Over the 50 years I have been in some sort of leadership role, there have been two chapters in the Bible that were always considered the “Leadership Chapters”, the way I Corinthians 13 is the “Love” chapter and I Corinthians 15 is the “Resurrection” chapter. These two chapters are I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Somewhere along the way I discovered the rich leadership principles of I Peter 5 and have thought in terms of three leadership chapters. 

In the last several months, however,  I have landed on a fourth.  Now, I’m not saying you need to agree with me on this.  These are the chapters that I’m thinking and praying through for myself, and the chapters I’m going to be sharing from regarding what the New Testament teaches about leadership. 

Okay, Dave, what is the fourth chapter? Glad you asked.

Acts, chapter 20, The Other Leadership Chapter!

Here we find Paul sharing his heart with the leaders of the church of Ephesus on the last recorded time he met with them. As far as we can tell, he never saw this group again.

He, and they, knew it would be their last time together.  So, what he shares and exemplifies in Acts 20 is pretty important.  Sort of like what Jesus chooses to share with the twelve in his last hours with them (John 13-16) and then Jesus prays for them (John 17).  Paul does the same. He shares his last thoughts with them and then prays for them and weeps with them because “they would not see his face again.”

It is not my intent to share everything about leadership that I see in Acts 20, but a just a few thoughts to prime the pump. Let me start with Paul himself.  I see him exhibiting four leadership traits which stand out to me.

Contriteness, Compassion, Composure and Courage

The first three are found in verses 18 and 19.

“And when they came to him, he said to them: You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews;” Acts 20:18,19 (ESV)


A simple reading of the accounts of Paul’s life and travels, as well as in his letters, reveals that he truly was a servant-leader–a genuinely humble man. Frankly, as I look at many well-known leaders today, I don’t see a lot of genuine humility. I see a lot of vision, I see a lot of confidence, I see a lot of ideas, I see a lot of preaching and teaching, but not a lot of humility.  It’s becoming an endangered species–especially among young successful reformed leaders.  Yet in every key leadership passage in the New Testament, humility is listed as a requisite for being a leader. Isaiah says it straight on: “For thus says ‘the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’ ” Isaiah 57:15 (ESV). We could use a baptism of humility among Jesus’ leaders today


Paul says he served with tears. Toward the end of Acts 20 we read that he, and they, all wept for each other.

Paul’s in good company; Jesus wept.  He wept at Lazarus’ grave. He wept over the city of Jerusalem. He wept in the garden before his death.

I believe Paul’s tears were tears of genuine concern for the Ephesian elders and the church in Ephesis. He speaks of the same compassionate concern in I Thessalonians 2:1-12. Paul genuinely, honestly and consistently loved people…and they knew it!

It’s a theme that runs through all his letters–his deep love and concern for people. Sometimes I think I love the ministry more than the people I minister to and need to repent.

I will continue with Composure and Courage on Wednesday, August 21st.