#343 Paul’s Leadership Pipeline: Show Them

February 8, 2023

We have observed how Paul chose and prepared Timothy, one of the emerging leaders on his team. As Paul invited Timothy to join him on a leadership journey, he was beginning a deliberate process of showing Timothy how to lead. They would walk together, work together, talk together and share life together. By his example, Paul would show Timothy what leadership looked like. Many years later, near the end of his life, Paul wrote these words to Timothy confirming that he had accomplished this task:  

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings (2 Timothy 3:10-11a, NIV).  

After many years Paul was able to say to Timothy that he had shown him these nine elements of his life. Paul’s life was an open book for Timothy. He demonstrated the good and the painful parts of leadership. He is able to tell Timothy that he knew everything about him as a leader. Serving leaders learn from Paul’s example the importance of showing those they lead the ups and downs of the leadership journey.  

Serving leaders show the way.  

Some elements of leadership require instruction and Paul spoke about “my teaching.” But Paul went beyond instruction to demonstration. He showed Timothy his “way of life.”  By his example he showed Timothy the way to plant churches in new locations, the way to lead in crisis situations, the way to deal with adversities, the way to raise up other leaders, etc. Paul understood that more leadership ability is caught than taught.  Some leaders tell others what to do without demonstrating how to do it. But serving leaders show others; they model the way. This does not mean that a serving leader needs to do every task, but they are willing to roll up their sleeves and show the team the way it is done. They recognize that developing other leaders requires showing them how it is done.  

Serving leaders show the purpose.  

Paul’s modeling to Timothy included not only his external actions, but his purpose. He was able to tell Timothy that he knew “my purpose.” Paul’s purpose was the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ Timothy undoubtedly heard over and over the story of Paul’s conversion, of God’s call on his life and his passion to reach the Gentile world. Timothy helped Paul write Colossians where Paul says his purpose is to “present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Paul made it clear to Timothy why they were doing what they were doing. Some leaders only demonstrate how a task should be done. But serving leaders explain the purpose of that task and tie all leadership actions to the purpose or mission of the organization.  

Serving leaders show the cost.   

Paul not only showed Timothy the positive elements of leadership, but he also revealed the cost of leadership as he showed Timothy that leadership involved “endurance”, “persecutions”, and “sufferings.” Timothy personally witnessed the price Paul paid for his leadership and he likely experienced a time in prison as well. (See Hebrews 13:23). Some leaders call others by revealing the benefits of a role or position without disclosing the costs. But serving leaders learn the importance of showing those they led the ups and downs of the leadership journey from Paul’s example.  By showing the cost they prepare the emerging leaders to have the fortitude to finish the journey.  

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • Are there areas that I tell others what to do but have not shown them how to do it? Does my leadership balance my teaching and showing? Would those who follow me say they know about my “way of life” or do I hide elements of who I am from those I lead?  
  • Is the purpose of the organization I lead clear to all who follow? Do I clearly tie the purpose of my organization to every leadership action I request others to do? In what way can I improve in this area?  
  • Do I make the cost of leadership clear to those I am developing as leaders or do I tend to hide my own pain and struggles? How can I be appropriately honest about what leadership costs?         

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Paul developed his leadership pipeline by empowering them. 

#342 Paul’s Leadership Pipeline: Prepare Them

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.

Paul’s Leadership Pipeline: Choose them

January 11, 2023

Do you ever wonder what will happen to your work after you are gone? All leaders grapple with this question and either answer with intentionality or ignore it to their peril. In this series we’ll look at the Apostle Paul’s answer to this question and the way he developed a leadership pipeline to ensure that his work would continue after he was gone.

Perhaps more than any other single person, Paul’s masterful leadership led to the rapid expansion of the Christian faith throughout the Roman world. He didn’t work alone; he developed a leadership pipeline that multiplied his impact. One of the best known of these is Timothy, the leader that was ultimately left in charge of the church Paul planted in Ephesus. In this series we’ll examine how Paul developed Timothy and learn how all serving leaders can develop a leadership pipeline.  First, we’ll look at how Paul chose Timothy and what we can learn from his methods.  

 1Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 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 16:1-3, NIV).

Choosing leaders requires open eyes

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived. Paul knew that the continuation of his work would require others, so he was looking for people that could join him on his journey. His eyes were open and as he observed the disciples in Lystra he saw Timothy. Some leaders focus only on their own vision and don’t think strategically about what will happen after they are gone. They fail to see what others can contribute. But serving leaders recognize that since their work brings great value to the world, they need God’s help to find others who will build on their foundation and carry out their great purpose.

