Core Value 9: We honor those God has gifted and called to authority. Those in authority exercise their leadership with humility and grace as servant-leaders.
If you saw this job description in the “help wanted” section of your newspaper, would you apply?
WANTED: Highly qualified individual to act as a servant to a group of people, washing feet as necessary. Must be willing to adopt group members’ needs as your burden, to go to great lengths on their behalf, to show them love and compassion. Must be able to hold fast to the vision of the organization’s President and teach it clearly, even in the face of opposition, calling group members to grow in their understanding and ability to serve in the organization. Must admonish the group as needed, confronting sin and error with boldness but approaching any conflict with the ultimate goal of reconciliation. Must exhibit qualities of humility, grace, and servanthood in addition to leadership skills and gifts and must daily balance the tension between serving and leading your constituency. No financial remuneration is guaranteed, though the eternal benefit package is quite generous.
Those gifted and called to authority in the church operate under that kind of job description. They have “servant-leader” printed on their spiritual business cards. Authority in the church is a world apart from the authority in the—well, in the world. Hear what Jesus says:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark10:42, NIV)
Leaders in the church—the good ones, the called-by-God ones, the humble ones—are continually being given God’s heart for the people He’s called them to lead. And God’s heart loves His people. God’s heart hurts when His people fall; rejoices when they grow. His heart shows compassion on them in their weakness; shines the light of His truth on them in their sin; gives them His strength as they walk in faith. And gifted leaders reflect that heart to the people they lead.
Not an easy job. But important to the life of the church. So important to your life and mine. Think about the times you’ve grown closer to God. Chances are, many of those times were triggered by someone in a position of spiritual authority in your life. Maybe it was a weekend teaching you heard that hit home. Maybe it was a lesson taught by a small group leader. Maybe it was a conversation you had with a spiritual mentor or more mature believer who confronted you on an area of sin or challenged you to stretch.
Think of those times and marvel at their richness—the eternal value of the growth that occurred in your heart. Now listen for a moment to the Bible’s call to honor the people in the church who, through their leadership, are the catalysts for those kinds of moments in the life of the body:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17, NIV)
Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord, and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, NIV)
Think now of a leader who is over you in the Lord. (If you are an area leader, and a wise one, you no doubt have made sure that you are still under another believer’s authority—someone who can mentor you, hold you accountable, and help guide your continued spiritual growth.) Think of that leader, and set aside some time in the next few days to thank that person for the way God’s used him or her for your growth.
Write a note. Send an e-mail. Make a phone call. Have a conversation. But do it. Make the effort to honor someone who works hard in our midst, who watches over our spiritual health, who admonishes us and leads us and serves us. Not to give our leaders big heads. But to give them a greater joy in their work. Because where is the joy in what they do? In knowing and serving God? Yes. In using their spiritual gifts? Sure. But where else?
In you. In watching you grow and learn and become ever more in love with Jesus. That’s where. Paul calls the believers in Philippi his “joy and crown”(Philippians 4:1, NIV). John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4, NIV). So let’s give some leaders joy today by letting them hear about how we’re walking closer to God because of their ministry.