Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Befriend Your Minister--Test and Trust
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”—Titus 3:1, 2 NIV
We live in a culture of vigorous independence. We love the idea of ‘do-it-yourself’. Men boast about installing stereo systems without looking at the directions. Women gather in the kitchen and say, “Oh, I just added a bit of this and a bit of that—I rarely follow recipes.”
That’s all well and good with stereos and casseroles. But what about Christian leadership? Are we willing to listen to instruction from leaders, or do we consider ourselves self-sufficient? Are we willing to adhere to behavioral expectations within the Body of Christ, or do we prefer to add or subtract a “bit of this” and a “bit of that” to the instructions according to our whims?
If we cling to stalwart independence and refuse to listen to the guidance of our Christian leaders, I believe we’re missing the blessing and the joy of coming under godly authority. If we underestimate our leaders’ worth, we don’t benefit from their wisdom. If we consider ourselves more knowledgeable and capable, we run the risk of becoming insufferably prideful.
Christians are in a unique relationship with our ministers. We are believers, just as they are. We are all equally valuable in God’s eyes. Jesus’ sacrifice is as available to our ministers as it is to the smallest children in the pews. The most learned Christian theologian is no more saved than the pudgy-fisted preschooler who lisps through “Jesus Loves Me”.
Yet the Bible asserts that the Spirit gifts believers in many ways, and appoints some to lead the flock. To ministers belongs the responsibility of Biblical teaching and godly example. They must not only talk the talk, they must know the translations of the talk. They must not only walk the walk, but must know every foothold on the trail—and if they’re unsure, they must seek the resources necessary to light the path.
Our ministers are given great responsibility, and the Bible uses strong language to warn leaders against false teaching. When I encounter a new minister or pastor, I listen carefully. I’m no Biblical scholar, but I have studied the Bible. I know when Truth resonates in my fallible mind. I know when Truth sings in my soul, and I listen for it in the words of leaders.
Once I hear Truth in the words of the minister, I know I can trust that person. Testing the minister for Biblical truths is crucial, but brief. Trusting a leader is ongoing and sometimes much more difficult.
Trust becomes an arduous process when we expect our ministers to be everything to all people. We want a theologian in our Bible studies, a great motivator in the pulpit, and an expert in childhood development for our young congregants. We want someone who’s adept at marriage, end-of-life, and addiction counseling. We want a valued friend, a wise advisor, a savvy business leader, and a knowledgeable guide. Oh, and we want him to be available with a single phone call—twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year—and twice for Christmas Eve services, thank you.
I believe trusting our leaders means giving them wide berth to be the people God made them to be. God calls all Christians to tasks that reflect His glory, share His love, build His Kingdom, and bring us joy. He calls ministers especially, not only to Christian leadership, but to the very flock they are leading. We should honor whatever strengths our ministers bring to their churches and celebrate their unique contributions.
Perhaps your minister’s humor rubs you the wrong way, but his approachability will bring others to Christ. Perhaps you wish your minister related to youth better, but God has appointed a wonderful youth leader from the congregation so your minister can concentrate on adult Bible study—an area of need in your church. Perhaps your minister feels inadequate to offer marriage counseling, but refers couples to an expert nearby. No one person can have talent in every aspect of ministering.
Celebrate your minister’s talents, and trust them even in their shortcomings. Trusting our ministers breeds all the attributes of the verse above. If we trust that God chose them specifically for our congregation, we become obedient. We show consideration. We act peaceably, and can even extend true friendship. In remembering that we need instruction and guidance, we stay humble. And in humility, we’re able to put some of that famed American independence aside. Do-it-yourself has its place in mundane tasks, but Christian living is no mundane task. It’s to be approached with the holy and loving influence of the Father, gratitude toward His Son, guidance through the Spirit, and a healthy dose of respect and trust toward those in authority: our Christian pastors.
May God bless them richly today as they work tirelessly for His Kingdom and their flocks.
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