Choosing leaders requires a commitment to partnership  

Paul saw Timothy and “wanted to take him along on the journey.”  He had a desire, not simply to have an extra worker on the team, but he was looking for a partner on the journey. Paul was committed to a partnership that would equip Timothy to grow and develop his own leadership capacity. He recognized that developing leaders was something that would require significant investments of time, training, and teaching before the results would begin to multiply. Some leaders seek people to help but are not taking them along on the journey. They simply want people that will help them accomplish their vision. Serving leaders choose others to be partners with them on the journey and are ready to invest deeply in that person.

Choosing leaders requires careful evaluation

The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him [Timothy]. Paul was careful to evaluate Timothy before calling him to join the team. He had likely heard about Timothy before he arrived in Derbe and perhaps had even met him on the previous visit with Barnabas (see Acts 14:6-23). On that visit he had established a church where Timothy’s mother and grandmother became a part. In any case, he listened carefully to what others, who knew Timothy better, said about him. He evaluated his reputation with others and also considered the advantages and disadvantages of his heritage. Some leaders call others because they are available but serving leaders use prayerful evaluation before asking others to join their team.  Then they are ready to build their leadership pipeline by choosing a leader to join.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Are my eyes continually open to see potential leaders around me? What impact does this have on what will happen to my work after I am gone?
  • Do I approach my leadership with the perspective that Paul had, desiring to take others along on the journey? Or do I see my leadership as my own journey? How does this impact the way I see others around me?    
  • What is my process for evaluating those I call to join my team? In what ways can this be strengthened? Do I listen well enough to what others say about the person I am considering?       

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll look at how Paul prepared the leaders he chose.

#340 Joseph, Serving with Silence

December 21, 2022

This Christmas season believers all over the world reflect on the amazing story of God entering our world as baby. It is a story filled with angels, dreams, miracles, and awe. At the center of the story we find Joseph and Mary on a journey to Bethlehem, finding a stable in which to spend the night when Jesus was born. While there are so many facets to this story and so many leadership lessons, let’s look at Joseph’s role in this story. Amazingly, we don’t have any recorded words from this man. He served with silence! (Read his story in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 2.)  This is not to imply that he didn’t speak, only that nothing he said is recorded. His silence challenges all serving leaders to learn to serve with silence.

Serving with silence enhances listening.

Joseph’s silence encouraged him to listen and to listen well! When he was considering how to respond to his pregnant fiancé he listened as God spoke to him in a dream. (Matthew 1:18-21). It would have been much harder for him to hear God’s voice if he had loudly declared what he was intending to do. The plan was already in his mind, but had not come out of his mouth and he was able to listen and change his plans. He listened again when his dream instructed them to flee to Egypt to avoid the wrath of king Herod. He modeled well the words that James, possibly his son, would write later, “Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear” (James 1:19, MSG). Perhaps James learned this by observing his father.

Many leaders focus on what they say and spend more time speaking than listening. Josef teaches serving leaders that silence enhances listening. Serving leaders recognize that when they are speaking they are not listening.

Serving with silence elevates others.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:9-11a, NIV). Joseph was not even mentioned in the visit of the wise men! And in many other places Mary is named first and honored more. Joseph often acted as a strong leader. He took Mary to be his wife after hearing from the angel. He named Jesus and presented Him in the temple. He guided the family on international journeys. But he did it with few words, none recorded for us. His silence elevated others!

Many leaders elevate themselves by talking a lot. Serving leaders learn that when they are silent about themselves, others can shine. They are quick to give credit to others on their teams instead of drawing attention to themselves. They recognize that speaking often elevates the speaker while silence elevates others.

Serving with silence encourages humility.

After the story of Jesus in the temple at 12 years old, we don’t hear any further mention of Joseph. Mary is sometimes mentioned before Joseph and sometimes he is omitted completely. Joseph served with silence and did not protest about the lack of credit for his leadership. This silence reflects his humility. His ability to listen and elevate others shows the humble heart of a serving leader.

Many leaders speak and make sure that everyone around knows what they have accomplished and the impact they have made in the world. But serving leaders quietly and often silently lead with humility. Silence encourages humility by keeping leaders in a less visible place.

