January 25, 2023
Paul chose Timothy to be a traveling companion and future leader. But even before they left Lystra Paul recognized that some preparation needed to be done before Timothy was ready to travel with the team.
Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek (Acts 16:3, NIV).
Most modern leaders don’t consider circumcision as a part of their leadership development program! But we can learn much from Paul’s example about how serving leaders prepare those chosen to be on their team.
Serving leaders prepare others by exposing the cost.
Timothy certainly experienced physical pain in the act of circumcision and at one level that accomplished Paul’s objective. But at a deeper level, Paul was teaching Timothy that leadership involves pain and sacrifice. Before Timothy took the first step on the journey, he needed to count the cost and Paul wanted to make sure Timothy had some “skin in the game.” He was also checking Timothy’s motives. Did Timothy just want an adventure and the trip of a lifetime? Or was he ready to pay the price of leadership? Perhaps Paul had learned a painful lesson from his experience with another young leader, Mark, who went on the first journey. Mark turned back when things got tough. (See Acts 13:5, 13; 15:36-41) In any case, Paul ensured that Timothy understood that leadership is a journey that carries a cost.
Some leaders try to encourage emerging leaders to step into leadership by focusing on the perks of leadership and emphasize the rewards. But serving leaders put the pain on the line and realize that if the new leader won’t cross the threshold, they are not ready for leadership. They might assign a difficult task to see whether the emerging leader rises to the challenge with a good attitude. Serving leaders prepare others by exposing the cost.
Serving leaders prepare others by eliminating obstacles.
If Paul allowed Timothy, a Jew, to be uncircumcised, it would be offensive to all Jews. While Paul adamantly argued that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised, he did not want Timothy’s ability to influence others to be hindered. So, he eliminated that obstacle for Timothy who was likely oblivious to how critical it was. Some leaders ignore obstacles or expect the young leader to learn how to overcome by themselves. But serving leaders look for ways to remove obstacles. While pain is important to confirm motives, serving leaders seek to eliminate any obstacles that will hinder the effective work of the emerging leader.
Serving leaders prepare others by equipping for success.
By requiring Timothy to be circumcised Paul was equipping him for success as a leader. If Timothy would not have been circumcised he would have been unable to enter the synagogues where Paul always went first in his strategic church planting efforts. And he would not have been able later to effectively lead churches with Jewish believers. So, with circumcision, Paul equipped Timothy to succeed.
Some leaders focus on their own success and see their team as a means to help. But serving leaders focus on what their team needs and equips them to succeed. Serving leaders measure their success by the success of others.
For further reflection and discussion:
- Think of a person you are considering as a potential team member, or a current member you are considering for a higher responsibility. What actions can you take to help them count the cost of that change?
- Paul used pain to expose the cost of leadership. But he also removed obstacles for Timothy. How do you decide when it is helpful to allow some pain and when an obstacle needs to be removed for those you serve?
- Identify one younger leader on your team. What is an obstacle they face and how can you remove it for them?
- In what ways are you setting your team up for success? What additional actions can you take to ensure that they will be successful?
Until next time, yours on the journey,
Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll examine how Paul loved those in his leadership pipeline.