Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, DC following allegations of sexual abuse. This is the latest in a series of sex abuse scandals involving leaders in the Roman Catholic Church. So, what does the Bible say about the behavior of Christian leaders?
The letter of 1 Peter in the Bible shows us how God can help us get through hardship, trials and suffering. In chapter 5, it includes instructions to the elders of churches, which would apply to the leaders of any Christian ministry. This passage is written in the context of suffering. It is preceded by a passage on suffering for being a Christian (4:12-19) and is followed by a reminder to have an eternal viewpoint when they are suffering (5:10).
The passage says “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Pt. 5:1-4NIV).
It’s a message to those living between the two advents of Christ. The first was when Christ suffered and the second is when He will come in great glory. We live in this time period.
When churches (and ministries) experience persecution and suffering, it is primarily the responsibility of the leaders to provide help, comfort, strength and guidance. Peter urges them to do this in view of the persecution they were enduring. He supports this by saying that he is also a Christian leader (elder). So he’s speaking from experience. He also saw Christ’s crucifixion at the first advent and he told others about it. And he knew that there will be no more suffering when Christ returns in great power and glory to rule over the earth at the second advent and he told others about it.
The main message was that they were to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them” (5:2). Here leaders are likened to shepherds and those they lead are likened to sheep. This is a common biblical metaphor. The shepherd is the dominant leadership metaphor in the Old Testament. As sheep need a shepherd, people need leaders. And Jesus was “the Good Shepherd” (Jn. 10:11).
Peter says to take care of and watch over those you lead like shepherds take care of and watch over their sheep. A shepherd’s care is physical, while a Christian leader’s care is spiritual. Leaders are “shepherds of God’s flock” who do this work for the Good Shepherd. Then he gives them three important characteristics of a Christian leader (or church elder). These are given as three negatives (“not because you must”; “not pursuing dishonest gain “; and “not lording it over those entrusted to you”), each of which is followed by a positive (“but because you are willing”; “but eager to serve”; and “but being examples to the flock”). So Christian leaders are to be:
– willing leaders
– eager leaders, and
– examples to follow.
- A willing leader
The Bible says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be” (5:2). There’s a wrong way and a right way to lead. In this case, not reluctantly or under coercion or compulsion, but voluntarily. This is like Paul’s advice on giving, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Our attitude is important to God. It’s wrong to lead because there seems to be no alternative or because of exerted pressure.
When Paul was in prison, he sent Onesimus back to his master rather than have Onesimus’ help without the approval of his master; “I did not want to do anything without your (Philemon’s) consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary” (Phile. 14). Paul sought the help of volunteers, not those who had no choice in the matter. Likewise, God wants those who lead Christian ministries to do this voluntarily, and not out of a feeling of obligation or a desire of recognition or status. It’s not just a job to do, but a calling from God.
Nehemiah led the project to restore the walls of Jerusalem after they had been ruined for 150 years. His team faced mockery, attacks, distraction and temptation to sin (Neh. 4:3, 8; 6:10-12). Nehemiah understood that God had appointed him to the task and his sense of purpose invigorated the people to follow his leadership despite incredible opposition. God equips Christian leaders to overcome the challenges and obstacles and complete the tasks He’s given them to do.
- An eager leader
The Bible also says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them— … not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve” (5:2). Not greedily looking for reward or recognition or some other benefit, but eager to serve others. They are “not a lover of money” (1 Ti. 3:3). 83% (5/6) of the warnings to the church about greed and the love of money are addressed to leaders (1 Tim. 3:3, 8; Tit. 1:7, 11; Heb. 13:5; 1 Pt. 5:2). They gladly serve without reward or recognition. They are outwardly focused, not self-focused. They desire to give, not get.
In this verse “eager” means ready, prepared, passionate and enthusiastically willing to lead. They anticipate the needs of the people and gladly initiate action to address these. They are eager to lead in a way that Paul was eager to preach the good news about Jesus to the Romans (Rom. 1:15). And in the way that the Christians in Corinth were eager to help needy believers in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 9:2).