The silence of Joseph is a timely example to all serving leaders. His example certainly does not imply that we should not speak. But he challenges us to serve more by speaking less.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How often do I lead with silence? What does the life of Joseph call me to practice in my leadership?
  • Am I quicker to speak or to listen? How does that impact my leadership? What can I do to strengthen my ability to listen well?
  • Are there ways recently that I have elevated myself by speaking? What can I do to elevate others more consistently?
  • What does the amount of speaking I do reflect about my heart? Does it reflect pride or humility?                     

Merry Christmas to each of you! It’s a privilege to write these reflections and I’m grateful that you read them. Give a gift to a friend by forwarding this to them and encouraging them to subscribe!

CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR YOU! Center for Serving Leadership has a special Christmas gift, a free offer on our Serving Leader Short Course, normally priced at $99, now FREE until Jan. 2, 2023. Click here to enroll.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll begin a series on Paul’s leadership pipeline.

#339 Serving with Authority: Release It

December 7, 2022

Serving leaders don’t keep authority, they release it! They follow the example of Jesus whose final words were about authority.   

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).

 Jesus was able to say truthfully, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  But as soon as He said these words, He released His authority to the disciples. As He released authority, He provided a powerful example for all serving leaders.

Releasing authority implies trust.     

For Jesus to release His authority to this small group of people implied a deep trust in them and in His own investment in their lives. We are certainly aware of the weaknesses and failures of this team. Jesus did not overlook their faults. Yet, He trusted them to carry out His mission in the world. Some leaders see their authority as something to be leveraged but not released. They insist on doing all the work themselves. They don’t invest in the growth and maturity of their team. They expect perfection in their followers before releasing authority. But serving leaders begin with the desire to release authority as quickly and fully as appropriate. They look for opportunities to help their team grow up and assume more and more responsibility. They expect some mistakes along the way and address failures. But they serve by trusting those they lead. They see potential and desire to see that potential developed and released.  Serving leaders serve by trusting those they lead.

Releasing authority involves includes accountability.  

Although Jesus spoke these words as He was leaving the earth, He also reminded the disciples “I am with you always…” This was both a comforting presence as well as a reminder that while His authority was released, there was also accountability built into that release. They were expected to go and “make disciples…baptizing…teaching.”  Jesus did not release authority for them to do whatever they wished. He provided clear instructions and would hold them accountable. Some leaders release authority with no accountability and see this as the highest level of trust. But serving leaders include accountability as they release authority. They make clear the expectations of what authority is being given and what accountability is expected. They serve by releasing authority but including accountability.    

Releasing authority insures multiplication.  

The way Jesus released authority made it possible for His followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.” He built multiplication into his delegation. Some leaders work harder to grow their organization. But serving leaders ensure growth and multiplication by releasing authority to those they lead. They recognize that if they insist on doing all the work, all the work will never be done. Serving leaders insure multiplication by releasing authority.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What level of trust do I have in the key leaders on my team? What do I do to demonstrate my belief in them? Am I able to delegate authority as quickly as possible to those I lead?
  • When I delegate authority do I clarify what level of accountability is also expected? Do I appropriately adjust the levels of accountability as my team members grow and mature?
  • Does my leadership provide maximum multiplication potential for my organization? In what ways am I leading to encourage growth and multiplication of leadership roles?
  • Reflect on this series on authority (issues 336-339). In what way can I share these principles with those I lead? Click here to download a PDF of the entire series.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll reflect on the Christmas season.  

#338 Serving with Authority: Use It

November 23, 2022

Serving leaders don’t avoid authority, they use it to serve! They welcome authority as a way to build others up, move the organization in the direction it needs to go, etc. Paul, as we saw in the last issue, used authority to build others up. Now, let’s reflect on a short statement he made which is packed with leadership insights about authority.  

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).

Paul boldly and unapologetically calls the believers at Corinth to follow his example! He is using his authority to spur them on in the direction they need to go. He is serving by using authority and his statement provides several insights into how serving leaders use authority.  

Using authority involves modeling.

“Follow my example, as I follow….” Paul makes it very clear that he is not asking others to do something that he is now willing to do. He is calling them to do what they have seen him doing. He models to his followers what he asks them to do. He models being under authority before exercising authority. He is a follower before he is a leader. Some leaders give directions but don’t model what they ask others to do. Serving leaders first show the way and then call others to follow. This compels serving leaders to first examine their own lives before they call others to follow. They recognize that they need to model the values, mission and purpose of the organization they lead before they can boldly ask others to follow. Where they fall short, they acknowledge their failure and seek to improve. Then, they are not ashamed to tell others, “Live and work like I do!” Serving leaders model the way before using their authority to ask others to follow. They serve others by modeling the way.

