And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. (1Thess. 5:12-15 MSG)
I wonder if we can pause, close our eyes and get a picture of the church we belong to now, or one of the churches in our past. When I do that, I see faces of people who have influenced me positively in the Lord, who have guided me through some tough situations, and who have inspired me to be more of a person, a man, a follower of Jesus. Most of those people in my mind are and were leaders in the church – priests, deacons, pastors, elders, bible study leaders – people who stood out because they served the body with their gifts. These people seemed to be the ones who made the church “The Church”; they were the servants who carried the load of responsibility that allowed the church to fulfill its mandate of making disciples.
Behind every church, and every organization, there is a group of people that just seem to make it all work. There are those who shine because they can preach and teach and lead worship; those who stand out because they are leaders who lead people out of difficult situations and closer to Jesus. These individuals, from my experience as a pastor and church member, are those that our text describes, “work hard”. They are the ones who really “lead” the flock of God by being able to handle the Word of God, applying it to people’s lives, and are truly continually praying for the saints. Most of the time they are elders, but often, they just really love Jesus and His Word, walk the walk, and are a model for others to emulate. I don’t want to limit it to elders/pastors, because there are men and women, even in our church that are mature, seasoned saints from whom people naturally seek wisdom and counsel. These are the ones who “diligently labor among you, have charge over you in the Lord, and give you instruction. (NASB)” Friends, these people need to be recognized, honored, appreciated, and loved. Let them know how much they mean to you and the church. We have no problem talking about the ones we don’t like or who have offended us – that’s worldly – let’s appreciate our church leaders.
Lest you think that it is the job of church leaders to run the church, Paul now exhorts everyone else in the church (actually all the saints), in mutual accountability. We need to remember that we are a body, and every part of it must perform its role. There is no such thing as spectators in the church. We are a family, members of one another, who are all responsible to one another to make sure the family runs smoothly. Collectively, we deal with those who are “disruptive, lazy, idle, freeloaders, unruly” – just some of the words other translations use – but you get the picture! Our duty is to “admonish” these individuals, which means to warn and rebuke. Why do we put up with all the nonsense in church, when we are commanded by the Lord to deal with it…all of us, corporately? Our role as members of the church is to encourage and help those who are discouraged and tired, weak from the difficulty of living the Christian life. Remember at the time this was written, there was great opposition to Christianity – following Jesus came at a cost. Like fellow soldiers in a war, we are to pick up the wounded and worn out and help them win the battle. That is the picture! We are a platoon that leaves no person behind. For this reason, we are “patient” with people and “attentive” to their needs. This is what family does! This is what the Church of Jesus Christ does!
Finally, we are commanded, “when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out” (vs. 15). It doesn’t get much simpler than that! That is what it means to be patient and put others before yourself.
I would like you to reflect on the above and ask yourself what church really means to you. Is it something you just attend on Sunday as a spectator, or do you truly belong to a body of believers that live life in true community – in love, closeness, submission to one another, accountability, and mutual edification? It is really hard if you attend a large church, unless you belong to a house group, to really live out what is being described in these 4 verses. Also, are we really appreciating our church leaders, and supporting them through our service to the body?
To all the leaders I serve with at Freedom House…Thank you! I appreciate all of you and your contribution to this family!
Have a blessed week!