Loving Leaders Well

In dealing with people who are in leadership, treat them with love.

Scripture: 1 Timothy 5:17-20


Hello, radio friends. How in the world are you? Everything going all right at your house? Well, I trust so, bless your heart. This is your friend, Bob Cook, with you now in 1 Timothy chapter 5. We were talking about our relationship with pastors and elders and bishops, and those who are in leadership in God’s work. One was don’t jump on him, the other was reward him, encourage him. That’s where we were thinking the last time we got together, you remember?

You know, there’s some humor in the Bible. I don’t know if the Apostle Paul ever had any glimmering of an idea that the word ‘corn’ would be given a meaning other than grain. And of course, corn down in some of the Southern distilleries [chuckle] is another word for whiskey. Good corn liquor, have you ever heard of that? But among the young people through the past two or three decades, a corny joke, a corny expression. [chuckle] Well, that means something that may be true and may be funny but is too old to laugh at. Somebody reminded me of that the other day. Said, “Hey, preacher, the talk about you in the Bible- says don’t muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And boy, are you corny.” Ah, right. [chuckle]

So encourage your preacher. Take him to lunch, buy him a new tie, buy him a new set of tires for his car. If you’re a farmer, remember him when you butcher a hog or some other animal. I don’t know if you could give him a side of beef, I don’t know what he would do with that, but he might be able to handle it, who knows? Encourage him, encourage him. And you know, one of the nicest things… And see, I was a pastor for 18 years. I can tell about these things, ’cause I’ve been there….. one of the nicest things you could do that doesn’t cost you a dime is to remember something he said in his sermon and tell him about it later on, tell him you appreciate it. “Preacher, I appreciated what you said last Sunday morning. You said this and this and this, and boy, that just fit my situation. I appreciate that. Thank you.” He’ll feel so warm and blessed inside. Encourage your preacher.

Then he says, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” Gossip and accusations. These factors are with us. They were in Paul’s day and they are today. Now, a small thought here before we go any farther. If people talk about you, that’s because you’re worth something. People never talk about those that aren’t worth anything. Have you thought of that? If people gossip about you, and they will, it’s because you mean something to them and to the community, preacher. Just be sure that what they say in terms of criticism is not founded in fact.

Years ago, I went to tell my troubles to Dr. H. A. Ironside who, at that time, was pastor of the great Moody Church in Chicago. I was living in Chicago. I was head of Youth For Christ in that area. Now, the problem was that not everybody realized that we were as nice as we really were. And there was many a pastor and Christian leader who at that time, this would be back in the middle and late ’40s, I suppose, who at that time thought that cooperative evangelism such as we were carrying on, especially on Saturday nights with our youth rallies, was pretty close next door to worldliness. And they just wanted no part of it.

And so I was receiving some barrages of criticism from the pulpit and in the press while we were carrying on this work, and I felt bad about it. I really did. So I went over to Dr. Ironside to tell him my troubles, and he listened patiently. And when I got through, he leaned back, folded his hands across his capacious middle. He always wore a vest and always draped a gold chain with some kind of an ornament, I don’t know what it was, an elk’s tooth or some kind of an ornament across his middle for his watch. So he folded his hands across that vest with that watch chain, leaned back, and he said, “Well, my dear young brother.” He said, “If what they’re saying about you is true, mend your ways. If it isn’t true, forget it and go on and serve God.” Boy, I tell you, that helped me a great deal. I followed that rule through my life. When you are criticized, instead of fighting and fussing and fuming about it, if the critic is right, if the critic is right, then do something about it.

