Tag Archive for: Acts

Leadership and power go together. Some leaders use power to project their attitudes and perspectives upon others. They use their position and influence to keep situations and circumstances from changing, which prohibits people from becoming who God has created them to be. 

Other leaders have received the power to change their attitudes and perspectives. As they grow in their leadership, they invite others to explore their own attitudes and they work for the changes needed to bring about the full potential of the people entrusted to their care. The question is, how do you use the power given to you? 

The Power to Reshape Attitudes

As a Christ-centered leader, you have been given the power to challenge and reshape attitudes that are deeply rooted in people. As you work to empower people to become who God created them to be, you help them confront and understand their attitudes. 

Attitude is more than disposition or feeling. One aspect of attitude is understanding where you are and what direction you are going. As you help others discover and develop their potential to lead, you assist them in knowing who they are and why they live, act, and lead the way they do. 

Remember, the key to your power is the source of your power. The source shapes your values, character, faith, and attitudes. It helps you become more aware of the people God gives you to love and to lead. And as you grow closer to the source, you begin to be more aware of the people around you, your attitude toward them, and what God has provided for you to love them as you have been loved. 

So, how does this power work for you as a leader? 

Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return

Let’s use our practice of “Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return” to explore how this power helps you discover the attitudes that hinder you from communicating across barriers of prejudice and exclusion. 

Below is a story from the 10th Chapter of Acts. It is a three-part story of Simon Peter and his ministry with the Gentiles. This story will give you insight into understanding leadership and the power of attitude. Please do not skip over the scripture. It is a great story that actually provides insight into your leadership. 

Read Acts 10:1-28 

Cornelius’ Vision

1In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. 2 He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. 3 One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4 He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; 6 he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, 8 and after telling them everything he sent them to Joppa. 

Peter’s Vision

9 About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven. 

17 Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18 They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three[a] men are searching for you. 20 Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22 They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous[b] and God-fearing man who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish people, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So Peter[c] invited them in and gave them lodging.

The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the brothers and sisters from Joppa accompanied him. 

Peter and Cornelius Meet 

24 The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 On Peter’s arrival, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, worshiped him. 26 But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled, 28 and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is improper for a Jew to associate with or to visit an outsider, but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. 

Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. 

Reflect

This story is traditionally known as the conversion of Cornelius, but it could be called the conversion and attitude change of Peter. Peter has been preaching among the Gentiles, but his attitude has been one of “God loves all people but not all people are acceptable.” As he is reaching out to non-Jewish people, he is not convinced they are to be totally included. 

Cornelius’ Vision

Cornelius was one of the Roman soldiers who was interested in Jesus. He was among the Gentiles who was impressed with Jewish monotheism and ethics, and sometimes attended the synagogue. Yet, he remained a Gentile. He was a good man who prayed and gave to the poor. One day while praying he had a vision of an angel of God. In the vision God spoke to him, affirmed his good works, and told him to send for Peter. At the conclusion of his vision, he sent a delegation of three to ask Peter to come to his house. 

Peter’s Vision

At the same time, Cornelius had his vision, Peter had his own vision. He was at Simon the Tanner’s house. He had gone up on the roof to pray before lunch. While praying and waiting for lunch, he had his vision. Heaven opened and something like a large sheet came down with all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds. At that point, he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 

Peter responded to the voice by saying, “Lord, I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” Then the voice said, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times before the vision concluded. 

It is in the midst of this vision that God was planting a seed for an attitude change. Peter was hesitant to eat because some of the animals were unclean according to Jewish dietary laws. But through this vision, he learned that God’s message was not about specific foods, but about accepting all people, even the Gentiles. His attitude began to change. 

While Peter was trying to understand the vision, the delegation sent by Cornelius arrived. They asked for Peter. While Peter was still reflecting upon the vision, the Spirit told him that three men were searching for him. So, Peter met the delegation, listened to why they had come, and then provided hospitality for them. The next day Peter went with the delegation to Cornelius’ house. 

Peter and Cornelius Meet

When Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house, he realized the significance of his vision. He was being taught that God’s message was not as much about keeping dietary laws as it was about loving and accepting people, all people, including Gentiles. 

This discovery for Peter led to a major attitude change. From “You yourselves know that it is improper for a Jew to associate with or to visit an outsider…” to “but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” Peter made a huge journey from holding people at arm’s length to sharing the good news of Jesus with outsiders, strangers, and Gentiles. It is while he is in the home of Cornelius that he understands the vision from the day before. 

This event convinced Peter that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles as well. They were baptized, and Peter acknowledged that Gentiles were also included in God’s plan of salvation. 

The power of the Holy Spirit transforms leaders. In fact, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that makes and shapes Christ-centered leaders. For Luke, this is a pivotal moment in the spread of Christianity, from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and now to the ends of the earth. 

For you and me, this is the heart-opening moment that as followers of Jesus, all people are included in his love and acceptance. It is the presence and power of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, who gives you the power to lead as you have been created to lead. Just remember, who you are is how you lead. 

