Sometime ago, a church member told me that our shepherds and deacons were complaining that they had too many things to do at church. I was a little upset and also puzzled by this remark.
Saving souls and helping make disciples of Jesus requires a lot of energy and sacrifice. Before we appoint shepherds and deacons, I explain to them all the responsibilities required from them and ask whether they are willing to make sacrifices to their families and jobs if necessary to fulfill their duties. At the same time, we also make provisions to help shepherds and deacons not burn out: a 6-month sabbatical for shepherds after 3 years of service and a 12-month sabbatical for deacons after 4 years of service.
We also give them choices so that they can enjoy their ministry. When we hold House Church seminars, we ask shepherds whether they will host seminar attendees so that they don’t feel forced to participate. When a new church calendar begins, I let deacons choose their own ministries so that they serve willingly and gladly. I also minimize the number of meetings and worship services so that shepherds and deacons can spend more time with their families.
That’s why I was puzzled by the reported complaints. There are many ways for shepherds and deacons to take breaks when they feel tired.
I’m grateful to our lay leaders for making so many sacrifices for the Lord and the church. I believe that their rewards in heaven will be greater than those of pastors – including myself – because they have to earn a living in addition to doing church ministries. But I’d also like them to remember that their sacrifices are voluntary and that they can quit or take a break anytime they want.
Some leaders may feel that they can’t quit because there’s no one to replace them. This shouldn’t be a reason for not taking a break. When I came to Seoul Baptist as Senior Pastor, I asked the Lord to become Senior Pastor of Seoul Baptist Church and use me as His Assistant Pastor. I’ve always thought of my role as an Assistant Pastor fulfilling his Senior Pastor’s wishes. I trust Him to provide people to help me if He has something for me to do. If there is no one to do something, I assume that God doesn’t particularly want that ministry and I don’t hesitate to discontinue it.
I’m sensitive to complaints about ministries because I consider it a privilege to work for the Lord. They should be done with gratefulness and gladness. If you feel like they’re a burden and start complaining, you should not continue; you’re cheapening the Lord’s work and exerting a negative influence on people who still consider working for the Lord a privilege.
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