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Principles of Church Leadership by John P. Lathrop

Leaders today also need to demonstrate that they have a servant’s heart. They can do this in a number of ways. They could provide transportation to people who need rides to and from church (I am not suggesting that this is something that only the pastor should do), they could help load the truck when someone is moving, or bring food to a family during a time of need, whether after surgery or during a time of bereavement. However it is expressed, servanthood needs to be evident in the Christian leader. This holds true in the church setting as well as outside of it.

Empowered and Directed by the Spirit

Leadership in the church is not an entirely human activity (at least it is not supposed to be). While a person’s personality, will, education, and a host of other factors go into making up the man or woman of God, these should not be the only elements influencing the leader. Church leaders should be people of the Holy Spirit. The necessity of this should be clear from the New Testament. There are a number of passages that indicate that the Holy Spirit is essential to effective ministry.

The Holy Spirit is important for leaders (and others) in building the church numerically. Jesus taught this. In Acts 1:4 He told His disciples not to leave the city of Jerusalem until they received the gift that the Father had promised. The reason that they were to wait was given a few verses later; they would be given power to be witnesses to Jesus after they were baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, 8). In Acts 2 we find that all of the disciples received the promise and were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). After they had received this experience Peter got up and preached. His ministry was powerful, those who heard him were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37), as a result 3,000 people came to the Lord. This shows us the importance of the Holy Spirit in evangelism. Other texts that speak of leaders being empowered by the Spirit while proclaiming the gospel are Acts 4:8; 1 Corinthians 2:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and 1 Peter 1:12. It is worth noting here that these texts speak of ministry in different areas of the ancient world. In all of these passages the Holy Spirit is seen to have been involved in instances of effective evangelism.

The Holy Spirit is also important in giving guidance to leaders. He can do this with regard to the ministry of evangelism. In Acts 8, Philip the evangelist (see Acts 21:8) was directed by the Holy Spirit to go up to the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch. In Acts 10, we find the Spirit directing Peter to go to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:19). In Acts 13, the Spirit sets Barnabas and Saul (Paul) apart for a special work. This special task was what we have come to call a missionary journey, which brought the gospel to many cities. This seems to be a regular aspect of the Spirit’s work, not only does He empower for ministry but He also gives direction to the proper field.

The guidance of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the ministry of evangelism. In Acts 15 we find that the church leaders gathered in Jerusalem felt that the Holy Spirit had helped them make a difficult decision regarding a problem that was affecting the church at that time (Acts 15:28-29).

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Winter 2012

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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