Train New Leaders as Jesus and His Apostles Did


In India, China and many other fields, house churches are multiplying by the thousands, creating an urgent need to train both educated and deprived shepherds. Since traditional, institutional education does not meet this need to train thousands of new leaders in a healthy movement for Christ, let us examine what the Bible teaches about teaching.

An obedient teacher lays a foundation of loving obedience to Jesus’ commands, just as He said to do in His Great Commission in Matthew 28. The first church in Jerusalem, empowered by the Holy Spirit, set an example by obeying, from the start the commands of Jesus in their basic form, Acts 2:37-47. Their motive for obedience was not the Old Testament Law but love for Jesus, John 14:15. The foundation of all life and ministry, according to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, is obedience to His words, Matthew 7:24-29.

A wise trainer uses an assortment of studies that apply to different needs. Jesus urged teachers to apply a variety of resources “…like the head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old” , Matthew 13:52. The prevailing practice of teaching a systematic, linear analysis of biblical truth is not found in the New Testament. Jesus brought forth things old and new as He taught “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ but I tell you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also,” Matthew 5:38-40.

Jesus and His apostles did not present an outline prepared ahead of time when instructing new leaders. Rather, they taught in response to questions, needs, criticisms and events. New churches in pioneer fields benefit most from this ‘menu’ approach to teaching. Like newborn babies, new churches and cells have different, urgent needs that require immediate attention. A teacher or mentor, like Jesus and Paul, must listen to a new leader to learn the need of his flock, and then give the instruction that fits the need.

We taught this in India with a skit about a man who asked a storekeeper for sugar. The retailer argued that sugar is bad for one’s teeth and handed the man coffee instead. They argued about this and the buyer left with his hands empty. Theological educators often fail to listen before they teach; instead, they lecture on what they arbitrarily and often mistakenly prefer to teach, hoping that students will use it in some vague future.

A conscientious teacher communicates Biblical truth with simple stories. “Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables”, Matthew 13:34. He used stories about common things that left sharp images in people’s mind about God and His Kingdom. Jesus’ parables are easy to remember and pass on to others. The Holy Spirit uses Bible stories to convict and illuminate both children and adults of all levels of society and educational backgrounds. Most of the Paul-Timothy studies ( base teaching on a biblical story about a person; for example, teaching about faith focuses on Abraham’s exploits. Some professional clergy, monopolizing sacred truth, purposefully use a style of teaching that their flock cannot imitate, thereby stifling the normal flow of God’s Word.

A cautious teacher trains those who want to obey the Word of God. Jesus required that His disciples ‘shake the dust’ from their feet and leave people who fail to respond to God’s Word (Luke 9:5). He also told us not to throw our pearls before pigs (Matthew 7:6). Paul and Barnabas turned from people who rejected the good news to those who received it (Acts 13:45-46). We violate this guideline when we continue to proclaim God’s truth to people who merely attend meetings without growing or serving the Lord. Sometimes teachers should abandon not the hearers but their method when they see no results, failing to mobilize believers to serve one another as Jesus and Paul required.

A practical trainer of leaders enables them immediately to equip believers in their flocks to instruct and serve one another. Ephesians 4:11-16 reveals the aim and means of teaching believers. The aim is “equipping of the believers for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The means is to enable them to instruct and serve one another in loving harmony, according to the abilities of each one. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love”.

Most traditional churches leave little opportunity for such interaction. George Patterson recalls how he learned in a startling way that to “edify” meant to strengthen something or add to it. An uneducated Honduran with whom he worked closely told him that he was “dancing with the devil” and explained…

The devil causes a problem in a town, and we rush to deal with it. Then Satan makes trouble in another church and we dash over there. Then he causes a quarrel in another church and we hurry again to correct it, dancing with the devil. Let us agree to do two things. First, let us deal with any problem briefly and leave it in God’s hands, never letting it take up more than half of our time when we deal with the villagers. Second, let us not leave a village that we travel to until we have added something positive. We will win people to Christ, organize a church, enroll pastoral students, or help them begin a ministry that is lacking. Then we can leave.

A compassionate teacher, like Ezra, includes children in important instruction and church life. “Men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel”, Ezra 10:1. Ezra included children in important teaching, as did Moses and other godly leaders. Ezra instructed the Israelites to confess their sins and end their relationships with idolaters. Their obedience led to a great, national, spiritual renewal, which was too important to leave the children out of it. Children joining adults in serious spiritual endeavor is powerful and healthy.

Traditional teachers are too eager to isolate children. It is not enough simply to tell children Bible stories during the worship time; rather, let children briefly act out Bible stories for the adults, which lets children know they are an important part of the church body. Paul-Timothy studies come in pairs: one study is for the new church leader, and another is for children with a Bible story to act out during the worship time.

