Principles of Christian leadership: Notes from Green’s “Thirty Years That Changed The World: the Book of Acts for Today”

Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you.
-1 Thessalonians 5:12 (CEB)

Picture: Pixabay

My notes and Green's quotes:

Principles of Christian Leadership:

Leadership is a gift from God

-Leadership is a gift of God to his church.  Leadership is not some office you train for, but a leader is someone God raises up.  Divine
charisma is a prerequisite for anyone exercising effective leadership.  Divine enabling precedes human recognition (ordination).

Leadership is shared

-Leaders do not operate solo.  They work in teams.  Elders is always plural in Acts and in the rest of the New Testament.  Plurality of leadership preserves the church from imbalance and undue dependence on one individual leader.  Plural leadership preserves the individual leader from megalomania and from burn out.  

(pp. 209-11)

Qualities in Christian leadership (Acts 20)

Do they walk with God?

“Unless there is a fundamental dedication to the Lord, all Christian leadership is a sham…There is only one reason that will bear the weight put upon it.  And that is a call from the Lord, a deep love for him, and a passionate determination to serve others for his sake.”

Do they believe in shared ministry?

“There is no room today for the ‘one man band’.  Nor was there in the first century… In our situation, we place enormous pressures on people by expecting them to exercise a one-person ministry, or at best, ministry with one assistant.  This is fundamentally unbiblical and misguided.  I would want to ask any applicants for Christian ministry today whether or not they believe in shared ministry.  And this includes shared ministry of men and women.”

There are no women presbyters (elders) in the New Testament, but there are many examples of women ministering.  Jesus set the example of being accepting or affirming women as equal before God.  And we do find women as deacons and in a variety of ministry roles and functions in the NT.

Can they inspire others?

“The function of leadership is proistasthai, ‘to go out in front’.  It may mean going out on a limb.  It certainly means to inspire and challenge.  Leaders need to lead.  If that is not your gift, do not aspire to leadership.”

Do they pray?

We are fond of quoting Paul, but do you follow his example in prayer?  Paul was steeped in prayer.  Paul prayed with and for other leaders.  Are you steeped in prayer? 

Are they humble?

Humility is not about self-denigration but recognition that any gifts you have come from God.  Humility says that all our enabling comes from the Lord.

Are they enablers (of others)?

“The essence of NT leadership is to be an enabler of others… This is not a notable characteristic of today’s leadership.  There are too many stars around, and not nearly enough equippers… The supreme privilege for anyone in leadership is to  equip others to make their offering of ministry to the Lord and his church.”

Do they care about people?

“Modern pastors must love people – more than books.  If not, we will fail comprehensively.  Christian ministry involves the application of the grace of God to real people.  And if you do not (really) love them, that is something you cannot do with any real credibility.”

Are they examples?

“It is very sad when a work of God shrivels away because of the poor example of the appointed leaders.  What we are does in fact speak louder than what we say.  There is nothing a church needs more than the holiness and example of its leaders.

What do they believe?

Do you believe the faith of the New Testament?  Will you preach, tell people, the whole council of God and call them to repentance?  Are you willing to ruffle feathers and take on contentious and painful issues?  Real leadership is not afraid to do so.

Do they make the scripture their guide?

Do you take God’s word with the utmost seriousness?  Do you study the word so that you can open it up for yourself and to others?  Do you believe the scriptures contain God’s ideas about man and his salvation? 

Can they teach?

Leaders must be able to teach.  There are three ways of teaching.  Number one, we teach by the example of our lives.  

People will do as we do far more than do as we say.  Do you have children?  A minister who says a lot of right stuff but lives badly is called a hypocrite, like the Pharisees.

Number two is public teaching.  Do people learn when you teach?  Do you maintain people’s attention and is what you say memorable?  Do you have a passion for studying something in order to present it to others, like a good cook serves a delicious meal?

Number three is visiting.  Are you comfortable mentoring people in their homes or in another comfortable and close up setting?  Are you comfortable being a leader in person?  This is essential.

What is their attitude to money?

“Paul left a considerable fortune when he became a Christian minister.  As such he had no regular income apart from what he earned in tent making.  He might well have been tempted to avarice… His own industriousness provided enough not only for his own necessities (not luxuries) but for those who accompanied him and who presumably did not have skills that could be put to use in almost any location, like tent making (Acts 20:13).”

Avarice: insatiable greed for riches; inordinate, miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth.
 Scriptures that meantion avarice:
But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.

 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.
(Ex. 18:21 & 1 Cor. 5:11)

Michael Green: “There is a terrible danger of being in Christian leadership for money.  Covetousness still accounts for the downfall of many in the ministry.”
  • It is dangerous to require payment for preaching a sermon.
  • Integrity in finances is imperative for a leader’s credibility.

Dare they face unpopularity?

“We love to be loved.  But sometimes, if we are faithful, we have to confront…   For leadership requires courage to do the unpopular thing if necessary.”

Can they endure hard times and suffering?

If you endure suffering, to follow what you believe the Lord is calling you to; then you will have earned authority for people to follow you. (My summary of Green).

Are they wholehearted?

Do not get into Christian leadership for financial rewards, prestige, popularity, or as a “job”.  Only a passionate (wholehearted) calling to serve Christ (and his bride) will suffice.
  • It will be very hard.
  • You will be very disappointed at times.
  • There will be defeats and failures.
  • You will be tempted to give up.
  • You will have sleepless nights.
  • You will cry over people often.
  • You need a burning commitment to your calling.
  • Above all you must be wholehearted toward the Lord.
  • You also must be a person of rest, who knows the value of and how to rest in the Lord.
  • You also must know how to have fun, in the Lord, or the ministry will crush you.

Are they able to receive ministry from others?

  • Admit your need for ministry from other humans.
  • Come down off any pedestal you or others have put you on and admit your failures.
  • When you are honest about your weakness and humanity, you gain respect and authority.
  • Let people love you, the real you, not just ‘the minister’ you.
  • If you are honest with people they will be honest with you (and visa versa).
  • Accept ministry from those around you.

Are they truly open to the Holy Spirit?

“That is the vital ingredient in all great leadership.  We need to be full of the Holy Spirit of God, so that it is not so much our leadership as the leadership of the Spirit through us.”

  • We need to be bound in the Spirit (Acts 20:22).
  • We need to listen to the Spirit (20:23).
  • We need to obey the Spirit.
  • We need to experience the Spirit of God making people leaders.
  • We must lead in the wisdom, love, courage, and power that the Spirit supplies.

“There is no substitute for Christian leaders who are full of the Holy Spirit.... These are some of the leadership qualities set before us in this wonderful chapter (Acts 20).”

(pp. 214-25)