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Principles of Church Leadership by John P. Lathrop

Though the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned in the texts there are biblical passages that seem to indicate that the Spirit gave leaders insight into various situations. For example, in Acts 5 Peter was able to see through the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira. Later in Acts we find Peter able to read the heart condition of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:20-23). In all of these cases mentioned above the leaders had to be open and sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

Leaders today also need to be open to the Holy Spirit. If we will make ourselves available to Him I believe that He will actively empower and guide us. At times we may be very aware that He is working in and through us and at other times we may not. The important thing is to leave room for Him to work in and through us.

So how does one cultivate sensitivity to the Holy Spirit? This is an important question. While we should not create a rigid checklist for this I think that there are some things that we can do. First, we can pray and ask Him to come. I ask the Holy Spirit to empower the preparation and delivery of the sermons I preach. I have also prayed and asked the Lord to edit my sermon even as I am preaching it, having me emphasize what He wants emphasized. I have also prayed that the Lord would lead and guide me when I have a counseling session with someone. In addition to praying we also need to make time to listen for His promptings.

Equipping People for Service

As we saw earlier church leadership is a ministry of service. However, leaders are not to keep ministry for themselves. This practice is both unbiblical and counter-productive. One of the functions of church leadership is to help train or equip other believers for ministry. This leadership responsibility is clearly set forth by Paul in Ephesians 4:11-13. In this passage Paul teaches that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (elders), and teachers are to equip other believers for ministry. This ties in with the doctrine that is commonly referred to as “the priesthood of all believers.” The Bible refers to all believers in Jesus in priestly language (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6).

Equipping people for ministry makes perfect sense. The fact that the Bible tells leaders to equip the saints should be reason enough for us to do it but there are some very practical reasons as well. First, the Lord has given the church great responsibilities. The responsibilities that He has entrusted to us concern both the people of the church and the people of the world. He has called believers to minister to one another. There are a number of “one another” passages in the New Testament. For example, we are to accept one another (Rom. 15:7), love one another (John 13:34), and serve one another (Gal. 5:13). When we gather together, we are to encourage one another and urge each other on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25). Believers are called to care for each other. Depending on how many people are in your local church this could be a pretty sizeable task.

In addition to caring for those who are part of the family of believers (Gal. 6:10) we are also to care for unbelievers. One of the primary responsibilities that we have to them is to present the gospel to them (Matt.28:18-20; Mark 16:15). In view of the number of people that are to be served in the church and the world we need all of the help that we can get. Equipping the saints for ministry is one strategy for helping to meet the needs of peoples that we are called to serve.

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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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