TEAM TIPS FROM ACTS
Sifting Church Planting Teams Through The Pauline Sieve
Recently I was privileged to do field research among people groups whose homelands touched the coasts of Djibouti and Kenya. I thought, "If a team of workers were assigned to one of these resistant groups, what would it look like?" During my three weeks of research, I read from the early chapters of Acts as part of my daily devotional time. I observed how the apostles, the Early Church and the first missionaries utilized the team approach.
A church planting team to a specified people group could be defined as "a number of persons associated in a joint action." The team concept is reflected in the New Testament church and its activities. This example serves as a sieve through which we can sift our current ideas and produce a biblical base for the team approach.
Research: Identifying the Need(Acts 3)
Luke records the healing of a crippled beggar at the gate called Beautiful. Peter and John were going up to the temple to pray when the beggar cried out to them for money. "Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, 'Look at us!'" (Acts 3:4).
Peter and John, even Jesus, had probably walked by this lame beggar numerous times, but on this occasion the two disciples heard his call and stopped to respond. It is evident that the Lord has a specific time to meet a person's need. Also, this scene serves to remind us that a believer can walk by a glaring need again and again and never see it.
The purpose of research is to identify the need. Good research necessitates team participation between the researcher, missionary and national. Together, Peter and John saw the need, and the result was a united response. As a team they heard, and in concert they rose to the challenge.
On The Same Page(Acts 4)
The Early Church was under intense pressure from the Sanhedrin. Persecuting believers was the order of the day. Added to this was the dimension of learning how to function as a church. The way the believers coped with these challenges is a model for ministry teams today. Their secret for success is given in Acts 4:32: "All the believers were one in heart and mind."
The first Christians were a tight-knit community, demonstrating true koinonia (a Greek word meaning “fellowship”). They were a family, spiritual brothers and sisters. Driven out of the synagogues, they stepped immediately into a caring church family. They shared what they owned much like a family shares its inheritance.
The early believers were one in heart and shared an emotional bonding, a feeling for one another. They were one in mind; intellectually they were on the same page. They moved and functioned as a unit. No one considered his possessions to be his alone; he shared everything he had. They were one team with one purpose and one destiny. They were in it together, for better or worse, in order to bring glory to God and to achieve His purposes.
Overcoming Obstacles(Acts 5)
Gamaliel calmed the furious Sanhedrin with these words, "For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, your will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God" (Acts 5:39). The test of time is reliable.
A church planting team focused on a resistant community will face a number of tests and trials that will challenge all the members’ commitment. Time and circumstances will test their purpose statement, their lifestyle and the programs they generate. However, if the team's purpose and activity has been birthed out of fasting and prayer, with team members possessing a deep conviction that this effort is God-ordained, nothing will be able to stop them from achieving their goal.
The team will learn to manage each obstacle. The community will recognize that the team is God-fearing and unstoppable, and the team itself will recognize that every obstacle will come down because this is the work of God.
Team Members(Acts 6)
The Early Church provides many examples of good team members, but one whose qualities are clearly spelled out in Scripture is Stephen. May all church planting team members seek to develop these characteristics in their personal lives.
Luke calls Stephen “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5). This indicates spiritual maturity and a current, contemporary, vibrant relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Luke goes on to say that "Stephen, a man full of God's grace (favor) and power (a Pentecostal activist), did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people" (Acts 6:8). Stephen had a proven ministry. He was not a novice.
"They could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke" (Acts 6:10). Stephen knew how to interact with people and handle their questions. He spoke to the issue and applied the solution to real life. He did not give his own thoughts; rather, the Holy Spirit spoke through him. He had an anointing upon his life.
"They saw that his face was like the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15). His countenance radiated love, joy and peace. The Spirit of God dwelled in him and Stephen's face glowed, reflecting the presence of Christ who lived in his heart. People noticed because everyone has a basic need to be happy. Positive, upbeat, beaming team members will impact a community.
