The Heart of A Leader (Acts 20:17-38)

The Heart Of A Leader

Sermon Notes from Aug 5-6, 2017


I’ve noticed that there are quite a few cemeteries in the area. There was a time when I collected epitaphs (what’s written on the tombstone). It’s interesting to think that our lives can be summed up in a few words. Here are a few of my favorites…

  1. Uniontown, Pennsylvania: Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake – [He] Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.
  2. Silver City, Nevada: Here lays Butch, He was quick on the trigger, but slow on the draw.
  3. In Ribbesford England: Anna Wallace — The children of Israel wanted bread and the Lord sent them manna, Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife, And the Devil sent him Anna.
  4. From Albany, New York: Harry Edsel Smith – [He] Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down. It was.
  5. From Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada: A victim of fast women and slow horses.

I know those are humorous, but on a serious note, what would you like to see written on your tombstone?

I had the privilege of studying under a professor named Bobby Clinton during my time in grad school (The Making of A Leader). Clinton spent most of his career studying leadership in the Bible. Here’s what Clinton found…

  1. 500 leaders in the Bible
  2. 100 leaders with information on their lives
  3. 49 with information on how they finished
  4. 13 finished well (26%!)

The point about pointing this out is: If you and I are not intentional [focused living] about finishing well, we probably won’t. Clinton developed six criteria for what it means to finish well. I will post them on the Pastor’s Blog this coming week. I’d like for us to take the thought of what it means to finish well into our passage for today…

Last week we considered what effective leaders DO, today I would like for us to consider the heart of an effective leader who, by-the-way finished VERY well!

Remember our commitment to look at leadership on two parallel tracks.

  1. If the lowest common denominator of effective leadership is influence then the Bible can inform us all about how we might influence the sphere of our relationships. (As I mentioned last week, it’s time for the Church of Jesus Christ to start leading in our culture again…)
  2. The second track is that we want to learn about leadership in and for this church. In a few weeks we will have the opportunity to nominate elders and we don’t want it to be a popularity contest…

We will look at a passage that Dr. Luke [medical dr, historian, and collegue of Paul] records in Acts 20 as Paul, who is on his way, back to Jerusalem stops in Miletus, which is a town that is 36 miles dead-south of Ephesus. Paul likely stayed in Miletus for about a week. As he landed Paul likely sent word to the Ephesian elders to come and meet him there. It’s thought that he wanted to meet specifically with the elders.

I will read the passage, then pray and we will see what we can learn about the heart of a leader [pg. 1182]. As I read I’d like for you to notice the two “Therefore’s.” Each “therefore” is an intensifier and provides us with a segue into a new section…“From Miletus [Paul] sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them, ‘You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry, which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.

26 Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38 grieving especially over the word, which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.” Acts 20:17-38


We can understand this passage better if we break it into four pieces, which are listed in the bulletin…

  1. Paul CHRONICLES his ministry among them ( 18-25) [the real meaty portion is here as Paul reviews, or identifies, the personal integrity of a leader]
  2. Paul CAUTIONS them about coming dangers ( 26-30)
  3. Paul COMMENDS them to God and His word ( 32-35)
  4. Paul CONCLUDES his time with them (vs. 36-38)

We’ll look quickly look at them one at a time…

  1. Paul CHRONICALS his ministry among them ( 18-25)

I was with you (v. 18) [Paul wasn’t with everyone; he speaking to the elders. Remember Jethro’s counsel to Moses – “leaders of thousand, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”]

Paul served the Lord with humility, tears, and trials. (v. 19)

Definition of humility: Humility is coming to know the grace, majesty, and beauty of God and viewing ourselves from that perspective.

Paul did not shrink from declaring all that was profitable (v. 20) [remember this verse]

Paul taught them (v. 20)

Paul solemnly testified of repentance and faith (v. 21)

Paul was “bound in the Spirit” (v. 22) [he couldn’t get out if he wanted to]

Paul did not consider his life as dear to himself (v. 24)

Paul testified of the gospel of the grace of God (v. 24)

Paul preached the Kingdom (v. 25) [summary statement of the gospel]

Paul declared the whole purpose of God (v. 27)

Q-1 of the Westminster Confession of faith: What is the chief end of mankind? “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” [God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. –John Piper]

  1. Paul CAUTIONS them about coming dangers ( 26-30)

Be on guard for yourselves (v. 28) [Paul served the Lord with humility, tears, and trials. (v. 19)]

Be on guard for the flock (v. 28) [Conflict, Control (micro-managing), Idolatry (when good thing become ultimate things), Theology]

The Holy Spirit has made you overseers (v. 28) [not man]

Shepherd the church (v. 28) [Psalm 23:4 “your rod and your staff- they comfort me.” The rod is for correction and the staff is for direction. Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines. Pro 3:12 & Heb 12:6]

  1. Paul COMMENDS them to God and His word ( 32-35)

Be on the alert (v. 31) i.e, watchful, awake, discerning

Admonish each one with tears (v. 31) [invest emotionally and be willing to say the hard thing]

Be commended [entrusted] to God and the word of His grace (v. 32)

Minister to needs (v. 34) [So heavenly minded you’re no earthly good??]

Covet no one’s silver, gold, or clothes (v. 33)

Help the weak (v. 35)

Remember the words of Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (v. 35) [Jesus gave it all…]

The REAL leader is the first one to the cross. –Gordon Dalbey

  1. Paul CONCLUDES his time with them (vs. 36-38)“When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38 grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.” [They loved Paul]


Now, as we move into a time of response and taking the Lord’s Supper together I’d like for us to look at the takeaway that’s printed in the bulletin. What I attempted to do is reduce Acts 20:17-38 into one sentence to make it as practical as I can. Paul was one of the greatest leaders who have ever lived. (The greatest was Jesus but Paul may have been second…)

So, let’s look at the takeaway: All leaders inspire beliefs. Great leaders inspire great beliefs that are rooted in both deep humility and courageous communication.

In my opinion your unwillingness to engage in courageous communication is the greatest failure of CCC over the last few years…

If you have been a leader in this church over the past 5-years I would call on you to repent. We can call it conflict avoidance, peacekeeping instead of peacemaking…

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