- An example to follow
The Bible says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them— … not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (5:3). Not as a dictator, tyrant or bully with a desire for power and control. Not like a boss who commands, dominates, intimidates, manipulates and coerces his people. Not like the leaders of Israel who “ruled them harshly and brutally” (Ezek. 34:4). They were interested in themselves and not in the welfare of the people. And not like Diotrephes who loved prominence and expelled from the church those he disagreed with (3 Jn. 9-10). Christian leaders must not abuse their authority.
Recently Hun Sen was re-elected to lead Cambodia in a sham election. The leaders of Cambodia’s main opposition were jailed or exiled, and their party was dissolved and was banned from competing in the election. And independent media in Cambodia is largely silenced. So Cambodia is governed by a dictatorship, not a democracy. And its neighbors (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar) are also governed by repressive regimes.
Instead Christian leaders were to be a model or pattern to follow. Paul told young believers to “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Ti. 4:12). And he told the Corinthians to “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul’s example was not to lord it over others (2 Cor. 1:24). Christian leaders are not to drive God’s people, but to lead them by their examples of mature Christian character. The ancient shepherd walked in front of his sheep and called them to follow him. They showed the sheep which direction to walk.
Jesus told His disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man [Jesus]did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:25-28). Christian leaders are to serve and give, not demand and get. It’s self-giving, not self-serving.
“Those entrusted to you” are the people that God has given the leader to lead. God specially assigns people to leaders. They are the leader’s sphere of service. The leader is to manage these people for Jesus Christ who is the Chief Shepherd (1 Pt. 5:4).
Lessons for us
If we are a Christian leader, let’s be willing and eager to care for people and be an example they can follow. This means not abusing others like Cardinal McCarrick is alleged to have done or any other form of abuse.
If we are under the authority of Christian leaders, let’s accept their leadership, accept their care, and follow their example (1 Pt. 5:5).
Written, July 2018
Serving God and people
Before He ascended the Lord told the apostles, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8TNIV). The church which began in Jerusalem was largely Jewish, but God used Paul to bring the Christian faith to the world around the Mediterranean Sea—it spread across the Roman Empire. He also used Paul to record most of the teachings of the Christian faith. What can we learn from Paul’s life?
Paul’s Christian Life
Paul was a strict Jew; a Pharisee who persecuted the Christian church. He was trained in Jerusalem to understand the Old Testament very well. But there was a dramatic change in his life—he turned around 180 degrees and was persecuted for preaching the good news about Jesus Christ. This happened after he had a spectacular encounter with God.
After this time we see that his life was characterized by travel and suffering. After he was saved, we read that “The Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’” (Acts 9:15-16).
He probably spent about 15 years of his life on his main missionary journeys to modern Turkey, to modern Greece, to Rome as a prisoner and possibly to Spain. Most of his letters were written to churches he established on these journeys.
When his life was threatened, he escaped from the cities of: Damascus, Jerusalem, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica, Berea and Ephesus. But Paul didn’t give up when he faced such opposition; instead he moved to preach in another city. Paul endured much suffering and hardship (2 Cor. 11:23-28) and he was stoned and left for dead at Lystra (Acts 14:19-21). After being miraculously restored he left for Derbe on the next day where he preached and “won a large number of disciples”. Then he returned to Lystra, where he had been stoned, to strengthen and encourage the believers. Clearly, Paul thought that preaching and teaching was more important than his personal safety.
Paul was in prison for at least five years of his life and five of his letters in the Bible were written from prison. When he faced imprisonment he said “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). Paul accepted such punishment, but continued to preach the gospel: “He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:31).
Unique to Paul
Some aspects of Paul’s life were unique. He was an apostle and a prophet, being one of the founders of the church, which was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20).
As the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul preached the gospel at key cities across the Roman Empire (Acts 9:15; Rom. 11:13; Gal .2:8; 1 Tim. 2:7). In particular, Paul was a pioneer preacher and teacher who brought new truths to the early church. The Greek word apostolos meant “sent out” or “ambassador”. In the Bible, an apostle was also one who witnessed the resurrection (Acts 1:22; 4:33). In Paul’s case, he had seen the Lord in a vision that blinded him (1 Cor. 9:1-2). The apostles also performed many miracles (Acts 5:12; 19:11-12; 28:3-6; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3-4). These supernatural powers were mainly used to demonstrate to unbelieving Jews the truth of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:22), for example, Paul didn’t heal himself or Trophimus (2 Cor. 12: 7-9; 2 Tim. 4:20). With the completion of the New Testament in written form, the need for such signs largely passed away.