Answer the Question(Acts 8)
Philip had an unexpected opportunity to minister to the Ethiopian eunuch traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. This divine appointment was arranged by the Holy Spirit. When the man asked a question about the Scripture he was reading, "Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus" (Acts 8:35).
Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch at the man’s level of need; he answered his question and led him to an understanding of salvation in Jesus Christ. Team members need to be aware of people’s genuine questions and respond to them. Some individuals just want to argue and debate, but others really want to know the truth. Church planting teams will look for divine, serendipitous appointments and meet people at their level of need.
The Persecutor(Acts 9)
Church planting teams will experience persecution. New believers will often be rejected by their families, isolated from their communities, and all too often tortured or killed. It may be the father of the convert that instigates the persecution or it may be a government leader. How aggressive should a team be in seeking to give an overt witness to a persecutor?
Before his conversion, the apostle Paul meted out severe persecution upon the believers. Did the disciples go to him with an appeal or give a direct witness? If so, it is not recorded. Their only known response following Paul's conversion and his first visit to Jerusalem was "they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple" (Acts 9:26).
King Herod persecuted the church and even had the apostle James killed. Interestingly, among the listing of prophets and teachers at Antioch in Acts 13:1 was Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch. There is no record that Manaen, thought to be Herod’s foster brother, ever gave Herod an overt witness of the gospel. This raises the question of how intentional one should be in presenting the gospel to his chief persecutor.
The apostle Paul's witness to Felix and King Agrippa was more circumstantial than a result of strategy. Later, Paul's appeal to Caesar was a political move and the byproduct was a chance to witness to Caesar's household. No direct witness to Nero is recorded.
It appears that a team member's concern for the salvation of his persecutor should be primarily expressed in prayer. If the Lord arranges the circumstances, his response can be bold. Otherwise, he needs to be cautious about arranging such encounters or inviting martyrdom. Let it be a God thing.
Relational Bridges(Acts 10)
Cornelius was a God-fearing man who was directed by an angel to send for Peter in Joppa. While men were on their way to bring Peter back to Cornelius' house, the Lord adjusted Peter's Jewish theology. When the men arrived, “Peter invited the men (unclean according to Jewish law) into the house to be his guests" (Acts 10:23).
The ultimate act of hospitality is asking a person into your home as an overnight guest. In a way, it is like inviting an individual into your heart and life.
The next day Peter accompanied the men to Cornelius’ house. He was graciously received and the entire household opened their hearts to the gospel message. After being filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized in water, "they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days" (Acts 10:48).
It is one thing to give hospitality, but quite another to receive it. In a sense, receiving someone's kind generosity involves endorsing him and accepting him just as he is. A relational bridge has two ends: the giving end and the receiving end. Each party enjoys the other and neither is superior to the other.
Returning to Jerusalem, news circulated about Peter's activities. The circumcised brothers rebuked Peter, saying, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them" (Acts 11:3). A commerce bridge with the Gentiles was one thing, but in their Jewish eyes a relational bridge was entirely different. This is true from a resistant person’s perspective too. How team members spend their leisure time is very significant. Incorporating unbelieving friends into one's leisure moments builds a relational bridge over which the gospel can flow.
Effective Team(Acts 13:1-3)
The first cross-cultural missionary team sent out by the Early Church had the stamp of the sovereign God upon it. The prophets and teachers to whom the Holy Spirit spoke, instructing them to launch their first team, were all acquainted with the Gentiles’ spiritual need. All of them, but for Manaen, were foreign-born Jews who grew up in the Greek culture and knew all about Roman politics.
Barnabas was from Cyprus; Lucius was from Cyrene, which is today's Tripoli; Simeon was from farther south in Africa; and Paul was from Tarsus, which is present-day Turkey. All of them were uniquely prepared for Gentile ministry. What a great sending base for the first missionaries!