Respond 

This story illustrates the breaking of traditional barriers and the widening of God’s grace to all people. Regardless of ethnic or cultural background, God’s love is available to everyone. There are several things to notice in this story. 

God Hears Your Prayer

First, God hears the prayers of non-Christians just as God hears the prayers of Christ-centered leaders. Both Peter and Cornelius pray. The prayers of both are heard, and both have visions in which they receive revelations from God. The answer to their prayers is to bring together those who share the good news of Jesus with those who need to hear the good news of Jesus. The question is, are you open to God leading you to share God’s good news, especially with those persons who are not a part of your group or who you might consider to be sinners or unworthy? 

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Second, the transformative power of the Holy Spirit changes the attitudes of Christ-centered leaders. God has created you to be who God needs you to be. Although you think and feel one way at this moment, God is working to bring about something new and greater for you in the next moment. The question is, are you open to the power of God to change your attitudes, especially toward the people you have always kept at a distance? 

Your Response

Third, no Christ-centered leader is above rejecting a direct command of God. When God tells Peter to eat what has been provided on the sheet, Peter speaks back to God, “Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” Peter is being faithful to the biblical command that is to be obeyed. So, Peter’s refusal is not simply his pettiness or prejudice, although it is obvious that God intends to include all people. Peter is simply too narrow-minded to accept what is clearly God’s will. The question is, are you open to becoming more who God has created you to be and to lead in ways you are being called to lead? 

What God has made clean…

Fourth, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane” is a fundamental declaration of the Christian faith. God is the Creator of all people, the one who loves and accepts all people, and the one who wants to create a community within the divided world that will be God’s witnesses to the inclusiveness of God’s love. Peter finally sees this, not as the result of his vision, but on the basis of further experience within the Christian community. The question is, how are you growing in your faith as a Jesus follower and how is the community of faith helping you become the Christ-centered leader needed for this time? 

Christ-centered leaders have been given the power to communicate beyond the limits of nation, race, gender, sexual orientation, social and economic status within the community of faith. After conversations and reflection, Peter changed his attitude. 

This is how God’s revelation works in the community as it continues to face new situations and discover the will and direction of God. You have been given the power to change your own thinking, attitudes, and direction. It is in your faithfulness that you have the power to lead others in the development of their own attitudes as Jesus followers. Who you are is how you lead. 

Return

Give God thanks for the people you met today. 

  • What did you learn about yourself and your attitudes today? 
  • What do you plan to do with what you are learning about yourself and about God’s work in and through you? 
  • How did you interact with the people God sent your way? 
  • Who is helping you remember that you are a child of God and that you have been empowered to love others as God has loved you? 
  • What will you do differently tomorrow?
  • Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be. 

Prayer

O God, today I give you thanks for life and work. I pray for the power to be your witness starting where I am now. Remind me throughout the day of how you love me and how you have empowered me to love the people around me. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus. Amen

Leadership and power go together. Some leaders use power to control people. Other leaders use power to set them free. The question is, how do you use the power given to you? One answer is, who you are is how you lead. 

As a Christ-centered leader, you have been given the power to influence people by empowering them to become who God created them to be. You discover and develop their potential to lead and then set them free to lead. The key to your power is the source of your power. The source shapes your values, character, and faith. It helps you become more aware of the people God gives you to love and to lead. And as you grow closer to the source, you begin to share what you are receiving with the people around you.   

So, how does this power work for you as a leader?   

Let’s use our practice of “Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return” to explore how this power helps you communicate across barriers of prejudice and exclusion. 

Read Acts 8:26-40 

26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
    and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
        so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
        For his life is taken away from the earth.” 

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Reflect

As a Christ-centered leader, you have been given the power to communicate beyond barriers. Jesus told his followers, who were looking for power to restore Israel, that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them and that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Luke is telling the story of how the church is becoming a worldwide and inclusive community representing God’s love and acceptance of all people. This story, of Philip’s encounter with an Ethiopian eunuch, is an illustration of the power to communicate beyond the prejudices and exclusions that separate people from one another and the community of faith.

As you look at this story, there are three characters, a eunuch from Ethiopia, Philip, and the Holy Spirit, who help us understand the power to communicate.

The Power to Communicate: the Eunuch

The first character is the eunuch from Ethiopia. A eunuch was a man who by surgery, accident, or disposition could not father children. Eunuchs were trusted servants in a royal household. Although they were welcomed and trusted by royalty, according to Deuteronomy 23:1, “No eunuch is to enter the congregation of God.” (The Message). So, the eunuch in our story is not included or accepted in the community of faith. Being excluded from the community of faith is a barrier in this story.

He was a high court official for the queen of Ethiopia. Because he was from Ethiopia, he was considered a foreigner and not welcome in the community of faith. Being a foreigner is a barrier in this story. He is returning to Ethiopia from Jerusalem where he had been participating in a Jewish festival. Even though he was not welcomed or included, he had been in Israel to worship the Lord in the Temple. It was while he was on his way home that he encountered Philip.

The Power to Communicate: Philip

The second character is Philip, known in tradition as Philip the evangelist. He had been in Samaria, one of the areas Jesus had said he would have the power to witness (communicate), and now was on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. On the road, in a chariot, was the Ethiopian eunuch. He was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah.

