Tips For Christian Workers
If you work in Christian ministry it is work. As a boss to others don't boss people around, but lead them. Be gentle when giving criticism. Be courteous.
Alright, thank you very much. It’s always nice to be put on the air with a friendly voice. I remember many years ago, it would have been 1935, I guess, I was on live every morning at seven o’clock. The announcer was hungover one morning and forgot to shut off his microphone after he put me on and said under his breath, “That’ll hold him.” So, I’m grateful for my friends. Hello, radio friends, how in the world are you? This is your good friend Bob Cook, and I’m so glad to be back with you. The miles drop away and we’re together for a few moments in heart, in spirit, and in the Word of God. It’s a beautiful relationship that God has given us, isn’t it? Hallelujah.
You and I are looking at 1 Thessalonians. We’re in Chapter 5 and we’re looking at Verse 12 today. He said, “We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you and are over you in the Lord, and who admonish you, to esteem them very highly in love, for their works’ sake, be at peace among yourselves. Now, there are two things that he asks us to do. First, there’s the verb, “to know,” and we’ll talk about that in a minute, and the second is, “to esteem,” to hold them in high esteem. That’s a very interesting word, and we’ll talk about it when I get to it. Then, there are some things that he says those who are in a supervisory capacity in the church…their job is to, first of all, labor among you. Anytime you think that it isn’t “work” to be in Christian work, you have, as my father used to say, “another think coming.” Oh, it’s work, and it’s oftentimes grueling and stressful work. And it says “are over you in the Lord.”
Now, Peter points out, not being lords over God’s heritage, but shepherds of the flock. If you’re in Christian work, your job is not to boss other people around, but to lead them. Those who are proistaminous (“leading”) are “set ahead” of the group. That’s part of their job. And then, it says they “admonish” you. That is our word, the translation of it would be admonish or “warn.” Now, that’s the job that people have who are in leadership, and oftentimes it’s not pleasant and hard work, but there it is. Alright, we’ve looked at the words themselves; now, let’s think about it for a moment, shall we?
He said, “We beseech you, brethren.” Now, the word “beseech” is not the usual word that’s translated “beseech.” It has to do with a request. “We request of you.” Paul is so courteous and gentle when he puts these points across. Small thought here. You never lose out by being courteous, even when you know that you are right and the other person may be mistaken. It is very important to a human being to be accepted, even though he or she is mistaken. And so, the put-down that oftentimes we unthinkingly give others by being obviously correct about something hurts people and it stops whatever work they might be doing for the Lord. You never lose out by being courteous and gentle.
If you’re going to offer criticism, as Dale Carnegie said years ago, make it like a sandwich. Put the criticism between two slices of recognition, appreciation, and praise. When I first started to work for Scripture press, I remember somebody said something that I have always remembered since, and that is that if you’re going to praise a person, praise him in public so that other people can hear. If you’re giving somebody a compliment and others are around, you’ll find that oftentimes he sort of steps back. Do you think he’s being humble? No, said the teacher. He’s stepping back so that he’ll have to speak louder so that other people will hear it. But if you’re going to praise someone, praise him publicly. If you’re going to criticize someone, do it just between the two of you, and do it gently, and mix it with appreciation. Good idea, wouldn’t you say? Well, I’ll throw that in free. It’s not in the text; I just brought it in.
“We beseech you.” He was courteous; he was making a request. He said, “Know them.” Now, that’s an interesting word. It means, obviously, to know something or somebody. It also means to perceive; to understand. It means to watch and to see. It means, as someone has pointed out, to cherish. Ken Taylor’s paraphrase of this verse, says “Dear brothers, honor the officers of your church, who work hard among you, who warn you against all that is wrong.” Think highly of them. And so, he brings the idea of honoring people; to know them, to watch them, to see them, to perceive what they’re doing, to honor them, to cherish them, to understand them.
It has to be said that many a church member never gave very much time or thought to understanding his pastor. We are quick to criticize our leadership: “Oh, that was a terrible sermon.” “Oh, that was shallow thinking.” “Oh, he needed more illustration.” “Oh, he doesn’t call enough on the people.” “Oh, he’s always out on the street instead of in the study.” You can’t please everybody, that’s for sure.
But it is a fact, isn’t it, that we don’t really give enough time and effort to understanding and honoring and cherishing those who are in leadership over us. I suppose it’s because we expect them to do a good job, and because we are members of a democracy, we expect that it is our right to criticize when we are displeased with something. And, of course, that’s true. But, you know, you’d gain an awful lot of mileage in spiritual things in your church, in your Sunday school, in your committee, in your missionary society, if you would give some thought to understanding the other person.
I’ve often told married couples who came for counseling that it would be a good idea just trying to spend some time to understand the other person. You’d be amazed how many people fight, argue and quarrel largely because they’re not communicating. They don’t understand how the other person feels. Husband, spend a little time just studying your wife. What does she like? What does she dislike? What are the red flags that always produce a little tension and static in the air? What are the things that produce a pleasant atmosphere? What are her goals? What would she like to accomplish? Give some thought to studying your better half.
That goes for wives as well. I never was a wife, so I can’t tell you, but there’s always good mileage to be found in studying the other person. Just for a chuckle, you know, I ran across this story of the lady who went to her attorney and said, “I have to have a divorce.” He said, “Why?” She said, “I just have to have one.” Well, he said, “Do you have a grudge?” She said, “No, just a carport.” Well, he said, “Does he beat you up?” “No,” she said, “I always get up before he does.” “Well,” he said, “what if the divorce goes through? What about heirs?” She said, “That’s a dirty lie. Mr. Ayers and I are just good friends.” Well, he said, “Why do you want a divorce?” She said, “I can’t understand a thing he says.” She was having a hard time communicating, wasn’t she?
All of this was just to emphasize the fact that you’ll get a lot of good mileage if you study the people with whom and under whom you work. I worked for a man for some time who seemed on the surface irascible and oftentimes unpredictable, but I began to realize that he ran his life and his business on a series of operating principles which were fairly consistent. So what I did was, every time I discovered one of the principles on which he operated, I wrote it down. I still have those notes; in those days I carried a big notebook, about 3 x 6 ½, and it made a big bulge in my coat pocket (the despair of my loving wife.) But anyhow, there it was, and I put down those operating principles. And by and by, I began to understand how the man operated, how he worked. And the atmosphere was considerably warmed up when I began to understand the person who was over me in the relationship. Do you want to work on that in your own life, in your church, for your pastor, or in your own home, for your better half? Or on the job, as relates to your supervisor, your boss? Good idea. “Know them which labor among you and are over you in the Lord.”
Now, I pointed out at the beginning of this short broadcast that Peter says, “Not as being lords over God’s inheritance, but as under-shepherds. “Not as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock, and when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, He shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Feed the flock, taking the oversight thereof willingly, not for money, but because you’re willing of a ready mind.” (I’m reading from 1 Peter 5, the early verses, in that chapter.)
So, you and I, if we are in leadership, are not to be bosses, but if we are in followership, we have to realize that God does have a plan that involves leadership and obedience, and subordination, and discipline. He says they’re over you in the Lord. You see, God has put the people who are over me there for his own reasons. I may not like it; I may not approve of everything that’s done. But where I am and what I am and under whom I am is part of God’s provision. Let me glorify Him in it. Well, time is gone, and we’ll get at this the next time we get together.
Dear Father, we love Thee and we worship Thee. Help us to be good followers of those who lead us. 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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