Church planting teams that have been brought together by the Holy Spirit will recognize the same print of the sovereign Lord. Fasting and prayer is a key component. The leaders at Antioch were prepared in that manner to hear the voice of the Spirit. Recognizing the importance of the mission, they fasted and prayed before commissioning the first team. Herein lies the success of team ministry.
Launching a Team(Acts 13)
The Antioch leaders recognized that the Holy Spirit not only needed to select the team, but also anoint them for the work to which they were called. They placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul to dedicate them to God’s purposes and ask His blessing upon them. Then they "sent them off" (Acts 13:3). As an expression of their confidence in the Holy Spirit and in the messengers, they sent them without a lot of instructions as to how they would go about accomplishing God’s plan.
A similar example of confidence in the Holy Spirit and the messengers selected is seen in the team sent to Antioch to communicate the Jerusalem church's decision concerning Gentile believers. Luke records that "The men were sent off and went down to Antioch" (Acts 15:30).
The team moved out, enjoying the confidence of its sending base but also recognizing their accountability to the church. The accountability factor was spiritual but responsibility is implied too in regard to financial support. After their first missionary venture, they returned to Antioch to report to the elders. A question arose concerning whether to require circumcision of Gentile believers, and the church decided to seek wisdom from the apostles in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Council made a decision and wanted to communicate it to the Gentiles as coming from headquarters and with their authorization. They "decided to choose some of their own men" (Acts 15:22) to accompany the team. They clarified that those who had been teaching that circumcision was necessary to be a Christian were doing so without the consent of the apostles, declaring, "We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you" (Acts 15:24).
Team Preparation(Acts 1-13)
Reading the early chapters of Acts, one quickly identifies the skill with which the apostles, deacons and others handled the Word of God.
Peter addressed a large crowd on the Day of Pentecost, linking the outpouring of the Spirit to the prophets’ references in Scripture. He supported the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of a Messiah with biblical references (chapter 2).
Stephen's scriptural proficiency made it impossible for his Grecian friends to stand up to his wisdom. He knew the Word and had the ability to apply it wisely. His discourse before the Sanhedrin revealed his grasp of church history (chapters 6 and 7).
Philip's competency in handling God's Word is seen in his ability to answer the Ethiopian eunuch's question, using it as a springboard to present Jesus as Savior (chapter 8).
Paul witnessed to the proconsul of Paphos, who wanted to hear the Word of God. When the proconsul saw a miracle, he believed, for he was amazed at Paul’s teaching about the Lord. Arriving in Pisidian Antioch, Paul spoke at the synagogue and was invited to return the next Sabbath. On that day almost the whole city gathered to hear the Word of the Lord (chapter 13).
James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, heard the arguments and testimonies of the brethren and articulated a consensus opinion based on the words of the prophets. Then, from a biblical perspective, he made a decision regarding requirements to be placed upon Gentile believers (chapter 15).
From these examples we learn that diligent, disciplined study of the Scriptures is a prerequisite for effective team ministry.
The Early Church team was a mature team. They knew the Word and how to communicate it. This came through practice. Paul and Barnabas became skillful teachers before being selected by the Holy Spirit and the Antioch church. Luke reports in Acts 11:26: "So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people." They learned how to interact with people concerning biblical truth by practicing. They ministered to adults, learning how to answer difficult questions regarding God's dealings with mankind. When the Holy Spirit called them, they had a mature, seasoned ministry to offer.
Paul and his teammates were thoroughly Pentecostal. They were Spirit-filled and knew how to worship in the Spirit and flow in the spiritual gifts. They were full and overflowing with the Holy Spirit, and Paul declared that he spoke in tongues more than anyone else (1 Corinthians 14:18).
Church planting teams among resistant people groups need to be totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Zechariah 4:6 states it clearly: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty." Apart from the Holy Spirit, nothing of lasting value can be accomplished.
