The What & Why of Honoring Church Leaders for Unity’s Sake

In my latest series of posts based on 1 Thess. 5:12-13, I have argued for the pursuit of church unity by the way followers honor their leaders. It has everything to do with the nature of their work.

In the last post we covered the family nature of the work. In this post we consider the toilsome nature of the ministry.

The Greek language has a variety of terms for work. In v. 12, Paul uses a verb form of a particularly vivid word. It describes toil, labor, or work so depleting it leaves one weary—completely exhausted.

The root of the word means beaten, as in this kind of work leaves you feeling like you just went fifteen rounds with Muhammad Ali.

Paul uses the same word in 1 Tim. 5:17 when he speaks of those who labor in preaching and teaching, a principal role of an elder.

In his own testimony, Paul claimed in 1 Cor. 15:10, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

If you are worth your salt, if you are duly qualified, if you are rightly called to office, if you truly get the nature of service in God’s church, whether elders who devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word or deacons who “wait on tables” serving practical needs in the body and ministering to those in need (Acts 6:1-7), I guarantee you, you know the reality of this.

You know what it means to work hard. You’ve lost sleep, sacrificed family time, and put your own needs second to those you serve countless times. And sometimes it just leaves you feeling spent.

Not only that, but by Jesus’ own admission the laborers are few (Matt. 9:37). So you are likely undermanned on your team for the tasks on your list. These realities of church ministry alone are reason enough, Paul argues, for followers to pursue peace by treating their officers with respect.

In my role as a shepherd of God’s people, I get called upon often to assist folks in resolving disputes. I find the effort, time, and commitments necessary for effective assisted peacemaking among the toughest assignments in my ministry.

I always approach these challenges the same way. First, I meet with the individuals alone for conflict coaching—multiple times if necessary. Then, we meet for the actual mediation.

Along the way I try to help identify issues, concerns, offenses, idols of the heart, and paths to reconciliation. It can be brutally exhausting work.

Some time ago I served a family in such a conflict. The Lord worked mightily in healing the rift. I received one of the kindest notes notes of appreciation anyone has ever sent me.

I put that card in my Why I Became a Pastor File. I pull it out on days I think about abandoning ship and becoming a Walmart greeter.

Few things convey more honor and respect to someone like me in pastoral ministry than tangible appreciation.

What is something you might do to show your gratitude for the hard work done by your spiritual leaders?