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Give ‘Em a Brake

Respecting Our Church Leaders

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 – Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work.  They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance.  Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work.  And live peacefully with each other.

If you’ve ever driven through a construction zone on a U.S. roadway, you’ve probably seen the bright orange signs that read: “GIVE ‘EM A BRAKE.”  The pun, of course, suggests drivers should slow down -- putting their own hurried agenda aside as a courtesy to the workers.  This shows concern for their well-being and makes their job less stressful.

It goes without saying that we should do the same for our faithful church workers and leaders.  These dedicated believers pave the way so our churches can run smoothly, and they keep us on the road toward spiritual growth.  They shouldn’t have to worry that they’ll be “run over” at every turn by critical or overly sensitive Christians.  They already have enough to worry about!  Hebrews 13:17 says,  “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority… Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

So how can we show courtesy, concern and respect to those who work for our benefit?   Here are just a few ideas, using the acronym “B-R-A-K-E.”  (And by the way, these are good points for interacting with all our fellow believers.)

Bear in mind that taking offense is a choice.

Being continually offended is commonplace in our society – in fact it’s become rather trendy.  While the daily news and internet banter are constant reminders of this, it also runs deep in our churches.  Some Christians have even abandoned church altogether over a single incident of being “offended” by a fellow Christian.

But taking offense is not something that’s imposed on us -- it’s a choice we make!  We have the power to choose our response if someone says or does something we don’t agree with.   The old mantra rings true:  “You can make it bitter, or you can make it better.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 – Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Retain a “benefit of the doubt” attitude.

The Online Free Dictionary defines the phrase, “the benefit of the doubt” as follows:  “to believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either.”

Imagine what a different world we’d live in if everyone took that approach to heart!  Unfortunately, many people in our culture and our churches interact in the opposite manner.  We tend to believe the worst, and that’s unfair to everyone involved.  Our pastors and leaders have dozens of interactions every week.  In an attempt to be witty, outgoing, decisive, or relational, they may occasionally say or do things that might be upsetting to some.  Remember, we all have different idiosyncrasies, senses of humor and character traits.  If you feel offended by something that was said at church, give that person the benefit of the doubt that their intentions were not malicious.

1 Corinthians 13:7 – Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Philippians 4:8 – Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Assume church leaders are not “targeting” you.

Some believers tend to over-personalize what they hear at church.  Whether it’s the content of a sermon, or topics covered in a planning meeting, they always seem to think they’re being singled out.  As a result, these people may become suspicious or offended.  But in reality, it’s very unlikely there’s any personal intent involved at all.

Remember, it’s not about us anyway!  Believers really shouldn’t be focusing on their own personal agenda, but rather God's work in the church and the world.  The purpose of meeting together at church is for corporate worship and glorifying the Lord.

Psalm 115:1 – Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.

Keep your leaders in prayer, and contribute in a positive way.

The most critical people in the church are often the ones who do very little to help.  Are we making ourselves available to serve?  Are our suggestions constructive?  Are they made thoughtfully and prayerfully? At the very least, are we praying for our church leaders – even the ones with whom we don’t necessarily agree?  A helpful and submissive attitude will soothe your heart and the hearts of others.

1 Peter 4:10 – God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.  Use them well to serve one another.

Encourage sound leaders who are doing their jobs (even if you disagree with them).

It’s been said, “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”  Is this how we would like our leaders to serve and lead?  Of course not!  It should be every good leader’s desire to reach people in a way they believe the Lord is leading them (both in our congregations and our communities).   However, this requires action - and action often requires the congregation to stretch and adapt.

We read many examples in Hebrews 11 of the great men and women of the Bible accepting significant change in their lives – trusting God as they were dramatically moved out of their comfort zones.  We can surely do the same in our churches.

In contrast to the way our culture operates, it’s not our responsibility to make a judgment call on every decision our leaders make.  And it’s not our function to object or complain every time something new doesn’t mesh perfectly with our personalities or established church traditions.  Let’s do our best to assist our leaders, encourage them, and make it a joy for them to serve!

1 Corinthians 1:10 – I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other.  Let there be no divisions in the church.  Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

- Ron Reid

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