“Jim” was the lead pastor of a popular mega-church. He was well-known by the media, wrote numerous books, and spoke at many conferences. I liked his teaching, and I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing.
Our friends knew another pastoral staff member at that church. This person’s job, our friends explained, involved an inordinate amount of mopping up emotional messes which the lead pastor had left behind.
The pastor lacked a certain character quality –a lack which eventually caused his resignation.
With our Western cultural paradigm, we value strong, decisive leaders. We want the people in charge to be eloquent, witty and knowledgeable. We want them to be enthusiastic go-getters, motivating the rest of us and leading the charge into the future.
Perhaps more than anything, we want our leaders to be cool.
(Hmm. I’m sure Christians aren’t guilty of wanting their pastors to be cool, are we?)
Truth is, the Church is influenced by our surrounding culture much more than we would like to think.
Here’s the deal: God requires qualities in his church leaders which wouldn’t necessarily make it onto our Western what-does-good-leadership-look-like radar.
We want our leaders to be strong. We want them to have charismatic personalities. We want them to be well-educated and have great vision.
But notice what the apostle Paul wrote in describing church leadership:
“Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” –I Thessalonians 2:6-8 (emphasis mine)
Wow. How tender is that? How nurturing? What a beautiful way Paul chose to express the depths of his tenderness toward those in his spiritual care.
The word for “gentle” in this passage is translated “kind” in this next one, where Paul addresses his disciple Timothy:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” — 2 Timothy 2:24
Gentleness, aka kindness or meekness, comes highly regarded in the eyes of God. It’s mentioned in the description of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.
If we want to be like Jesus, we must exercise gentleness toward others.
Think of how counter-cultural this is.
Gentleness is the antithesis of road rage. It’s the opposite of social media rants. It refuses to bully others or abuse them in any way.
Don’t mistake gentleness for weakness, either. Gentleness is choosing to restrain one’s power, authority and strength for the sake of love.
Consider Moses. He was one of the greatest heroes in Israel’s history, functioning as their deliverer from slavery and the one who brought them to the Promised Land.
When Moses’ leadership was challenged, what commendation did God give him?
“Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” –Numbers 12:3
Not “very authoritative.” Not “very gifted.” Not “very cool.” The man Moses was very meek, more so than anyone else.
For forty years, Moses put up with Israel’s whining, rebellion, and superstitious mistrust of God. Now there’s a man who knew how to be gentle toward those in his spiritual care.
Whether you’re the parent of small children, the leader of a Bible study, or the pastor of a megachurch, the way you approach those to whom you minister is critical.
Let’s be counter-cultural –and let our gentleness be evident.