As a prophet, Paul was given the Christian doctrine before it was put into writing—the gospel he preached he received by revelation from the Lord (Gal. 1:12). Direct revelation is not required today as our doctrine should come from the Bible, particularly the books that were written to the early church.
The remainder of this article considers passages of the Bible which say that Paul was an example for us to imitate. They convey this by using at least one of the following Greek words: mimeomai, a mimic or imitator; tupos, a die or stamp or model; and hupotuposis, a pattern.
An Example of God’s Saving Power
A few years before the end of his life, Paul wrote to Timothy and included his testimony. When writing about his conversion to Christianity he said: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16). Here we see that Paul was an example that God can save the worst of sinners. No matter how bad or frequent one’s sins have been, God has the power to forgive them and reconcile the person to Himself, provided there is repentance. Of course, we are all sinners who need God’s saving power.
His Example to the Thessalonians
On his second missionary journey Paul travelled through what is now Greece visiting Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth. As a result of his preaching, some accepted the gospel and these new believers made up the first churches in these places. While he was in Corinth Paul heard news from Thessalonica and wrote them two letters to encourage and instruct them in the Christian faith.
When Paul commended them for their faith, love and hope, he wrote: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Th. 1:6). This was preceded by the statement: “You know how we lived among you for your sake” (1 Th. 1:5). So they followed Paul’s example, which was evident from how he lived at Thessalonica.
First, he was bold with the gospel: he said “with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in the face of strong opposition” (1 Th. 2:2). Second, he lived with integrity: he was “holy, righteous and blameless” (1 Th. 2:10). This included being honest: “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Th. 2:4). Third, he cared for them: loving them like a mother and instructing them like a father (1 Th. 2:7, 11). Fourth, he was self-supporting, active and not lazy. He worked hard so as not to be a burden on others (1 Th. 2:9). When he warned them about laziness, Paul wrote, “you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example” (2 Th. 3:7-9). Paul earned his own living while he was preaching the gospel. He wrote, “We did this … in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate”. In particular, he worked night and day in order to pay for his food. He also worked to provide for the needs of his colleagues (Acts 20:34).
His Example to the Corinthians
Three years after Paul visited Corinth he received a letter from them informing him of their problems and asking him questions. When Paul wrote back to them, after dealing with the problems of divisions in the local church, he said “I urge you to imitate me” (1 Cor. 4:16). What example is mentioned near this statement?
The previous paragraph says: “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment” (1 Cor. 4:9-13). Here we see that Paul was passionate for Christ (he was willing to be a fool for Christ) and he suffered for Christ (being: hungry, thirsty, in rags, brutally treated, homeless, cursed, persecuted and slandered).
In the following verse we see that Paul practiced what he preached: “He (Timothy) will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17). The Philippians were told this as well, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Phil. 4:9). So, they were to also follow what he taught.
After Paul dealt with the problem of eating meat that had been offered to idols he wrote, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The example mentioned before this statement comprised two important principles for our Christian lives.
First, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Although Paul endured hardships and suffering when he preached the gospel, he persevered because he wanted to honor and obey God. He was God-centred in all he did, even when deciding what to eat and drink.
Second, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:32-33). Paul was not selfish. He was people-centred, respecting the welfare of everyone, both believers and unbelievers. He did nothing that would hinder an unbeliever receiving salvation or that would stumble the faith of a believer.
His Example to the Philippians
About 10 years after being in prison in Philippi, he wrote to them from another prison in Rome. He urged them to “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Phil. 3:17). Once again, his example is evident from the context of this verse.
In the previous verses we see what Paul gave up when he became a Christian: the family religion of Judaism, his attainments and prestige as a Pharisee (Phil. 3:4-15). He now called these things garbage. From his new perspective they were worthless. Because he gave up what everyone else thought was important, he would have been disowned by his family and friends and he was persecuted by fellow Jews. Furthermore, he didn’t want to feel good by keeping a list of rules as he knew that he was accepted by God because of his faith in Christ. He wanted to live as Christ did and this involved suffering. His willingness to suffer for Christ is seen as being a mature view of the Christian faith.
