Recently I sat with a friend and local pastor who often helps me out by speaking when I have to be away from Disciples on a Sunday. We were discussing his last preaching assignment at our church and planning for his next that was soon approaching. In the course of conversation he mentioned we could skip the honorarium next time as he was pleased to speak for free. As I recall, I responded abruptly and forcefully, “not a chance” I barked. I went on to say, “this is an honor thing. You can give it back if you like but we will not hold back that form of honor to those who serve with us…”
He was gracious and acquiesced, and I felt…well, honorable…I guess.
I’m so great.
But I left there pondering and wrestling internally. Not over whether it was right to do or even if my punchy delivery was worthy. I walked away convicted about the deeper reality. I walked away feeling so pompous and entitled. At the end of the day, it’s easy to write a check and short note on a card. –I mean, honestly, it’s not even me that wrote the darn check.
I walked away and muddled for some time asking myself, “how am I doing at honoring the people who are following my lead?” I had to face the darkness in my own achieving/activating world that often sees people as my means to a project. The truth thay I often see God’s most precious creation as a mere commodity instead of seeing them as they are seen by God…This is sick and at the risk of overstating, it’s anti-Christ.
So I have been working at this. Writing notes here and there. Sending messages to people when I hear the Spirit whisper. I’ve paid for a few lunches, and praised some people publicly. And as I have been more intentional lately about honoring my followers I have been reminded of a few realities about why I need to keep up these practices.
HONOR BECAUSE YOUR LEADERS ARE BEING SIFTED
At the end of the earthly ministry of Jesus he turns to his dearest friend and closest follower and tells him,
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
So we have to begin our staff meetings, our one on one meetings and our emails to staff and volunteers with an ever-present consciousness that these people who serve God’s Kingdom through ministry in the local church, these people have HUGE targets on their backs. Their enemy would wish to sift them like wheat. This enemy which prowls around like a roaring lion seeks to violently ruin the hearts and the lives of those who sign up to serve, give and lead.
Honor these people because you never know what lies they are being told and worse yet, what lies they are believing from their enemy!
HONOR BECAUSE YOUR AFFIRMATION MATTERS, HUGE
In this new day of ministry where we as pastors and leaders work hard to see ourselves as very ordinary, this can be the picture of great humility that is beautiful to God and people. However it’s humble beauty can easily overshadow the truth that your people look to you in a different way than they do others “on the team”. As the leader, be it of a small ministry in a tiny church or the leader of monstrous organization, as the leader your affirmation counts. Your words are remembered. Your emails are archived.
We’ve experienced this on the negative side of things and most good leaders have adopted some version of the “talk as if everything you say or write will be repeated” mantra…but why are we so slow to adopt this same thinking when it comes to encouragement and affirmation?
Proverbs reminds us…
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. –Proverbs 15:1-2, 4
HONOR BECAUSE DISCIPLE MAKING IS #1 ON TODAY’S TO-DO LIST
This one is pretty simple but no less profound. God never called us to build his church, he invited us to make disciples…so let’s keep our focus clearly on the disciple-making process first and the achieving-producing-completing process later.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20
To read more of Stu’s Leading Thoughts click here