Philip was prompted by the Spirit to approach the chariot. As he got close, he overheard the eunuch reading from Isaiah. Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading. The eunuch replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” The eunuch then invited Philip to come sit with him in the chariot. Understanding the scripture is another barrier in this story.

The passage the eunuch was reading was:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
    and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
        so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
        For his life is taken away from the earth.” (Isaiah 53:7-8)

The eunuch asked about the prophet and about whom the prophet was describing. Philip used the opportunity to explain the passage. He began to tell the story of Jesus. As he shared the good news (gospel), the eunuch trusted what he was hearing. When they came to some water by the side of the road, the eunuch asked to be baptized. Remember the words from Deuteronomy 23:1, “No eunuch is to enter the congregation of God.” (The Message).

But Philip, empowered by the Holy Spirit, agreed to baptize him. The eunuch ordered the driver to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. Philip had communicated beyond the barriers of backgrounds and prejudices. He had received power to witness beyond the lack of hospitality and acceptance, and beyond the lack of understanding.

Tradition says that the eunuch carried the gospel back to Ethiopia, and Philip found himself at Azotus, where he continued to witness to the love of God on his way to Caesarea. 

The Power to Communicate: The Holy Spirit

The third character is the Holy Spirit, the power of God given to Philip. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon a group of frightened self-centered, willful, and discouraged men and women. They were transformed into new creatures.  They were infused with supernatural power, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they began to communicate the story of Jesus in ways people understood and responded to positively.  Philip was one of the people empowered to witness to God’s love. 

Philip had grown up hearing that he and other Hebrew children should not go to Samaria. Samaria was a community of “half-breeds” who were not truly Hebrew in their faith. Yet, when the Holy Spirit came upon Philip, the first place he went to witness was Samaria. He had received the power to communicate across the barrier of prejudice. 

He was leaving Samaria when he encountered the eunuch. It was his relationship with God and his sensitivity to God’s leading that led to the encounter with the eunuch. The words of Jesus had come alive in his life and ministry, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Philip was a living example of God’s desire that those who received power would witness beyond the barriers that separated people from one another. He had begun to lead with the power given to him by God’s grace. 

Respond

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to witness across the barriers of prejudice and ignorance. 

According to Deuteronomy 23:1, physical eunuchs were excluded from the people of God, but Isaiah 56:1-8 points to a time when eunuchs and foreigners will be included, and God’s house will be “a house of prayer for all peoples.” Luke sees the Ethiopian as a transitional figure who worships the Jewish God, reads the Jewish Scriptures, but is still an outsider to the people of God. In this story, he hears the good news, is baptized, and is incorporated into the Christian community. 

Christ-Centered Leaders Communicate Across Barriers

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to communicate across the barriers of biblical and theological misunderstanding. 

Philip was invited into an encounter with the Ethiopian because he heard him reading the scripture. In the ancient world, private reading was done aloud. The truth is, all the Bible was written to be read aloud. You can often come to good insights about the meaning of the scripture by hearing it and listening to it.   

For Luke, scripture was not self-interpreting. It required a community of faith in order to be faithfully interpreted. In other words, (here is a barrier to the understanding of scripture), the Bible is not the individual’s book. The Bible belongs to the church. Please hear me, this does not mean there should not be private Bible reading and study, but it does mean that Christian readers of the Bible should listen closely to the insights and meaning of scripture provided by the whole community of faith. Philip, by the Holy Spirit, was present to help with the interpretation of the whole truth of the scripture. 

You Have the Power to Communicate

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to present the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through preaching, teaching, study groups, conversations, and encounters with people. You have the power to communicate clearly across barriers to invite people to be followers of Jesus in all they say and do. You have the power to witness across the barriers of exclusion using the wisdom of the whole church. 

Now listen closely. This is important. The Bible had hindered the eunuch from participating in the covenant people of God (Deuteronomy 23:1). But now the same book was promising full participation to those excluded (Isaiah 56:3-4). When interpreted in and through Jesus, God’s love crosses all hindrances and barriers. You as a Christ-centered leader, and a follower of Jesus, have been given the power, by the Holy Spirit, to witness across those barriers and hindrances.   

The Power to Communicate Across Barriers

As you respond to the reflection, think about the people who experience exclusion based on prejudice and ignorance. You have been given the power to communicate across the barriers that are rooted in what has been taught and experienced over centuries. God’s love in Jesus is greater than the prejudices that keep people out of the community of faith. You have been given the power to communicate across the barriers of biblical and theological ignorance rooted in the misunderstanding of who has received God’s grace and who is included in the community of faith.   

You have been given power by God, through God’s holy spirit, to be a witness, starting where you are, in the church, in the community, and in all the world. It is God’s power given to you that communicates beyond the barriers. 

As a leader, you decide whether you will receive and live by God’s power. Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

Return

Give God thanks for the people you met today. When did you have the opportunity to witness beyond a barrier or hindrance? Did you speak up when you had the opportunity to speak up on behalf of those who have been excluded or forgotten? How did you interact with the people God sent your way? What did you learn about yourself? Who is helping you remember that you are a child of God and that you have been empowered to love others as God has loved you? What will you do differently tomorrow? Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.  

