Monday, July 26, 2010

EVALUATING PASTORAL LEADERSHIP

TEXT : 1 Corinthians  4:1-21
TITLE:  Evaluating  Pastoral Leadership
DATE :  The  Lord's Day , 25th July 2010


With the help of our text we want to think about evaluating pastoral leadership. Pastoral leadership is God’s plan for the church . 

C.H Spurgeon preaching to his congregation
1 Corinthians Chapter 4 concludes one of the main purposes of the letter . Paul , the founding father of the Corinthian Church ( 4:15) had heard that there was conflict and division in the Corinthian congregation ( 1:11) . The reason for this was that they had increasingly thought about their church in Corinth with a worldly wisdom ( “ man centered” ) rather than with the wisdom of God . They were thinking about each other in a worldly way and therefore they were emphasizing all the wrong things. And so , as a result of loosing their focus upon God, they were reaping the bitter fruit of what they had sown. The church was now split into a number of factions . It needed pastoral leadership to sort this problem out .
Today we are going to look at how we ought to think about pastoral leadership in the church , because this church was really beginning to think about their pastoral leadership in very wrong terms - a problem , which I believe is still being perpetuated all the time in the modern church . We come across a number of present views with regard to church leaders . These views on the one hand range from rank and file idolatry of church leaders , and uncritical acceptance of all that they say and do , and on the other hand we find a great deal of disrespect , disdain and disregard towards them . We find both views presented here in this letter to the Corinthians .
At the end of Chapter 3 Paul simply has to stop this church dead in their tracks and say to them : “ So , let no one boast in men” . When we elevate people above Christ in the church we are committing the sin of idolatry for we are making more of man than of God . We were made to glory in God and not in men . What Paul is saying in fact in 3: 21-23 , is that men (teachers like Paul , Peter , Apollos) belong to us . They are God’s precious gifts to us . We mustn’t worship the gifts more that the Giver of the gifts . Neither must we despise the gifts for in so doing we despise what God has given to us . So then , God has given us all things ( salvation , the church , leaders , each other etc.) and even we ourselves are Christ’s , as Christ is God’s .
Let us let the apostle Paul help us then to understand how we should think about pastors or church leaders - and then draw a number of conclusions and lessons from this text . 

Five Points :
1. Think of God’s leaders as trustworthy servants and stewards ( 1,2)
2. Remember that God ultimately judges His servants ( 3-5)
3. Do not unnecessarily exalt God’s servants ( 6,7)
4. Do not treat God’s servants like the scum of the world ( 8- 13)
5. The spirit of a true pastor - servant : a father ,a role model, a Christ-centered man ; a firm man ; a powerful man ; a gentleman . ( 14-21)

1. Think of God’s leaders as trustworthy servants and stewards (1-2)

Vv 1,2 : This how one should regard us , as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God . Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy”
We begin with the ‘ ethos’ of biblical leadership : A church leader is a servant and a steward . The word used here for servant ( Gr. “ huperetes”) literally means ‘ under-rower’ i.e. one who rowed in the lower bank of oars on a large Roman rowing ship ; the word used for steward ( Gr. “oikonomos”) was usually used for an overseer of the estate of a rich landowner . This steward clearly had a responsible position in the household of his master .
The Christian ministry is well summed up in these two words : servanthood and stewardship . As a servant , the Christian minister is a servant of Christ (i.e. he belongs to Christ ) – ready for his use and for whatever Christ wants him to do . As a steward he is also in charge his Master’s church ( the mystery of God – Eph 3:6) . When I serve Christ I will best serve His people. But when I serve His people, I may not best serve Him. In other words, when a minister gets to focused on the needs of the people he may go against that which God wants for them . So many times in the ministry you can become so preoccupied with meeting the needs of people that you start doing things because people want them done and then you begin to compromise what you know is right.
But there’s another thing that we must note , before we leave this point . We note in v. 2 that it is the mark of such a steward that he must be trustworthy – trustworthy – faithful to the cause of Christ and God . So this is a foundational statement for all that follows : A minister is a servant of Christ ; a steward of the mysteries of God. A trustworthy, faithful man . Not necessarily successful in worldly terms . But faithful !

2. Think of the fact that God ultimately judges His servants (3-5)

Paul's argument in the letter so far has implied that some of the Corinthian Christians were judging him, criticizing him, but now that fact is made clear . Remember that Paul, though he is a part of “all things that are yours” , he ultimately belongs to Christ ( He is Christ’s servant – just as Christ is God’s servant - 3:23) . The minister’ s ultimate judge is not his congregation . For that matter he cannot even be his own judge . It is often very difficult to come to an accurate assessment of one’s own ministry . This does not mean that a minister must not examine himself . But we cannot over examine ourselves . Remember that my heart belongs to the sovereign Lord who called me : “ Here’s my heart , it is thine own, it shall be thy royal throne !” Our ultimate Judge is Christ . Before Christ the minister stands and falls . Christ will disclose the purposes of the heart . He will judge the motives .
Please understand that what Paul is addressing here, is a certain kind of judgment. He is not forbidding us to never judge . In Chapter 5 we shall see that Paul will tell them to judge disputes between themselves , and in a case of sexual immorality, he will tell them to pass judgment on the sexually immoral man . We also see that when an elder sins morally ( 1 Tim 5: 19 ) a charge a judgement may be brought against him on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
The judgments that you cannot make on a minister’s work are the kind that judge a minister’s motives . You cannot read a man’s heart . You may not understand His commission from God. See how the prophets of the Bible were so frequently and so wrongly judged by kings and people, because they were perceived to be harsh and critical of the people’s sins . Yet in the end the prophets were vindicated and proved right . So be careful about judging a man’s ministry , when the issue is not a moral one. Only the Lord’s judgement is ultimately perfect . If you deem your ministers motives to be faulty , then speak to God about that . God is much better at removing such men from your presence than you are !

