WORK HARD FOR A HEALING SPIRIT (5)

The What & Why of Honoring Church Leaders for Unity’s Sake

In my latest series of posts based on 1 Thess. 5:12-13, I have argued for the pursuit of church unity by the way followers honor their leaders. It has everything to do with the nature of their work.

In the last post we covered the family nature of the work. In this post we consider the toilsome nature of the ministry.

Hard Work

The Greek language has a variety of terms for work. In v. 12, Paul uses a verb form of a particularly vivid word. It describes toil, labor, or work so depleting it leaves one weary—completely exhausted.

The root of the word means beaten, as in this kind of work leaves you feeling like you just went fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali.

Paul uses the same word in 1 Tim. 5:17 when he speaks of those who labor in preaching and teaching, a principal role of an elder.

In his own testimony, Paul claimed in 1 Cor. 15:10, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

If you are worth your salt, if you are duly qualified, if you are rightly called to office, if you truly get the nature of service in God’s church, whether elders who devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word or deacons who “wait on tables” serving practical needs in the body and ministering to those in need (Acts 6:1-7), I guarantee you, you know the reality of this.

You know what it means to work hard. You’ve lost sleep, sacrificed family time, and put your own needs second to those you serve countless times. And sometimes it just leaves you feeling spent.

Not only that, but by Jesus’ own admission the laborers are few (Matt. 9:37). So you are likely undermanned on your team for the tasks on your list. These realities of church ministry alone are reason enough, Paul argues, for followers to pursue peace by treating their officers with respect.

In my role as a shepherd of God’s people, I get called upon often to assist folks in resolving disputes. I find the effort, time, and commitments necessary for effective assisted peacemaking among the toughest assignments in my ministry.

I always approach these challenges the same way. First, I meet with the individuals alone for conflict coaching—multiple times if necessary. Then, we meet for the actual mediation.

Along the way I try to help identify issues, concerns, offenses, idols of the heart, and paths to reconciliation. It can be brutally exhausting work.

Some time ago I served a family in such a conflict. The Lord worked mightily in healing the rift. I received one of the kindest notes notes of appreciation anyone has ever sent me.

I put that card in my Why I Became a Pastor File. I pull it out on days I think about abandoning ship and becoming a Walmart greeter.

Few things convey more honor and respect to someone like me in pastoral ministry than tangible appreciation.

What is something you might do to show your gratitude for the hard work done by your spiritual leaders?

 

WORK HARD FOR A HEALING SPIRIT (3)

The What & Why of Honoring Church Leaders for Unity’s Sake

Shepherding

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. 5:12-13because 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?

 

Terrific Prayer to Start the Day

Began my day with this from A Way to Pray:

Inspire us to work the works of him that sent us while it is day, since the night comes when no man will be able to work. Whatever good our hands find to do, let us do it with all our might. For there is no work in the grave where we A Way to Prayare going (emphasis mine). Let us never be slothful in any good business of yours. Enable us to be fervent in spirit as we serve you, our Lord. Train us to be fixed in purpose, undeterred, always abounding in the work of the Lord, since we can be confident that our labour will never be in vain in the Lord. John 9:4; Eccles. 9:10; Rom. 12:11; 1 Cor. 15:58.

Lord, let us be zealous for every good work. Whatever we do, let us do it wholeheartedly, for we are not serving men, but the Lord Christ. Enable us to do the work of every day in its day, just as the duty of the day requires. Help us make full use of every opportunity, since we live in an evil age. When our Lord returns, let him find us busily doing the work he has commissioned us to do. Gal. 4:18; Col. 3:23; Ezra 3:4; Eph. 5:16; Luke 12:43.

Amen and amen.

Property Clean Up Work Party This Saturday

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.

The good news is they are getting ready to landscape our property at 872 Maitland Avenue.

The bad news is they need us to clean up the site before they can do it. We have to clear trash, rocks, foliage, and miscellaneous debris as part of prepping the place for overall beautification.

So, as you may have heard our faithful and fearless building committee chairman announce on Sunday, we have scheduled a volunteer work party for this Saturday, March 10, at 8:30 AM on the site.

We need as many hands on deck as possible. Also, please bring whatever you may have in the way of appropriate tools, e.g., rakes, clippers, loppers, shovels, wheel barrows, etc., in short, anything you think might help us get the job done in an effective way.

Some form of a snack or lunch will be provided as we move toward the lunch hour, but please bring your own beverage supply for the duration.

This will mean a delay in resuming our Oxford Club for Men meetings this Saturday, as we don’t want the priorities to conflict.

If you have any questions about the task at hand, contact Ross Hudson at rossdhudson@gmail.com.

Fuel for the Fire of Faithful Ministry

Today’s message from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

I summarized the theme of the text this way: the victorious reality of our future resurrection anchors us in an unshakeable constancy in ministry. Work for God fueled by the fire of a gospel-resurrection hope will be an amiable, abounding, arduous, assured, and awarded kind of work.

