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Midrand Chapel Baptist Church
Sermon Resources

Godly Christian leadership



Main Scriptures
Series: Acts
Book: Acts
Scripture References



8 characteristics of Christian leaders.

1.   Tangible Godliness (18-19)

2.   Gospel Preaching (20-21)

3.   Joyful Suffering (22-23)

4.   Godward Focus (24-27)

5.   Ongoing Watchfulness (28-31)

6.   Dependant Faith (32)

7.   Selfless Service (33-35)

8.   Deep Relationships (36-38)



I’ve called this mornings message “Christian leadership”

A pastor friend of mine sent me this the other day (caption on ministry – old man…)

Christian leadership is one of the hardest things any man can engage in. It’s a spiritual battle for the souls of men and women against a formidable foe against impossible odds. It’s a battle in which you are seldom prepared, never adequate, often overwhelmed and completely dependant upon God. It’s a battle in which you sustain many wounds which cut into to your very soul and leave you permanently disabled. It’s a battle which is relentless and is often fought on the doorstep of your own house. Your own faith in God will repeatedly be attacked and beaten down and with the tatters that are left you will be called upon to minister to others even while you are still wounded.

Nobody volunteers for spiritual leadership. We are called by Christ and commissioned into His service and we willingly and joyfully embrace the duties of our position because Christ and Christ alone is worthy.

·      Christ is preparing some of you for special positions of Christian leadership as missionaries, or vocational pastors – today’s passage is for you, so that you would know what you are preparing for.

·      But I’m not just talking about pastors or missionaries – ordinary Christians, are called to serve as elders and deacons and ministry leaders while remaining in secular employment. Today’s passage is equally about you and for you.

·      And todays passage is for those who are called to be Christian leaders in a family, called to love and lead their wives and their children for the sake of Christ.

·      And today’s passage was written to ordinary believers, to those who are not leaders – to teach you the model and pattern of Christian leaders, to show you the kind of leaders you should follow and emulate and order your lives around.


In today’s passage Paul calls the Ephesian elders together and for the last time bids them farewell. He reminds them of his own ministry among them, of the pattern of ministry they are to continue to pursue in his absence. This is what Christian leaders are to be and to do if they are to glorify Christ through their lives and their leadership.

You will hopefully recall that Luke-Acts is part of a 2 volume series and Luke tells us why he wrote – to give believers confidence concerning the gospel that they had heard. Confidence concerning the message of the gospel comes, in part, from our confidence concerning the messengers of the gospel.  We have greater confidence in the message, when we see the impact that it is having on those who are bringing the message to us.

Read: 2 Tim 3:10-15

Luke includes this section of narrative in his account because many of his readers had been disturbed by false teachers, who were undermining the life and ministry of Paul and in so doing trying to turn people away from his gospel. Luke wants his readers to understand the marks of a genuine servant of God, a genuine Christian leader – so that they would not be carried away by false teachers and their false teaching.

Jesus and Peter and Paul all affirm that false teachers are recognized by the bad fruit that their teaching produces in their own lives and the lives of their followers and sound doctrine is known by the good fruit it produces in the lives of those who teach it and believe it and follow it.

From Acts 20: 8 characteristics of Christian leaders.

1.   Tangible Godliness (18-19)

2.   Gospel Preaching (20-21)

3.   Joyful Suffering (22-23)

4.   Godward Focus (24-27)

5.   Ongoing Watchfulness (28-31)

6.   Dependant Faith (32)

7.   Selfless Service (33-35)

8.   Deep Relationships (36-38)

Read Acts 20:17-38

8 characteristics of Christian leaders


Note the close relationship between Paul and those he ministered to

·      You yourselves know. They didn’t need to be told by someone else about what he was about to say, or read it in a book – they had observed the truth of it with their own eyes.

·      How I lived among you….A Christian leader lives out his life among the people he leads. He is not so much above them, as among them, not so much over them, as with them.

Illustration: better sermons from MacArthur

You can download and listen to better sermons on this passage preached by MacAthur, or Piper or Sproul – but you can’t see and learn how the principles of the passage are lived out in daily life by listening to their podcasts.

