Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

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Being Surpassed by Your Protégé

In Acts 13:2 we read this fascinating account:  “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”” (NIV 1984)  We know from the previous chapters that Barnabas had gone to Tarsus, recruited Paul to come back with him to Antioch, and there, for a year or more, they discipled new believers.

Now, the Holy Spirit is setting them apart for a new initiative, to take the gospel to the Gentile peoples of the surrounding provinces of the Roman Empire.  It was natural that Barnabas would be the leader of the enterprise, given his maturity, history with Paul as his mentor, and his experience.

But something interesting happened on their first journey.  Having left Cyprus, they landed on the shore of modern-day Turkey.  Their John Mark leaves the missionary band and from here forward the order of leadership is reversed.  Now the team is referred to as Paul and Barnabas, not the previous order.  Paul has now surpassed his mentor in authority and influence.

Later Paul and Barnabas once again tried to team up for a second journey, but could not agree on whether to take John Mark with them.  Certainly, Barnabas, being a relative of John Mark, had the personal development of his nephew in mind when he selected him.  And he was successful in the end, for Paul later refers to John Mark as being “helpful to me for my ministry.”  (see 2 Timothy 4:11)  But, at this time, they disagreed and split – Paul taking Silas with him instead.

Paul’s separation and surpassing of Barnabas was now complete.  He had outgrown his mentor and now was well-established as a Kingdom leader in his own right.  He was leading his own team and initiative and God’s hand was clearly on him, using him to advance the gospel among peoples who had not heard.

Mentors are often surpassed by their protégés in influence and impact.  In fact, it should be an objective for all mentors and coaches that those we help far outstrip and surpass us.  Our attitude should be that of John the Baptist who was losing influence and people to Jesus.  When John’s disciples noted that “… everyone is going to him,” John replied with a humble recognition of Jesus’ future as well as his own, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  (John 3:30  NIV 1984)

For some who find their significance in being the leader, the development of a mentee can be seen as a threat and they find it hard to platform this ‘young Turk,’ knowing that the spotlight is now moving away from them to another.  Rather than being threatened, we should rejoice in this reality.

Who can you shine the spotlight on today, taking it off of yourself and placing it squarely on one who you know has a future more than you?  Can you do this with a good attitude and in true sincerity?

Leaders and Popularity

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips…  All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff… Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people.  They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority…  All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching?     Luke 4:22, 28–32, 36   NIV 1984

Two different towns – Nazareth and Capernaum, two different audiences, and two very different responses to Jesus’ leadership and authority.

In the synagogue in Nazareth, when Jesus was explaining a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 61 concerning the ministry of the Messiah, the prophecy concerning Himself, He proclaims that it was fulfilled that very day-right there in front of their eyes.  The audience was amazed at His gracious words.

Yet Jesus continued to explain that the favor of the Lord was not based upon one’s heritage, but rather one’s faith.  The mood of the audience quickly changed.  They became furious at Him, drove Him out-of-town and sought to physically harm him by throwing Him off of a cliff.  One can only imagine the feelings of the disciples with Jesus or even His family members as this was taking place?  Popularity can be fleeting.

Jesus seemingly shrugs it off and moves on to Capernaum, where the following week He is again teaching in the synagogue.  While we are not told about the subject matter, His teaching engenders a similar initial response.  The people were amazed at His teaching and the authority with which He delivered it.  But here they remained positive and in fact spread the news about Him to the surrounding area.

Jesus’ ministry did not change due to the audience.  He was consistent, not caring about His reputation or concerned about whether they would like Him or not.  Rather, He was committed to truth and teaching it well, letting the people decide for themselves whether to accept or reject the message.

This consistency created such a reputation that His enemies sought to use it against Him.  Note what they say about Him as they tried to trap Him with a question about paying taxes.  “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.”  ( Luke 20:21  NIV 1984)

Kingdom leaders consistently focus on truth, not on how well they are liked as leaders.  Do what it right and let God take care of your reputation and popularity.  How’s your focus?

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