The Act of Choosing Leaders: People Development

May 13, 2020

We have already looked at several biblical ways that leaders were chosen in the book of Acts. Some leaders were chosen by divine commissioning. Others were chosen by the people while some were simply appointed by the founders. In some cases, there was a mix of different methods. Now we will examine a final way that leaders were chosen, best illustrated from the life of Paul. “He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer” (Acts 19:22).

What was happening in this situation? Paul was raising up leaders and developing Timothy and Erastus. Then he sent them to lead in Macedonia. Servant leaders can learn from Paul to choose leaders by developing people.

The process of choosing by people development. How did Paul choose leaders by developing people? Paul’s DNA included a passion for church planting but the fuel for his amazing impact was his pattern of multiplication and people development. Everywhere he went he went with a team of people that he was developing. He chose leaders from those he had developed. This process of developing and commissioning people as leaders is one of the reasons for the Apostle Paul’s lasting influence on the church.

It appears that Paul was not developing people for specific positions, he simply developed people, then chose them for roles that suited their calling. (See Acts 18:19 for another example.) Some may argue that they were not given official roles or positions of leadership. But Paul sent them with the authority to lead and act on his behalf.

Servant leaders see the process of people development as a part of their call from God. They recognized that our world needs leaders and they seek to develop them with or without positions. Developing others is at the heart of servant leadership.

The power of choosing by people development. This method of choosing leaders has several advantages. This is perhaps the most proactive approach to appointing leaders. The other methods we have examined require a leader to be present and then he or she is chosen.

Paul didn’t wait for leaders to develop, he invested in their lives! As he developed leaders, he had a group from which to select leaders needed for a specific location or assignment. This way of choosing leaders provides much time for the potential leader to be well known by the current leader. No interview is needed, they have been working closely together for a long time! There is a strong relational bond between Paul and those he developed.

Servant leaders acknowledge the power of choosing leaders from those they have developed. They see the way this can multiply leaders for God’s purposes, and they follow Paul’s example by investing in developing those around them.

 The pitfalls of choosing by people development. There can also be challenges with this approach. Some leaders may develop people only to fill their own agendas or to accomplish their own visions. This is ultimately a selfish motive and may lead to unhealthy patterns of relating. Another danger is that a leader may not look beyond the persons he or she knows personally when selecting a leader. They may overlook others with great potential. Servant leaders wisely avoid the pitfalls of choosing by developing people as they follow the example of Paul.

Servant leaders see the option of choosing by people development as one of the ways God can direct the building of their team. But they continually seek God’s direction for the process of selecting leaders. They seek to follow His direction in every situation and are careful to recognize that at different times, God may lead in a way that is not their preferred method. They acknowledge that there is more than one biblical way to choose leaders.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How have my previous experiences and the thinking of those around me shaped my view on whether or not choosing by people development is a good way to choose leaders?
  • How likely am I to use choosing by people development to choose a leader? If I am very likely to use it, have I consciously avoided the pitfalls of this method? If I am unlikely to use it, in what ways might God be calling me to consider this method as a practical option for my situation?
  • In what situations might choosing by people development be the best choice for me to choose leaders? In what situations might choosing by people development be a poor choice for me?        

(To fully comprehend the methods Paul used to develop others, there will be a future series on this subject.)

In the next issue, we’ll examine The ABC’s of Transition!