One of my favorite definitions of leadership is from Perry Noble; “Leadership is listening to God and doing what he says.” Biblical leadership is truly that simple. Listen to God. Do what He says. As we listen and obey and invite others to do the same we become leaders and disciple makers.
In his letter to the church in Thessalonica Paul describes how he did this kind of disciple-making leadership when he says, “like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess.2:11-13) Paul highlights three things he did for the Thessalonians to lead them as disciples to live in alignment with the kingdom of God: exhortation, encouragement, and charging.
Paul exhorted (parakaleo) the Thessalonians. He spoke in a way that called them to greater things than they were currently experiencing. He taught, admonished, and challenged. Exhortation here is about casting a vision for the kind of kingdom lifestyle that God wants his people to live. Paul, as a leader and disciple-maker amongst the Thessalonians, points the way forward in following Christ.
Paul encouraged (paramutheomai) the Thessalonians. He didn’t simply point the way and then step back. Instead he led with encouragement, uplifting those who were struggling and speaking the truth of their identity in Christ to those who were doubting. Disciple-making leadership includes the work of giving comfort and support to the people.
Paul charged or commanded (martureo) the Thessalonians. Strong’s concordance defines this as “to be a witness, to bear witness.” Where exhortation seems to be casting a vision of the kingdom kind of life, charged has the connotation of a command. It’s not enough to just give people a picture of what a Christ-follower’s life should look like. The leader and disciple maker must also give people specific steps to take, particularly for those who are new in the faith and have yet to develop the skills and practices so foundational to living in “a manner worthy of God.” As Paul bears witness to the truth of the Gospel he includes commands and specific direction for how that truth must change his disciple’s life.
Whether you are discipling one person or leading a community of twenty or a gathering of 200, each of these three practices must be present. Exhort people and call them to see the greater vision that God has for them in Christ. Encourage them along the way. Charge them with specific steps of obedience. Do as the apostle Paul did, and as a good father does for their children. Listen to what God says in the Gospel and through his Holy Spirit. Obey. Invite others along for the journey. Be a disciple-making leader in 2016!