Summary: Treasure Your Church Leaders 1) They're from God; 2) They're for you
Were you elated or disappointed by last Monday’s provincial election results? With Allison Redford’s re-election, the Progressive Conservatives have now held power in Alberta for over 40 years! “Who cares?” you say. A monkey could sit in the premier’s office and you would be fine with that as long as highways are paved and health care paid. Such indifference is not unusual when it comes to politics. But that certainly isn’t the attitude that God wants you to have about those who are leaders in your church. Today the Apostle Paul urges you to treasure your church leaders because they are from God, and because they are for you.
Last week’s provincial election was the most exciting in the twelve years I’ve been here. Did you feel that way about the elections we held in our congregation a couple of Sundays ago? Granted there was no leadership debate nor were there any billboards promoting one candidate over another. In fact there was only one candidate for each office. A reporter covering these elections would have been underwhelmed at the lack of drama and suspense. And perhaps some of you left that voters’ meeting wondering if anything important had really just happened. If so, Paul’s farewell speech to the leaders of the Ephesian church should change your mind. Paul said: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28a).
When Jesus called the Apostle Paul to be a leader in the church, he appeared to him in a dazzling light. Nothing like that happened when I received my call to serve this congregation. Nor were there any fireworks at our voters’ meeting when we elected men to serve on the church council. Nevertheless, explains Paul, it is the Holy Spirit himself who has made us overseers in this church.
But is that right? What about those church leaders who have abused their position? Last week I heard about a couple of my schoolmates who had to leave the ministry because of impropriety. Had God also appointed them to their positions? Or had they somehow snuck into the pulpit without God’s consent–like a kid who sneaks into a big league baseball stadium at night to tear around the bases? The Holy Spirit had placed these men over their congregations as surely as God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. But just as Adam’s fall was not God’s will nor was it his fault, the same can be said of those church leaders who abuse the position they are given.
This is why Paul said to the leaders: “Keep watch over yourselves…” (Acts 20:28a). That admonition is necessary because church leaders may be appointed by God but they aren’t any less sinful than the rest of us. If anything, pastors, staff ministers, and church councilmen probably face more temptations, for Satan believes that he can do the greatest damage to a congregation if he can get the leaders to stumble.
So fellow leaders, are you watching yourselves? Do the minutes that you spend in private mirror the minutes you spend here in church on a Sunday morning or on a Friday night at a council meeting? Are your thoughts filled with that which is pure and holy? Did you, like King Solomon, begin your service with humility, praying desperately that God would give you wisdom to lead, only years later to think that any success that God gave you was due to your hard work and smarts? Watch yourself lest pride or indifference suck the joy out of this high privilege of serving God and his church. And it is a privilege! Look again at Paul’s words. He said: “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28b).
This is God’s church, not Habben’s, not Stuht’s, not even yours because you’ve been a member here for ages. This is God’s church because he bought it with his own blood! I doubt you’ve ever literally shed blood to purchase something. But I bet you’ve sweated, scrimped, and saved to obtain something expensive like a smart phone or a laptop. Tell me, do you let anyone use that precious item? Even if you were kind enough to let a three-year old like Jolie play with your smart phone, you would keep a firm eye on her, wouldn’t you? And your heart would flutter if she carelessly handled it. Now multiply that feeling by a hundred, no, by a thousand and we might begin to understand how God feels about his church. Every one of us in this congregation is precious to God because he purchased every one of us from sin with his Son’s blood.
It’s no wonder then that Paul tells leaders that they are to look after the whole flock–not just those with whom they like eating at potlucks, nor just with those who they think are the big givers. Will you partner with me on this, councilmen? Will you help me look after the whole flock? And dear members, when one of the leaders gives you a shout because you haven’t been in church, or when they stop by to encourage you in your stewardship or in godly living, welcome them. They come to you from God.