Paul’s goal in life is described as: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). He wanted to leave behind all his attainments which were listed earlier and make progress in his Christian life. His values had changed and he looked forward to heaven.
Then Paul says who not to follow: “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-19). He criticised those who act as though they were going to live on earth forever and never consider their eternal destiny. Their god is their appetite and they boast about things that they should be ashamed of.
His Example to Follow
So, Paul was an example, a model and a pattern for us all to follow. He was saved to show what God can do in a human being. From these passages, we see there are two strands in Paul’s example for us: firstly love for God and secondly love for people. This is like the greatest commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-38).
Paul had a passion for God; he was God-centred, not self-centred; he gave up all his attainments and privileges to live the Christian life; he was willing to suffer for Christ; he was bold with the gospel, and he suffered for preaching to unbelievers; and he did everything for the glory of God.
Paul also had a passion for people: he was self-supporting and not lazy; he lived with integrity; he cared for others; and he respected their consciences.
Lessons For Us
God uses our life experiences. For example, Paul’s travels and imprisonment led him to write many letters to early churches, some of which we can read today in the New Testament. Likewise, we need to let God use our life experiences for His purposes.
Paul was saved to be a pattern to all future believers. Like Timothy and Titus, all believers are Paul’s spiritual children. Are we following his example? Are we following Christ’s example? What are our priorities? Do we have a passion for God? Do we have a passion for people? Do we persevere with these priorities despite the difficulties we may face in life?
Paul told the Philippians, “keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Phil. 3:17). So, God saved us to be a pattern to other believers. Are we an example like Paul? What example are we setting for the next generation?
Let’s beware of the self-centeredness of our times and be willing to suffer for Christ and honor Him in all we do and look at people with compassion though God’s eyes and be bold with the gospel, but treat them with respect.
Written, June 2008
In Part 1 we saw that Paul visited Thessalonica for a short time, and in response to his preaching a church was established. People had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven. They became a good example for all the believers in Greece.
Previously, Paul reminded the Thessalonians of his conduct while he was with them: “You know how we lived among you for your sake” (1 Th. 1:5). His life matched his message; he lived consistently and was not a hypocrite. Let’s learn more about the example set by Paul, Silas and Timothy.
Paul reminded them how he brought the gospel to them by asking them to check their memory with three phrases: “You know” (2:1,5,11); “You remember” (2:9) and “You are witnesses” (2:10). Paul did this to defend himself against criticisms raised by his opponents after he left Thessalonica. They had accused him of such things as heresy, impure motives, craftiness, flattery and greed – not the kind of person one should imitate. They attacked the messenger in a way that also discredited the message. By defending his character, Paul also defended the gospel. God used this incident to provide a written description of the example that the Thessalonians imitated, and we should imitate as well.
“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition” (1 Th. 2:1-2 NIV).
Their visit to Thessalonica had been effective, as there had been a radical change in the lives of those who turned to God from pagan idolatry and formed a Christian congregation.
Before Paul came to Thessalonica, he and Silas were in Philippi where they healed a demon-possessed slave girl. When the girl’s owners realized that they could no longer use her to make money by fortune telling, they had Paul and Silas arrested, stripped of their clothes, flogged severely and thrown into prison (Acts 16:37). Paul and Silas suffered in Philippi, but didn’t quit. Instead, they went to Thessalonica where God gave them courage to preach the gospel in the face of opposition. The Jewish leaders caused a riot and Paul and Silas left the city. In spite of this opposition, Paul was eager to preach these truths: that all had sinned and were separated from God; that Jesus was the only way to heaven; and that salvation was a free gift from God accepted by faith alone (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).
Paul practiced what he believed: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16). Paul wasn’t courageous by nature (1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:5). Where did he get help to face opposition? It was “with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition” (2:2).
“For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness. We were not looking for support from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you” (1 Th. 2:3-6).
