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Understanding the role of leaders in the church
by Janice S Ramkissoon
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(From the series ‘For the Edification of the Saints’)


“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

--Matthew 28:19-20--


In part one I shared how I became a slave to anger. Understanding why I became angry towards some leaders, I needed to know what God had to say about the matter, and not just allow my feelings to rule my actions. I searched the Scriptures for answers and as I am being taught by His word, it diffuses the anger. I then try to pass on the lessons I have learned with the people in my life, using the gifts that God has given me. Instead of getting upset about things not being in order, I asked God to teach me how to use my gifts to help in this area of teaching. Instead of speaking, I write and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work that only He can do. Whenever, I am required to speak, I believe the Holy Spirit will give me the utterance to boldly speak the truth, in love. In this article I look at the ‘Great Commission’ as a starting point:


Building up God’s Kingdom

From Matthew 28:19 & 20, we are given instruction on how to continue building God’s Kingdom.  Jesus instructed His disciples to go and teach. Once the teaching is done, the natural progression for those who have responded to the good news of the gospel (having accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour and have been baptized) is to continue on a learning path; growing in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Unless the teaching takes place, they will remain babes in Christ and that is when the enemy will entangle them again with the yoke of bondage, the very thing we are warned against in Galatians 5:1. They must be taught so that they can each become a disciple of Christ; living a life that reflects Christ in words and deeds. We see this particular commandment being carried out in the book of Acts. 


Part 1 of the ‘Great Commission’

—Go Teach all Nations—


In Acts chapter 2, after receiving the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised, the disciples were given the opportunity to speak to the crowd about God. Then in answer to the doubting crowd, who thought that the disciples were drunk, Peter was given the opportunity to preach the gospel and present the people with the opportunity to repent of their sins and be baptized. That was fulfilling the first part of the commandment to ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…’ We see this played out in Acts chapter two, shortly after Jesus ascended to heaven.  Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Later in chapter three, Peter was given another opportunity to preach to the crowd, after the miracle, of healing a lame man, had taken place. Acts 3:19-21, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”


Part 2 of the ‘Great Commission’

—Baptize them—


The fulfilling of the second part of that command is highlighted in Acts 2:41: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Peter was obedient in following Jesus’ instructions to teach the people then baptize those who repented of their sins and accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.  This also ties up with the personal command given to Peter in St. John 21:15-22.  In that passage of Scripture, Jesus told Peter to feed:

  1. My lambs (babes in Christ)

  2. My sheep (those who are somewhere between feeding on milk and eating hard food)

  3. My sheep (those who are more mature in the knowledge of Christ. This suggest to me that we are never finished learning. Therefore, as the leaders teach they too will continue on the path of learning).

Then Peter was told, “Follow me.” This verse (19) suggests to me that we should never try to do it in our own will but always follow Jesus’ leading. It is the work of Christ that we do, not our own.  We belong to Him and must follow His instructions as He is the Master.  When we see ourselves in the light of servants or slaves, even though He calls us friend (see St. John 15), we will begin to understand our position within this relationship and know that there is only one way to respond to His commands. If you call Him Lord you cannot say no to His instructions.  Saying ‘No’ means you make yourself Lord and do according to your own will, effectively giving Satan control of your life and putting those under your leadership at risk. This constitutes disobedience and you will then give up your right to teach the flock to follow God’s commands, according to the third part of the ‘Great Commission'. My encouragement to you, therefore, is to continue studying the word of God, according to 2nd Tim 2:15, so that you will know how to lead His people. 


Part 3 of the Great Commission

—Teach Them to Observe My Commandments—


The final part of the command, “Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever, I have commanded you…”, was carried out by the apostles and is evident from what is reported in Acts 2:42-47.  It was reported that they continued steadfastly, in the apostles’ doctrines and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers, praising God and having favour with all the people. Souls were also being added daily to the church. That means there would have been some form of regular gathering to teach the people what God required of them. They were new born babes in Christ and would not have been familiar with the teachings the disciples received or the customs of the disciples and so they would have had to learn about what it means to come together and fellowship one with another.  They would have had the need to understand what it meant to pray, when and how to pray. The disciples were already taught by Jesus and they had the responsibility to pass on that teaching to the new converts.  


