1 Peter 5:1-3
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
I think I mentioned before that we are in a time of learning and re-learning what church should look like (according to the NT) and also what leadership and ministry in the church should be like. I've recently come across some "spiritual abuse" stories, and together with our own experiences growing up in the church and more recently, I have been given lots of food for thought. As a bit of a disclaimer, some of these stories must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. There are always two sides to every story, and then there God's perfect view of it all. It is not my intention to point the finger at anyone, but to understand what a servant of God to his church should be like.
I was really convicted by the following passage:
2 Co 6:3-13
We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
I believe this goes against much of what passes as loving leadership in the church. It definately illustrates what obedience to 1 Peter 5:1-3 might look like. I am certainly not for letting abusive congregations off the hook, but clearly there is a great responsibility on the part of leaders to love regardless of how they are treated. Here their hearts are "wide open' toward the church even though the people seem to be 'restricted in...affections". I have too many times spoken with pastors who seem to view their congregation as their worst enemy. I never want to let bitterness and resentment enter into my heart against the very people God has called me to love and minister to. Ministry is a great privelege and joy. Of course there will be 'hardships', 'calamaties', 'sleepless nights' and all the rest. But as we have the very same Spirit at work in us, we can also be 'always rejoicing'.
I can't see that much has been left out in this list. It seems Paul and his fellow workers were often abused both by those outside the church and those inside as well, truly taking it from all sides. And yet, they still dearly loved those who were given to them to shepherd.
And even after reading all the terrible things Paul endured, we still look forward to the day when we might be serving the church as leaders (or leader and wife, to clarify my complimentarian views haha). We certainly feel less and less qualified even as we feel more and more called! That's why I love how God teaches us that in our weakness we are strong. Doesn't that explain everything after all?
**For an excellent example/description of a loving shepherd, see my post on Arie and Marilyn Mangrum. The church can never have enough leaders like this, and we should always be thankful for the sacrificial love of people like these. God is good to his church.