The What & Why of Honoring Church Leaders for Unity’s Sake
In their book, Redeeming Church Conflicts, Tara Barthel and David Edling put their finger on a troublesome issue between followers and leaders in the church:
Typically, in our churches today, we find followers who don’t want to follow because they think they know more than their leader. They are like rebellious sheep who just want to do what they would do naturally. It’s true that all leaders are imperfect. But we can all learn to follow imperfect leaders. We have no other choice, for there is no perfect leader in a fallen world, and as followers, this is what we are called to do.
In this series of posts regarding followers excelling in safeguarding unity with leaders, we have answered the “what” question from this passage.
Followers who master peacemaking with leaders in their church treat them with the utmost, relational, loving esteem/honor/respect possible.
Now we are ready to ask the “why” question.
The answer comes in the middle of 1 Thess. 5:12-13—because of their work.
I make it a point every Sunday before the worship service to eyeball the congregation looking for new people. If possible, I head their way to welcome them.
One Sunday I approached a lady visiting for the first time. I introduced myself by my first name. She smiled and replied, Hi, Curt, and shook my hand.
But then she paused, maybe catching a glimpse of my name tag. She actually gasped a bit. Are you the pastor? she asked. Well, yes, I am. I answered.
And then she apologized. She explained: Then I should have addressed you as “pastor.”
I assured her that she did not offend me. Lots of folks around Orlando Grace call me “PC” for short. I actually like the affection behind the nickname!
Some even address me by my first name, without the title. It really makes no difference to me.
But the fact that she took the office seriously and wanted to convey that even by the way she addressed me made me think.
She gets this verse.
Don’t get me wrong. This principal for safeguarding unity isn’t necessarily about titles.
But particularly in a conflict involving your shepherds, if peacemaking and Paul’s teaching matter here, you will want to take enormous pains about the way you go about communicating.
You will govern your tone of voice, the choice of words, and your overall demeanor so that you guard your heart from disrespect.
Paul lists four aspects of the officers’ work that necessitate honoring them as an essential part of pursuing peace and preserving unity in Christ’s church.
In the following posts we will look at each—family, hard, leading and corrective work—and make some practical applications.
How might you be tempted to think that you know more than your leaders?