Prayer

O God, today I give you thanks for life and work. I pray for the power to be your witness starting where I am now. Remind me throughout the day of how you love me and how you have empowered me to love the people around me. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus.  Amen

Leadership and power go together. As a leader, you have the power to influence people. As you live into the responsibility of discovering and developing the potential of people, you learn how to use your power appropriately. You learn to influence people, not by controlling or micromanaging, but by giving your power and influence away.  To be an effective and courageous leader, you learn to use your power to empower others. 

Most people think of power as the control that high-level leaders exert from their positions. But power extends beyond the formal authority that comes from a title or a position. Before looking at the power you have as a Christ-centered leader, let’s name seven bases of power that often are used and misused in leadership. 

7 Bases of Power

The power of position. This is the power of formal authority that derives from a person’s title or position in a group.

The power of expertise. This is the power of influence that comes from developing and communicating specialized knowledge, or the perception of knowledge.

The power of charisma. This is the power of influence that is generated by a leader’s style or personality.

The power of relationships. This is the power of influence that leaders gain through their formal and informal networks both inside and outside of the church or organization.

The power of information. This is the power of control that is generated through the use of evidence either used or withheld.

The power to reward others. This is the power to reward and recognize individuals for adhering to standards or expectations.

The power of punishment. This is the power to sanction individuals for failure to conform to standards or expectations. 

As a Christ-centered leader, you have another base of power. You have a power that comes from a higher source. Effective leaders draw their strength from an inner source of values, character, and faith. Let’s use our practice of “Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return” to explore that base of power. 

Read Acts 1:6-8 

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

Reflect

This scripture reflects two different understandings of power. The early followers of Jesus had political power in mind. They had grown up learning about the Messiah being a military and political leader. In their hearts and minds, Jesus was the Messiah. He was the anointed one of God who would restore Israel to power, a political and military power. For them, the Messiah was going to drive out and destroy the Romans and restore power to Israel. 

Their question shows that they have missed the point of Jesus returning in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’ teaching had become twisted in their understanding and ideas of the kingdom. They had missed what Jesus was teaching and were wanting Jesus to meet their agenda. 

Missing Power

I can imagine them saying, “Jesus, we appreciate all you have done on the cross and in the resurrection, and what you are saying about the kingdom and power is fine, but is it going to move toward our agenda? We became your followers because we thought you were to restore Israel to power.  Now, we aren’t pressuring you, we are just reluctant to ask, “Are you going to do it or not?” 

With their assumption that the Messiah would drive out and destroy the Romans, Jesus replied that only God knows the time of the coming of the kingdom.  Instead of answering their misunderstandings, those early followers were given a job to do. 

Holy Spirit Power

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” 

Jesus is saying, you will receive power, but it is not the power you think it is. You shall receive power, but not political or military power. You will receive power from God when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. 

The church’s mission is not carried out in its own strength. The church is not merely a group of good people trying hard to make the world a better place. The church functions by the presence and power of God. This is a unique kind of power rooted in communication, service, compassion, and a deep sense of purpose. To lead from this kind of power involves empowering others. It involves sharing your influence beyond yourself to bring about transformation in your church, your community, and in the world. 

The presence and power of God is the power of Christ-centered leaders. So, what does that mean for you? 

You will receive power: 

To Communicate:

 “…you will be my witnesses…” To be a witness means several things. One, a witness is a person who says I know this is true. Two, a witness is a person who lives the truth. Three, a witness is a martyr, not in the sense of dying for what you know is true, but living for what you know is true. To be a witness means to be loyal no matter the cost. “You will be my witnesses” means you will be loyal to Jesus, regardless of the cost, in what you say and do. 

To be a witness is enough, but there is more to the power of communication. There is an example of the power in the second chapter of Acts. “Now there were devout Jews from every people under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

This story is an example of the power of communication. When you look at the story closely, it says once that “They…began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enable them to speak.” It says three times people heard in their own languages.

The early followers of Jesus were given the power to communicate in ways people could understand. This is a power given by God and practiced by followers of Jesus. As a Christ-centered leader, you are assisting followers of Jesus to communicate in the language of the people in the neighborhood and community. 

To organize and strategize

“in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This scripture is the introduction to the story of the Acts of the Apostles being commissioned to reorient their lives from looking up and expecting Jesus to return to looking out into the world and their mission in it. 

The story in Acts is about communicating and sharing God’s love starting in Jerusalem, where they are at the moment, moving to Judea, which would represent home for most of them, moving to Samaria, which represents an area of hundreds of years of prejudice, and then moving to the ends of the earth, which includes their enemies in Rome. 

The deeper meaning here is that Luke presents the church as a community that, though it began as a Jewish sect, will become a universal inclusive community transcending languages and cultures. 

