Pastoral Ministry
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The Gift of Leadership

Acts 17:6

". . . These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;" KJV

I was talking to a fellow Pastor from the Northeast the other day. He is experiencing frustration in his ministry right now because he doesn't feel like his congregation is following his leadership. "I don't expect them to blindly follow everything I ask them to do," he said. "But neither do I expect them to flatly reject every idea I have either."

Most church leaders can relate to my friend's frustration. They want to turn the world upside down, like Paul did, but they feel they are ineffective because of the problems they face in their leadership.

I've heard the problem stated another way. Though not exactly politically correct, the saying goes, "We have too many chiefs and not enough Indians." Have you ever thought that leadership would be so much easier if people would just follow! Can a person be a gifted leader and still have resistance? Consider the Apostle Paul. He obviously had the gift of leadership, yet:

  • Not all of his followers remained loyal to him.
Demas is only mentioned three times in the Bible. Twice, Paul sent his greetings on to the people he was writing. The third time Paul mentioned him was in 2 Tim. 4:10 NLT Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia.

Even young John Mark, deserted him. Acts 15:38 NLT But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work. Barnabas was so upset with Paul's leadership that he severed his relationship with him, refused to accept his judgment and separated from Paul. Acts 15:39 NLT Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.

  • Not all of Paul's followers listened to him.
Do you Remember Eutychus, who fell asleep during his preaching and plunged to his death from a 3 story window? Acts 20:9 NLT As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he sank into a deep sleep and fell three stories to his death below.

"Paul spoke on and on . . ." the text said. I preached my first sermon behind my father's pulpit in Silverton, Texas in 1977. There was an inscription on the pulpit that said, "Quit a few minutes before the people do." I don't know if dad put that inscription there or if his deacons did, but it is good advise. Advise Paul should have followed.

In his poem EWE-TEA-CUSS, Calvin Miller describes what happened after Eutychus' death. "And Paul felt most embarrassed/ (And his face was really red)/ That his sermon had gone on so long/ That Ewe-Tea-cuss was dead./ He laid his hands on Ewe-tea-cuss/ And cried, "Be resurrected, friend!/ Come back alive. I promise you/ I'll never preach so long again."/ And Ewe-tea-cuss began to breathe/ And opened up his eyes and said,/ "Paul . . .How every nice you're here,/ Your sermon really knocked me dead."/ Paul really beamed from ear to ear/ When Ewe-tea-cuss took a deep breath/ Because no preacher wants it known/ He preached a healthy man to death." (Miller, Apples, Snakes, and Bellyaches, 1990, p 165)

  • Not everyone thought Paul had the qualifications to lead.
Some questioned the validity of his apostleship and Paul had to defend himself. 1 Cor. 9:2 NLT Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you, for you are living proof that I am the Lord's apostle. The Jewish leaders so resisted Paul's leadership that they incited a mob riot and ran him out of town Acts 13:50-51 NLT Then the Jewish leaders stirred up both the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. [51] But they shook off the dust of their feet against them and went to the city of Iconium.

Having the spiritual gift of leadership does not mean that people naturally follow you. God's gift to leaders is the ability to keep leading, even in the throws of resistance. Leaders continue with their calling, even when the going gets tough.

When the mob ran him out of town, verse 51 says that Paul followed Jesus' command and shook the dust off of his feet. What does that mean? Paul was unwilling to take the bad experience from one city to the next. He shook the residue of the city off his feet and continued to follow his mission.

Consider the obstacles Paul faced and overcame:

  • Paul was stoned to death and got up and went back to work.
He was consumed with his mission. Acts 14:19-20 NLT Now some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the crowds into a murderous mob. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, apparently dead. [20] But as the believers stood around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
  • Even in prison he didn't forget about his mission
Acts 16:25 NLT Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.

Paul could have been depressed and discouraged, instead, he used his circumstance to further his mission.

In summing up his ministry, Paul stated in Acts 20:18-22 NLT ". . . You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now [19] I have done the Lord's work humbly--yes, and with tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. [20] Yet I never shrank from telling you the truth, either publicly or in your homes. [21] I have had one message for Jews and Gentiles alike--the necessity of turning from sin and turning to God, and of faith in our Lord Jesus. [22] "And now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me,"

Paul didn't let anything keep him from his stated goals--he was a leader!

Greatness never comes easily, it takes determination. Jackie Robinson said, "Above anything else, I hate to lose." On April 15, 1947, Robinson made it to the "show." He became the first black man to wear a Major League uniform, destroying the color barrier in professional sports.

In his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he hit .297, sent 12 over the fence, and lead the league with 29 steals. He was also the National League Rookie of the year. Two years later they named him the National League's Most Valuable Player and he won the batting title with a .342 average. 1949 was his first of six appearances in the All-Star game.

During his ten years with the Dodgers, he helped them reach the World Series six times. Robinson had a career batting average of .311 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

Did you also know that Jackie Robinson was court-martialed from the Army and that he dropped out of College?

Failure need not be fatal. Great men accomplish great things even when they suffer great setbacks and disappointments.

Great leaders continue with their mission, regardless of who follows. The passion that strengthens the leader to complete his mission, even against opposition and resistance, is God's gift, and that's how Paul turned the world upside down, or should we say right side up? 

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