Word made flesh

God designed the word of God to be delivered in person, by people who embody the message in their lives.

That is why the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling among us according to Jn 1. So that we could see the glory of God manifest, the word of God fleshed out in humanity.

That’s why we have lay-elders, so that you can see how they balance the pressures of work and family and involvement in church. How they balance their budget, as it were. If I told you I pray 2 hours every day, you would say, “That’s easy for him to say, he doesn’t have to go to work.” But if one of our lay-elders told you that, you would say, “I wonder how he gets that right…”

We can never have virtual church and get our spiritual food through the television or internet


Humility, tears, trials

Note how he describes his ministry – with humility, tears and trials.

·      It means he was not above them and the struggles that ordinary believers have. Whatever they went through he went through, with them, among them.

·      There were tears, genuine concern, genuine struggle with them and trials, hardship which he endured for their sake.

·      They lived their lives together, faced trials together, suffered together, ministered together.

To be a Christian leader means you have to live an open life before people and be willing to enter their lives. To keep and open home and regularly go into people’s homes. To enter their struggles and let them enter yours, to shoulder their burdens and let them should yours – to weep together and rejoice together.

I’ll be honest – I just can’t get this crying part right…..Sometimes I wish I could cry and I feel like crying, but I just can’t.

Application: Let into your life

Let your parents, let Christian leaders into your life. Make the effort to enter their lives. God has designed healthy leadership to function that way.





2: Gospel Preaching (20-21)

In vs 20-21 you can see that a major component of a Christian leaders ministry is to minister the word of God. That is our major tool, our major resource, our major responsibility.

I try to always carry my bible with me when I meet with people and I feel like I’ve neglected my duty if I walk out without having opened and used it.

·      Vs 20 – he did it in public and in private, from house to house.

·      He did it among Jews and Greeks, whatever the background and culture and context – the main focus was always the same – this is what the Bible says.

·      There wasn’t one truth for Jews and another for Gentiles, one set of principles for White Westerners and another for Black Africans… One authoritative and sufficient word for them both.

We should want our leaders to tell us what God’s Word says, not what they think, or what the latest research shows or some book says – but what THE BOOK says.


You can hear his tone – he did not shrink back….he wasn’t too afraid to tell them the whole counsel of God, to tell it like it is.

·      Paul could tell Timothy in 2 Tim 4 that in the latter days people will gather around themselves teachers who will tickle their ears – tell them what they want to hear.

·      You can be popular as a Christian leader or you can be biblical, but you can’t be both.

Illustration – bad preaching: One Gentleman told me that my preaching was the most painful thing he’s ever had to endure and I believed him because I could see the agony on his face each week as he grimaced and shuddered through my sermons.

·      I’ve had people kick me out their house, call me a racist, shout at me, threaten me, call me a false teacher and warn me that I’m going to hell.

·      I don’t recall being physically assaulted, but it has come close on a few occasions.

The temptation to say what people want to hear – is very great. Especially when you really care about someone and you know what you have to say is going to hurt them deeply…..

I’ve had to ask a fellow pastor to step out of the ministry because his life wasn’t matching his teaching. The amount of economic hardship, public humiliation and pain that I brought into that family was massive and yet almost every time they see me he and his wife thank me for speaking the truth to them….

Because genuine believers want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and faithful Christian leaders will give it to them with tears and humility and pain.


3: Joyful Suffering (22-23)

One of the great privileges of Paul’s life was to suffer for Christ. In fact Luke has recorded Paul’s testimony back in chapter 9 and he repeats it almost entirely on three more occasions. Paul’s own testimony is evidently a big part of vindicating his ministry and his message. Jesus said in Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said to him, go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

How would you like that to be the specific features of your calling from Christ “How much you are going to suffer for His glory?”

In case you haven’t realized it, it’s the calling of every Chrisitian and most certainly the calling of every Christinan leader

Phil 1:29 It has been granted to you for Christ sake that you not only believe on him but also suffer for his sake.

2 Tim 3:12 all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Signing up for Christian leadership is signing up for extra suffering. You don’t go to war for the comfort of the trenches but to engage in the heat of the battle….

