The greatest challenge to development, growth and expansion in any organizations including the church is leadership. Effective leadership is key to any organization growth and impact. One of the most urgent needs among African Christians, especially Charismatic and Pentecostal believers, has to do with leadership. Who should become the leader of God’s people? How to identify an effective leader? How to assess the work of the leader in the church? How can we learn from Acts 3: 1-10, especially Peter and John’s leadership approach of helping the crippled beggar who sat at the gate of temple? These and many other questions are objects of reflections in African Christian circles, and they beg for an academically and theologically informed position which I believe this paper will strive to offer.  In this paper I would like to read again Acts 3: 1-10 as a Pentecostal leader and scholar and draw some leadership principles that can enhance the work of leadership in the church. I approach this reflection having in mind the notion that leadership is all about influence, ability to make one change his status quo and contribute to the realization of a dream or an objective. As I develop my argument, I propose to describe the context of this passage of scriptures and its meaning to the original context and then draw some missional and practical principles that can be applied to the African context especially among Spirit-led type of churches.

  1. Understanding the context

Acts three describe the continuity of what happened on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. After they got baptized with the Holy Spirit, apostles continued going to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem to worship. Even though they had put their faith in Christ, they still followed the Jewish religion because they were Jews. It was not necessary for them to stop observing their old religion especially that they just had their Pentecostal experience (Thomas Hale, 2000, 303). The fact that Luke chooses to talk about this story is amazing. The crippled beggar represents the lowest level of people in the society. He only came to the temple to seek for assistance maybe because many people attended this religious place regularly. Adeyemo ( 2006, 1305) records that when Peter and John were confronted by this beggar, they had no money to give him. But Peter gave him a unique gift: immediate healing in the name of Jesus (3:3-7). The gift healed the man and restored his identity, giving him a place in the community of believers.

This miracle had a great significance to both the crippled man and the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Only the name of Christ Jesus can save and restore lost identity. I like the way Adeyemo summarizes the meaning of this passage in its original context “someone who had been an insignificant beggar took on a high-profile role in the ministry of the gospel. He did not necessarily preach, but his transformed life helped to draw attention to the transforming power of Christ” (2006, 1305).

In the next section I will focus on the two types of leadership that derive from this study.  

  1. Sanhedrin leadership versus Spirit-led leadership

The Sanhedrin was composed of seventy members plus the president who was the high priest. The members of the Sanhedrin were drawn from three classes the elders, the priests and the teachers of the law. Mat 16; 21, 27:41, Luke 9: 22; 22:26. These people were well vested in the law of Moses and should have shown some sympathy to this man who sat at the gate of the temple without entering inside.  In the time of Christ Sanhedrin exercised both the civil and criminal jurisdiction, Acts 4:3, 5:17-18 (Douglas & Tenney 1986, 896). It is obvious that Sanhedrin attended religious services at this temple. Their eyes were not opened enough to see the man who was laying at the gate but who never joined them for worship. But their focus was more on the observance of the law and ignored the welfare of people for whom God gave the law. Since he was crippled from birth his presence at the gate meant nothing to these Jewish leaders who were incapable of making any difference in the life of this son of Abraham.

The second type of leadership that emerges from this text is what I call the Spirit-led leadership – Pieter and John. These were fishermen who did not have enough exposure to the Jewish law like the priests and elders in the temple. But their encounter with Christ and the three years and half they spent in the company of their master formed them differently. They had an added advantage of being filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost so that they could operate in the supernatural. Their eyes were able to see beyond the physical needs of the vulnerable people like the crippled beggar at the gate of the temple. They influenced this rejected member of the Jewish society and made him contribute to the mission of God (Acts 3:11-12).   

  1. Leadership principles from Acts 3: 1-10

The story of this beggar at the gate of the temple has implications for the Christian life today, especially around church leadership. We continue to see the two types of leadership in the church – the religious who are more concerned with their religious duties and piety and have very little concern about the transformation of people who attend churches without walking and making any significant contribution to the mission of God through the church. The second type of church leadership in Africa is charismatic leadership that has emerged in recent years through various revivals. Pentecostal and charismatic churches are making great impact on the continent through their wholistic missional approach to people lives. But I believe that the leadership approach demonstrated by John and peter in Acts 3:1-10 has more to teach Christian leaders in the global South in three ways:

  • Prosperity theology versus Christ-centred theology

“But Peter said, Silver and gold I do not possess…” 3v6a

The cripped man from birth had a materialistic vision at the gate of the temple. And there were probably people who brough him regularly and came to collect him in the evening after he had received some financial assistance. But the response he got from Peter was life changing, money and silver I do not have. The crippled man met a different type of leadership that had nothing to do with prosperity theology. Leaders who did not promise heaven on earth, having pockets full of money because of the miraculous work of God. Peter and John were not in the school of sowing the seed to reap money and material blessings, they were from a different school of thoughts with a different theology.

