#346 Paul’s Leadership Pipeline: Release Them

March 22, 2023

Paul deliberately called a team of emerging leaders around him and they traveled together, learning and developing as they journeyed from one place to another. As we observed in the previous issue there was a time of sending Timothy and others out and back again, stretching and expanding their leadership capacity.   

But later, Timothy had grown and matured as a leader. He likely was imprisoned for some time (see Hebrews 13:23) and then released. Now Paul sent him to Ephesus to be the pastor at that church.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer (1 Timothy 1:3, NIV).

What was happening regarding Paul’s leadership pipeline? He had chosen Timothy, shown him how to lead, empowered him and stretched him. Now it was time to release Timothy to do the work he had been trained to do. This time Paul sent him alone for a longer-term assignment. Timothy was ready for a new role and Paul released him to do this work. Church history names Timothy as the bishop of Ephesus. Serving leaders observe from Paul what happens when leaders are released to new roles.

Releasing leaders develops capacity.     

Up to this point in Timothy’s growth and development he was learning leadership with Paul or with others on the team. Now Paul released Timothy to work on his own as another step to multiply leaders for the work. As Paul released Timothy to work in Ephesus he could also send Titus to do similar work in Crete (see Titus 1:5).  Paul strategically developed personal capacity and capacity on his team by releasing leaders to work on their own.

Some leaders stunt the growth of those under them by failing to fully release them to work on their own. But serving leaders realize that every developing leader will need to be released at some point to fully develop their own capacity. This does not mean leaving them alone as we will see in the next issue, but it does mean releasing them to do the work.

Releasing leaders develops competence.   

After years of training under Paul, Timothy is now in charge of the church Paul planted. All that he had learned over these years would now be sharpened and refined because he was in charge. He would hear from Paul occasionally through letters, but he had to make decisions and work with people. He was now the leader. There’s nothing like being in charge to develop competence as a leader!

Some leaders try to develop competence through training or lectures. There is certainly a place and time for that, but serving leaders realize that there is also a time to release a leader to fly on their own.

Releasing leaders develops confidence.  

Paul’s deep trust in Timothy helped develop Timothy’s confidence.  Imagine Timothy arriving at Ephesus, this time not as a companion of Paul but as the leader of the church. The first time someone called him “pastor” he likely wondered if they were talking to the wrong person! Paul wrote later and encouraged him not to let others look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12). But as Paul released Timothy into this role, he gained confidence in his own gifting and calling to do the work. Some leaders fail to release because they are not confident others can do the work. Serving leaders develop others until they can be released and inspire confidence in them as they do so.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Am I usually too quick to release leaders or too slow? What would those around me say in response to this question? What do I need to change to be more balanced in this area?
  • What leaders am I currently developing and what is the next step in their growth? Which one(s) are ready to be released? (Reflect on what this means for each person).
  • What specific steps can I take to develop confidence in those whom I have been developing, especially in those who I have or will soon release?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Paul developed his leadership pipeline by following them.