Why did Paul persist in preaching the gospel to the Thessalonians despite its unpopularity? Paul says it was not for any of the three reasons given by the opposition. First, Paul was not a false teacher. He didn’t promote his private conviction, but instead preached God’s truth. Second, he didn’t encourage people to indulge in immoral behavior and do whatever they liked. Third, he did not deceive nor delude his hearers with fine words. The Greek word used here describes a lure for catching fish; it was used for any sort of cunning for profit. Paul faced the same accusation of craftiness in Corinth (2 Cor. 12:16).
Then he told why they continued to preach even though it led to trouble: God had entrusted them with the gospel; It was God’s message, not theirs; They were not trying to please people but God; They knew that God’s opinion counted more than that of others. The person who seeks to please God makes decisions based upon the principles found in His Word.
Paul then countered two more reasons given by the opposition – flattery and greed. They never used flattery to influence others or to please people (2:4). They didn’t preach for money, even though they were entitled to support (1 Cor. 9:3-14; 2 Cor. 11:7-11). Personal profit was never Paul’s aim (Acts 20:33). He said that God was his witness as only God can know our motives. And Paul didn’t promise prosperity.
Paul’s Gentle Love
“We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Th. 2:7-8).
After dealing with the accusations against him, Paul gave more information about their behavior in Thessalonica. Paul’s team behaved like a nursing mother caring for her children. They were gentle, protective and loving. As a mother puts the interests of her baby ahead of her own interests, they put the interests of the Thessalonians ahead of their own. As a mother expends energy day and night for her baby, so they spent time and energy shepherding the Thessalonians. They cared about them individually. What a contrast to the false accusations!
Paul’s Hard Work
“Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you” (1 Th. 2:9).
Paul was a hard worker, a tentmaker by trade. He could have relied on the support of others, but he worked to pay his own expenses and not be dependent on them. When he was not preaching, teaching and shepherding new believers, he was making and repairing tents.
In his second letter to Thessalonica he wrote: “We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day … so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this … in order to make ourselves a model for you to imitate” (2 Th. 3:7-9). He worked so he wouldn’t be a burden to the poor and persecuted, and he didn’t want to hinder the gospel message in any way.
“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed” (1 Th. 2:10).
Paul described their conduct in three ways. First, they were “holy” – set apart to God from sin. They had a good relationship with God. Second, they were “righteous” in character and conduct. To the Corinthians he wrote that if drinking wine or eating meat offended anyone, he wouldn’t touch either (1 Cor. 8:13). Also, he told Titus, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good” (Ti. 2:7). Third, they were “blameless” towards God and people. This doesn’t mean they were sinless, but that they had confessed and knew that “God … tests the hearts” (2:4).
Paul set a high standard of integrity. This is the standard of living that we should aim for; not one of wealth, but one of integrity. It is the pattern of life of those who desire to please God.
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory” (1 Th. 2:11-12).
Paul not only cared like a mother, but he also coached like a father. In that culture the wife did most of the nurturing and the husband was responsible for the training. Paul’s goal was that they “live lives worthy of God.” This training was one-on-one discipleship: “We dealt with each of you.” A father coaching and training his children would include three elements: “encouraging, comforting and urging.” True discipleship takes time and patience. In order to grow to spiritual maturity, a new Christian needs all of these elements of discipleship. For the trainer to know what a trainee needs, he needs to get to know him personally.
What can we learn from Paul? First, he was an apostle. While we don’t have apostles today, as they were the founders of the Christian Church (Eph. 2:20), we do have elders to provide leadership in the local church. Second, Paul was a preacher, particularly to the Gentiles. The mission to spread the gospel is a responsibility for all believers, especially those with the gift of evangelism. Third, Paul was a teacher who wrote a significant portion of the New Testament. Elders, preachers and teachers can learn from Paul who said he was a servant to the Church (Col. 1:24-26). He worked hard to bring people to the Christian faith and to help them grow in it.
Is our lifestyle drawing people to Christ? Let’s follow Paul’s example and live lives worthy of God. His key message was the gospel. His motive was to please God. His manner of living was one of courage, gentleness, hard work and holiness. He showed love to new believers. He was bold, honest, full of integrity, and a toiler. His speech and behavior brought glory to God. The Thessalonians became model believers by imitating Paul’s example. Whether we are elders, preachers, teachers or servants, we can all imitate Paul.
Published, February 2009