Here are Charles Spurgeon’s words with which I closed:

Take this henceforth for your motto—All for Jesus, always for Jesus, everywhere for Jesus. He deserves it. I should not so speak to you if you had to live in this world only. Alas, for the love of Jesus, if thou wert all and nought beside, O earth! But there is another life—live for it. There is another world—live for it. There is a resurrection, there is eternal blessedness, there is glory, there are crowns of pure reward—live for them, by God’s grace live for them. The Lord bless you, and save you. Amen.

Hope for the Lazy Man

One of our Oxford Club brothers sent me an intriguing article on the gospel and responsibility.

The author shows how the gospel can make a difference in one’s motivations when it comes to work of all kinds.

For example:

God’s action to save the world was born out of His love for the world. The lazy man will have a hard time loving others rightly if he does not understand how he has been loved. He must be affected and empowered by love before he can genuinely and energetically love others. Otherwise, his love will be various forms of self-interest. Until a man has been changed by the Gospel he will not be able to model the Gospel in his life. Rather than being motivated by the Gospel he will be motivated by behavioralism. He may do good deeds, but he has not been rightly affected at the level of his motivations. For example, the Gospel-centered man gets up in the morning and says, “I get to serve God today because He is happy with me.” The behavioristic man gets up in the morning and says, “I have to serve God today so He will be happy with me.” The former is motivated by love, while the latter is motivated by either guilt, fear, shame, duty, or self-interest.

Check it out by clicking on here.

And brothers, hope to see you tomorrow!

Hustle & Give in the Workplace

Richard D. Phillips makes a strong case in his book The Masculine Mandate for industry as part of a Christian man’s godly identity.

In chapter three, Man’s Sacred Calling to Work, he writes:

In our fallen world, shadowed by the curse of death and futility, we either work hard or our families suffer. According to the book of Proverbs, industry is an essential characteristic that men should cultivate: “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov. 10:4): “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth” (Prov. 12:27). Yet I sometimes hear pastors or Christian psychologists tell men they should never be late for dinner or have to travel away from home for work. I disagree. It’s true that men should not pursue their work so single-mindedly that family duties are excluded or consistently compromised. But in our fallen world, men have an obligation to hustle and give their all in the workplace–and this may involve some late nights and business trips. Of all men, Christians should work especially hard, giving more than an honest day’s work for a day’s wage (p. 19).

This Saturday morning from 7 AM to 9 AM at the church office we will continue our discussion of Phillips’ book in this very chapter. To access the pdf study guide click on The Masculine Mandate – SG #3. Remember to bring your own breakfast.

We’re still getting started in this new resource, so don’t hesitate to join us if this might be your first time!

The Virtue of Hard Work in the Lord

As I reflected today on last night’s congregational meeting, I gave thanks, among other things, for the gift of serving along side so many fellow workers in the Lord at Orlando Grace. From the building committee members, to the deacons, to the elders, we saw a display of devotion to the kingdom cause that makes this pastor flush with gratitude.

This blessing made me think of the apostle Paul where he sends greetings to the church in Romans 16:3-16. He mentions several people in the fellowship by name, citing reasons for his praise to God for them. Frequently, the virtue of working hard in the Lord and for His church goes down in the biblical record.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus (v. 3).

Greet Mary, who worked hard in the Lord for you (v. 6).

Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ (v. 9).

Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord (v. 12).

What lessons can we take away from a who’s who like this at the church in Rome? At least two come to mind.

First, it takes numerous servants to do the work of the ministry. Paul calls these saints fellow workers. Even the great apostle Paul acknowledged that he could not do the work by himself. It takes teamwork and cooperation among all the saints to build up Christ’s church. Don’t miss, by the way, that women who worked hard in the Lord made Paul’s list just like men. Hard work in gospel ministry applies to both genders. In fact, the term for hard work Paul uses only for women in the context!

Second, it doesn’t come easy. Paul often describes the ministry efforts expended as hard work. The Greek has only one word translated by these two English words. It comes from a root that means to beat or hit or smite something. It means to toil, strive, or struggle to the point of wearied exhaustion.

Spurgeon preached from this text with this exhortation to his people:

It is an honor to labor for Christ, it is a still greater honor to labor much. If then, any, in joining the Christian
Church, desire place or position, honor or respect, the way to it is this—labor, and labor much! Persis had probably been a slave and was of a strange race from the far-off land of Persia. But she was so excellent in disposition that she is called, “the beloved Persis,” and for her indefatigable industry she receives signal mention. Among believers the rewards of affectionate respect are distributed according to the self-denying service which is rendered to Christ and to His cause. May all of us be helped to labor much, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So much hard work went into making last night possible. Many thanks to you all!

We would not find ourselves poised on the brink of so grand an adventure as constructing our new building apart from the faithfulness of God in raising up so many hard working servants with a heart for the gospel and the glory of Christ’s name on display in and through His church.

May we continue to prize hard work in the Lord for the virtue it truly is and may we indeed by helped to labor much, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we move into 2011 and start construction on our facility.