Looking For Leaders Who Can Lead

Acts 20:17-35


Last Sunday the Care Group that meets at the building had a discussion, on how we choose our leaders. In the early days of the church, the Apostles, or their representatives, simply appointed leaders in each of the congregations. Today some congregations use a method very similar to what we are trying while others congregations let their current Shepherds choose the new ones.     


When we started talking about picking our new leaders I had an idea, but I don’t think that anyone took me very seriously. So I want to mention it to you this morning, just for you to think about. How many of you like reality television? It’s big business and after watching a few shows like Fear Factor, Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Dancing with the Stars I may have an idea that will not only help us find new shepherds but I believe it could help us grow in our attendance.  


The first week we will have our own Amazing Race. We will give our candidates clues from the book of Habakkuk that will take them all over South East Texas and Louisiana. If they can decipher the clues and make their rounds then they can go on to week two. If not they will probably get eaten by a gator. 


The second week we will have our own Bachelor. Each candidate will have to plan an event that will challenge, entertain, and spiritually motivate the whole church. At the end of the event the ones we want to go on to week three we will give a rose, and we will send the rest to another church.  


The third week we will have our own version of Fear Factor. The remaining candidates will have to sit at a card table in the middle of the intersection of Jimmy Johnson and 9th Avenue and complete one Bible Study in 10 minutes. Those who survive will get to go to last week of competition.     


For the final week of competition we are going to go Old School and take a page of the grandaddy of all reality shows The Miss America Pageant. Evening gowns, talent portion, and a question about world peace. Sounds pretty good, right?  


I think that it could work, we would get new leaders and if we put it on YouTube we would have a million hits in the first weekend. The only problem I have is that I fear that some good men would never get to lead us here. I mean Chuck would have never made it through the swimsuit competition. And I need to bring you back to the idea that choosing elders is not a popularity contest, or finding someone with the best business sense. We are looking for godly men and families that will be responsible for our souls.  


Let me switch gears a bit. This week I found, what I think is a wonderful definition of what a leader is and I wanted to share it with you. Rubel Shelly said “A leader is someone going somewhere who is able to share such a compelling vision of the destination that others are persuaded to go there too.” I love his definition because it offers two significant insights.


"A leader is someone going somewhere . . ." There are lots of confused and aimless people in this world. Lives are being wasted because those people have not discovered the reason God created them. So let me ask you a few questions to see if you know your purpose. 


Who are you? What is your life calling? What is the guiding ambition of your life? 


Now these are the answers I usually get, "I’m John Smith, and I’m a lawyer. My ambition is to further the establishment of justice in our social order, and to make an honest and good living from my work." Somebody else says, "I’m Jane Doe, and I’m a teacher. The passion of my life is to teach children to use the English language to communicate well." And another says, "I’m Betty Brown, and I’m a mother. My purpose in living is to make my child healthy, get him a good education, and teach him how to be a responsible adult." I might say, "I’m Jeremy Houck, and I’m a preacher. My ambition is to make Park Central the biggest church in Texas."


Honestly, those are all pretty lame answers. Buddhists, Christians, New Agers, atheists, any of them could give the same answers. There’s not one of those answers that is distinctly Christian. There are billions of people who have given these answers in good faith at some time in the past who are today despondent and suicidal over their lives, who consume alcohol, drugs, sex, or money to dull their unbearable pain, or who have switched jobs and towns and marriages several times already trying to "find happiness." These people can’t be leaders. They don’t even know where they are going. They sure can’t guide somebody else into finding the meaning of life and spiritual peace.


Christians know who they are, they are God’s beloved sons and daughters, bought with the blood of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. They have His strength and they can be victorious in the face of life’s challenges.


Christians have a life calling to know God, to experience Him in all they do, and to use their skills, talents, and achievements for His honor.


Christians have an ambition that guides everything they do, to move forward toward the heavenly prize to which God has called them in Christ Jesus.


So let’s go back to those people who spoke before and hear them answer the questions put to them, this time answering as Christians. John Smith says something like this: "I am a sinner saved by God’s marvelous grace whose calling in life is to practice law to His glory. My ambition in life is to model the truth, integrity, and justice of God." Or Jane Doe answers: "I am a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ whose mission field is middle school students. Every day I have the chance to touch the heart and mold the character of some boy or girl." Or Betty Brown replies: "I am the instrument of God’s Spirit to lead my little boy to be a godly man who has a real relationship with his Savior." And I’d better be able to say: "I’m the fortunate man that God chose to teach the Word of God to the Family at Park Central. My prayer every day is to teach the gospel faithfully to this church and to do everything in my power to model the message I preach by serving them with all the strength God gives me."


The world doesn’t have a lot of people who know who they are and where they are going. Most people live such short-sighted existences that they go berserk if they lose their money, or their looks, or their car, or their health; as if any or all of those things were the meaning of their lives. Actually, they have been! And that’s why they come undone when they lose them. 


But people who live their seventeen or forty-nine or seventy-six years of life here with the long-term perspective of eternity and for the sake of holiness to the Lord keep their bearings and wits. So long as they have Christ, they have everything they need. 


"A leader is someone going somewhere who is able to share such a compelling vision of the destination that others are persuaded to go there too." 



