As I read the book of Acts, I see the lives of great leaders. I’ve just completed a series entitled WORLDCHANGERS where I singled out six great leaders in the Book of Acts. They were worldchangers because they seemed to always look for opportunities, despite opposition.
Peter overcame the fear and failure of past mistakes to be filled with great boldness and courage as a prominent leader in the early church. In the face of persecution, prejudice, peril, or pain, Peter stood firm, spoke boldly, and called people to repentance.
Stephen was a worldchanger as a layman. He faced the Sanhedrin to defend the gospel, full of the Spirit, wisdom, faith, grace, and power. He stood boldly without fear or reservation and followed God…even to the point of death.
Barnabas was an example of goodness. The goodness of God overflowed from his life through his generosity and servant heart. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Barnabas was committed and caring, willing to take risks while content to share the spotlight and not gloat in his accomplishments.
Philip was ready to respond to the call of God at a moment’s notice. He dropped his agenda to respond to the Spirit and share Christ with a foreigner. He served willingly and joyfully, regardless of the task, and faithfully followed the Lord all the days of his life.
Paul had a passionate heart to change the world. He understood the difference between making a living and making a life. He understood God’s calling on his life, and he eagerly and wholeheartedly answered that call, putting it all on the line for the sake of the gospel.
John Mark was restored to effective service and became vital to Paul’s ministry in the last days of his life. He realized that failure is never final or fatal, and he strove to honor the Lord, regardless of the missteps in order to run with endurance and finish well.
I love studying the people of the Bible. God uses imperfect people to fulfill His perfect plan. All of these men had some flaw or failure in the past. All of them were faced with a new paradigm. Imagine having to go from a Jewish mindset to having a worldview that included Gentiles and pagans in this new family of faith.
Although Paul was told that he would suffer many things, he was willing to do it for the gospel. Although John Mark blew it on the first missionary journey, he bounced back and was useful. I could go on with this, but you get the point.
Leaders are leaders for a reason. They aren’t fixers. The problems of Judaism couldn’t be fixed. Fixing people will always be temporary. Something or someone will come along and unfix what you fixed. Fixing demands you to be constantly on guard and in control.
No, the leaders and believers who want to see real change aren’t fixers; they are people of faith. They see a picture bigger than themselves. They know that what needs to be done can only be done by the grace and power of God. They aren’t trying to build their own kingdom. Rather, they have one goal: to exalt the Lord Jesus.
The problems of the average church can’t be fixed. The only thing that could possibly “fix” the church is revival. A return to first love. A repentance that uproots all fleshly efforts and opinions that hinder the Spirit of God moving and working.
The message of the New Testament was not a tune-up, it was an overhaul. Yes, Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations, but she had become so dead in religion and tradition and so blinded to her purpose that only something radically new and different could change the DNA of the times. Jesus arrived and challenged every preconceived idea about God. He changed widely held beliefs about women, hatred, divorce, loving a neighbor, and healing on the Sabbath.
After the coming of the Spirit, the early church went out preaching the gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission. They weren’t afraid of change. They were willing to leave the comfort of home, the security of the land they loved, to go out spreading good news. They endured persecution and even prayed for more boldness as they were persecuted.
They learned from Jesus to eat with publicans and tax collectors. They learned to eat bacon and ham! Their whole mindset shifted. It required a change in attitude and expectations and a greater view of God’s plan for this world.
The chapter that defines all of this is in Acts where there is great debate about Gentiles becoming Christians. Did they need to become Jews first? The answer was a defining moment in the life of the church. James led the way: “It seems good to us and the Holy Spirit.”
(copyright Michael Catt, All Rights Reserved)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.