What a Leader Looks Like (part 2)

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:42-47)
14 [The kingdom of God is] like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.” 21 His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” 22 The man with two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold: see, I have gained two more.” 23 His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” 24 ‘Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” 26 His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (Matthew 25:14-30)
Question: Which of the initial 120 believers were leaders at the church in Jerusalem? Answer: All of them were! If 3,000 new converts were added to the church’s number on the Day of Pentecost, then the maths is quite simple. Each of the 120 had 25 new believers to disciple! Some of those 120 were new converts (like the sceptical half-brothers of Jesus who are mentioned in Acts 1:14). Some of those 120 might have used their age or their gender or their lack of education to disqualify themselves (like the women who are mentioned in Acts 1:14, or the uneducated men who are mentioned in Acts 4:13). Praise God that they didn’t, because if they had failed to accept God’s call to leadership then the church in Jerusalem would have floundered in its early days.

The parable that Jesus tells in Matthew 25:14-30 addresses this challenge. We don’t often preach from it, because it feels quite heavy, but we ought to preach from it all the more because it is! Jesus tells his followers that he has entrusted all of us with the ability to make disciples. Some may have a ‘five-bags-of-gold’ gifting, while others have a ‘two-bags-of-gold’ or a ‘one-bag-of-gold’ gifting. Jesus recognises this, but he insists that all of us have at least a ‘one-bag-of-gold’ gifting and that he will judge us based on how well we stewarded the little gifting that we had.

I find that pretty sobering, because it’s all too easy for us to bury the gifting that God has given us in the ground, when Jesus is calling us to dust it off and use it to make a few more disciples like ourselves. We can get so busy with work or so focused on our home life that we convince ourselves that we just don’t have the time to lead others. We can get so distracted by our own faults and failings that we live in fear, rather than risking our gifting for God.

Jesus is very clear with us. The issue is never one of too few people being saved and added into churches. It is always one of too few leaders who are prepared to care for them. (See also Matthew 9:37-38) He loves lost people too much to save them into churches where they wouldn’t be cared for. But when he sees a church where everybody is eager to pour out their lives into discipling others, he quickly saves and adds people to them. This is the lesson of Acts 2 and of the whole of Church history. When Jesus returns from heaven, it will be too late for us to seize it and to run with it, but here’s the good news – we all have time left to say yes to discipling other believers right now.
  1. Are you a Life Group leader? If you are, then do you regard everybody in your group as at least a ‘one-bag-of-gold’ leader too? Who could you release to begin a new Life Group with some of the people that you currently gather? Jesus wants to encourage you that they are readier to lead than you might think they are.
  2. If you are not a Life Group leader, then is it time for you to talk with your leaders and to offer to begin a new group with some of the people that they gather?
  3. Take a moment to imagine what the Lord might do in our church if we had more Life Group leaders than we needed, and we were ready for a sudden influx of new converts. How does that picture make you feel? Wouldn’t you be excited to be part of a church like that? Then pray that, by God’s grace, we will become that church.
Father God, I find it amazing that the first 120 Christians were each willing to disciple 25 new believers after the Day of Pentecost. I’m so used to thinking of leaders within the church as a small and elite group that I find it hard to imagine a church in which every believer dusted off their ‘bag of gold’ and led a few. Please make our church like that, Lord. May we have an abundance of leaders to that we are able to make an abundance of disciples. Amen.
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