How do we Teach New Converts Today?

Well, it was during a crusade that I gave my life to Christ.  Therefore, my church leaders were being obedient in preaching the gospel so that I would have an opportunity to give my life to Christ. I grew up attending the same church for all my life up to that point.  That meant that I had experienced many crusades prior to that date.  Like Peter spoke to that crowd, the speaker of the night spoke to the crowd I was in.  I was one of those people within that crowd who received the message and responded to the altar call. That night I knelt and prayed at the altar.  When I got up I was led by one of the leaders to the vestry where the pastor came to speak with us and invited us to attend a ‘New Converts’ class.  I believe it was a six week programme where the pastor, along with one of the deacons sat with us and explained what it meant to be a follower of Christ. They helped us to understand the decision we had made and how it would affect the rest of our lives.  We were then invited to attend a series of Bible study, designed for new converts, leading up to the week we would be baptized.  We then had the opportunity to commit to the process by making that step into watery baptism. 


Once we were baptized, we were invited to attend the regular weekly Bible Study.  Later, our pastor also ran a six week evangelism training session. Throughout the length of the training he paired us up with the more mature believers and sent us out into the community.  Each team would have two or three houses to visit. In those houses were people who had stopped having fellowship with the saints.  We watched the more mature believers in action as they witness to individuals on the street, on their way to those selected homes.  We then watched the way they embraced and ministered to their brothers and sisters who had allowed the cares of the world to draw them from their first love.  It was beautiful seeing that expression of love as the saints encouraged the people, they once shared the Lord’s supper with, to return to the fold.  We had the theory as well as the practical lessons. Our church also had a day dedicated to prayer each week and a day dedicated to ‘fasting and praying’ once per month.  I would attend the prayer meeting each week with one or both grandparents.  The fasting session was during the day so I could only attend during the school holidays but it was still an investment into my Christian walk.


I was a teen when I gave my life to Christ so I had a double portion of Bible lessons as we also had our youth group’s version of Bible study with ‘Bible Drills’ as we studied for our annual debate and Bible Quiz. We also had many different ways to learn more about God and what He requires of us through studying selected parts of the bible for our annual Sunday school exams. For the annual church fund-raising concert, we were allowed to show how we understood the lessons we had learned in Sunday school or youth group by writing plays and poems to share with the saints on the night.  That was great for us as new born babes in Christ because it would force us to ask questions that would widen our understanding.


Teaching Babes in Christ:

When a mother gives birth she does not expect the baby to start eating without being fed, neither does she expect the baby to start walking the following day or changing its own nappy.  Likewise, new-born babes in Christ expect to be fed the Word of God which will help them to grow, spiritually. They will not automatically begin to do all that is expected of them as believers, overnight.  It will take a lot of teaching by the spoken word, through various ministry groups within as well as outside the fellowship and by the example set before them.  This become a more difficult task for leaders who are thrown in the deep end, with no understanding of what God expects from them or practical examples of how to handle conflict.  This can leave them feeling ill-prepared for the task before them which decreases their confidence to operate effectively in their leadership role. 


To experience the kind of result Peter experienced, leaders must first learn the art of obedience. They must daily surrender to the will of God.  At the beginning of the book of Acts, we are told that 120 people, including the 11 disciples and Mary, the mother of Jesus, experienced the out pouring of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus had promised them in chapter 1:8 that they “…Shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” And that was fulfilled in Acts 2:1-11.  There were men of all nations dwelling in Jerusalem (see verse 5).  The disciples were all Galileans, yet every man heard them speak in his own language. Fear had leapt out of the disciples and they were able to come out and speak to the people; being witnesses for Christ.  The boldness received was even more evident as Peter preached to the crowd.  Their obedience in tarrying until the Holy Spirit came was what brought the result we read about in that chapter.  Over 3000 people were added to the 120, all of whom needed to be taught the teachings of Jesus. 


That’s the beauty of teaching, we don’t keep it to ourselves, we share the knowledge with others; they then share with others and the Kingdom continues to grow.


Please join me in part 3 ~ Teaching the Flock


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