Monday, August 4, 2008

SOAP - 8/4/08 (1 Thess 5:12-22)


1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

"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. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."'


There are quite a few things in this passage so I might spend a few days on it.


"Brothers and sisters, please respect your pastors, elders and ministry heads. See how valuable they are and love them because of the work they do. Put aside selfishness as you work together."

What is God saying?

First, as I paraphrased this I wanted to make sure that we understood just who Paul was talking about. "Those who labor among you" are those who do the ministry in this church, particularly those who lead. Obviously the pastors and elders (lay-pastors) are among those who do ministry, but we tend to forget that those people who lead particular ministries (ministry-heads) should be included in this list.

So what does this passage mean? Let's start with what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that people in the church need to blindly follow their leaders. This has happened in the past, it is happening now and it will happen in the future. Wherever it happens trouble eventually follows. God has given us brains and he expects us to use it. The only time it is acceptable for a person to follow blindly is when following God. God is the only perfect being, but when men, who are not perfect, are followed blindly they loose all sense of self-control and humility and usually end up causing disaster.

With that being said I must also issue a warning. People who are constantly antagonistic towards authority are just as guilty of self-worship as those leaders who lead the blind. There are two extremes when it comes to leading/following. The leader can be self-absorbed or the follower can be self-absorbed. Both eventually lead to tragedy.

So where's the balance? God has placed specific people to lead specific ministries within the church. Most of the time, these people have a gift for that particular area they are leading. Once in awhile there will be someone who is trying to be faithful by assuming a leadership position they don't have a gift in waiting for the right person to come along. Leaders should be humble, and yet they should be able to lead a team of people based upon their gifts. Most leaders in the church, at least in our church, have been placed in leadership because the pastors and elders have seen good leadership qualities in them.

Leaders don't need to be criticized for everything they do!!! They are trying to lead to the best of their ability and they are trying to be faithful to God. Yes, all leaders need to continue developing in their leadership skills. It is very, VERY important that a leader has a group of people who will follow his lead, but also encourage him/her to develop into a better leader. Leaders have enough stress and pressure as it is trying to get things accomplished. They don't need people on the team who AREN'T A PART OF THE TEAM!!!

So Paul says, "Hey. You need to encourage the leaders. You need to love the leaders. You need to be a part of the team!!" I don't know if you noticed but Paul says "Be at peace among yourselves" right after he gets through encouraging a proper attitude towards leaders. Why? Because there are always people on a team who, even though they may not realize it, are the ones always causing strife and slowing down progress towards the end of a project. Paul says "Stop antagonizing!! But work together!! Follow the leader, encourage the leader, love the leader and get on board with the team." Antagonism comes from a selfish heart.

What is God saying to me?

This is just a reminder to me. I am part of a team that has a leader. I need to be constantly encouraging him, loving him and being a part of his team. If I disagree with something I need to first take a real good look at why. I really need to check and make sure that my selfishness isn't at the root of "the problem." If I can see, logically, where there is an issue then I need to lovingly address the issue.

I am also reminded of my responsibility as a leader. The cool thing about being a part of a team is everyone can have input. A good leader listens to his followers and knows how to correlate the different gifts (ideas) of people on the team. I have discovered that when I open up an item for discussion the end result is usually better then my original idea. Working together to accomplish things for God is really fun!!! I don't need to be the dictator of my team because sooner or later I won't have a team and all fun (and joy) disappear.


I've pretty much said it. I need to be an encourager and a part of the team. It is important for me (and for anyone who is a part of the team) to let their leader know how much they are appreciated. So I'm going to drop Louie a little note telling him just that.


Father, I know how tempting it is to be critical of everything a leader does, and I know how devastating such criticism can be to all parties involved. Help me to be a wise, loving, encouraging and faithful follower. Help me to take the example of Jesus as he followed you and apply it to my life. You are my ultimate leader and you have placed over me other leaders. Help me to be balanced as a follower. Help me to not blindly follow, but help me to wisely follow. I want to be like you in every situation in my life. Thank you for hearing my prayer.

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