3.Do not unnecessarily exalt God’s servants (6,7)

Now Paul applies what he has just written directly to the Corinthian situation and to himself . “ I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit , brothers …” . The argument has reached the moment of truth : “ Do not go beyond what is written ! “ i.e. what is commanded in the Scripture , and the Scripture teaches us again and again , that it is God whom we must revere , and not man ! …” that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another …. For what do you have that you did not receive ? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did no receive it ?” We cannot idolize a man . We cannot lift up a man before another and say – I like Apollos , he’s an eloquent speaker , and Paul well - his bodily presence is weak and his speech is of no account ( 2 Cor 10:10). Who is the man to whom are credited 12 books of the NT ?
Oh let us not exalt men . We can only thank God for the man , whom God has given to us for a little while to encourage us on the narrow way . There is a sense in which Christians may rejoice in the leadership of their men , but it is with their eye on God . How Paul thanked God for the rich people gifts in the churches! ( see 1 Cor 1:4) .
If you want to boast , if you want to be proud ,as Paul has already said , then don’t boast in men ( 3:21) – boast in the Lord ( 1:31)

4. Do not treat God’s servants like the scum of the world (8- 13)

Now from one extreme to the other. Here is the example of those that would despise the minister .
These Corinthian Christians who were so filled with the spirit of pride were thinking that they had arrived (v.8) . And it is true ! Coming into Christ , they had become rich indeed ! They had become kings …. But the fact and nature of Christ’s saving work on the cross had not led them to behave in servant like humility . We had noted in 1 Cor 3:2 that there had been a lack of spiritual growth in them . This , I believe had led them into a terrible, unsanctified pride. It had led them to look even down on their spiritual father – the apostle Paul ( 4:15) . The very things that made him a faithful steward of the Lord Christ are the things that lowered him in the estimation of these worldly-thinking Corinthian Christians. Sometimes the apostle Paul can get quite sarcastic !
We are fools , but you are wise…We are weak …. But you are strong
We are held in disrepute … but you in honour … We hunger and thirst , are buffeted, homeless , we labour, working with our own hands When reviled we bless ; when persecuted we endure; when slandered we entreat.
They make him look like ‘ the scum … the refuse of the earth .’ Be careful ! Don’t mock a minister . Don’t badmouth him . He is following His Master , and you will have to give account to Christ for every careless word you speak ( Matt 12:36)

5. Finally , consider the the spirit of a true servant : a father ,a role model, a Christ-centered man ; a firm man ; a powerful man ; a gentle man . (14-21)

Why is he saying all these things - to shame them ? No! He is here to admonish them in the spirit of love , gently , as a father to his child . He is after the spiritual father of this congregation! He has led these people to Christ . He has a moral right to speak to them . And since he follows Christ , he has no problem in telling them to imitate him ( see also 11:1 ; 1 Thess 1:6). He did that by sending Timothy to them , reminding them that his behaviour ( as he followed Christ) was a worthy example to follow . He taught these principles of conduct in every congregation . Paul is every minister’s model of a trustworthy , faithful and consistent pastor ! And he is no walkover . He is not afraid of those that challenge the godly principles of the Christian ministry . He issues stern and direct warning to the troublemakers . He is so confident that their empty words were no match for the power of God exercised in the life of a godly , faithful , trustworthy minister. What the troublemakers lack is the true power of the Holy Spirit, the power to transform lives, the power to deliver from sin and death. This is the power that has been displayed in the ministry of Paul in Corinth. It is a power that you will find in no worldly wisdom. Here is the spirit of a true minister exemplified : a father , a role model , a Christ centered man ; a firm man ; a powerful man ; a gentleman !

APPLICATION :

The ministry that you should seek is well described in this chapter . The characteristics of the minister of Christ that will do you most good are laid out here . Don't hurry over these verses my dear brothers and sisters. Stop, and face them squarely.
It is so easy for us to assume that we would agree with Paul in his contest against these worldly minded Corinthian church-members. But are we actually like Paul, and are we really imitating his way of life and thought – particularly when it comes to the Christian ministry ? Think about that for a moment.
Suppose you were on a committee of your church , looking for a new pastor .
Whose criteria would you be most likely to employ in your search:
Paul's or the Corinthians?
How would you consider the details on his CV ? A man not so impressive in his looks ? Not a skilled public speaker ? At face value not assertive – but a servant type ? At the bottom of his application form he mentions that he had learned a trade and if push came to shove, he could be a part time minister ? Does that CV sound promising to a 21st Century church ?

Let me exhort you to evaluate a Christian minister by these criteria :
a trustworthy servant and steward ( 1,2) ;
a man who is ultimately not to be judged by us , but by God ( 3-5) ;
a man who is not unnecessarily exalted (6,7) ;
a man who is not treated like the scum of the world ( 8- 13) ;
a man who is like a father ,a role model, a Christ-centered man ; a firm man ; a powerful man in whom the Spirit dwells ; a gentleman . ( 14-21)

Amen !

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