To develop leaders you must seek to progress from potential to performance, and encourage and equip others to do the same. The objective is to discover and utilize God-given talents and capacity for kingdom calling. We will examine the life of Apollos to discover four essential growth areas to develop effective spiritual leaders
A Case Study of Apollos
“Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” [Ac. 18:24-28].
To develop as a spiritual leader you must grow in your knowledge of the word of God.
- Learn the word: Apollos is described as, mighty in the Scriptures [v.24]. He knew the Old Testament Scriptures. To develop as a spiritual leader you must grow in your knowledge of the word of God. You cannot develop Christ-like character without a meaningful understanding of the Bible. It is critical to learn, and keep learning, the Bible to be a true spiritual leader. The greater the influence that you have as a leader the greater the leverage for kingdom work, and the greater the responsibility to help people get to God’s desired destination. The Bible is the only true compass available to an existing or emerging leader. Other leadership resources such as books, podcasts, conferences, etc. can be helpful supplements to equip leaders but they cannot replace knowledge of the Scriptures; and they must be evaluated in light of the Bible.
Ensure that existing and emerging leaders are learning the word. Create accountability among peers, mentors and disciples, coaches and coached, to encourage Bible learning. As a leader, model Bible learning, and discuss your experiences regularly with those you lead. And encourage those you lead to do the same with those that they lead. Create as many opportunities as possible for emerging leaders to learn the Bible through: expositional Bible teaching, foundations of the faith curriculum, Bible-based community groups, survey of the Old and New Testament curriculum, School of Ministry curriculum, and Bible College or Seminary options.
In my experience as a teaching pastor, I am constantly immersed in the Bible to prepare to teach on multiple occasions each week. Yet for me, this cannot replace a personal devotional time of reading and reflecting. As an aside, I’m in the midst of a season where my devotional learning has been irregular, and I miss my time of learning as a follower of Jesus rather than learning to prepare to teach.
To be an effective spiritual leader you should rejoice at what you have learned of Christ, and continue to passionately pursue Christ.
- Learn of Christ: Apollos “had been instructed in the way of the Lord” [v.25]. At the beginning of his ministry, Apollos’ understanding of Christ and His gospel, and New Testament theology generally, was limited, “He spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John” [v.25]. To be an effective spiritual leader you should rejoice at what you have learned of Christ, and continue to passionately pursue Christ. You must grow in the grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [2 Pet. 3:18], and take His yoke and learn from Him [Matt. 11:29].
We learn from reflecting upon our experiences. So create a culture where existing and emerging leaders take time to reflect on how they are experiencing and learning of Christ. Develop opportunities to discuss and share together, and promote and encourage growing in Christ. Create accountability among peers, mentors and disciples, coaches and coached, to encourage experiencing and learning of Christ.
Recently, as I was reading from the Sermon on the Mount [Matt. 5:38-48] and was confronted by Jesus, and His standard of loving enemies. I’m marveling at the fact that He constantly displayed this love, and that I’m so incapable of doing this in my strength. And it compels me to appreciate Jesus, the gospel, and how different His kingdom is from this world. Sharing those reflections with others, and hearing their insights, helps me to develop as a follower of Christ and leader.
A leader’s ability to communicate more effectively the things of the Lord is critical to development.
- Learn to communicate the things of the Lord: Apollos spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, and also learned the way of God more accurately [25-26]. A leader’s ability to communicate more effectively the things of the Lord is critical to development. Spiritual truth is communicated through the spoken and written word. Assessment of communication is an incredibly valuable tool. Self-assessment is humbling, but can be a good place to start. Re-read your written communications, listen to recorded audio, and if possible watch video of your oral presentations. Receive feedback from others to determine the effectiveness of your written and spoken communications, as well as your ability to listen. And commit to make the effort to improve to be more effective. Create a culture where leaders provide peer review, and mentors and disciples alike are accountable to grow as communicators.
To move from potential to progress, and to reach your capacity will require a willingness to learn from others.
- Learn from others who have a different perspective: Apollos was an intellectual and academic, raised in Alexandria, Egypt, akin to the Ivy League in the United States. So, it is remarkable that he humbly received correction and instruction from Aquilla and Priscilla who were “blue-collar” tentmakers. To move from potential to progress, and to reach your capacity will require a willingness to learn from others. To reach your capacity, you will likely need to develop different skills in different seasons of spiritual leadership. Usually, different mentors will be needed to equip. Receive from those who have different perspectives and experiences. Seek to be humble and learn. In my experience, I have been very blessed to learn from people who are older and younger, more and less experienced, and from a wide array of backgrounds. Some of the most treasured lessons came from unexpected sources. Thus, I’ve discovered that it is crucial for me to seek to keep learning from as many godly people as I can.
- How are you learning the word of God and growing in your understanding of the Scriptures?
- How do you take time to reflect on how you are experiencing and learning of Christ?
- How do you learn to communicate the things of the Lord more effectively?