Christian leaders who want to be faithful leaders just don’t get to play around as often. We don’t get to enjoy comfort and ease and relaxation as much. We give up those rights and privileges to serve one who is worthy of such sacrifices and suffering.

That’s Phil 2 – Christ gave up…..God highly exalted – there is an eternal reward for suffering in order to make much of Christ – but not everyone is willing to wait for it.


4: Godward Focus (24-27)

There you have it – the perspective that Paul has embraced which allows him to live a life of such sacrifice and suffering.

My life means nothing to me, if only I may fulfil my calling and be faithful to the ministry to which Christ has called me.

Who calls us to such service? Christ. You don’t enlist yourself – you get enlisted by Christ. I guess some men reject the call, others accept it, but go AWOL somewhere along the way, or settle for a dishonourable discharge.

Paul says, no, I want the purple heart, the medal of honour – given to those who served honourably and faithfully to the end.

What he says in vs 25-26 is that his ministry among them has come to an end and he is confident that he has fully discharged his duty in the sight of God.

Can you see where Paul’s focus is? He doesn’t want a farewell ceremony, or accolades from men, or a gold watch for 3 years of faithful service. He wants to know before Christ – that he has done everything that Christ expected of him and so he is innocent. If they go off the rails and wander from the truth and destroy the church – it won’t be because he failed to warn and teach and admonish and encourage and do everything in his power to ground them in God’s Word.

5: Ongoing Watchfulness (28-31)

In vs 28 he is telling them that they are going to have to take over what he has been doing. In a sense, he has been keeping watch over them and the flock, but they are now going to have to assume that responsibility themselves.

Be watchful

·      We watchful shepherds, be on your guard, some translations say – pay careful attention. The call is to vigilance, watchfulness.

·      We have a very real and cunning enemy who is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to destroy. Looking for the weak, the wandering, the lost, the fearful. Looking for easy prey, at their most vulnerable time, in their most vulnerable place.

·      Overseers are not primarily managers, or executive decision makers, or board members or directors – they are first and foremost shepherds of God’s flock.

Appointed by Holy Spirit

·      Note specifically who has appointed them and equipped them for the task in vs 28 – the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who raises up gifted men and gives them a desire for service and enables them to carry out that service.

·      As the Spirit filled Jesus at His baptism and then lead him out into the wilderness to face and overcome the devil and then lead him into public ministry to preach the gospel and raise up disciples – so it’s the spirit who calls and directs and enables the ministry of every Christian leader.

To Shepherd

·      He ministers to us and in us, so that we can minister to God’s people. The word there “care for” or tend, or nurture, protect, feed, lead, guide – God’s sheep. Find the lost and bring them home, bind up the broken hearted, carry the sick and maimed, gently lead those who have young, lead them to refreshing pastures that will nourish their souls and fend of those who would prey on them when they are vulnerable.

Ezekiel 34:1-6,10 gives us God’s heart for His sheep and his instructions to shepherds.

He purchased with His own blood! That is how precious the sheep are to God.

Who shepherds the Shepherds?

·      Pay careful attention to yourselves

·      That’s why there is a plurality of elders – the elders have to also collectively take care of themselves, of one another because we are ourselves also sheep.

·      Many times, my fellow elders have rebuked me, corrected me, encouraged me, given me wise counsel, stood in my place and protected me.

·      The worse year of ministry I’ve ever had was the year I stood alone without any elders and bore the weight of the church alone. It’s much too great for any one man to carry and I thank God for the group of godly men that the Holy Spirit has given to this church – to shepherd the flock, to shepherd me. I trust them, I respect them, I am encouraged and built up by them and I thank God for them.

Paul knows that even from among the elders – some men will depart from the truth, will wander off from the faith, will get caught up in myths and selfish pursuits and deceitful sins. Nobody is immune – therefore be watchful, be on your guard – for your fellows elders and for the flock and for your own life and family.

Passive, absent, distracted leaders – are leaving their families and churches unguarded and vulnerable.

He ends this section with the same admonishment he started with – be alert!


6: Dependant Faith (32)

Although Paul is active and responsible and he had ministered diligently and pleaded with them with tears and not shrinked back from declaring to them the whole counsel of God – he understands that He is not God. He is not ultimately the one who can guard and keep them in the faith and cause them to grow.

