The Apostle Paul’s Leadership Secret

The Apostle Paul had a leadership secret.

Not only did Paul write the underlying theology or philosophy of the world in which we live, but he also organized a 501(c)(3) organization (called the church in the New Testament) that spread the gospel throughout the world and had outposts in almost every known city and village of the Roman Empire.

Paul’s ministry began with one companion, Barnabas, and ended with hundreds of thousands following Jesus. Certainly, the most effective ministry in the history of Christendom. In terms of influence, even Billy Graham will sit at the Apostle Paul’s feet in heaven.

I will too! You as well.

Paul’s organizational genius gets lost behind his evangelical outreach, his church planting skills, and his writings. He was a great leader attracting male and female; Roman, Jew, and Gentile; slave and free; and people from all nations.

Paul did not work alone.

Paul’s secret was that he discipled “co-workers.” If you read carefully every epistle that Paul wrote, especially the end of the letters, Paul mentions at least 76 people who helped him (give or take one or two because my mind kept blipping while counting).

The term that he used most often describing those who worked with him was “co-worker.” The co-worker method of leadership grew from two to hundreds of thousands in Paul’s earthly 24 years-long ministry.

I love Romans 16:3:

Greet Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila, my – “co-workers (NIV), helpers (KJV), fellow-workers (NASB95), partners (ESV)” – in Christ Jesus.

Various translations give Prisca and Aquila differing descriptions, but the Greek word is “synergos” from which we get the English word “synergy.” Paul called those who followed him not “followers” or “students” but “co-workers.”

Paul and 76 others were in it together. The word “synergy” has come to mean that the sum of individuals working together equals more than individual effort. Paul taught the effectiveness of unity as foundational in his writings and ministry:

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 5:25-28 NASB95

The synergistic impact of neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, pastor nor church member, online preacher nor sitting in your living room, changed the world through a small group of Jesus’s followers.

The great Apostle Paul called those that he worked with co-workers. In the top-down culture of the Roman Empire, you vied and envied power while lording over the lowly.  You achieved by stepping down hard on others.

Paul gave honor to slave/free, male/female, and Jew/Gentile. He called them “co-workers.”

I’ve read books on servant leadership and none of the books capture the significance of unity. Equal parts, working together, achieving more than imagined. If you study the word “synergy” you will find that only recently did it became known as “synergetic energy” as currently defined in business or culture.

Paul knew this 2,000 years ago and his leadership secret changed the world.


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