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What Effective Leaders Do to Inspire Life Change—Lessons from Paul

The Apostle Paul, the ideal example of an effective leader in the early Church, wrote a letter to the budding congregation in Thessalonica that needed encouragement in the face of persecution. The new Christians needed to persevere and stay the course of life change in Jesus that Paul had directed them to during his mission trip there. His effective leadership helped them do just that. 

His leadership was “other” focused. He… 

  • Empowered others
  • Loved others
  • Submitted to others
  • Was thankful for others

What Key Qualities Made Paul an Effective Leader?

He Made the Most of His Time

Paul spent a short time in Thessalonica, only three months, getting the church established. His teaching time with the new believers there had been minimal, and he was worried that false teachers might infiltrate the church. He, being an effective leader himself, desired that others would continue the mission of life change, inspiring the new believers so the message of Jesus would continue to go out. 

What was the life change Paul sought to inspire?

  • Holiness
  • Love
  • Diligence
  • Hope
  • Perseverance

He Encouraged Others to Look Like Jesus

Paul’s letter tells the young congregation to “walk in the light” as they look forward to Jesus’ return. He wanted them to recall what they had been taught initially and to trust the Lord completely.

  • “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night… But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.”—1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, 4-5

4 Things Effective Leaders Do to Inspire Life Change & Multiply the Kingdom

A group of hikers climbing up a mountain.

The Thessalonians were a church of “irresistible influence” because they were a church of “irresistible leadership.” Today, the Church must understand what it means to be “irresistible” and the mission to make disciples who make disciples. This means everyone is called to be someone’s leader.

What are the marks of irresistible and effective leadership?

“Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith…”

1 Thessalonians 3:1-2
  1. Effective leaders empower others. 

The Apostle Paul empowered Timothy, a younger man already part of the succession plan. Timothy would become the second generation of leadership in the early Church. 

Jesus always intended the Church to be a multiplying movement, and Paul knew that a multiplying movement demanded multiplying leaders. Without the multiplication of effective leaders, there would be no movement.

Paul developed and deployed Timothy by ministering through him, not merely to him. Paul had discipled Timothy, who would be sent to disciple the Thessalonians.

  • Paul wrote these words to Timothy: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
  1. Effective leaders love others.

We cannot lead people we don’t love. We can be their boss, manager, dictator, or teacher. But effective leadership is something different. It’s not a title; it’s an action and mission, and loving others is critical to its fulfillment. 

Paul was more concerned with how the new Christians were doing than what they were doing. In the face of pending persecution, Timothy, the one sent by Paul to be a part of the multiplying movement, would help keep the new Christians from falling victim to the pressures surrounding them. 

Paul was willing to be left alone, sending Timonty to them because he loved them. He was willing to suffer with them and sacrifice for them. 

  • “…that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”—1 Thessalonians 3:3

Paul reminded them that afflictions were part of life. Trials produce life change, and good leaders inspire life change through the trials with empowerment and love. In other words, if we’re not “bleeding” (sacrificing in some way), we’re not really leading because we’re not really loving. Love is sacrifice (see John 10:11-15, John 13:34).

  • “For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.”—1 Thessalonians 3:4-5
  1. Effective leaders submit to others. 

We can never be great or godly leaders apart from humility and submission to authority. It is impossible to be effective leaders if we aren’t faithful followers.

  • “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you—therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.”—1 Thessalonians 3:6-8

True leaders are always team players. They have the humility to work in unity within a body (see 1 Corinthians 12:14-27).

  1. Effective leaders are thankful for others. 

Godly effective leaders don’t see people as human resources but as human beings.

  • For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”—1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 (emphasis added)

Instead of taking credit for the Thessalonians’ growth and perseverance, Paul thanked God. He gave them strength to overcome persecution and trials, and Paul recognized this, including it in his letter to them. He pointed them to Christ. 

The Takeaway

No matter who you are, you are leading someone. Ask Jesus today to clarify who you are to be leading. Effectively leading others requires you to…

  • Empower others
  • Love others
  • Submit to others
  • Give thanks for others

Look for ways in your leadership role to point others to Christ. 

Do you want to discover more from God’s Word about leading with boldness, humility, and tenacity? Get our free resource about leadership, Biblical Leadership Principles: Learning from the Book of Acts.

As the body of Christ, we must commit to being a part of the multiplying movement of Jesus, inspiring and leading others well so their lives, and the next generation, have hope and can persevere.