Action Plan (Acts 15)
Consensus decision makingis demonstrated by the apostles in Jerusalem in formulating a response to the Gentile church. After hearing input from various people, especially Peter, Barnabas and Paul, James articulated a consensus decision with minimal requirements for the Gentile churches. The details were left to Paul and others to work out as the Gentile church emerged.
In verbalizing the consensus decision, James uses the plural tense: "Simon has described to us" (Acts 15:14); "We should not make it difficult" (Acts 15:19); "We should write" (Acts 15:20); "They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas" (Acts 15:22); "They sent the following letter" (Acts 15:23); "We have heard" (Acts 15:24); and "We all agreed" (Acts 15:25).
In Acts 16:9, a man from Macedonia appeared to Paul in a vision, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." This was the answer for which Paul had been waiting, and it came in a clear, supernatural way. Even so, Paul wisely submitted the vision for evaluation. It is noteworthy that Luke, who recorded the event, uses plural pronouns and the word "concluding" (Acts 16:10). This indicates that a discussion took place regarding the vision and its implications. It was a consensus decision.
Church planting teams are most effective when they move as a unit, allowing a plan of action to develop out of consensus decisions.
Taking risks characterized Paul's church planting teams. Sometimes their clear presentation of the gospel disturbed the public; at other times outstanding miracles brought a violent reaction; and on some occasions a transformed society angered the business community. Each new church plant was risky, since verbal abuse, rejection, beatings and possible death surfaced with amazing regularity.
Sometimes Paul and his team "took it on the chin" and at other times they "left ahead of the storm." In Pisidian Antioch, the God-fearing Jewish women and leading men of the city stirred up persecution against the team and threw them out of town. The team's response? "They shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium" (Acts 13:51). In Iconium the Gentiles and Jews plotted to stone them, so "they found out about it and fled" (Acts 14:6). At Lystra the people “stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city" (Acts 14:19).
Paul was a Roman citizen and often played his political card. In Philippi, he waited until after being flogged and imprisoned to activate it. He used it to protect himself from a flogging in Jerusalem, and in Caesarea it became the key to his appeal for a fair trial in Rome. Paul and his team were willing to take risks in order to achieve God’s purposes and establish His Church. James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, put it well in Acts 15:25, 26 when he called them: "Our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Forming a Team(Acts 15 and 16)
The Holy Spirit chose the first missionaries, perhaps through prophecy, from among the Antioch leaders. Candidate missionaries Barnabas and Saul then asked John Mark to join them, although there is no indication he had a part in the commissioning service (Acts 13:1-3). Barnabas took leadership, but Saul quickly assumed that role as they encountered some tough, initial challenges.
Apostolic gifting is a priority for church planting. Barnabas was a good man, spiritual (full of the Holy Spirit), compassionate and caring (willing to sell his property and share it with needy brethren), a leader (sent by the Jerusalem church to minister to the emerging church in Antioch), willing to take risks (took Saul, following his conversion, into his confidence and risked his life on their first missionary journey), and an excellent teacher (strengthened the church at Antioch). He also recognized when it was time to yield leadership to Paul. He had a wonderful ministry! Yet it seems Barnabas lacked an apostolic gifting: thriving on the rigors and rejections involved in pioneer ministry, courageously entering the devil's domain, responding to private and public encounters calling for a manifestation of the supernatural, and boldly seizing opportunities to proclaim the Word of God.
Leading the team from Antioch, Barnabas headed for Cyprus, which seems to indicate a longing for the familiar rather than the frontier and the adventure of the unknown. After the first missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul disagreed over taking John Mark, who had shown himself unable to cope with the rigors of missionary work on the first journey. Quite possibly, Paul recognized that Mark was not cut out for frontier missionary work, although he was a fine young man. Acts 15:39 records: "Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus." Two good, gifted men formed another team, but not a church planting team.
A team leader with hand-picked team members is the pattern modeled through the final chapters of Acts. The selected members were approved by the church, sent out with its blessing and support, but chosen by Paul. This was the example Barnabas had modeled in finding Paul and bringing him to Antioch.
