Why Real Leadership Often Doesn’t Come from the Leaders



November 18, 2019

Acts 27:21-26 (NIV)

After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”


At times leaders hold recognized positions. Unfortunately, a lot of the time (especially in churches) the people who occupy recognized positions of leadership are not actually leaders. Then there are leaders who do not hold a recognized position.

Where do you see Paul in the present scenario among the three options? The ship held 276 souls; some of them soldiers, many of them prisoners, still others made up the crew and captain, and finally there was Julius the Centurion. Paul held the distinguished rank of prisoner yet today’s text shows him clearly emerging as the leader of the ship. Remember, Paul warned the official leadership, Julian the Centurion and the ship’s captain not to proceed on the journey as planned.

Below are a few thoughts about the quality of real leadership drawn from Paul’s life and evidenced in today’s text.

  1. Real leaders speak up, regardless of whether they hold positional leadership or not. I’ve heard people say in order to qualify as a leader you must have followers. Not necessarily. To qualify as a leader you must speak up and provide leadership; whether people follow you or not. In this situation, Paul provided leadership that was not followed. His counsel, though not heeded, proved prescient.
  2. Real leaders keep taking initiative despite being rejected. This is the test of a leader. It’s too easy and quite typical for someone whose counsel is rejected to become an armchair quarterback and snipe at the people officially in charge. Yes, Paul did take a shot with his “I told you so” comment, but he went further and provided more leadership.
  3. Real leaders understand their primary calling as putting courage into people, especially in crisis situations. Listen to Paul again on this point, “But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.”
  4. Real leaders do the hard work of cultivating holy instincts, which is to say an imagination steeped in the “nothing is impossible with God” possibilities of the Holy Spirit. Angels abound for those with eyes to see. The Word of God always speaks to those with ears to hear. The eyes of faith see beyond the thin veil of the visible into the deep mysteries of the realm of the Holy.
  5. Real leaders risk it all on a word from God. They work from an authority beyond their own. They live with a boldness beyond mere grandiosity. From day one on the Damascus Road to yesterday’s word from an angelic visitor, Paul banked everything on the living, active Word of God.

Would you like to be this kind of person? It’s entirely possible. Answer that question.




How might you articulate leadership thought #6 and add to the list above?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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