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On a mission to develop disciple-making leaders

The world needs disciple-making leaders who are captivated by the wonder of God's grace in Jesus

Paul Coulter came to faith in Jesus when he was a child, and since his teens he’s had a hankering to partner with God to spread the good news and make disciples.

Having been appointed to the role of head of ministry operations at Evangelical Alliance member Living Leadership in May this year, it’s clear that the desires of Paul’s heart are God’s too. 

Paul shares in this interview that he’s been following step by step the leading of the Spirit” and he’s now responding to God’s will to see Christian leaders raised up to boldly make Jesus known in an increasingly post-Christian context. 

Some readers will not have heard of Living Leadership. If you could sum up the charity in your own words, in a few sentences, what would they be?

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Our tagline is, Growing disciple-making leaders’. We aim to train and support leaders for the church who are captivated by the wonder of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. The organisation has been around for quite a while under the leadership of Marcus Honeysett, who is still the director. The staff team is small, so much of our work is done by volunteers and associates, but we like that because it keeps the emphasis on partnership and the diversity of gifts God has given His people.

You have had quite a diverse career so far, starting out in medicine and then going on to become a cross-cultural pastor before moving into theological education. Why did you leave medicine?

It’s easier for me to start by explaining why I went into medicine. Having come to faith as a child, through my teenage years I had an increasing sense of calling to ministry of the word, but I was also doing well in science subjects at school. I entered medical school expecting to combine these two loves by becoming a medical missionary, but the Lord had other plans. Through my Malaysian-Chinese wife, I got involved in cross-cultural ministry with the Chinese Church in Belfast. I became an elder and the need grew until there wasn’t space for both it and a medical career in my life. The Lord prompted me to move to a full-time role with the church and wise advisors and my fellow elders affirmed His leading. 

To me it was just a matter of following step by step as the Spirit led me, but I also think being a good doctor isn’t so different from being a pastor. I loved medicine and it was a great privilege to serve as a doctor. I never made a final decision to leave medicine’ and I still think like a doctor, which I think is great a great skill for ministry; plus, my wife is a doctor and she helps remind me of medicine. So, in one sense, I never left medicine, but carry it with me as part of who the Lord is forming me to be. 

Before you joined Living Leadership you taught practical theology and missiology for six years at Belfast Bible College. Why did you stand down from this role to lead ministry operations at Living Leadership? 

Again, this was more of a step along the road than a dramatic turnaround. My passion as a pastor was always to develop others as disciples, servants and leaders, and the Bible college was a great place to do that for more people from various churches.

This new role continues that same focus but brings me back to being closer to churches where I can help develop training for people of all abilities who may never go to a Bible College. The church needs new forms of training and support for its calling to mission in an increasingly post-Christian context. 

I also believe there’s no point training leaders if we can’t support them throughout a life in ministry. This new role is a perfect fit for me, and I’m thrilled that I can work with such wonderful people in the service of the gospel.

How will you apply the skills, knowledge and experience you have built up over the years in this role? 

Over the years I have built up what a friend called a storehouse’ of material. I’ve also had ups and downs in ministry and have learned (or am still learning!) about the sufficiency of God’s grace and the comfort of His providence. This new role opens opportunities to serve leaders and prospective leaders across the UK, drawing on my resources and experience to support and resource them to keep going in ministry for the long term. Nothing is wasted with God and I can see His good purpose in all the experiences I’ve had as I trust Him for what is ahead.

You’ll help to extend Living Leadership’s ministries to churches around the UK. What will you offer churches and why do you believe churches need to be supported in this way?

Like supporting ligaments in the body, Living Leadership’s workers and associates aren’t here to replace or compete with what pastors and others do in their churches, but to serve them as they serve the Lord. We believe the church thrives when its leaders are thriving in the grace of God, but that many leaders are struggling and poorly fed themselves. 

Our calling is to respond in three ways. First, we support leaders through mentoring, pastoral care and our pastoral refreshment conferences to help them be sustained in ministry. Second, we help churches train leaders through bespoke training seminars, training courses, formation residentials for junior leaders, and our Formation School in Southampton. Third, we produce resources for leaders online and in print. We have new developments and plans in each of these areas, so it’s an exciting time to have come into this leading role in the organisation. 

Has Living Leadership noticed any particular challenges that churches or individual Christians face?

I could mention many, but the greatest challenge, I believe, is keeping ourselves centred on the wonderful grace of God to us in Christ Jesus. We are relatively unlikely to abandon Christ or deny the gospel, but we often forget just how much we need grace and stop being thankful. When that happens, we run dry and fail to extend grace to others. Hidden sins take hold and we drift into a dead appearance of faith. We might keep on serving, or we might drop out, but there is no joy and little glory for God. I want to help God’s people, and especially Christian leaders, recover their first love as they rediscover His word and follow His Spirit.

Where can readers find out more about Living Leadership and access some useful resources? 

Visit our website, which says it all. We are committed to networking and partnership with other individuals and organisations who share our vision and values as an expression of the gospel, so we’d love to hear from anyone who might want to partner with us. 

About the author

Naomi joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2018 as editorial content manager. Positions with publishers and within the marketing and communications faculty of a higher education institution, plus stints as a reporter, have enabled the media and cultural studies graduate, who has an NCTJ diploma in newspaper journalism, to hone the necessary skills and qualities to serve members well.

See more from Naomi Osinnowo

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