The typical leadership conference claims to enable you to be a successful leader with all the added benefits of wealth and prosperity – if you would faithfully follow the “guaranteed-to-work” principles. The Apostle Paul also gave us some leadership principles. The letter of 1 Corinthians in the Bible is not a leadership manual but rather personal correspondence encouraging the church to apply the gospel to every area of their lives. Yet, in the closing few paragraphs in his letter to the Corinthian church (chapter 16) the Apostle Paul makes some personal comments from which we may gain insight into Paul’s priorities and leadership style.
These principles will not make you rich or famous in the world’s assessment of things. The Apostle Paul was not rich or famous, but poor, worked with his hands, often beaten, often arrested, sometimes shipwrecked and always persecuted. Paul followed in the footsteps of Jesus who was also very unsuccessful in the world’s eyes. Jesus was poor, unemployed, homeless and died young. But in God’s estimation, Jesus was ultimately successful. Jesus achieved the greatest good; the eternal salvation of all God’s people through all the ages by his death for us. The Apostle Paul is not your typical rich, successful leadership guru like John C. Maxwell. By following his leadership style and principles you won’t become rich or famous in the world’s eyes, but you will be successful in God’s assessment of things.
1. Christian leaders are converted servants, not power-hungry dictators
Many leaders in churches and Christian organisations today are unconverted and it creates huge problems. Paul writes to the church is Corinth and addresses them as “saints”, those “sanctified in Christ” and those who have experienced “grace and peace” from God. Paul assumes that Christian leaders are Christians!
The most common title and self-designation that the Apostle Paul gives to himself is “servant”. Perhaps an even better translation of the Greek word is “slave”. In 1 Corinthians 4:1 Paul writes, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ”. Jesus himself said, “I came not to be served, but to serve, and give my live as a ransom for many.”
I like the programme Undercover Millionaire. Very rich and successful CEOs do menial, dirty, everyday jobs in their companies to understand their people better. I think the programme is so successful because we never see that kind of servant-leadership. Think of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. They way Christians lead is through serving and by being slaves, not by being the hotshot dictator telling everyone else what to do.
Do you see yourself as a servant? When you serve, do you get upset if no-one knows about it or are you offended if no-one thanks you? If so, you do not see yourself as a servant.
2. Christian leaders are to plan and strategize, not wait for instructions from heaven
v5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia…
v7 I hope to spend some time with you…
Christian leaders recognise that God has given them a mind to plan. They don’t sit and wait for a voice from heaven or writing in the clouds to do something. We realise that plans may change, but we’ve got to have a plan for it to change! Paul did not (always!) have a word from God or message from an angel; he simply sought to make the best, wisest decisions and plans knowing that God is ultimately in control – and that his plans could change (and indeed did change).
Are you planning to serve the Lord in the year ahead or are you waiting for a special word from the Lord? In your current ministry do you plan about how best to get to know your team better or how to be more effective? We don’t wait for instructions from heaven because we have instructions from heaven – the Bible.
3. Christian leaders value people more than projects
v5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.
Paul could have taken the direct route by ship to Corinth, but he planned to take the long route in order to visit the churches.
The implication arte very simple: you cannot lead by email. You need to meet with people. You need to fellowship. You need to know your team. You need to pray together about ministry. I tend to be a more A-type, analytical, personality. I like to get the job or task done. My best day is the day I tick off my entire task-list. I need to remind that ministry is people. If I’m not helping people, I’m not doing ministry.
4. Christian leaders are faithful, not wavering, to current ministry commitments
v8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me…
Paul would not leave his current ministry until it was finished. Many people leave their ministries unfinished. Popular excuses are that I’m having tough time or I’ve got a promotion at work and don’t have the time. I realise that we all need a rest from time to time, but normally tough and challenging circumstances are the times we need most to serve in ministry. Ministry can be a means of grace used by God to keep us trusting Jesus in the tough time. Over the years I’ve seen Christians stop serving because of tough times and then go spiritually downhill.
Serve faithfully where you are now.
From time to time people come to see me about wonderful ministry ideas, often ministry oversees or on the mission-field. My first questions always are: Are you serving faithfully in your local church? Do your neighbours know you’re a Christian?
5. Christian leaders embrace opposition, not run from it
v8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
Acts 21 has the excellent example of Paul’s interactions with a prophet in the city of Caesarea. The prophet Agabus prophesied that if Paul went to Jerusalem, guaranteed he would be bound and handed over to the Gentile authorities. Paul’s friends tried to dissuade him from going. Paul’s reply is instructive: “I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul knew he should go to Jerusalem. Suffering, hardship and opposition did not put him off.
Eaten by cannibals
John Paton was a missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific in the 1800’s To the best of our knowledge, the New Hebrides had no Christian influence before John Williams and James Harris from the London Missionary Society landed in 1839. Both of these missionaries were killed and eaten by cannibals minutes after going ashore. The islanders also occasionally ate the flesh of their defeated foes. Yet this did not stop John Paton from devoting his entire life to work on those islands. In his first year as a missionary there his wife and baby died. He dug the two graves with his own hands and buried them by the house he had built. Today, 100 or so years after the death of John Paton, about 85% of the population of Vanuatu identifies itself as Christian, perhaps 21% of the population being evangelical. Do you face opposition?
Our great example is Jesus who was executed by his adversaries. But God used that opposition to achieve the greatest good.
You may face opposition in your service from family or even people in the church. You may face opposition in the form of tough circumstances and difficult situations. Is there something you have you wish you didn’t? Is there something you lack you wish you had? We all experience hardships and opposition of different kinds. What is causing you not to serve or to consider stop serving? Do you not think that our Sovereign Lord may be using that opposition to mould and shape you for even more effective service?
6. Christian leaders are team players, not lone rangers
Paul mentions a lot of people in chapter 16: Timothy, Apollos, Stephanus’ household, Fotunatus, Achaicus, Aquila and Prisca. There are many more names in Paul’s other letters. Paul was not at all threatened by gifted people. In fact, many in Corinth considered themselves as followers of Apollos, yet in v12 Paul strongly urges Apollos to go to Corinth! If Paul wanted to make a name for himself, he would have told Apollos to go to a different church. Christian leaders work in teams and don’t seek glory for themselves.
Andre Visagie Global Ministries International Corp.
I get very worried when I see ministers calling their ministry by their own names. A few years ago I tried to convince our Elders to change the name of our church to “Andre Visagie Ministries”, but for some reason they wouldn’t! Our aim must be to become less and Christ to become more.
If you’re ministry leaders, we cannot and should not try to be God’s gift to the church; we must build teams around us. If you’re not serving, don’t wait to be asked, get in touch with a leader and be part of a team.