A humble teacher integrates teaching with the other gift-based ministries of the body, harmonized in love by the Holy Spirit. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:12, the body is one and yet has many members.” 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14 show how all gift-based ministries must be practiced together in agape love, coordinated by the Holy Spirit, in the same way that the different organs of our human bodies work together in harmony. This happens only when leaders humbly allow other believers to share in teaching, letting everyone freely practice the many ‘one-another’ commands such as “teach one another,” “correct one another,” “confess our faults to one another,” “bear one another’s burdens,” “forgive one another”, etc. In small groups, good teachers avoid monologues, making it easy for everyone to take part.

A visionary trainer of leaders teaches in a way that his trainees can imitate at once and can pass to newer leaders. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”, 2 Timothy 2:2. The instruction given to new leaders must be reproducible. Wherever the apostles went making disciples and training new leaders the way Jesus said to do, churches multiplied. The same thing happens today in pioneer fields where trainers follow these guidelines and pass on “a light baton”. They avoid methods that are difficult to imitate and equipment that is unavailable to their trainees.

A perceptive trainer of leaders finds out what a church is lacking and mobilizes elders to deal with it. “Set in order what is lacking and name elders in each city,” Titus 1:5. A trainer must first listen and verify what are the current needs of each church, then supply through the local leaders what is lacking. Even novice leaders can train newer leaders effectively when trainers supply them with a checklist of the activities that are required of a church by Christ and His apostles. With such a menu of vital ministries, one can easily chart a new congregation’s progress. Paul-Timothy Leader Training provides such a menu of church activities that are required by the New Testament. Download free studies and menu from


A church or cell is fully planted when it is doing the activities that the New Testament requires.

__Pray. Intercede, have daily personal & family devotions, do spiritual warfare and pray for healing
__Evangelize. Witness for Jesus and baptize.
__Make disciples. Train believers to obey Jesus.
__Give. Be stewards of time, talent and treasure.
__Teach God’s Word. Equip believers to serve.
__Strengthen family life and marriage. Coach privately persons or families with problems.
__Show mercy. Serve the hurting and needy.
__Cultivate loving fellowship. Provide time free from scheduled activity, for spontaneous interaction.
__Organize. Serve one another and other congregations, using spiritual gifts in harmony.
__Correct and restore. Watch for wolves and weak lambs.
__Worship. Let all believers participate actively and celebrate Communion regularly.
___Start churches and cell groups. Keep congregations multiplying.
__Extend Christ’s kingdom. Prepare and send workers to neglected peoples, nearby and afar.
__Train leaders. Model shepherding skills for apprentices.

A thorough trainer of leaders verifies outcomes of his teaching. James 1:22 requires believers to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.” Good teaching is applied immediately in a practical way. When mentor new leaders, ask them first to report what their flock has done in response to prior teaching. The Paul-Timothy studies have three parts: (1) a Bible study, (2) corresponding activities that the congregation should do during the week, and (3) related activities to do during worship.

A faithful trainer of leaders helps them discover for themselves what the Bible says about a particular truth, trusting the Holy Spirit to “open eyes of understanding.” The Bereans searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:10-11). Give new leaders the tools to mine the gems in the Word of God. Good students discover God’s priceless truths for themselves. Good Bible studies enable students to find biblical truths easily and accurately. Paul-Timothy studies do not simply tell students what the Bible says, but rather where to find it. For example, instead of telling people what the Holy Spirit does for a believer, they discover it for themselves by examining John chapters 14-16, Acts 2, Rom. 8, 1 Cor. chapters 12-14 and Gal. 5.

An articulate trainer of leaders teaches and writes studies that focus on people, avoiding abstract analysis of doctrine. Paul kept in mind the persons to whom he wrote his letters, naming them and dealing with specific situations in their churches, in response to questions and reported needs. Peter had shepherding elders in mind when he wrote 1 Peter. John wrote, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven… I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him… I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one…” (1 John 2:12-14). We, too, should prepare our lessons with people and their needs in mind. Write studies as though you were writing a letter to a specific person who is typical of those who need your instruction.

A skilled trainer of shepherds models pastoral skills while teaching, maintaining a balance between classroom instruction and mentoring on the job. “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ”, 1 Corinthians 11:1. The most powerful teaching normally takes place outside of any classroom. Jesus and His apostles apprenticed new leaders by combining verbal instruction with fieldwork. Jesus taught the crowds by monologue, but prepared novice leaders by walking and chatting with them, Matthew 5:1-2. Paul taught the Ephesians in Acts 20:7 by discussing questions with them, not with a sermon. The Greek verb form in the original is dialegomai  (dialogue in English), which means to converse or discuss a question with others. The context of Acts 20:7 is cordial and passionate, hardly the place and time for philosophical monologue, harangue or pulpit oratory.


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