Using authority implies direction.

Paul, in these few words was clearly using his authority to providing direction to those who followed him.  “Follow my example…” He is not ashamed to set the standards of what he expects from his followers. As he does this, he brings focus and clarity to the direction he is calling people to go. Some leaders are reluctant to point others in a clear direction. They feel that serving others means moving only when everyone agrees. Leaders who seek consensus from everyone often cannot move forward. Serving leaders understand that their authority is given to them for the purpose of setting direction. They gladly seek input and counsel from their team but they do not hesitate to clearly articulate the direction needed. They serve the mission of the organization by clearly pointing out the direction which is needed.   

Using authority inspires action.

Leadership involves getting things done, using authority to help people move in the desired direction.  Paul’s instruction here is a clear call to action for the believers in Corinth. He sets the example with his own life. He points out the direction that movement is needed. As he serves with these leadership actions he inspires action from the followers.

Paul’s instruction here can be lost in the context of his showing an example, but he says “Follow” as a command, an instruction. It is a call to action, to movement in a direction.

Some leaders use their position to call people to action. They use the power of a paycheck or other incentives to help people act. But serving leaders use their authority to inspire others to act. As serving leaders model the way and clarify direction, they inspire action! Those who follow understand what is expected of them and they are motivated to move forward. A serving leader is in charge to charge others up! They serve by inspiring action from others.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How well do I model the purpose, values and mission of the organization I lead? How does this impact my ability to serve my team? Can I say with confidence, “Follow my example”?
  • How effectively do I use my authority to provide direction to those that I serve? Am I more inclined to lead only when there is consensus or to lead without consulting others? What can I do to strengthen the clarity of direction needed in my organization?
  • How well does my leadership inspire others to act? Are there ways that I use my leadership authority to force others to act rather than inspire them to act?                     

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders release authority.

#337 Serving with Authority: Accept It

November 9, 2022

Serving leaders respect the authority of those over them but they also accept the authority invested in them. They recognize and accept that every legitimate leadership role brings with it the authority to carry out the expectations of that role. Paul spoke clearly about his authority as an apostle.

 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it (2 Corinthians 10:8, NIV).

Paul had a clear understanding of his authority and accepted it as a gift given to him by God to carry out the mission God had given to him. He helps serving leaders do the same.

Accepting authority acknowledges accountability.

 “the authority the Lord gave us…” Paul recognized that his authority came from God and therefore he was accountable to God for how he used this authority. What comes from God is good and should be used for His purposes. Many leaders, especially those who have been wounded in the past with abuse of authority or those who lead others who have been hurt in this way run away from authority and shrink back from exercising their authority. They are so concerned about misuse of authority that they miss using authority for its intended good.

Other leaders find it difficult to accept their authority because it seems like they are seeking power for themselves. But serving leaders recognize that all legitimate authority comes from God, and they are accountable to Him for how they use it. They also recognize that they are accountable to Him if they fail to use it! Serving leaders accept authority because they recognize that they are under authority.

Accepting authority allows focus. 

“the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down…”  Paul was clear about the focus of his authority, it was to build others up, not to destroy them. The focus of authority is to benefit those who are being served by the one in authority. Many leaders have used authority to tear people down or to build their own kingdoms.

But Paul makes it clear that our authority is focused on others. Authority is intended by God to be a blessing to others. Serving leaders accept that and use authority as it was intended. They refuse to accept prevailing distrust of authority as an excuse to fail to use their authority. They are committed to do all within their power and authority to build others up. That is serving leadership.

Accepting authority activates confidence.  

Paul accepted his authority, and it gave him confidence in his role. His confidence could be seen as pride to the extent that he boasted about it and said boldly, “I will not be ashamed of it.”  He begins and ends this verse declaring his confidence in his authority. But the rest of his statements make it clear that he is not simply drawing attention to his significant role in the church. Paul’s confidence is based on his understanding of where authority comes from and the purpose for which it is given. When these issues are settled confidence is not pride or arrogance, it is simply an appropriate acceptance of what is. All leaders need confidence to lead. Their confidence inspires others to follow. Serving leaders accept their authority and have confidence as they use it for its intended purposes. They inspire others to follow as they accept that their role gives them authority to serve.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How have past experiences with authority shaped my own view of my role? In what ways does the example of Paul encourage me to recognize and accept Godly authority?
  • Do I see my authority as operating under God’s ultimate authority? How is this expressed in my leadership?
  • Does my leadership most often build others up or tear them down? What examples can I give of how this has been demonstrated in the past week?
  • How confident am I as a leader? In what ways is this related to how I see my own authority? What do I need to change to have the confidence that Paul expressed?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll examine how serving leaders use authority.

