Are you a woman who leads? Maybe you don’t see yourself as a leader, but God has you leading someone right where you are. Maybe it’s your kids, your friends, or the teenager next door. Maybe it’s a Women’s Ministry, a team at work, or a small group. This series—led by our women’s ministry specialist Kelly King—will help you no matter where you lead, and whether you’re leading one or one thousand.
Someone asked me earlier this year what my favorite genre of the Bible was. Without spending a lot of time thinking through all the options, my first response was the New Testament letters, especially those written by the apostle Paul. For some reason, I’m drawn to how he mentions particular people, addresses issues within the churches, and challenges his readers to stand firm in their callings and to finish the race of faith. The letters are personal and particular. Within these pages, we see Paul as more than the evangelist and church planter—we see a mentor and friend. We see why those closest to Paul wept and embraced him in Acts 20 as he headed towards Rome, knowing they would never see his face again. This former terrorist, whose purpose was eradicating the early church, was now a role model, mentor, and example for others to follow. Paul knew the gospel would continue beyond his life because he invested in the discipleship of new believers.
I’m sure you could name a few “Pauls” who have invested in your spiritual development as well as your leadership development. If I asked you to describe some of your mentors, what qualities would rise to the top of the list? What are the qualities you seek to learn from others? What strengths in your own life can you share with others? If you need a little help identifying them, let’s learn from Paul’s letters and discover five leadership qualities we can imitate from his legacy.
- Paul gave instruction on life and spiritual matters.
If you think there are issues in your church, take a closer look at some of Paul’s letters and the issues he addressed. Whether it was sexual immorality, honoring governing leaders, or taking the gospel to all people, Paul addressed practical questions and real-life problems. If you want to be a leader who mentors like Paul, find ways to encourage others with practical wisdom. Recently, I emailed a mentor who lives several states away, but I knew she could help me with a practical issue at work. She had the experience and spiritual depth to speak into my life, and because of our ongoing relationship, I trust her. You and I can trust Paul’s letters and wisdom even more because they aren’t his opinions—they are the Spirit-breathed words of God.
- Paul mentored from the overflow of his own walk with the Lord.
Throughout Paul’s letters, we get a glimpse of his own spiritual journey. Whether he considered himself the chief of sinners or a prisoner for the gospel, he revealed the growing depth of his own spiritual journey. In his words about being crucified with Christ in Galatians 2 and his heartfelt prayer in Ephesians 3, we see a man who deeply wanted others to grasp God’s grace and lavish love. As leaders, you are only capable of giving others what you have put into your spiritual walk. Mentors speak from the overflow of how God is molding them into His image. As Paul so eloquently wrote in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
- Paul admonished believers caught in conflict, yet he sought peace in relationships.
I think Paul learned some of this the hard way. Consider his conflict with Barnabas over John Mark in Acts 15:39. They faced a sharp disagreement about John Mark’s departure on an earlier mission, but in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, you find a restored relationship when Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:11 that Mark is helpful to his ministry. Paul understood believers may have personal disagreements, but the outcome should move toward reconciliation and restoration. Mentors and leaders may not always agree on specifics in ministry, but the end goal should always be unity. A helpful mentor will pursue peacemaking, not just peacekeeping.
- Paul cared for the personal welfare of those he mentored.
I previously pointed to Paul’s mention of John Mark in 2 Timothy 4, but it’s the tender words to Timothy in verse 13 that speak volumes about Paul’s relationship with his young mentee. Paul asked Timothy to bring him a cloak and his scrolls. Surely Paul’s request was not only for an outer garment to protect him from cold, but was also a request for treasured documents that most likely included sections of the Old Testament. Over and over again in his letters, Paul mentions those who contended for the gospel with him. The salutations and greetings found in his letters are a reminder that Paul didn’t play only the role of teacher, but he cared for those he mentored as a shepherd and friend. As a leader, you must remember those who follow you and those you mentor are not projects to be completed, but people made in the image of God whom He has placed in your care. Your role is to encourage and offer spiritual nourishment, but also consider how you pray and practically care for those entrusted to you.
- Paul understood the principle of replication and multiplication.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.” The NIV translation says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” In both translations, leaders are called to follow Christ and be led by Him first, but they must also challenge others to follow their lead. If we are leading but not following Christ, we are misleading. Christ called his disciples to make disciples who make disciples. There is a calling to replicate ourselves in the lives of others, which results in a multiplication effort of spreading the gospel to the nations. You may lead a Bible study or a discipleship group, but Paul knew his life mattered more when those he mentored took the mantle of leadership and dispersed it among others. It’s a calling that continues today for every leader.
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Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Women. She and her husband, Vic, have been married for more than 28 years and have enjoyed serving together in ministry both teaching in student ministry for 25 years and teaching young married adults. They have two young adult children, Conner and Courtney, and a son-in-law, Gaige. They enjoy kayaking, having people in their home, and cheering for the Oklahoma City Thunder. A good day includes mocha lattes, Mexican food, and shopping for bargains.
Want to read more from Kelly? You can pre-order her new book, Ministry to Women, here!