In Acts 15:40, Luke states that "Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord." Silas was not appointed to the missionary team by the church at Jerusalem; instead he was recommended. After one missionary journey, Paul apparently knew the type of person needed for team ministry. The selection was left entirely to him.
Paul also personally selected Timothy to join the team. Acts 16:3 says, "Paul wanted to take him (Timothy) along on the journey." Paul led Timothy to the Lord on his first missionary journey. Timothy's growth in the Lord and his spiritual gifts must have been outstanding for the brethren at Lystra to give him such a high recommendation.
Relational bonding is evident on Paul's church planting teams. He chose people he knew, individuals with whom he was personally acquainted. He was accompanied by good friends who possessed a mutual respect for one another. They enjoyed being together. As a result, "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region" (Acts 16:6).
Luke refers to those on Paul's team as companions. They were more than colleagues who shared a common profession, associates committed to their leader in thought and feeling but having a subordinate status, or partners who were aware of a senior-junior relationship. They were companions, friends and fellow workers—a perfect match for the team with each making a significant contribution.
Team Selection (Acts, Romans, Galatians)
Many individuals were selected to join Paul's missionary teams. Some of them were with him for part of a journey; others traveled with him for years. A lot can be learned about the selection process by taking a close look at these team members and how and why they were selected. They were:
Barnabas from Cyprus (Acts 13:2) Sopater from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from
John Mark from Jerusalem (Acts 13:5) Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Tychicus and
Timothy from Lystra (Acts 16:1-3) Trophimus from the province of Asia (Acts 20:4)
Luke from Philippi (Acts 16:10) Titus from Philippi (Acts 15:2; Galatians 2:1, 3)
Aquila and Priscilla from Italy (Acts 18:2) Andronicus and Junias, Urbanas, Lucius, Jason and
Apollos from Alexandria (Acts 18:24) Tertius (Romans 16)
Erastus from Ephesus (Acts 19:22) Epaphroditus from Philippi (Philippians 2:25)
Note that only a few team members— Barnabas, Paul, Silas, John Mark, Titus and perhaps Luke—were sent out from Jerusalem and Antioch. The others were recruited from among the regional Gentile churches.
Relational ties seem to be important too. James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, refers to Barnabas and Paul as friends; Luke refers to the team members as companions, fellow workers and spiritual brothers. It appears that Luke and Titus were brothers; others came from the same home church. They were tight-knit teams, bonded in the Lord and through a variety of natural relationships.
The primary requirements for team selection seem to have been personal acquaintance and reliable recommendations from the brethren of their local churches. The first missionaries were selected out of the context of prayer and fasting, implying that Paul looked to the Holy Spirit for guidance when extending an invitation to a believer to join his team. However, it doesn't appear that an applicant needed to have a specific call from God to a location or participation on the team. Paul certainly makes it clear that he was called to be an apostle, but with the others it seems the emphasis was on maturity and spiritual gifts, such as apostle, teacher, pastor or evangelist.
"You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own need and the needs of my companions" (Acts 20:34). Tent-making was the trade by which Paul earned a living and provided a source of income for his companions. The trade must have required few tools so that transporting them from place to place was not a problem. Paul's hometown of Tarsus in the Cilician area was noted for its goat-hair cloth used in making tents. Paul grew up in this setting and became skilled in making tents.
Paul's statement concerning his trade seems to conflict with his declaration to the same Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 9:9: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Apparently, Paul is saying that a church planting team should take care of its own expenses, but local leadership should be cared for by the local body of believers. He accepted offerings from other churches for the support of his team, but he never used it to support local works. Paul never used his trade of tent-making to provide employment for new disciples, nor did he use Luke's medical skills to provide income for his team or set up a clinic to provide work for new converts.
It would seem that if the team leader set the example of hard work to make ends meet, the team members would participate too. Aquila and Priscilla made tents and released Paul to full-time preaching in Corinth (Acts 18:5). However, Paul clearly wanted the team members to be active in ministry and keep their focus on ministry rather than invest their energy and time in their professions. Paul mentored them in ministry, but not in tent-making.