#336 Serving with Authority: Respect It

October 26, 2022

Serving leaders, like all leaders, have and use authority.  Authority is the legitimate power that gives them the right to act in their role as a leader. But many serving leaders may find the subject of authority a bit awkward.  Is authority good or bad? How does it fit with the concept of serving others? In this series we’ll examine how serving leaders view and use authority. First, a glimpse at the life of David reveals that serving leaders respect the authority of those above them. David was anointed to be king, but Saul was still on the throne and was chasing David and his men. Twice, David had an easy opportunity to kill Saul and take the kingdom. On one of these occasions, David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe.  

 5Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way (1 Samuel 24: 5-7, NIV).

David’s restraint shows remarkable respect for the authority of Saul even when Saul was seeking to kill him. David acknowledged that Saul was the king and respected his position even when he didn’t agree with the actions of the king. David’s response shows serving leaders the results of respect for those in authority over them.

Respect for authority builds character.  

This period was a very difficult time in David’s life as he was chased by king Saul. It was a time that his character was tested and shaped in powerful ways. Most significantly, David learned that before he should be in authority, he had to learn to be under authority. This is always a difficult lesson for leaders and much more difficult when the person in authority is not a good leader! But serving leaders respect the authority of those over them and allow God to shape their character as they show respect by their words and actions.  

Respect for authority builds trust

David acted with respect for authority because it was the right thing to do. But his followers were also watching. As they saw David’s respect for king Saul they grew in their trust of David. They observed that he was “conscience-stricken” after cutting Saul’s robe. They heard him describe his enemy as “the anointed of the Lord.” As they watched him closely, they recognized that David was a leader they could trust. Serving leaders build trust with those who follow as they respect the authority of those over them.

Respect for authority builds people.

David’s actions challenged and shaped those who followed him. Although they initially disagreed with his position David’s respect for king Saul helped them grow. David helped them grow them by rebuking them when their values did not align with his. As these men witnessed David’s loyalty to Saul, they also became extremely loyal to David. These men would go on to do extraordinary exploits for David.  They knew that because David had respect for authority, he would not misuse authority when he was in power. Serving leaders serve those who follow by respecting the authority of those above them. As they do so they build the people around them.   

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my attitude towards those in authority over me? Am I able to respect them even when I don’t agree with their decisions? How does my attitude impact the way I lead?   
  • How do I talk about those in authority over me? What impact does this have on my leadership as those who follow listen to my comments?
  • How do I want those under my authority to view my leadership? Do I have this same view of those over me? How does this impact my ability to serve those under me?      

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders accept authority.

#335 Barnabas: Serving with Character

October 12, 2022

We have observed several of the actions that made Barnabas an effective serving leader. As we conclude this review of his life, we’ll look below the surface to observe where these actions were rooted. In one of the first mentions of his life we learn that he was a ‘good man.’

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord (Acts 11:22-24, NIV).

Barnabas was a “good man,” the evidence of his character. His character was the foundation from which all the other wonderful characteristics of his life flowed. He shows all serving leaders that serving others begins with who we are.

Character serves by signaling who we are.  

Barnabas was “full of faith and the Spirit.” This was the core of who he was. His good character signaled what he was filled with. Some leaders try to manage what people see and work hard to shape their actions, hoping to cover up the reality of who they are inside. But when the pressure is on, what is inside comes out in a harsh word, an angry look or striving for power. Actions do not determine character, they reveal character. Serving leaders focus on filling themselves with the right content. They are careful about what they read, what they see, and what they think about. They recognize that their character signals to the world who they are.  

Character serves by shaping what we do.   

“…he was glad and encouraged them to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” When Barnabas arrived at the church in Antioch, he looked at what was happening and responded with encouragement. Why? He didn’t need to stop and think about what the best leadership response would be. He simply allowed his character to shape his response. He encouraged because he was an encourager. Great results followed, “A great number of people were brought to the Lord.” Some leaders carefully weigh potential losses or gains based on their actions and decide what to do based on how it will advance or hinder their own goals. But serving leaders cultivate good character and then allow that to shape what they do. They do what is right, not what is convenient. They do what is needed, not what is expedient. Their character helps them focus on long term gains instead of short-term wins. They can safely rely on their character to shape what they do.

