of relationship between mentor and disciple.

Unconditional Acceptance of the person themselves. This models the heart of the Father who will never turn us away. However, do not mistake acceptance of the person for turning a blind eye to issues of sin that need to be confronted and confessed.
Passionate Prayer: No one can be an effective discipler/mentor without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in their own life and the life of the person they are mentoring. Passionate intercessory prayer releases the power of the Holy Spirit to work deeply in both lives.
A Listening Ear: Effective disciple makers and mentors know how to listen. A major part of the role is to share the disciple's journey and experiences, helping them to draw out the vital lessons to be learned along the way. Listening, interaction and reflection are important.
A Courageous Heart: For every disciple maker and mentor, there will come the moment when the disciple must be confronted and challenged. At times like this the relationship itself can be in danger if the disciple chooses to reject the word and walk away. It takes great courage to face this reality.
An Open Heart: Discipling and mentoring must be a two way journey. The mentor must be as willing to learn as to teach. At times the mentor will reveal his own struggles in transparent honesty. Such an open heart opens the door for deep quality relationships.
A Humble Spirit: The lessons the disciple learns for themselves are those which impact most deeply. There are times when the discipler and mentor must keep silent and allow the disciple to make mistakes and learn their own painful lessons. There is no place for the words, "I told you so!" in this relationship.
A Deep Commitment: Discipling and mentoring requires time and commitment. Life's lessons are not learned in a single session. The deepest lessons are learned through life's challenges and mistakes. It takes great commitment to walk this journey with a disciple.
A Readiness to Release: Every discipling or mentoring relationship must inevitably come to a conclusion. As life's seasons change, so do our relationships. In time the disciple must become a disciple maker and mentor. A thoughtful mentor will recognize when the time has come to release the disciple and watch from a prayerful distance.

There are many more dimensions to effective Christian leadership. However, I firmly believe that those addressed in this study provide the foundation upon which all others are built. Ultimately it is our goal to see the life of Jesus being formed in the hearts and lives of those we lead. We freely acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is the only one who can accomplish this task. But he has called us into partnership with Himself. It is at this level we are called to faithfulness in the exercise of our high and holy calling.

[1] See also Matthew 11:28-30, Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Peter 2:21.

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:9. See also 1 Timothy 1:12-17

[3] Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1. The word Paul uses is dulos which in fact means 'slave'. It implies one who is totally owned by another and has no rights and privileges their own.

[4] Romans 8:12-17, 1 Corinthians 9:27.

[5] Bob Gass. The Word for Today, 30th July 2003 .

[6] 1 Timothy 3:2

[7] 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

[8] Acts 16:1-2

[9] 1 Timothy 1:2, Romans 16:21, Philippians 1:1

[10] Matthew 28:18-20

Written by Dr Gavin D Williams, President of LttN Ministries Incorporated.

Copyright August 2003.