Terry R Baughman is Lead Pastor for LifeChurch in Gilbert, AZ. See his complete bio at trbaughman.com
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Honor that is Due
Terry R. Baughman
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17 NIV).
There has been a general erosion of respect for leadership in the last decade. Granted some leaders have not acted in such a way as to inspire respect, but that doesn’t give us permission to disparage leaders with our words or attitudes. Social media has created an environment where it is acceptable to verbally attack any individual regardless of their position or influence. Sometimes the more notable individuals are, the most viciously they may be criticized. So much so, people who engage in online harassment or inflammatory posts on social media are now broadly identified as trolls and their activity is called trolling. If we are not careful we may be caught up in the negative fray of such social discourse and it may even begin to affect our personal interactions in public.
It is always appropriate to respect a person and allow for their individual freedom of expression. Elders should always be shown some deference for their age and experience. That doesn’t mean that they are always right (obviously that’s not the case), or that we shouldn’t listen to someone who is our junior because they are always wrong (neither is true). However, it is always right to allow a person to express themselves and then respectfully offer counter views when you are not in agreement. With some individuals it may require simply stopping the discussion when it becomes obvious that there is no mutual respect for civil discussion.
Respect can always be given for a leaders’ position, even if their character (or lack of character) does not engender respect. You can honor Judges, even if you know of one who has acted unhonorably. Police officers may be respected even when there have been some who are unworthy of respect. Preachers and church leaders may have disappointed you in the past, but Paul instructs his son in the Gospel, Timothy, to show honor to those who take the responsibility to heart and execute it well.
There was a time when the local clergyman was among the most esteemed in the community. Every holiday or celebration would not be complete without the participation of the local clergy. Church was the center of every early American community. Prayers were offered at every civic occasion by the priest or minister of the local parish or church. Often the church house was a place of worship on Sunday and was also the schoolhouse through the week. In many small towns a church is surrounded by a cemetery where many past members have been interred. The church was a place to celebrate birth, marriages, life celebrations, and memorials.
In our culture there is much less respect for the church and ministry. Some of the criticism is deserved as not all have served the Lord with honor. However, Paul gave instruction to give double honor to those elders “who direct the affairs of the church well … especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17 NIV). The work of ministry is work, and those who conscientiously serve should be afforded honor and respect.
Jesus Christ is the head of the church and there are many members who serve together. There is not just one leader, but many within the body. May we be careful to honor all those who lead with integrity and devotion. It is the right thing to do!
“Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:7-8 NIV)