The Apostle Paul – after Jesus – is the most influential person who has lived upon earth.
More than anyone else – the rest of the apostles, other influential believers throughout church history, and even other religious leaders in history…
… the Apostle Paul stands alone.
I’ve read the Pauline letters in the New Testament for 50 years. Below are four leadership lessons from the Apostle Paul.
First: He kept his focus.
In Acts 13, the Spirit spoke through the prophets of Antioch, “Set apart Barnabas and Saul [soon to be Paul] for the work to which I have called them.” That calling was taking the gospel to the nations.
Midway through his ministry, Paul said, “Walk in a manner worthy of your calling” (Ephesians 4:1). He was a prisoner and had not forsaken his calling.
At the very end of his life, he wrote to Timothy, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Second: He used modern technology.
In Paul’s day, modern technology meant traveling throughout the Roman Empire and sending letters – worldwide travel and postal service became readily available a few decades before Paul became a believer.
He wrote 13 canonical letters (Romans through Philemon).
However, it is probable that Paul wrote many letters that have not been included in the New Testament. There are indications in First and Second Corinthians that Paul wrote four letters to the Corinthian church (we have only two).
Paul writes in Colossians 4:16, “Read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.” We don’t have this letter in our New Testament.
Paul traveled the Roman empire, constantly writing letters to churches and other significant individuals. He embraced every means available for his central focus of taking the gospel to the nations.
Third: Paul pioneered organizational structures still in use today.
Amazingly, the systems that Paul implemented in first-century churches are still in use today.
He taught us that we have spiritual gifts and are important to the body of Christ (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4). In Paul’s time, leadership was top-down – think emperors and high priests – while Paul taught that we are the body of Christ (Romans 12:4).
Paul implemented elders, deacons, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. In Romans 16, when Paul mentions the leadership of the Roman church, about 40 percent are women.
Fourth: Paul discipled young followers into world-changing believers.
The New Testament indicates dozens of close friends, co-workers, and many brothers and sisters that Paul influenced for leadership. Paul changed the phrase “disciple” to “co-worker” as his go-to term for those following his leadership.
I believe Paul liked the phrase “co-worker,” or in the Greek, “synergos,” because the word implies “working together” while “disciple” indicates a teacher/pupil relationship.
Paul considered his co-workers as equals in furthering his life purpose of preaching the gospel. He writes in Romans 16:3, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus.”
Concluding: George Whitefield and John Wesley were contemporaries, but hardly anyone has heard of Whitefield today.
Whitefield was the better preacher, with crowds reaching thousands. But Wesley founded the Methodist church. John Wesley not only organized the Methodist church but he constantly identified, appointed, and trained leaders.
We all know Peter and Paul.
Paul was the organizational genius of the first-century church. He wrote, discipled, organized, and trained the next generation of church leaders.
Yes, Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom by Jesus and preached the first gospel message to both Jews and Gentiles, however, Paul’s ministry and leadership planted a church that changed the world.
By God’s grace, we honor Saul who persecuted the church, to become missionary Paul who planted churches throughout the Roman Empire…
A testimony that anyone can change the world.