In response to another blog post, Dave Black commented on leadership among the church. (See Friday, June 3, 2011 at 1:58 p.m.)
When speaking about leaders, he referred to a passage that is often overlooked. I mean, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 is not as sexy (from a leader’s perspective) as some of the other preferred passages. However, I think this passage is very important if we want to understand how leaders work WITH the church.
Yes, I said WITH the church, not for the church.
First, this is what Dave said:
Some, of course, will ask, “How could a man possibly work fulltime and pastor a church effectively? One or the other will have to suffer!” This is a perfectly reasonable objection. It is obvious to every non-professional minister that the average layperson spends most of his or her time weekly providing for their families. Since they spend an enormous amount of time working for a living, their “church time” can only be a fraction of their ministry. Of course, the solution to this problem is obvious. Simply put, Jesus Christ never entrusted leadership in a local church to a single individual. Leadership in the New Testament was shared. Not surprisingly, therefore, when Paul refers to church leaders (e.g., 1 Thess. 5:12-13) the reference is to a plurality of leadership. In order to be an equipping environment, then, the local church must be structured for shared leadership — what Michael Green wonderfully refers to as a “fellowship of leadership.”
Now, this is the passage he referred to:
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you [lead you] in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 ESV – except the part I translated)
Now, you may wonder what this has to do with leaders working WITH the church. You have to read just before and just after that passage to see that part:
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)
You see, the work of leaders (“those who lead you”) is simply part of the work of all the “brothers and sisters” to encourage one another, build one another up, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with all. All believers are instructed (commanded actually) to do this work. Leaders are doing this also, of course.
But, what if the leaders are doing this work while the church is not doing it also? Big problems… big, big problems.