Graceful Leaders - Biblical Encouragement for Leaders
From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. Acts 16:11-15
In Paul’s day it was necessary to have at least ten Jewish men to have a synagogue. They must have fell short in Philippi. So a small group of women found themselves holding prayer services outdoors by the river outside the city gate. One of them, Lydia, a Gentile who had been drawn to the Jewish faith, was there when Paul brought the good news of Jesus Christ to their little circle. Like many Jews in Paul’s day, she came to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the one who fulfilled all the promises of God. She was baptized a Christian, no doubt right out there in the Gangites (Gan-gee-tees) River.
What Luke, the writer of Acts, remembers about Lydia (and he was there at the time) is how she invited Paul and his traveling friends to stay at her house. “And she persuaded us,” he writes in vs. 15. She actually made the offer of hospitality in a way they couldn’t refuse. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” How could they refuse? To beg off would have said they did not recognize her as a believer, someone they had just baptized. This was one persuasive woman.
Lydia’s powers of persuasion are seen elsewhere in this passage. It took some persuasive skills to muster this small group of women to worship on their own. It took persuasive skills for a woman to do well in the textile business, in which she evidently excelled. And when she believed, her family followed her lead, perhaps with her persuasive encouragement engaged.
The word used here for the persuasive powers of Lydia is the same word Luke uses for Paul as he traveled the ancient Mediterranean world with the gospel of Christ. “He persuaded them….and some were persuaded,” Luke often writes. At one point, King Herod Agrippa was so taken by Paul’s bold, persuasive powers that he asked, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28)? Paul no doubt was thinking, “Well, yes!”
Christian leaders need to be persuasive. Not everyone is ready to sign up for the army of the Lord. Not everyone is ready to bear a cross for Christ. Members of the church are not always eager to take up a ministry, endorse a plan, or give generously to a cause. They need to be persuaded. What we offer, what we suggest as leaders, needs to make sense to them and ring true. We must address real needs with creativity and winsome warmth. We can leave it to the Spirit for sure, but the Spirit also works with a good coax, in speech “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6), and with an invitation that is just plain hard to refuse. Christian leaders are as much in sales as we are in marketing.
Graceful Leaders is a series of meeting devotions designed for staff and lay leaders of Christian congregations. The series uses Biblical leaders as embodiments of grace-filled leadership in the church. The series is written by Dean Nadasdy, President, Minnesota South District, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Copies may be made and distributed within local congregations.