Four Challenges for Church Leaders

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

25 Brothers, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 [ESV]

Rose with Torn Petal | Midland, MI | August 2022

Cozy, Bored, Discouraged, or Missional: These four adjectives identify four quadrants in a chart I use in working with congregations on Strategic Mission Plans. That’s one of my two areas of responsibility as a Congregation Support Specialist with the Texas District of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. I really enjoy that work – especially when I share the challenges of moving from a cozy culture to a missional outlook. It involves going through the valley of the shadow of death (into the discouraged quadrant). And the way out of that valley is to build a ladder with the rails of grace and vision and the rungs of time. You remind people of God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and kindness while holding out the vision of being part of God’s mission and seeing his kingdom come through the ministry of the church. 

I love seeing how people respond to this idea and thought of it today as I read this passage from 1 Thessalonians 5. Four imperatives stand out: “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all,” Paul says. If I were to overlay these four imperatives, with the four quadrants here, I might think of the idle as cozy. They’re happy where they are and doing little for the sake of the mission of God. The fainthearted I’d put in the discouraged quadrant they need encouragement and a vision of what God has in mind for his church and his people. The weak might go in the bored quadrant who really don’t see any reason to do anything and have no desire to try. They need help to see where they belong and what they are called to do. 

And we all need patience. It takes time to see movements make their way toward the critical mass of impact for the sake of Jesus’ reign and rule. It simply takes time. I like to put it this way, “We way overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what God does in the long term.” In other words, God isn’t on a time clock. We work too hard on short-sighted goals and miss important efforts for the ultimate cause of Christ’s kingdom.

Perhaps you know someone who is cozy: idle and happy to stay on the sidelines of life and service to Christ. He doesn’t volunteer or engage others in ministry, but is ready to tell all the others what they should be doing. She doesn’t take any leadership positions or is content to watch others do the work – as long as it is done according to her liking. It requires a humble touch to admonish anyone, but sometimes a word of strong encouragement is appropriate – given the right relationship. Maybe you know someone who is bored: weak in faith and unconnected with God and his high calling. We can help them to see God’s love and his high calling.

There are certainly those who are discouraged. There may be pastors or other church workers you know in that category. It’s not at all unusual. Time spent with those people, reminding them of God’s vision for his church and his people, together with abundant amounts of grace for any failure or shortcoming is a gift they’ll bless you for.

Maybe you find yourself in one of those categories. Perhaps you would rather use the biblical terms here: weak, discouraged, or fainthearted. Hear these sweet words of grace from God for you:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.  (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) Good words, these. Very good words.

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