Recently, I was part of a group of national leaders looking at Acts 11:19-30 and Acts 13:1-3 in the Bible. Our assignment was to consider the environment that these 1st century leaders created during the early stages of the Church.
These passages follow on the heels of the persecution of Stephen in Jerusalem. They also follow the resulting persecution of the early Church and the miraculous conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. In God’s sovereignty this was how the good news of Jesus death, burial and resurrection began to spread outside of Jerusalem. Now the Church was beginning to be extended to Cyprus and Syria. Acts 11 tells us that many were turning to the Lord, wherever the good news was being declared.
Two leaders arise out of a need to establish these new Christ followers in the regions beyond Judea. Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus (the same person who was converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus in Acts 9) move to the forefront as missionary leaders for the Church in its infancy.
There are four tangible elements that can be discerned from this biblical episode towards the right environment for growth and effectiveness.
Leaders Help Create Change
In Acts 10 the good news of Jesus moves beyond the Jewish community to the home of a Roman soldier. Now we see in Acts 11 how that same good news is being broadly proclaimed to many Gentiles throughout Antioch. This is a significant paradigm shift. This is huge missional change. The people of God now began to include the Gentiles. Racial and ethnic dividing lines had been broken.
Leaders help initiate, lead, and sustain necessary change. If something doesn’t need change then you do not need a true leader. God, in His infinite wisdom, uses leaders to create change as a part of an effective environment for growth.
Leaders Affirm The Work of God
The church leaders in Jerusalem heard about what God was doing in Antioch. They sent Barnabas to inquire and validate the reality of life transformation that was taking place because of the gospel. Barnabas did just that. He affirmed the work of God in Antioch, and by doing so validated for the rest of the Church the work of God as it moves away from its cultural roots.
Leaders need to give affirmation to the effective work around them so that others are blessed and faith is expanded by all who see and hear. We can forget the power of encouraging words near and far. Affirmation injects confidence and courage into the missional environment. Timely affirmation is a critical piece of the right environment that leaders must help to create.
Leaders Add Resources to the Work of God
Barnabas began to realize that the Church in Antioch was growing so fast that more leadership was needed. In particular, more teaching was needed so that these new Christ followers could be established in the faith. Barnabas found Saul (Paul) and brought him to Antioch to meet the need. Barnabas and Saul remained in Antioch for a whole year to engage in teaching these new believers.
Leaders readily seek out more resources to meet the greatest needs of their followers. Sometimes that resource may be more or better tools. Sometimes it may involve more funding. This time it meant bringing in another leader to share the load . . . one who was well equipped to meet the current need. Appropriate resources are necessary for a leadership and missionary environment to flourish.
Leaders Release Resources to Further the Work of God
In Acts 13 we learn that new leaders have been raised up within the fledgling church at Antioch. The work must continue to spread. There were more villages, towns, and cities where the good news had not been heard. The gospel is always missional. God’s Spirit communicated to these church leaders that it was time to send Barnabas and Saul out to extend the work. Without hesitation they did so. Saul and Barnabas were the right leaders to be on the front lines of this new endeavor. More leaders had been raised up for the work of sustaining what God had started in Antioch. It was time to release Saul and Barnabas towards the next frontier.
In God’s economy resources are never meant to be hoarded. They are to be wisely stewarded towards His calling and service. Sometimes this includes releasing your best to help ensure the ongoing work of Christ. This creates a healthy environment for the sending entity, those who are being sent, and for the work ahead.
Leaders always create some type of environment wherever they go.
That is the nature of leadership.
What type of environment are you seeking to create?