We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
1 Thessalonians 5:12–13
Much of the preceding chapters of 1 Thessalonians has been focused on the future and what is to come but in the verses referenced above, Paul provides a very practical imperative for the members of the church to obey. Paul calls them to respect the leaders or elders in the local church there in Thessalonica. This exhortation is just as applicable and needed in our local churches today.
As a member of my local church, submitting to the leadership of the church is one of the responsibilities that I do not take lightly. But more than just submitting to their leadership, Paul tells the members of the church in Thessalonica to go a step further. He wants them to respect and esteem the elders. He even offers the rationale behind that call.
- Because they labor among us – I don’t know about your church, but the elders at my church are not a paid staff member. They are “volunteers”. And yet, they work hard and commit much in the way of their time, talent and prayer to serve the greater good of the church body and ensure that the affairs of the church are handled in a way that is a blessing to others and brings glory to God. They care for the flock and provide spiritual oversight. They serve the body willingly and gladly. In response, it is only fitting that I should respect and esteem them. It is a joy to extend to them the highest level of respect.
- Because they are over us in the Lord – I mentioned that the elders in my church are “volunteers”. The reason I used quotations is because they aren’t volunteers as much as they are servants who have obediently responded to the call that God has placed on them for this particular season in their life. They serve in their role because God has given them the desire to serve in the capacity of overseer and because the pastoral leadership has recognized that they fulfill the qualifications as outlined in 1 Timothy 3. Consequently, they have been commissioned in the Lord and by the Lord. Every thing they do is empowered by the Holy Spirit, in obedience to God, for the glory of God and the joy of His people. They are in their position because God put them there.
- Because they admonish us – they encourage us, both through their word and their example, to live a life worthy of the calling that God has placed on our lives. Their desire is that we, as a local representation of the body of Christ, learn to walk faithfully and obediently in light of the word of God. They exhort us to serve and love our neighbors. The encourage us through their prayers and wisdom. They correct and rebuke us in love. They are committed to ensuring that each of us are a well loved and functioning member of the church body.
I don’t know about you but after considering these things, I have a desire to reach out to my church leaders to encourage them in the Lord and let them know how much I appreciate their service. And I plan to act on that desire. I hope that you will consider doing the same for the leaders in your local church.
Father God, I thank you for our church leaders. I pray that their service to us in the church would never distract them or steal from them their first love, Jesus Christ. I pray for their families. Please empower them to serve their families well and that their families will never feel as though they take a backseat to the “business” of the church. Guard their hearts and mind and protect them from the lies and attacks of the enemy. Let them fear you more than they fear men. I pray for their holiness and humility. I pray that they will run the race with perseverance and that they finish better than they started. I pray that they experience the joy of knowing they are faithfully walking in obedience to you as they serve Your body. Bless them in every way. Amen.