The church in Africa is greatly affected negatively by church leaders who ask people to come to church and get rich financially. The church has become a place where people expect to receive money and all sorts of early blessings rather than eternal life. The church has stopped to be the maternity wing for the kingdom of God where new babies are born into God’s eternal family. The church has become a supermarket where people come to buy anointing oil for their businesses to grow, blessed waters to combat evils spirits in their homes, blessed apples to heal their diseases and many other promises. The church in the Global South is looking for Spirit-led leaders like Peter and John who have gift to give to those who cannot walk spiritually and make them walk again.

We need to move from a prosperity-oriented theology to a Christ-centred theology, “but what I have this I give to you, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazarene, walk” 3V6b. Only Christ can make the church in Africa walk for many more centuries to come. Church leadership should make a shift from false premises to the true premises on which people can and should build their faith, Mat 16:16-18. Just as the power in the name of Jesus Christ made lasting impact in the life of this crippled man, a Christ-centred theology will bring transformation to the African landscape be it religious, political, and economic.

  • Orthodoxy versus Orthopraxis

Peter and John’s leadership did not only have a different theology that of being Christ-centred, but their leadership was action-based. They moved from theory – words of faith in Christ, believe in Christ and you will walk but Peter stretched out his hand to the crippled person to help him walk. “And taking hold of him by the right hand, he raised him up and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong” 3v7.  Let us observe three things that Peter did in his action-based leadership approach.

First, he took hold of him by his right hand. He met this person who was not considered in the community by others because of his status as a beggar. Holding him by his right hand meant empowering this man, doing an act that could speed up the transformation process in this person’s life. As leaders we need to go beyond “words” into “actions”, from “orthodoxy to orthopraxis” that can give hope to the hopeless members of the community.

Second. He raised him up. Peter had faith that despite this crippled man’s feet being deformed he could stand up on his own feet. What he needed was someone not to carry him to the temple gate to beg but a leader who could make him rise up on his feet. I have come to understand that leadership is all about making others rise from their situation, difficulties of life, ministry challenges and make them stand up and walk.  

Third, immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. This is an amazing result of effective leadership. When leaders pose actions of taking hold of other people’s right hands and helping them to rise, feet and ankles will become strong of their own. In other words, leadership is about having eyes that can see crippled members of the church and community, holding their right hands and helping them to rise, becoming strong and walking are just consequences. The strength of the feet and ankles came because of Peter’s action-based leadership. The bible says “immediately” as if the strength in the feet and ankles of the crippled man were waiting for Peter to do his part. Of course, we know that in that action-based leadership approach, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit that empowered this neglected member of the community and enabled him to walk.

  • Self -centred versus God-centred leadership purpose

What is worth noting in this text is the result of what happened at the beautiful gate. In the last three verses 8-10, the healed man entered the temple, praising God. The purpose of John and Peter in healing this crippled man was not for them to get the glory but for God to be praised and worshipped. Acts 3v12 “Peter replied to the people, men, and Israelites, why are you astonished at this? Or why are you staring at us, as if by our power or godliness we have made him walk? The God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus…”  

Peter portrays a different type of leadership goal in this text, he does not claim to be the miracle doer, he refuses the use of magic power like some do in Africa today, but he affirms that Christ has been glorified through this miracle. Rather than telling the audience how anointed he was and how came from the Pentecostal conference in the upper room but he simply points people to Jesus. As we lead people in the church on this continent and even when God performs wonders through our various ministries Peter’s leadership should be a model – not us but Christ has to be glorified by God the father. We need to move from self-centred type of goals in leadership whereby TV stations and cameramen are invited to see what we have done. People must be pointed to Christ; and those who have experienced God’s grace through our ministries should not even become slaves of our churches – now come every day to my church – they should be sent out to the tell the world what Christ had done for them.


In this short paper based on Acts 3:1-10, the purpose was to reflect on leadership in the church of Africa today in the light of what Peter and John did at the temple’s gate in Jerusalem. This portion of scriptures has changed my understanding of Christian leadership, the view I held for many years. After this reflection Christian leadership should be understood as the ability to see crippled church members who have been long in church without walking and making any meaningful contribution to the mission of God. After we have seen them, leadership is about taking hold of their right hands and helping them to rise and walk on their own into the church and contribute to the spread of the gospel to the world. We need to move from being Sanhedrin to being Spirit-led leaders, from giving a money centred gospel to presenting a Christ-centred theology of eternal hope. We need to move from excelling in too much knowledge to becoming action-based in our leadership approach. And all that we do as leaders should make people glorify God.    

Short Bio:

Jesse earned his D. Th in Missiology from UNISA and has been in full-time ministry for more than 20 years. Jesse is passionate about Pentecostal missions and ministry and has published three books. Jesse is the SATS BTh Honours coordinator, MTh & PhD supervisor, Lecturer, and Senior pastor Liberating Truth Mission church international, Lubumbashi, DRC.

Works cited list

Adeyemo, T. 2006. Africa Bible Commentary: A one volume commentary written by seventy African scholars. Zondervan, Word alive publishers.

Thomas, H. 2000. Applied NT commentary. Kingsway publications, Sri Lanka.  

Douglas JD,  Tenney MC . 1987. Bible Dictionary.  Zondervan, Grand Rapids Michigan.