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The Apostle Paul on Developing Leaders


I think its unfortunate that many churches have turned to business models to find the “best practices” for developing leaders. I’m not against business or the practice of business. But I firmly believe that when church leaders start adopting business models instead of biblical models they become misguided and off point. If our churches are going to become serious about developing leaders for the next generation the beginning point is the New Testament. One such enlightening passage is found in 2 Timothy 2:1-6. Today I want to deal with the key elements for developing leaders and tomorrow I’ll post Paul’s words on the kind of people to pursue as potential leaders.

“You, therefore, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, HCSB).

The first thing Paul told Timothy is that leadership development is the work of God’s grace. Some translations like the HCSB read “be strong IN the grace” of Christ, and others like the NLT have “be strong THROUGH the grace” of Christ. Which is right? Technically, either translation is viable and acceptable. I personally think that its both. Grace is the environment of all of God’s good work. And, grace is the means by which we do all of God’s good work. This subtle reminder eschews all external models that are applied to churches and church leadership. The church is to be as dependent upon God for its work of developing leaders for the next generation as it is for fulfilling the great commission. Leadership development begins when we recognize our humble dependence upon God’s grace.

Next, Paul told Timothy the be a student. I believe the best teachers are first and foremost learners. When I was in seminary I was blessed to be associated with some outstanding professors, the best of whom stated that classroom teaching was what they had to do to support their research habit! The most engaging teachers are those who are engaged in learning. Timothy needed to realize that he had not arrived and that he couldn’t take people where he himself had not been. So Paul emphasized that Timothy remain teachable before he became concerned with the stuff that is transferrable.

How do you know if you’ve grown stagnant in your learning? I think the easiest way to identify stagnation is to see if you’re simply running the same play year in and year out. John Maxwell used to talk about the difference between growing leaders and stagnant leaders this way: you can either have ten years of ministry or one year of ministry ten times. If you desire to aspire to develop leaders in ministry, you have to begin with yourself and your commitment to learning.

The final element is to be a steward of what you’ve learned by investing that deposit into others who are trustworthy and reliable. In 2 Timothy Paul described the process like this:
Christ made a deposit in Paul;
Paul made a deposit in Timothy;
Timothy was to make a deposit in reliable people; and
Those reliable people were to pay it forward and pass the baton.
I know it sounds cheesy, but let’s be honest. We’re having this discussion today (2,000 years later) because Paul’s strategy worked.

So who do you trust with what you value? That’s the content of the next four verses that I’ll deal with tomorrow. Until then, be strong in grace; be a student; and be a steward of what has been entrusted to you.

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