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.