|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 31
Meditation Title: Teachers (Leaders)
Gal 6:6 Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
We've recently commented on trying to find the flow in the train of thought in Paul when he is writing. When we come to this verse it seems to stand out on its own and it is difficult to see the connection with either what goes before or what follows it. I'm not sure I like the idea that it is possible that Paul feels he has said all he needs to say and so scratches around to see what else is needful for the church generally. No, more often than not there is a natural flow in Paul's thinking. So what is it? The following can only be a suggestion, for there is no clear indication.
Paul has just been speaking about restoring offenders and the reality is that, more often than not, that task falls to church leaders. It is not a quick, one-off thing; it tends to be a labour of love that takes time and effort. Someone who has fallen needs a lot of encouragement and support to get back on their feet and to remain steady in the Lord. This becomes an added activity (let's not call it a burden, although it can feel that) which falls to leaders. Paul is always very much aware of the struggles of leadership, coping with building the church while at the same time having to make provision for yourself and your family.
Sadly there is a lot of poor thinking in the church about this subject. It often surfaces with the attitude that “Well, it's not a proper job is it?” and so subsequently we have miserly attitudes towards those who are employed full-time by the church. But there in that description is an expression of that bad attitude because it reduces the minister, leader, call him what you will, (most ARE men, in line we believe with Scripture), to an employee and that makes you, the member of the congregation, an employer. That is bad! This is a man called by God to serve God to bless you and you clearly don't appreciate either the wonder of the calling or the burden of the calling if you think of him as an employee – and you do if you rationalise how little we can ‘pay' him!
There is another different attitude which is, “Well, if he is called by God then surely God will provide for him.” Yes, exactly and God's means of providing for him is you. There may be rare occasions for people to ‘live by faith' but mostly the Scripture is quite clear about providing for those who minister as leaders in the local church. Paul writes about this in a number of letters, not just here in Galatians.
To the Philippians he reflected back somewhat sorrowfully on his own experience: “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only ; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.” (Phil 4:14-16) Imagine living like that? Would you like to live like that?
He laid out his teaching quite clearly to the Corinthians: “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?” (1 Cor 9:7-12) It's a very clear teaching: those who serve among us should get benefit (support) from us!
Similarly to Timothy he said, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages.” (1 Tim 5:17,18) and this just after he has been speaking about material caring for widows. This is very obviously about material provision.
Ultimately it is all about respect and honour. Churches in the Far East take on board their culture's respect and honour of the elderly and wise, and church leaders seem to be almost over respected and honoured, but perhaps that makes up for the often lack of respect and honour in the West. I remember the days when I still had a full-time job as well as leading the church, and I can remember the days when I didn't have time to take a breath and often commented that I got by only by God's incredible grace. If you are a senior church leader you will know that you never put the church down. It's not a job issue but a heart issue. You are on call twenty four hours a day, seven days a week (even though we try to honour God with a day off.). If a person in crisis cries out for help, we'll be there (and I have had the calls in the middle of the night or middle of the day off,) and you do respond. You can never know the burden of church leadership until you have done it. The drop-out and casualty rate is high! It is a calling and it is a privilege, but leaders are still human and they still need supporting and blessing. When was the last time you blessed your leader(s)? It's worth thinking about.