Pulling Rank(Acts 21)
While traveling to Jerusalem, Paul stopped in Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the evangelist. The prophet Agabus from Judea prophesied of danger that awaited Paul in Jerusalem. The local believers and his team members pleaded with him to alter his travel plans, but Paul refused. Luke put it well in verse 14: "When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord's will be done.' "
On this occasion, a consensus decision did not occur. Another example is when Paul and Barnabas decided to separate over their disagreement concerning John Mark rejoining the team after faltering on the first missionary journey (Acts 15:39).
Paul requested, even sought, a consensus about his Macedonian vision and was flexible when Lydia invited his team to her home (Acts 16:15). However, with the decision about John Mark and his trip to Jerusalem, he made a unilateral decision about an unworkable situation for the team.
Dealing With Headquarters(Acts 21:17-26)
Returning to Jerusalem was like coming home. The team members had lots of friends in the headquarters city and were warmly received. "The next day (top priority) Paul and the rest of us (everybody responsible) went to see James, and all the elders were present" (Acts 21:18). They didn't waste any time in reporting to the top officials. Paul did not make the presentation alone; the entire team accompanied him. This served as a testimony that God had worked through each member of the team, and Paul wanted them there to verify his account.
All of the elders in Jerusalem were present, indicating that they all wanted to hear the firsthand report and address some issues of interest. "Paul greeted them and reported in detail (avoiding the danger in being too brief) what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry" (Acts 21:19). Protocol is important in dealing with superiors, so Paul begins with a greeting. Then he moves to a detailed report with a correct emphasis on how God worked through them.
The entire committee praised God for what He was doing among the Gentiles. Then the brethren gave their commentary on how God's blessing was resulting in thousands of Jews converting to Christ. The Kingdom was expanding at home and abroad.
Next on the agenda was alerting Paul to a problem. Many Jews had heard he was telling the Gentiles to turn away from Moses’ teaching on circumcision. The same elders who had granted permission for Gentiles to come to Jesus apart from the ritual of circumcision also permitted the Jewish Christians to continue the practice. Paul's visit to the city brought the issue to a head.
The elders had a solution to the problem and gave this very clear directive to Paul: "Do what we tell you" (Acts 21:23). Paul was an apostle, but he wisely submitted to their counsel. He could have raised a number of arguments and felt rejected after being used of the Lord in such a marvelous manner, but instead he submitted. Paul was a good leader who valued the advice of his superiors. What a wonderful example he set for his companions who had submitted to his leadership role.
Paul was instructed to go through the purification rites with four other men and pay their expenses. The public would then understand that there was "no truth in these reports about you" (Acts 21:24). Paul was required to be politically correct, even though he knew there was no saving merit in the act. He did not change his theology, but rather accommodated the elders and his weaker brothers. His actions demonstrate that while working with Gentiles and allowing them to express their love for God in the context of their culture, he did not sacrifice his own personal expressions of worship within his Jewish culture.
Play Your Cards(Acts 21-23)
In Acts 21-23, Paul is wisely led by the Holy Spirit in his responses. He plays several cards at the right time in order to achieve God's purposes.
The first card Paul played waslanguage, the heart of culture. He stood on the steps to make his defense to the crowd in Jerusalem, and "When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic" (Acts 21:40). Rather than addressing them in Greek or Hebrew, he spoke in Aramaic, a more neutral language. This quieted the crowd and Paul effectively shared his testimony.
Paul played his second card when the commander ordered him flogged. The crowd had already given him a severe beating, and a flogging would have hampered his efforts to deal with the situation. So he flashed his political card and informed the soldiers that he was a Roman citizen. This saved Paul a bout with physical pain, got the commander's attention and respect, and brought about his transfer to Caesarea (Acts 22:29)
The third card was religious. He capitalized on internal strife between the Sadducees and Pharisees over the issue of the resurrection (Acts 23:6). Clever? Perhaps, but Paul also acted with a definite sense of the Holy Spirit's prompting.
