We are challenging our whole parish to read through the Acts of the Apostles this Easter season. Acts is the story of the first Easter season, the weeks and months that followed the resurrection, as well as the first 30 years of the church. It is a story that helps us understand the principles that ought to govern the church in any age.
In fact, Acts can also be read as a guide to leadership, especially leadership within the community of believers, how believers should lead in the community, how believers should “take the lead” in the community. Take a closer look at what Acts tells us about Peter’s leadership. Jesus gives him a huge job description (make disciples of all nations) and then leaves. What would you do in that situation, no resources, no education or qualifications, a lot of people already against you, what would you do as a leader in that situation?
Acts tells us step by step exactly what Peter did.
1) Prayer and Preparation
They all joined together constantly in prayer.Acts 1:14
After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles returned to Jerusalem and under Peter’s leadership they “prayed constantly.” They waited on the Lord, and the gift of the Holy Spirit and through prayer made themselves available to the leadership of God over their lives. They had no idea what God was going to do through them (beyond making disciples of all nations) but they were waiting and available and preparing for the time when God would use them to do great work.
Peter said: “May another take his place of leadership. Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time.”Acts 1:20-21
With Judas’ betrayal, the apostles were down a man. While they were waiting and praying, part of their preparation took the form of filling that position. Peter leads the process to replace Judas with “another to take his place of leadership” as an apostle.
As Jim Collins writes in his book Good To Great: “When we began our research project, we expected to find that the first step in taking a company from good to great would be to set a new direction, a new vision…and then get people committed and alined …We found quite the opposite. They first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where they should take the bus.”
Peter displays this perfectly. He sets out the requirements for team membership and the steps they will take to identify the right person, as well as the basic job description (“becoming a witness with us of his resurrection” (Acts 1.22) even though they really don’t know where they’re going.
3) Preaching and Teaching
Then Peter stood up and raised his voice and addressed the crowd.Acts 2:14
Peter’s first public action, at Pentecost, was preaching the Word of God. The first recorded sermon in the history of the church was given by Peter and filled with quotes from Scripture. Peter quotes the prophet Joel and King David in the Psalms. God’s Word is God’s will and the more I know it, the more clearly I hear it, the more effectively it can lead me. Peter makes it clear from the very beginning that the church will operate under the authority of the Word of God.
4) Leading People to Life Change
When the people heard Peter…they were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized. Those who accepted his message were baptized, about three thousand.Acts 2:37,38,41
After Peter’s preaching, thousands had a change of heart. And the change of heart leads to changed lives. Leadership is always going to lead people somewhere and if you bring them to the intended destination, well that’s successful fruitful leadership. That’s what Peter does over and over again in the first section of Acts. In just one day he essentially plants the first church in Jerusalem. As Acts describes, this community was distinguished by their:
- celebration of the Eucharist, corporate prayer and sacrificial giving (worship) Acts 2:42,44,45,46
- small group gatherings (fellowship and discipleship) Acts 2:46
- service and outreach in the community (ministry and evangelization) Acts 2:43,47 Peter leads the people to lives of purpose, fulfilling the purposes God has in mind for us
5) Facing Giants
They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them…when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished.Acts 4:7, 13
At some point, if you’re leading others, you will definitely face opposition and conflict. If you are leading a big organization or a large group, there might be significant conflict. At some point, if you’re leading others, you will be called to an accounting of your leadership. Sooner or later, it’s going to take courage to lead, because you’re in the lead, you’re out in front. Peter shows courage, and guess what? He grows as a leader.