The early followers of Jesus were given the power to start right where they were and to move out in taking God’s love to all the world. This organized effort did not happen all at once. In fact, you, as a Christ-centered leader, are a part of the movement at this very moment. You are leading people in becoming witnesses, first at home, then with friends, colleagues, and neighbors, then with people who are marginalized, outcasts, and looked down upon, and then to all the world which includes your enemies. 

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to replicate, at home, what you have been leading people to do in other communities and cultures. You have the power to teach people to welcome others as God in Christ has welcomed them and to love others as they have been loved. I know it seems strange to say you have the power to organize and strategize such love in action, but if you don’t plan it, it will never happen. When you aim at nothing, you usually hit it. You have the power to organize and strategize God’s power starting right where you are. 

To embrace diversity: 

“in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Luke knows that the church is destined to become a universal community. In the second chapter of Acts, the list of nations is symbolic of the whole world. His list transcends the Roman Empire and includes the Parthians who have been a constant enemy threat. Jews and Arabs are both embraced in the vision of the universal church. Luke includes those born into Jewish families and those who have been converted to Judaism from Gentile religions. Ethnic and racial diversity is represented from the very beginning. There are even visitors from Rome. Luke concludes his story with the arrival of Paul in Rome. But there were people from Rome present at the beginning of the church. 

As a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to appreciate and value different perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds. You also have the power to lead others in that same appreciation. 

You will receive power…Who you are is how you lead. 

Respond

As a Christ-centered leader, you have a base of power that comes from outside yourself. Your power is not based upon position, although you can leverage your position to give your power away; expertise, although as you learn and gain knowledge you have more to offer; charisma, which comes more from character as it does from personality; information, which means you have the opportunity to share what you know and are learning; reward or punishment. 

Your power comes from a higher source. And as a Christ-centered leader, you draw your strength from that source that forms your values, character, and faith. You draw your strength from God who you know in and through Jesus. 

Although the early followers of Jesus missed the point of power, you have the opportunity to assist people beyond such misunderstandings. You have received the power to communicate in ways people will understand, to organize and strategize so the world will know of God’s love, and to embrace diversity. So, be who God has created you to be, not by the power of position but by the power of God. 

Who you are is how you lead. 

Return

Give God thanks for the people you met today. Where did you exert your power? Did you use your position to leverage power? How did you interact with others? What did you learn about yourself? Who is helping you remember that you are a child of God and that you have been empowered to love others as God has loved you? What will you do differently tomorrow? Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.  

Prayer

O God, today I give you thanks for life and work. I pray for the power to be your witness starting where I am now. Remind me throughout the day of how you love me and how you have empowered me to love the people around me. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus.  Amen

If I could give one quality gift to you as a leader, I would give you the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask that God make you a grateful person. Gratitude is the fundamental value of the Christian faith. It has the potential to change the world, as much as impacts your relationships. 

Over my 48+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, mean, or vengeful. If you are a grateful person, you will lead with gratitude. Who you are is how you lead.

This week, as you gather with family and friends to celebrate thanksgiving, give thought to the words “glad and generous hearts” recorded in Acts 2:46.

Read Acts 2:46-47

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Reflect

These words in Acts are words of good news. With these words we see people in the community giving thanks, filled with joy, caring for one another, and giving to meet each other’s needs. We see a picture of a church that is inviting and attractive. In the midst of the fighting, division, and pain, there is good news, “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.”

Depending on your point of view, or may I say your disposition, you might see these words as a dream of what the church could be. A mission to be accomplished. You might dismiss them as impossible, improbable, and uncomfortable. A matter of wishful thinking. Or you might be skeptical. You are asking yourself, “Did that really happen?” or “It might have happened then, but it will never happen now.”

In the day in which we are living, it is difficult to see the church as a place of “koinonia” fellowship where people are together with glad and generous hearts. But before you dismiss these words as wishful thinking, let’s look at their context.

Good News about the Church

Understanding the context of the words will give us insight into the truth of the words. In the New Testament, there are some words that are prescriptive. They tell us or teach us what we should do, how we should live, or who we are to follow. An example of prescriptive words is, “A new command I give to you, love one another as I have loved you.” The words are straightforward and direct.

The New Testament also has words that are descriptive. We call these words narratives or stories. They don’t tell us what to do but tell us what happened. When Jesus goes up on the mountain to pray it describes what he was doing. Those words are not telling you what to do, but they reveal a truth that is both meaningful and purposeful for living and leading today.

Luke’s main goal, in the book of Acts, is to tell the story of the life and growth of the early church through the ministry of the apostles. It is a narrative, a story, which contains truth for you as a Christ-centered leader.

You might think of it this way, Luke is telling us a good news story about the church so you and I can learn from it and find hope in it.

Glad and Generous Hearts

In the story, everyone is in awe. God is moving. The church is filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Its members gather to study the Gospel, eat together, pray, and fellowship with one another. There is generosity overflowing and people are caring for each other’s needs. Some followers go as far as selling assets and giving up material goods to do so. Daily worship, meals in homes, thankful attitudes, “glad and generous hearts,” good relationships with their neighbors, and new people welcomed into the family of Jesus followers. We see the early church being full of life and joy.

So, what truth is found in the story?

