Sunday, October 26, 2008

Proper Respect

Since this is Clergy Appreciation Month, I just had to share this.

Scripture Reading - 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

An American and a Japanese company decided to have a boat race. The Japanese won by one mile. So the Americans hired specialists to find the problem. They discovered that the Japanese had one person managing, and seven rowing, while the Americans had seven managing and one person rowing. The Americans immediately restructured their team. They had one senior manager, six management consultants and one rower.

In the rematch, the Japanese won by two miles. So the American company fired the rower.

Sadly, one of the least safe places to be in a congregation is in leadership. When there are problems and conflicts, the anger is often directed at them. Instead of anything being "our" problem, it becomes "their" problem. And criticism, second-guessing, blaming and even character assassination can occur.

The Apostle Paul gives us clear instructions on how we can and should be treating the leaders in our churches. He calls us to respect them, to hold them in the highest regard - in love. Weak and fallible though they may be, they are doing their best for the church, and often sacrificing significant hours to do it.

How can we help and support them? The following instructions are pretty clear. We are to live in peace. Quarrels and divisions drain a lot of energy from everyone. We are to warn the idle. The idle are too frequently doing nothing within the ministries of the church, but seem to have time to criticize and second guess those who are at work.

We are to encourage the timid; to find those who may be able to share in ministry with us, but are afraid to try their gifts. We are to help the weak, to train and encourage new leaders. If we are patient, we will give new ideas, and the people who create them, time to work out. When nobody pays wrong for wrong in the church, memories of mistakes are not remembered or repaid with distrust. Instead, we are kind to each other.

Prayer: May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way, and keep your whole being, spirit, soul and body, free from all fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful.

[By Pastor Marla Bieber Abe, Eastwood Church of the Brethren, Akron, Ohio]