Mend your ways, change what you have been doing or saying wrong and change it. You never learn anything by fighting your critics. Our Lord Jesus taught us that. He said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly whilst thou art in the way with him.” You never learn anything by fighting your critics. Listen to them, learn from them. If they’re correct, do something about it. If their charge is baseless, forget it and go on and serve your God. Pretty good idea, wouldn’t you say? Now, back to this verse. He said, “When criticism comes to you about the man of God,” he says, “You better be sure that there are people there who can substantiate that.” One of the best ways to shut off a gossipy conversation is, and I’ve used this through the years, somebody is talking with you and says, “He did this and that and the other.” And you just pull out your notebook and say, “I want to write this down.” Or sometimes I’ve just turned on my dictation machine, the tape recording, and say, “Now, let’s record this because we’re gonna have to it follow through, you know?” And boy, I’ll tell you, the fountain dries up in a hurry. [laughter]

And if it’s a serious charge, then you say, “Well, now, do we have any witnesses to this? Who knows about it?” And he says two or three witnesses, not just one, two or three witnesses. Don’t receive gossip or a serious criticism or a charge unless it is substantiated. “Then,” says Paul, “Jump on it with both feet.” I think there again, it’s been helpful for me to follow that rule. Parents would phone me now and again when I was president of the college. But during those years when I was president, sometimes a parent would phone me and say, “I hear this, and this, and this, and this about the college.” And I’d say, “Well, from whom did you hear it?” “Well, I rather not say.” Well, I’d say, “Until you can tell me where you got it so I can follow it through, there isn’t a thing I can do. My rule is,” I would tell them, “When something surfaces about which we can substantiate the facts, we’ll jump on it with both feet. Until then, you’ll have to just live with the gossip that you are speaking.”

Well, that shut off a good many idle rumor-mongers. But where something does surface, where you do have the facts, then, my brother, my sister, don’t temporize with it. You get right on it. So the next verse says, “Them that sin rebuke before all openly.” ‘Enopion,’ that means face-to-face, “That others also may fear.” A good dose of discipline has a good effect in any organization if it’s properly administered, fairly administered. [chuckle] Somebody said to me, cynically, years ago, “You ought to fire one person every six months, it’s good for the organization.” [chuckle] Well, I don’t know that that’s so. [chuckle] That’s pretty rough. But there’s a principle there that you ought not to neglect, and that is discipline, properly and fairly administered, is good for morale, in that other people gain respect for the principles by which the work is carried on, that others also may fear. If someone has been tempted to play fast and loose with the Truth of God, or with the Will of God, or with the standards of the Christian life, and then that person sees the result of it in another’s life, oh, it has a salutary effect oftentimes. That’s what Paul was saying.

Now, let me just back off and summarize this, because time will run out, and I wanna wrap it up for you, if I may. In dealing with people who are in leadership in the work, you beseech them, you don’t jump on them. You treat them with love, as you would a father- not with antagonism, as you would an adversary. That’s the first thing. Deal with leadership in love.

The second thing then is, you encourage the man or woman of God who is leading the work. Encourage them. And encourage means reward them, and reward means do something tangible that says, “I appreciate what you’re doing.” I gave you a few ideas, as you recall. Some things that you can do that would encourage your preacher.

Then third, be very sure that any gossip or criticism has to be substantiated or else it is rejected. Receive not, that means reject. Reject any accusation unless you’ve got two or three witnesses, that’s what he’s saying. Make sure, in your treatment of the leader of God’s work where you are, make sure that you reject gossip and criticism unless it is amply substantiated.

I was in a meeting many years ago when a servant of God was being accused of some things, a great part of which were hearsay. And a visitor from Great Britain stood up. He happened to be an attorney. He said, “Do you know that you people are risking some very serious lawsuits about what you’ve been saying because you can’t substantiate any of it?” And there was a great silence in the room, and the meeting changed. Make sure you can substantiate it, and then, if and when you do jump on it with both feet, don’t temporize then. That’s no time to fool around. Get on it, settle it, clean it up, and go on. All right? [chuckle] God bless you and help you, and may we all deal with each other in Calvary love.

Dear Father today, help us to deal with leadership in love. Oh, we’re all so fallible and so weak. We need Thy touch upon us. Give us hearts full of love and the courage of our convictions. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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