Life Together

First, Following Jesus is meant to be done together. On the day of Pentecost, thousands of people decided to follow Jesus after hearing Peter’s explanation of the life, crucifixion, death, resurrection and living presence of Jesus. The response is not only internal and individual, but external and corporate. The believers don’t separate and try to make it on their own. No, they gather regularly and form a fellowship (koinonia), with glad and generous hearts. Their coming together was an essential part of who they were as followers of Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that being together as the church is essential to being a Christian. He wrote, “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ” In his book Life Together, Bonhoeffer described Christian relationships as a prerequisite for following Jesus. He wrote, “God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother (sister)…Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to (her)… (S)He needs (her) brother (or sister) as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

Following Jesus is not meant to be a solo endeavor. It is a relational response to God’s love experienced and understood through Jesus. Those early Jesus followers were together for the purpose of becoming who God had created them to be.

Relationships – Being Known

Second, Following Jesus involves developing and strengthening relationships with other followers of Jesus. If you ask, “What does a church need to be a church today?” You will hear someone say, “A building” Someone else will say, “A good Sunday morning worship experience.” And another will say, “We need a leaderboard, committees, and infrastructure.” While each of these things are good and helpful in their own way, they are describing parts of an institution. They don’t necessarily give life to a group of Jesus followers.

Luke described the basic practices of the church as the apostles teaching, the good news of Jesus, and regular daily prayer. But he did stop there, he described what I am calling, “friending and eating.” In verse 42 he described koinonia, “they devoted themselves…to fellowship” and in verse 46, “they spent much time together and ate together…with glad and generous hearts.”

Friending is more than Facebook. Friending is more than our understanding of fellowship or participating in potluck dinners. Being a friend is about building genuine relationships of care, support, and accountability.

There are relationships involving worship, scripture, and prayer. But there are also settings outside of what we normally think of as “church.” Following Jesus involves knowing other Christians intimately.

You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you do need a core of Jesus followers who help you grow in your faith and live out your faith in a loving relationship with the people with whom you live, work, and play.

Bonhoeffer wrote, “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.” 

So, the truth of this scripture is, being a follower of Jesus is not just about you. As you follow Jesus, you learn that your faith is lived out in relationships with others, like family, friends, strangers, and enemies. It is in and through your relationships that you develop a glad and generous heart and become more who you are created to be.

Holy Attitudes

Third, following Jesus, in relationship with others, helps you develop holy attitudes about the world around you. It helps you develop holy attitudes about everyday life, such as attitudes of joy, gratitude, and thanksgiving. Being in relationship with others also helps you develop holy attitudes about your neighbors and your material possessions.

The worldview of those early followers changed. They saw the needs of others as their own needs. The burdens of the world were their burdens. They understood loving neighbors as not only loving them emotionally but also as sacrificing to meet their physical and economic needs. These early followers of Jesus did not see their material possessions as solely for their own benefit. They worked together to meet the needs they were discovering. It is interesting that no one forced anyone to participate and not all possessions or goods were sold. But things were sold as the need arose.

According to William Willimon, this community of Jesus followers had “confidence in the ability of the resurrection faith to overturn all material and social arrangements”

Luke is telling the story, not of a specific prescription for the community, but of the truth that the Spirit-filled community cultivated generosity, joy, and material sacrifice for the good of others.

Following Jesus, in relationship with one another, helps us to develop holy attitudes about the world around us, about our daily life, our material possessions, and our neighbors. May we be like the early church and seek to cultivate glad and generous hearts.

Respond

To be a Christ-centered leader in a spirit-filled community is to be focused upon Jesus, helping people to develop healthy relationships, and providing opportunities for people to grow in holy attitudes about everyday life. Your leadership is key to cultivating gratitude. It is gratitude that whether you are gathered in koinonia or scattered into the community, the experience is glad and generous hearts. Gratitude has the potential to impact the world just at the experience of Pentecost.

Return

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expressed his gratitude, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4).

Who are the people who fill your heart with love, happiness, and gratitude? Take a moment to think of three or four people for whom you are grateful. People through whom you have experienced God’s love. Who brings you joy? Who has been influential? Write their names on a piece of paper. You now have a list of people who are special to you. Give God thanks for them and for how God has provided you with a glad and generous heart because of them.

Have a blessed thanksgiving with family and friends. Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Christ-centered leaders develop community, specifically Christian community. The question is, “What does it mean to develop a community?” 

We have discussed the development of community in the New Testament known as koinonia and we have discussed the discovery of the community in which your congregation is located. Keep in mind that the foundation of Christ-centered leadership is Jesus. As a follower of Jesus and a leader of other followers of Jesus, how do you develop the relationships, deepen the faith, and deploy into mission the people entrusted to your care? 

As we answer that question, remember that John Wesley worked to develop both ideas of community. Through what we identify as personal piety and social holiness, Wesley developed and organized a system to help followers of Jesus grow in their personal faith and to live out their faith in the places they lived, worked, and played. Wesley said it this way, “true Christianity cannot exist without the inward experience and the outward practice of justice, mercy, and truth.” 

