Sneak Peek: Leadership Development in the First Century

Here is an article written for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Christian Education, called “Leadership Development in the First Century: Paul” by Stephen Kemp, Academic Dean of the Antioch School.  We thought you might enjoy an early sneak peek.

Leadership development in the first century was a natural part of apostolic work and church life in the progress of the gospel. Paul appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5), wrote letters of instruction to the leaders of churches, and provided models by his presence (e.g. in Ephesus for two years) and the record of his presence (Acts 19:1-20:38). He also sent his young apostolic leaders into substantial places of difficult ministry (e.g. Timothy to Thessalonica, Titus to Crete) and wrote letters of instructions to them.

Leadership development in the first century was development of local churches to sustain an exponential church planting movement. It is best summarized in 2 Timothy 2:2, “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 (NASB).” Local church and apostolic leaders are responsible to perpetuate the apostolic teaching, namely the proclamation about Christ (kerygma) and the corresponding doctrine (didache) about what to believe and how to live accordingly.

All believers are gifted by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7). These gifts are to be stewarded for the sake of Christ and therefore need to be developed (Eph. 4:16, Col. 2:19). Gatherings of believers should include edification, stimulation, and growth (Col. 3:16, Heb. 10:24-25). Emerging leaders should “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6).

Roles and responsibilities are at the core of Paul’s teaching about leadership development. These can be categorized according to the social concept of household. A distinguishing characteristic of a Christian family is the spiritual development of its members (Eph. 5:21-6:9, Col. 3:18-4:1). The household is also present in Paul’s conception of the church (1 Tim. 3:15), instructions about relationships in the church (1 Tim. 5:1-2, Titus 2:1-10), and qualifications of church leaders overlap significantly with family leadership (1 Tim. 3:1-15, Titus 1:6-9).

Criteria are important in the first century model of leadership development. Overseers are to be “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:1) and “have a good reputation with outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:7) and deacons likewise (1 Tim. 3:8). Timothy was acknowledge as having been “spoken well of” by the brethren (Acts 16:2). Qualifications of leaders and therefore content of leadership development include family characteristics (e.g. husband of one wife, managing his own family well), personal characteristics (e.g. self-controlled, respectable, hospitable), and ministry characteristics (e.g. able to teach).

The leadership development approach of Paul (with emphasis on organizational structure and the establishment of churches) and the leadership development of Jesus (with emphasis on relationship and the emergence of a new community) should be viewed as complimentary. The Gospels themselves were leadership development tools written by apostles who served alongside Paul (e.g. Luke was a close co-worker with Paul). The Gospels provide leaders and churches with a foundational understanding of Jesus (kerygma), an apologetic for the legitimacy of the apostles, and a connection between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles (didache).


  • Bruce, F. F. The Pauline Circle. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.
  • Reed, Jeff. “Paul’s Concept of Establishing” in Pauline Epistles: Strategies for
  • Establishing Churches, Ames, IA: BILD International, 2001.
  • Verner, David C. The Household of God: The Social World of the Pastoral EpistlesChico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981. 
  • Zuck, Roy B. Teaching as Paul Taught. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.