Character serves by steering where we go.

Barnabas was sent by the church leaders to serve in Antioch. They recognized the goodness of his character and that opened doors for greater levels of responsibility for him. They trusted him because they knew his character. This trust lead to his next assignment. Some leaders seek advancement by carefully aligning themselves with the right people or calculating where they go based on their desired outcomes. But serving leaders cultivate character that opens doors for them and steers them in the right direction. Their character serves as the navigational tool that leads them where they can best serve.

The life of Barnabas is a case study of a man who served well because of who he was. He challenges all serving leaders to develop their character and allow their leadership to flow out of it.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the character of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him?
  • What am I filled with? How is this evidenced in who I am at the core of my life? What do I do to stay filled with that which produces good character in my life?   
  • What ultimately shapes my actions? Do I allow my character to shape what is right to do or do I focus on how others will react or how the decision will advance my own goals?
  • What guides my advancement? Is it my own efforts to plot a course that takes me where I want to go, or is it my character that opens doors to serve?
  • What am I doing to strengthen my character? Are there areas of my character in which I need to ask God and others to help me grow?        

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll start a new series! It’s a great time to invite a friend to join. Forward this to them and invite them to view this series and sign up here.

#334 Barnabas: Serving with Failure

Barnabas was a great leader and we have reflected on many great things from his life. But he was not perfect! Two incidents are recorded for us that reveal his imperfections.

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:36-41, NIV).

After serving together as a powerful team for years, Paul and Barnabas could not agree on whether to take Mark on the next journey! This unresolved conflict is ironically the last we hear about Barnabas in the book of Acts!

Perhaps even before this well-known disagreement, there was another contentious issue about circumcision in Antioch. Peter acted hypocritically and was rebuked publicly by Paul. In his writing about the incident, Paul also reported:  

The other Jews joined him [Peter] in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray (Galatians 2:13).

In this situation Barnabas and Peter were clearly in the wrong (see note*). But the failures of Barnabas serve as reminders to leaders that even in our failures, we can serve others.

The failure of Barnabas serves by showing that failure is normal.

Paul thought so highly of Barnabas that he said “even Barnabas was led astray.” He implies that Barnabas was the last person he expected to make this mistake! But Barnabas did fail and shows all leaders that failure is to be expected. Certainly, we don’t intend to or plan to fail, but we should anticipate it. Some leaders see failure as a sign of incompetence, so they feel obliged to cover up, deny or ignore failure. But serving leaders accept their humanity and the reality that all leaders fail. They give grace to themselves and ask for grace from others when they fail. In doing so, they serve those they lead by showing that failure is normal.

The failure of Barnabas serves by showing that failure is not the end.

The recorded story of Barnabas ends with the disagreement between him and Paul but his work did not end there. Barnabas took Mark with him on a missionary journey and while we don’t know the results, we can certainly expect that the existing churches were strengthened and other churches planted through their work. Some leaders see failure as the end of their work but serving leaders understand that failure is not final. They learn to continue the journey after each failure and serve by showing that failure is not the end.  

The failure of Barnabas serves by showing that failure can lead to growth.

Both Barnabas and Paul grew through their disagreement. Paul later requested Mark to help him (see 2 Timothy 4:11). Barnabas grew as a team leader while traveling with Mark. God used their disagreement to send out two teams instead of one and brought growth to the churches. On the issue of circumcision both Barnabas and Peter were able to see their mistakes and make corrections. Some leaders see failure as the end of growth but serving leaders see failures as opportunities for growth. They ask what went wrong and what can be learned. They adjust, change, and adapt as needed and then carry on the mission! They serve their teams by growing through failure.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How does the failure of Barnabas challenge me as a leader? What action can I take this week to be more like him as I respond to my own failures?
  • Do I see failure as normal for my own leadership? If so, how do I communicate this to others? If not, how does this impact the way I see and respond to the failures of others?
  • Have I allowed a past failure to stop me from doing what I should be doing? If so, what steps do I need to take to get back on the right path?
  • In what ways have my failures brought growth to my life and leadership? Who needs to hear about what I have learned and when will I share my story with them?               

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Barnabas served with character.

*Note. Scholars debate about whether Peter’s visit to Antioch was prior to or after the  Jerusalem Council where the matter of circumcision was resolved by the church leaders. (See Acts 15) If the visit was afterwards, the failure of Peter and Barnabas was certainly more grievous. But whatever the timeline they both failed to live out the gospel message.