Bless our pastors and ministry leaders
In the age of social media, every one of us feels entitled to our own opinion. In contrast, God’s Word tells us to submit to and obey our church and ministry leaders. Otherwise, we cause those whom God has appointed to watch over us to groan with sorrow. This would not benefit any of us. Let us, therefore, seek God first and serve one another well, so we do not give Satan a foothold in our ministries.
Hebrews 13:17 ESV Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Sometimes the greatest pressures and hardships our ministry leaders face come literally from their own church families. In a 2015 survey by LifeWay, 54 percent of the 1,500 pastors interviewed in America found their roles overwhelming while 84 percent said they are expected by their church members to be on call 24 hours a day. Overall, 21 percent said their church has unrealistic expectations of them. (Some sources: Lifeway Research, Facts and Trends, Duke Divinity School, National Association of Evangelicals)
If they are allowed to speak openly, our ministry leaders would probably echo Paul’s reminder in 1 Thessalonians to please show them great respect and wholehearted love. How can we make serving more joyful for our pastors and church leaders?
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 ESV We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
The Church refers to us
Mention the word “church” today and people will often ask, “which one”?
We have forgotten that the primary meaning of the word, Church, is the assembly or group of believers. For example, the Church met in Prisca and Aquila’s home, as well as Nympha’s. Paul persecuted the early believers, the Church. Jesus is described as the Bridegroom of the Church, not “churches.”
Romans 16:3,5 ESV Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, Greet also the church in their house…
Colossians 4:15 ESV Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
Galatians 1:13 ESV For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.
Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Today we never say, “We are the Church.” Rather, we say, “We attend a church called ___.” We see different places as different churches with different styles of teaching, pastors, and venues. We have relegated the meaning of Church to buildings, even though God calls each believer His temple.
Acts 17:24-25 ESV The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,
1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
Making ministry more joyful for our ministers
1. Let’s be realistic
Those who preach are typically judged with greater strictness but they also deserve compassion and grace because as James 3 says, we all stumble in many ways.
James 3:1-2 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
Pastors and other teachers are frequent targets for comparisons, complaints and criticisms, most of which is not ill-intended. But the truth is no one enjoys unhelpful “feedback” every time we serve others. Yet pastors have little protection from such input.
Jude 1:16-19 ESV These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:13 ESV For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Matthew 12:37 ESV For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
We also tend to expect pastors, speakers, and teachers to be eloquent, politically correct and entertaining at all times, sometimes placing too much emphasis on their delivery rather than on them delivering the truth. The apostle Paul declared in 1 and 2 Corinthians that he did not wish to preach with “words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Our worldly expectations, however, can force our teachers to dilute or soften their messages, rather than to boldly testify of the truth like those in the first Church did.
John 8:31-32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
1 Corinthians 1:17 ESV For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Let us humble our hearts and welcome hard biblical truths, and not persecute or dismiss those whom God has called to deliver it to us, even if it is hard to hear at first. We need to encourage our ministry leaders to speak the truth like Jesus did, even if people turned away from Him. Jesus didn’t chase after them because He knew they never truly believed in Him or loved Him in the first place.
2 Timothy 4:3 ESV For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
John 6:60-61,66-68 ESV When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? …After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,
Some of us have favourite pastors but there is also the danger of following any teacher over Jesus Christ, because human beings make mistakes. At a time where several churches around the world are in crisis because their leaders have been exposed in the #MeToo generation, believers can easily fall away when they place their faith in people rather than in God. Jesus Himself told us that He is to be our sole Instructor.
Matthew 23:10 ESV Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:12-13 ESV What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
We can’t expect our pastors or church leaders to be perfect, on call 24/7 or all-knowing. Those qualities can only be found in Jesus. Neither should we be shocked to hear of interpersonal conflicts in ministry. Even the apostle Paul encountered a sharp disagreement with fellow missionary, Barnabas, and parted ways with him. This, however, did not set God’s work back. It in fact, probably increased the spread of the gospel. We can trust that God is bigger than interpersonal challenges within the Church and will work out all things for His glory.
Acts 15:36-39 ESV And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other..
God does not see church hierarchies as we do, He expects us to have “the same care for one another”. Just like us, our pastors and church leaders need to be surrounded by mature believers who will tenderly care for and edify them. We can’t expect our leaders to be invincible or infallible because they are God’s sheep too. Our pastors need people around them who will lovingly call them out when they begin to stray away from the truth or fall into temptation.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26 ESV … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
2. Let’s not pressurise them to mirror the world
When we don’t see ourselves as the Church, we can behave like consumers and expect great “customer service” each time we walk into a church building. We will use worldly measurements to determine how well a place of worship does, rather than look at well we, the Church, do in worshipping God in our hearts.
If we were to follow exactly how the Church first behaved, we would serve as “one heart and soul”. There would be no poor amongst us. We would sell our possessions to provide for those in need. All of us will testify of Jesus boldly with signs and wonders. No one can accuse the Bible of being outdated, because the same things the first Church did continues on with us today. We must be careful not to look more and more like the world and less and less like the first Church.
Acts 4:24,28-35 ESV And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, … do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles‘ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
3. Let’s not impose unrealistic expectations on their time
We build a certain familiarity with our pastors because we “see” them preach almost every week. As a result, we think we “know” them and expect them to be personally available to us. Except for certain things that only a pastor can officially carry out, such as church matters, sermons, weddings or funerals, for example, the Church should first be serving one another and not expect a pastor to serve us all.
We bless our pastors and church leaders when we show them our appreciation and as far as is possible, also allow them personal time to study God’s Word, commune with Him and spend time with their own families.
4. Most of all, let’s pray for their protection
The Church has an enemy that has been working against God’s people from the very beginning. The Bible states that Satan:
- Twisted God’s truth to deceive Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-7)
- Inflicted hardship on Job (Job 1:6-22)
- Tried to cause a division among the apostles (Luke 22:31-32)
- Got Peter to focus on the things of man, rather than the things of God (Matthew 16:23)
- Got Judas to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3)
- Got Ananias to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11)
- Tempts people into sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:5)
Our enemy continues to use these same tactics against the Church, especially against its leaders and their families. If possible, Satan will use jealousy, misunderstanding, offence or division to shake up and break up ministry groups. We need to pray for all leaders in the Church; that they will be watchful, aware of the enemy’s tactics and not be easily shaken, and that their families will be protected from spiritual attacks. We are stronger together than when we are divided.
1 Timothy 5:15 ESV For some have already strayed after Satan.
Mark 3:25 ESV And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
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