With that in mind, let’s look at the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and focus specifically at the two verses below. 

Read Acts 2:42, 46 

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… 

Reflect

On the Day of Pentecost, one hundred and twenty frightened, self-centered, discouraged, and disheartened men and women were transformed into new Christ-centered leaders. They were filled with new life and perspective, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. 

By the power of the Holy Spirit, those newly empowered leaders began to communicate the story of Jesus in ways people understood and responded to positively. The people were amazed and perplexed. They asked, “What does this mean?”  Others mockingly said, “They are full of new wine.” 

The First Sermon

It was a careless, scoffing comment that prompted the first Christian sermon. When the followers of Jesus were accused of being drunk, Simon Peter took responsibility for telling the story of Jesus. He told the people about the life, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and presence of Jesus. He explained God’s offer in Jesus, what people did to refuse it, what God did despite the refusal, and what could happen to each of them. 

When the people heard Peter’s sermon, “…they were cut to the heart…” and they cried out, “What shall we do?”  

Simon Peter was ready with an answer and the first Christian invitation to a congregation was extended: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 

The word repent means “to change one’s mind, to perceive after a mind-changing truth or understanding.”  Peter wanted them to change their thinking about God’s messiah, the Christ, and to see their own need for him as the Lord of their lives. 

Repent

The word repent can also refer to becoming who you were created to be. By God’s love, you begin to live as God intends for you to live. Think of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. You are in the process of repentance as you begin to love more the way God has loved you. One of the things that changed for those at Pentecost was their way of communicating with one another. Instead of insisting that everyone learn to speak and communicate like they spoke and communicated, by the power of God’s love and presence, they learned new ways of communicating and relating to the people around them. 

The scripture says that those who welcomed Simon Peter’s message were baptized, and that day about 3000 persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 

The First Community of Faith

That first community of faith was: 

A learning community.

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching…  The word for “teaching” is a dynamic word. It means that they persisted in listening to the apostles as they taught. 

A fellowshipping community.

The word “koinonia” means having in common or in fellowship. There is no true fellowship without Christ’s Spirit in us and between us. Jesus Christ is what we have in common. He is our common bond. That bond is greater than anything or anyone else. He draws us into oneness and loves each of us through each other. 

A praying community.

Life together was described as the breaking of bread and prayers. For people to be one with Christ and one with each other, it takes time to be together to listen to each other, to care for and be for each other. Praying together becomes the time of communication with the Lord in which we are replenished in God’s Spirit in order to continue unselfish and non-manipulative concern and caring for each other 

A worshiping community.

They had “gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God.”  Praise became an outward sign of the indwelling of the Spirit. It continued to be an outward sign as Jesus lived in them and in their fellowship. They could not praise God enough for what God had done for them in and through Jesus. 

A growing community.

People were attracted to the joy of the community and wanted to know the source of it. People wanted to be with those contagious, praising followers of Jesus and have what he had given them. 

Because there were no established church buildings, the people met in homes. As they gathered in homes they continued to gather in the temple. When they gathered, they broke bread together and praised God with glad and generous hearts. 

An effective way of developing community in our day is to establish koinonia groups for personal faith development and for developing relationships that impact the community in which your church is located. 

Five Ingredients for Developing Koinonia

Based on our scripture, there are five essential ingredients in developing koinonia: 

1. Study

“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching…” Wesley called this “searching the scriptures.” One of the distinctive marks of Jesus followers is the understanding and engaging the gospels. Just as the apostles’ teaching was transformational in the lives of the early followers of Jesus, devoting ourselves to living out the good news of Jesus Christ is transformational both personally and socially. 

2. Fellowship

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship.” Koinonia Fellowship is both an informal time when people get to know and love one another and a formative time when people grow together in their personal faith and learn to give care and encouragement in their social interactions. 

3. Accountability

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple.” Those early Jesus followers spent time together every day. I can imagine they were sharing stories, asking questions, learning, and growing together. 

Although most of us do not feel comfortable being held accountable, especially regarding our faith, koinonia provides a space and safety to develop trust and courage. We grow into our accountability. I can imagine that was what was happening as they spent time together. 

Think of it this way, if you are a member of a koinonia group and you want to develop a pattern for bible study, you might say to the group, “Please hold me accountable to reading the Bible each day this next week.”  The following week your group would ask you, “How did you do with reading your Bible this week?”  You respond by saying, “Well, I read my Bible each day until I got to the weekend. I would like you to keep asking me the question until Bible study becomes a regular daily practice.” 

As your koinonia matures, your group might agree to ask each other questions as you gather. Questions related to personal faith development and to your interaction with Jesus and the people you meet each day. We all need help in developing and maintaining our walk with Jesus. 

4. Worship and Prayer

It is important that each group have a time of worship and prayer. Sometimes singing a hymn or a praise chorus will lead your group into worship. At other times, it will be prayer or sharing experiences of experiencing God’s love, or how Jesus showed up unexpectedly leads to “glad and generous hearts…”   

5. Mission and Outreach

Your journey inward leads to your journey outward. Your koinonia leads you into developing relationships outside your group. Together, you find ways to love others the way God in Jesus has loved you. You might feed people who are hungry or find shelter for those who are homeless. You might provide care for children or jobs for the unemployed. One way to discover where to be in mission is to ask the question, “What can we do that no one else is doing?” God always provides people to love and places to serve. Koinonia helps turn your inner faith into outward expressions of love and care. 