He has done His duty and now he commends them to what in vs 32.

·      God – God is the chief shepherd – the one who ultimate guards and keeps and tends His flock.

·      And to the Word of His grace = the gospel. The gospel is what brings someone to Christ and it is ultimately what keeps them in Christ and grows them in Christ – the word which speaks about what Christ had done and is doing for sinners who don’t deserve it.

The word of grace = the word about God’s incredible, unearned, unmerited favour.

Christian leaders must know when their work is done. They must know what they can and can’t do and they must be able to entrust to God those things that are beyond their control – to leave God to do what only God can do….

7: Selfless Service (33-35)

Paul then reminds them about the example of his life. He was not in the ministry for selfish gain, for money, or fancy positions or human rewards. Paul, on many occasions was a tent-maker. That was his trade and he often provided for his own needs by working in his trade so that he would not be a burden to those he ministered to.  It was also another feature which distinguished him from the false teachers who were only in the ministry for the money, what they could get out of people by way of money or esteem.


Nothing has changed friends. So many people are in gospel ministry for selfish gain. Sometimes to get rich, sometimes just because they are not willing to do other work – like secular employment or manual labour is somehow above them.

Sometimes we can elevate the pastor as if he is something special, as if I am somehow above the other elders or better them. Personally, I see it in just the opposite light. They are the ones who deserve double honour because they labour in the church while still trying to hold down a normal job. After doing 40-50 hours of work they sit up late into the night preparing a Bible study or Sunday Seminary lesson. They don’t get time to minister without taking time away from their family, or free time.

The church is not built around the senior pastor, or the vocational staff – the church is built around a body of ordinary Christians whom the Holy Spirit has set apart to serve as under-shepherds, at great personal cost.

I don’t know what the latest statistics are, but in the Baptist union at one point, the average tenor of a senior pastor was under 5 years. I’ve seen pastors come and go in and out of churches and somehow God always seems to be calling them away to bigger, better, more established churches. I know of few pastors that leave big, well established churches to pastor small struggling churches while they do part time work to help the church cover their needs. Last year 3 of my collegues felt called by God to leave South Africa and pastor churches in Australia and America….That just doesn’t sit well with me…

If Jesus called his 12 Apostles to minister with their hands at times, I don’t really understand why He would stop doing that today.

I’m grateful for the salary I get from the church and the amount of time I get to spend preparing sermons and counselling and organising ministries of the church – but it shouldn’t make me better than or different from anyone else in the church.

8: Deep Relationships (36-38)

The last paragraph is a portrait of the deep, meaningful relationships that are enjoyed in the church, between teachers and those taught, between leaders and congregation, between leaders and fellow leaders.

Ministry alongside other believers should knit our hearts together into bonds which are difficult to break.

Certainly, over the years, God has blessed Megan and I with the most precious storehouse of amazing relationships anyone could ever wish for. People have let us into their lives at the deepest level, entrusted us with the deepest darkest secrets, allowed us to put dressing on the most exposed and painful wounds. We have people, all over the world who have invested in our lives in the most profound way and loved us with sacrificial love.

To be honest – all the wealth and fame in the world cannot match the treasure we have in those relationships.

That is what we are seeing in vs 36-38 and its what’s available to every believer who would invest in the lives of others. To walk difficult roads with them and weep with them and rejoice with them and sing and soar with them.

Invest your life in others. Build deep and meaningful relationships with the leaders God has provided for you.

The idea of the pastor and a church and separation between the two is totally unbiblical. The biblical picture is multiple leaders, building multiple relationships at multiple levels. Every member receiving and every member giving in relationships.


8 characteristics of Christian leaders.

1.   Tangible godliness (18-19)

2.   Gospel Preaching (20-21)

3.   Joyful Suffering (22-23)

4.   Godward Focus (24-27)

5.   Ongoing Watchfulness (28-31)

6.   Dependant Faith (32)

7.   Selfless Service (33-35)

8.   Deep Relationships (36-38)


Hold us to this standard, help us attain to it – work with the leaders God has provided for your own progress and joy in the faith and strive to be that kind of leader for those who are entrusted to your care..