Lawyers, school teachers, mothers, and anyone can be a leader for Jesus Christ. If you live with a clear confidence in God’s love and the Spirit’s daily presence you will have people tagging along just to smell the sweet aroma of your life. These leaders are like lighthouses guiding fellow travelers in the dark night. Their presence in any office or neighborhood or classroom is like leaven in a lump of dough. And that is how God does His work in the world.


This is what we see with Paul in Acts 20. While in Miletus Paul sends a message to the Elders in Ephesus to ask them to come meet him. It wasn’t simply that he wanted to see them for a social visit. He wanted to encourage them in their role as church overseers, models, and protectors. He wanted to lead them through a short "leadership seminar" before leaving the region for Jerusalem. 


First, Paul called them to feed the church with the gospel. 


Using his own history among them in Acts 20:21 he reminded them that he had taught repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus to the Ephesians. Then in verses 26-27 he says "Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men, for I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God".


Churches don’t need leaders with personal agendas, pet projects, or imbalance in their theology. They need leaders who feed a "balanced diet" from the Word of God that will produce growth and maturity among the hearers. 


Second, he charged them to guard the flock under their oversight.


He warned of "savage wolves" who would come in and try to disrupt the work of God among them. "Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them, so be on your guard!" Acts 20:30-31. 


These false teachers might be motivated by a variety of motives. Some were simply false teachers in the church. Certainly the Judaizers who tended to trail Paul with their message of legalistic righteousness were distorting the truth. Others would preach the gospel for the sake of money and power. The tentmaker-apostle reminded these church shepherds that he had never "coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing" and had, instead, worked to support himself and his co-workers who helped in establishing the church at Ephesus.


Third, Paul urged them to model unselfish service among their fellow believers. 


"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’" Acts 20:35.


Although the world’s model is different, the Christian leadership model says that people can lead only to the degree they are willing to serve others. Servant leadership is the only kind of leadership there is or can be in the kingdom of God. In His own farewell speech to His disciples, Jesus had washed their feet and told them that greatness in His kingdom would come to those who served others unselfishly.


Finally, Paul reminded these men that it was their duty to replace themselves in the Ephesian church. 


These men did not have a closed club in the church. Their leadership was not to be exercised by making decisions behind locked doors but by modeling and mentoring others in the habits of Christ. 


Buildings deteriorate, programs lose effectiveness, and circumstances change needs. But investing in the spiritual growth and development of other believers is always the right things for leaders to do. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul writes: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others". 


Good leaders are always training others to take their place in leadership by trusting others with responsibility and the right to make decisions. They multiply their effectiveness by spotting and training others who can be leaders. And they don’t feel threatened by people who have even greater ability than themselves. They affirm and nurture those people for the sake of the kingdom. To quote Carl George, they understand that "a leader’s first duty is to train more leaders."


I believe this call should go out to everyone here this morning. In your home, your workplace, or in this church you need to be someone who is going somewhere and cause others to want to go along with you. Walk in the light. Move in the direction of the heavenly calling you have received. 


No group can rise above the spiritual level of its leaders. That is the way things are because God has arranged it so. It is His plan to accomplish His kingdom through human leadership. The Holy Spirit ministers His spiritual gifts to people through people. God designed things so that mankind must lead through serving.


Larry Gilbert tells of a little church yard in France where a beautiful statue of Jesus with outstretched arms once stood. During World War II, a bomb struck nearby and broke the statue to pieces. When the fighting had passed the village, members of the little church set about to find the pieces of the statue and to reconstruct it. 


As they patiently set about their task, even the scars seemed to add to its beauty in their eyes. But, to their dismay, the fragile hands had been pulverized. "A Christ without hands is no Christ at all!" someone said sadly. Indeed, we want Christ’s tender, ministering hands outstretched to us! So someone suggested that they try to get a new statue. Then another person in the group came up with the idea that prevailed. He suggested that a brass plaque be attached to the statue’s base that would read: "I have no hands but yours." Years later someone saw that statue and its inscription and wrote these lines:


I have no hands but your hands to do my work today.


I have no feet but your feet to lead men on the way.


I have no tongues but your tongue to tell men how I died.


I have no help but your help to bring men to God’s side.


So this morning I hope you hear the call to be His hands, feet, and tongue to bring people to God’s side. And do not be surprised to find that you are leading now too! That is God’s plan, and you have become part of his purpose in the world.






Questions to Consider


Questions From Class


In 1 Timothy 3:3 the American Standard does not say “not given to wine” but says “no brawler”.  Why is this important?


Who is best qualified to determine if someone is “soon angry”?  


What’s the difference between righteous indignation and sinful anger? 


Would it be wise for a church to have a paid shepherd on staff?


Why is covetous so hard to see in our society? 



Questions from the Sermon


Why do we have a lack of leaders today? 


In Acts 20:17, the word for elders is presbuteros or “older one”. What does this tell us about the role of a mentor?   


In Acts 20 what are the four things that Paul encouraged the Elders in Ephesus to do? 

(feed the church with the gospel, guard the flock, model unselfish service, replace themselves)


Would this be a good model for our leaders today? 


Is this usually what you think about when you think of the role of a elder? 

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