“They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts…” 

Christ-centered leaders develop community, specifically Christian community. 

Respond 

O God I am grateful for your call upon my life and for the opportunity to be a leader centered upon your love in Jesus. By your grace, give me the faith to assist people in growing in their faith. Give me the courage to lead people into the community to love others as you have loved me. Thank you for the ways you have provided to become more who you have created me to be. Thank you for John Wesley and for the way he has modeled personal piety and social holiness. Oh, God, thank you for your love. Give me faith to love and trust you more. Amen.

Return

Give God thanks for the people you encountered today. In whom did you meet Jesus? What structures are you developing to assist people in growing in their faith and in giving care, support, encouragement, and hope to others? What do you need to do to lead others into koinonia? Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to become more who God has created you to be. Keep in mind, who you are is how you lead.

We are on the downhill side of the pandemic.  Several of the mandates, like wearing masks outside and the number of people gathering in public places, are being relaxed. Much of what we could not do over the past year is coming back. With that in mind, how are you leading or preparing to lead into this “new normal”?

Are you expecting things to go back to the way they were? Are you building upon some of the things you learned? Do you have a plan for bringing people back together into community? Things have changed. How are you leading your community out of the pandemic and into a new reality? 

The Moment Things Changed

As you reflect upon these questions, let’s look at a moment in time when things changed and a new way of leading emerged. The moment of change is recorded in the bible as The Day of Pentecost found in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles. 

On the Day of Pentecost, one hundred and twenty discouraged, self-absorbed, willful, frightened, powerless men and women were transformed into new people. They lived through an experience that brought about a new intellectual and emotional reality.  

Through their experience, they began to communicate in ways that connected with people. In that connection, the people who were curious asked, “What does this mean?”  As in all new experiences, the people who were cynical viewed the experience as nonsense. 

An Opportunity to Lead

Both the curious questions and the cynical comments were received as an opportunity to lead people into a new reality. Simon Peter, taking advantage of the moment, began to give his account of what had happened, beginning with his experience of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and continuing through the presence of Jesus on that very day. He explained God’s offer of love (agape) and relationship (community) in Jesus. He clearly named current reality when he told them about people who had refused God’s invitation. Then he offered hope when he explained what could happen to those who would receive the invitation. 

Many of the curious, when they experienced the leadership of Simon Peter asked, “What shall we do?”  He was ready with clear direction. “It is time to change the way we have been looking at things. A new normal is here. God’s love is greater than we have ever imagined.” Then he gave clear directions for living into the new normal.   

A New Way of Leading

In the midst of the change, a new way of leading emerged. The people who followed, were received in a new normal of love and relationship, They devoted themselves to learning new ways to live together in koinonia (community). 

If you are saying that there is a world of difference between a COVID pandemic and the Day of Pentecost, you are correct. But just as the Day of Pentecost was an opportunity to love and live differently, the COVID pandemic provides the same opportunity.  

Do you have a plan for bringing people back together into community? Even though some things have changed, other things have not changed. As you are leading your community out of the pandemic and into a new reality, keep in mind the following:

1. You are part of a learning community

Be persisted in learning new ways for a new day.  Learn from the people around you. Learn from authors and teachers. Learning is at the heart leading.

2. You are nurturing community

The word “koinonia” means having in common or in fellowship.  At the heart of fellowship or relationship is the love of God (agape). We know that love in and through Jesus. Jesus is our common bond and it is greater than anything or anyone else.  It is the love of God we have experienced in Jesus who draws us into community and who loves us in and through each other.  

3. You are in a community of prayer

Community life is lived out as unselfish and non-manipulative concern and caring for one another. It takes time to be together to listen to each other, care, and be for each other.   Prayer together becomes the time of communication with God, who replenishes us, so we are unselfish in care and concern.

4. You are a worshipping community

In worship, we express outwardly the presence of God’s love living within us, as we affirm our love for one another. People are attracted to the joy of the community. They want to be with loving people. 

A New Way of Living

The reality is you are on the downhill side of the pandemic. You will either slide into the way things were before or you will lead into a new way of living and loving. 

You have an opportunity to lead into a new day. This opportunity never presented itself before and will be present only for a short period of time. So, what one thing will you do to change and be the leader people need and want for this new day? 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. So, keep your purpose in mind. Love the people around you. Communicate clearly and directly. And when the time is right, invite people to join you on this journey into a post-pandemic reality. We have been created for this moment in time. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

A Reminder

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I have a conversation with April Casperson, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the West Ohio Conference. April shares grace-filled wisdom about community, relationships, and  diversity. Her role is to help people work better across differences. 

If you want to build community, or deepen community connections, join us for Episode 178. If you have not been a regular LeaderCast listener, you will want to start with this episode. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.