Today’s reading link: Genesis 21; Matthew 20; Nehemiah 10; Acts 20
Jesus, although having all authority over heaven and earth reminds us that he came to serve.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28
Jesus set the greatest example of servant leadership and Paul sought to live it out. Today’s reading in Acts 20 provides numerous examples as to how Paul lived the servant-leader lifestyle. From this chapter we could perhaps summarize all of the (good) leadership books ever written!
Before diving into the leadership attributes, there is some background on Paul that should be noted. Paul (formerly Saul) had some serious training. He studied and memorized Jewish law and scripture for many years. He was trained to become a Pharisee; the highest in order within the ruling class of Israel. Paul was chosen by Jesus to take his message to Gentiles, kings, and the people of Israel (see Acts 9:15). In summary: Paul was educated, trained, and appointed. He didn’t just show up on the scene taking over the leadership reigns.
Here are the leadership attributes that I’ve noticed in Acts 20 along with the verse number for reference. Perhaps I’ve missed some… Can you identify more in this chapter?
Leaders “are” and/or “do” the following:
- Encourage; Paul “encourages them”. Encouragement helps give us meaning to our work and can also help get us through rough times. (1-2)
- Engage; they meet with people in their environment; they’re visible; Paul spends much of his time traveling to be with those who need him (2-3) and “lived among them”. (18)
- In-sync; leaders surround themselves with team-members for assistance and mentoring. They know what is going on with their team and vice-versa. Paul was accompanied by several people, he wasn’t going at it alone. (4)
- Tireless; leaders selflessly invest hours and make many sacrifices where and when appropriate. Prior to departing, Paul preaches and teaches “until daybreak”. (7, 11)
- Compassionate, merciful; Paul shows kindness to the young man who fell out of the window. Reading this I also sense a calm confidence from Paul as he embraces the injured young man who was believed to be dead. (10)
- Intimate; they broke bread together. Some commentary suggests verse 11 was a meal, some suggest the Lord’s Supper, and some suggest both. Regardless, breaking bread equates to “doing life” with people and this kind of environment can open doors to deep conversation and build bonds among peers. (11)
- Humble, passionate; Paul served with all humility and with tears due to the trials he was put through. (19)
- Direct; Paul tells it like it is, without holding back; “didn’t shrink” (20, 27)
- Devoted; Paul led and taught publicly and privately for the benefit of others, he taught in public and from house to house. (20)
- Focused; leaders know the mission statement and act on the mission; Paul firmly led and taught: “testify of repentance” and faith in Jesus. (21)
- Inclusive; Paul made it clear that the mission and message were for all, both Jews and Greeks. (21)
- Faithful; Paul didn’t know exactly what would happen but faithfully presses on for the cause. (22)
- Fearless; jail and suffering lie ahead and Paul is committed to facing both. (23)
- Relentless; finishing the work means everything; considers his life worthless unless he finishes his course. (24)
- In touch; Prepare others as leaders to take over, giving instruction; Paul has been watching over these people and is getting them ready, and is in touch with them as well as in touch with the knowledge of hardships yet to come. (28-29)
- Truthful; warns them of liars coming to distract and destroy. Paul cherished the truth. (30)
- Invest; Paul spent three years, night and day, instructing. (31)
- Commend, pass the baton; turning over leadership position at the right time, to those who are ready. (32)
- Noble, they do not seek wealth for themselves; Paul didn’t seek after money or things such as clothing. (33)
- Preserve; they are good stewards of their resources, not burdening others; Paul supplied for his own needs, he didn’t ask for much from a material standpoint. (34)
- Helpful, hard-working, with the focus on helping others. (35)
- Prayerful; Paul prayed with others. I’ve spent time with executives and leaders whom I highly respected and nothing touched me more than when they prayed with and for me, humbly bowing down and seeking council from God Almighty. (36)
- We can also tell that Paul was a real leader because he was respected and admired by those whom he impacted. They even wept when he departed. (37-38)
These leadership attributes hadn’t ever popped out to me in the past, even after reading the chapter several times. Then after taking some time reading it over again slowly, and prayerfully considering what to write, it became so clear and I wondered how I missed it before. I’m so thankful that the Bible is relevant and that God uses it to speak to us when we take the time to read it with the intent to seek and do his will.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12