Successful Godly Leadership Not Always Evidenced By Secular Success
Successful Godly leadership never comes easy. Too many obstacles tend to hinder the work of discipleship, block the path to service, blind the eyes of the leaders and the congregation, and to cripple the ministry of the full gospel. Be it known all too well: If Satan is to destroy your local church assembly he must establish a sense of failed church leadership. Thus any bible study directed toward church leaders must address the nature of perceived spiritual weaknesses as well as that of perceived spiritual strengths.
We know that gifts of the Spirit enable Christian apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, elders and all servants of the Most High God with unique abilities designed to enhance the effectiveness of their labors. However, we also know that the Christian world often associates effective leadership with perceived success, and therefore a lack of perceived success seems to suggest a failure in Godly leadership.
This bible study for church leaders is crafted to identify successful Christian leadership in a world wherein a failing work of labor is considered a false work of labor. I want to define some of the points that do not prove failure in church leadership. For if success or failure is measured by secular expectations, pride can easily become a core component of your Christian walk. But if success is measured in accordance with your obedience to God, confidence will reign in your life, lies will cease, and the gospel will prevail – even in a ministry that seems crushed by the resistance.
…. Bible Study Question – Do signs and wonders demonstrate church authority?
Paul the Apostle, An Example of Successful Godly Leadership
Considered by many to be the greatest apostle of all, Paul of Tarsus provides an excellent example of what it means to be a successful New Covenant minister of the gospel. Let’s examine some of his successes:
1) Poor Financial Support
More often than not, Paul lacked sufficient financial support during his missionary labors (Phil. 4:15 ESV). Successful Godly leadership is expected to reap prosperity as well as abundant financial support. Thus Paul might be termed a man who lacked faith that God would provide competent mission support. Yet rather than accepting the gifts of man, this apostle often chose to labor with his own hands so that he might present a pure gospel that could not be declared compromised by a desire for financial gain.
“For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. (1-Thess. 2:9 KJV).”
… Bible Study question – Through what odd resource did God provide for Elijah’s financial needs?
2) Alienated From Other Christian Leaders
In the modern world of successful Christian leadership, Paul would be charged for speaking loveless, brash and uncompromising views concerning existing Christian beliefs, customs, and denominational traditions. For to him, successful Godly leadership speaks for God rather than men. Yet such a leader is often called before a special church council and branded a troublemaker and a rebel. In this modern church world, preventing a split in the church has become more important than coming to right terms with the thoughts, intents and purposes of God.
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter,” (Acts 15: 1,2, 6 KJV).
… Bible Study question – Name three prophets who were alienated from other church leaders.
3) Incorrectly Trained For Successful Godly Leadership
Had Paul lived in this modern Christian society, some would say that he lacked training from the local denominational “university,” that he lacked the necessary skills for successful Christian leadership. He may have attended the best non-Christian “universities,” but he lacked accredited seminary backing for working among modern Christian churches. In deed, this strange and mislead apostle seems to have gained his Christian education at an out-back university wherein he claims to have heard from God. Yet his teachings do not rightly reflect the denominational doctrines of any acceptable Christian university.
“But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus,” (Gal. 1: 15-17 ASV).
… Bible Study question – By what method did God prepare Moses for his leadership task?
4) A Sordid and Violent Past
Already burdened with the history of a violent past (Gal. 1:13, Acts 9: 1,13), Paul’s successful Godly leadership also included various jail sentences. He was a troublemaker, known for causing a riot among Ephesus businessmen. For more on this aggressive and unchristian behavior, see the “Riot at Ephesus” (Acts 19:21-41) as discussed by bible study leader John MacArthur.
… Bible Study question – Name three ancient Godly men who had to overcome a sordid and violent past.
5) Lacked Effective Relational Skills
Perhaps your local church could offer group counseling to this apostle. Paul is clearly troubled by a spirit of frustration and anger, malcontent, and wickedness. He obviously has no concept of what means successful Christian leadership. Counseling and guidance from reliable and established church leaders could help him break the pattern of being an ineffective witness for the Gospel. After all, his rash behavior has already caused him to endure several beatings from angry mobs. Let us help him work on his relational skills.
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,” (2-Cor. 11:24-25).
… Bible Study question – Name two prophets who were smacked in the face for speaking truth.
6) Non-Cooperative Successful Christian Leadership
What kind of successful Christian leadership cannot manage the young ministers that follow his or her footpaths (John Mark)? What spiritual failure is it that causes the successful Godly leadership of an apostle to resist cooperation with his fellow ministers (Barnabas)? And there is word from Alexander and Hymenaeus claiming that this spiritual leader literally cast them out of church and the fellowship. Where is the love, the tolerance, and the patience that is necessary to win lost souls into the hands of Christ? This man’s failures seem never to cease.
Hey, this is a bible study for church leaders. Look up some of this own your own. In this list of things that identify why Paul had such a fruitless ministry, we could also mention:
- Long Winded Preaching
- Poor Record Keeping
- Sorry Organization Skills
- Failure To Adopt Modern Methods
- Fruitless Labors
- A Lack of Self-Confidence
- A Boastful Tongue
- AND Much More.
…Bible Study question – Why would some readers consider Paul an arrogant Christian?
In The Mist Of Successful Godly Leadership
Paul stands not alone in this seemingly reverse understanding of success. Browse the Scriptures. Every prophet endured a form of success that seemed for the time to be a great failure. In the Hebrews “Hall of Fame,” we read of Godly leaders who were mocked, stoned, tortured, scourged, imprisoned, and yea even sawn asunder. Where in is success if you must wander in sheepskins, accept affliction and torment, live in the “caves of the earth,” and battle temptation day in and day out?
No wonder modern Christians are losing America to the unbelievers. We have forgotten the true meaning of successful Godly leadership. Our typical bible study for church leaders establishes success by numbers rather than truth. Rather than identifying sin, we cater to the sinner. Rather than risk rejection, we compromise the message.
Observe, the following. It is one of Scripture’s greatest examples of successful Christian leadership.
“Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? (2-Cor. 11:22-29)
If successful Godly leadership is you primary goal, then stop glorying in your secular victories. If you preach well, then do so with a humble spirit, rejoicing in your infirmities rather than in your pride.
Springboard for this lesson comes from the article “Lesson 51: Godly Leadership (Acts 20:17-21)” as presented by Steven J. Cole, pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship in Flagstaff, Arizona.