Christian Leadership Training Course
By J.C. Choate
Leaders have always been needed in every walk of life. They are the key figures in politics, the military, business, schools, religions, and families. A country, business, or any organization will rise or fall, depending on the kind of leaders it has.
I think all of us know that when we speak of a leader, of giving leadership, we are speaking of a person who has the qualities and abilities to demand the respect of friends, associates, and fellow citizens to the point of being able to reason with them, to persuade them, and to lead them in some particular direction. In other words, such a person is able to move others to follow him. When one has this quality by reason of personal charisma, training, or the need of the hour, he is put into a very responsible position. Not only does he have to answer for his own actions, but also for the actions of those he is able to influence.
Actually, a people, country, army, business, school, or anything else, can go no further than its leader. Therefore with good leaders, with better leadership, people are benefitted and lifted to a higher plane. On the other hand, those who deceive the people into following them, even though they are actually selfish, wicked, and care nothing for their people, or those who are unwise in leadership and make bad decisions will bring terrible consequences on those who follow them.
God is our creator and He always thinks and acts in our interest. Seeing us in sin, and without hope, He sent His Son into this world to live and to die for us that we might be saved and then to lead us on to heaven itself (John 3:16,17). Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me" (John 14:6). Now who could improve on that kind of leadership? Not a soul in this world. We would be wise to look to Him and to follow Him if we expect to go to heaven.
From the beginning God has not only provided man with leadership from heaven, but has given us some great leaders here. Men who stand out in history are Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, to name only a few. What great stories could be told about these men and all that they were able to accomplish in their time! Even today we are inspired by them.
During the time of Christ, we read of John the Baptist, who served as a forerunner to Christ, the man who came to prepare the way for the Saviour. Then of course Christ was born into this world as the Son of God, the leader who had no equal. During His short life many came to Him and followed Him, both because of what He said and what He did.
But the Lord knew that He would not be in this world in the flesh for very long, because the cross was before Him. Knowing that His work must go on, He chose twelve men called apostles that He would teach and train. In the book of Matthew of the New Testament, we read, "And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him" (Matthew 10:1-4). Two other apostles were eventually added to these: Matthias, who was chosen to take the place of Judas after Judas had betrayed the Lord and committed suicide (Acts 1), and Paul who was the special messenger to the Gentiles.
After the Lord's death, burial, and resurrection, He instructed the apostles to remain in Jerusalem until they received power from on high (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). The Comforter, or the Holy Spirit, had earlier been promised to them (John 14:26). He would guide them into all truth, He would make it possible for them to remember all that the Lord had taught them, He would enable them to speak in the languages of the people and He would give them power to perform miracles to convince the masses that Jesus Christ was truly the Son of God.
After receiving the Holy Spirit, the apostles preached the gospel with the result that the church was established. They found, though, that there was more work than they could do. So the Lord enabled them to choose a number of faithful brethren from among them to help with the work. The apostles laid their hands on them, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles (Acts 6). During the early years of the church, others were chosen to receive the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of the apostles' hands, but those who received that power could not give it to others. Thus, miracles continued until the apostles had died, and those on whom they laid their hands. By that time the New Testament had been given in written form and miracles, used to prove that the speaker was from God, were no longer needed. Faith would now be produced, not through the seeing of miracles, but by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), and by having the written word in hand so that the average person could go to the scriptures themselves to see what was taught (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
The Lord also had leadership plans for the non-miraculous age. Although He was the one and only head of the church, and would direct the church through His word, after the apostles had died it was His decree that each local congregation should have its own leadership and that each congregation would be autonomous or independent from all other congregations. Although they would fellowship one another on the basis that they all followed Christ and were governed by His word, each congregation would be led by elders chosen by the local members because of their ability to meet the qualifications outlined in the scriptures in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Deacons would also be chosen to serve under the direction of the elders. After them would come preachers and teachers. This was God's plan for leadership in the church, and we'll take a closer look in future lessons.