Paul played his cards well without knowing for sure of the outcome or what the Lord’s purpose was through all of the turmoil. The next night the Lord graciously revealed that purpose: "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome" (Acts 23:11). God divulged His strategy at just the right time.
Entrepreneurial Flak(Acts 23)
Paul, the team leader, was held accountable for every provocation: by the public, by the religious leaders and by the Roman authorities. "The Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul" (Acts 23:12).
"Get the leader" seems to be the historical method used by the opposition to squelch a grassroots movement. If the leader can be put down and removed, the group will soon fade away. Paul's companions seldom attracted the attention of the authorities—although there were exceptions, such as Silas being flogged along with Paul and imprisoned with him at Philippi. However, Paul's teammates were generally spared from the public's wrath.
Leadership of an apostolic team is a high-risk position. The opposition, whether religious or governmental, are after the entrepreneurs!
Responsibility Plus(Acts 27)
Paul had a personal responsibility to God to “live a life worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10). Pleasing God in his role as team leader required Paul to shoulder responsibility for team members too. The Lord’s promise to Paul concerning the impending shipwreck was “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (Acts 27: 24). This promise encompassed the team and all on board. Responsibility plus—my own protection and that of my team—is part of a team leader’s portfolio.
The responsibility of leaders to care for their teams is seen in Paul’s statement that his own hands had provided for the needs of his companions (Acts 20:34).
Received by the Jews in Rome, Paul shared the gospel with them in a peaceful manner. They were eager to hear him. He did not want to stir up strife between the Jews, so he left his religious card—“I am a Pharisee and believe in the resurrection of the dead”—in the deck. Rather, he pulled out an affirmation card and declared, “It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20).
Rejected by the Jews the next day, Paul stated: “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:28). Couple this verse with Acts 18:6—“From now on I will go to the Gentiles”— and one sees a trend evolving.
Paul had a great burden for his people, the Jews, as seen in Romans 10:1: “My heart’s desire…for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” He always gave the Jews top priority when preaching the gospel. His approach was predictable: “First for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
Throughout the Book of Acts, Paul longed to see the Jews recognize Jesus as their Messiah, and he was intentional and patient in presenting the message to them. But enough was enough, as seen in Corinth: “But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’” (Acts 18:6).
With great tenacity, Paul attempted to provide an adequate witness to the Jews he encountered along the way. However, a time came when their resistance and abuse indicated it was best to move on to a receptive audience. He stepped aside to allow the Holy Spirit to prepare their hearts, or a later generation to welcome the Savior into their lives. In the meantime, “For two whole years Paul stayed there (Rome) in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30, 31).
Sifted through the Pauline sieve and ready for use
1. Apostolic team leader:
How does the Lord prepare a person to be a team leader?
What characteristics mark an apostolic team leader?
What are the responsibilities of an apostolic team leader?
To whom is the team leader accountable? and for what?
2. Team members:
Are there human as well as divine factors involved in the selection process?
What should be the focus of God’s call upon a person’s life?
How does one qualify to serve on an apostolic church planting team?
Is the gift of apostleship necessary for all team members?
3. Team specialization: In what ways should a team member’s professional skills be utilized?
4. Accountability: Should team accountability be formal or informal, approached as a requirement or set forth as the Golden Rule?
5. Focus: Does a team need a statement of purpose?
6. Strategy: How can God’s sovereign plan be outlined in an emerging team strategy?
7. Success: Can a team member or the team as a single unit measure its accomplishments?
8. Persecution: How does one handle persecution resulting from the forceful advance of the gospel?
9. Commitment: In what ways does church planting among resistant people groups call for a high level of commitment?
10. Biblical foundation: How would you summarize church planting team ministry based on the Pauline example?