Passage for Study: Acts 12: 25 – 13: 3 … 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.
Acts 13 1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
My Journal for Today: My devotional Pastor, Chuck Swindoll, takes a bit of a “rabbit-trail” today, using the same passage for yesterday to illustrate a point which Pastors, church leaders, and all Christians who are serious disciples of Christ should avoid; and that is the pitfall of people-pleasing.
Certainly what transpired in the context of today’s passage is an example of seeking, hearing, and following God rather than taking the route which the people, i.e., the church, would likely desire. Swindoll testifies that over the years, in his ministry and service to God as a Pastor, he discovered that it was his responsibility to follow God’s leading and to deliver to his flock what they NEED and not what they necessarily WANT. That is the anti people-pleasing principle we see illustrated in today’s passage.
Leadership in a church is different from corporate leadership in the world, where, in the latter, there is often a bottom-line of profit to pursue. In that milieu people-pleasing can become morbidly epidemic, as CEOs do all they can to please the Board of Directors and the corporate investors. And in doing so, the pursuit becomes quite clear and simplistic; and that is to make a profit, often at all cost. But in the Church, leaders are out to do God’s will; and often His leading is not clear, nor is it easy to come to a consensus on the route God would have the church follow. Take if from a church Elder of almost 13 years, pursuing and following God’s will can often be a very challenging proposition; and when church leaders or Pastors feel they have discerned God’s route to follow, it often – no, it almost always – produces controversy; because someone, and often groups of people, are not going to see it the way the leaders interpret God’s leading. But as is often taught in church leadership training, it is the responsibility of Godly church leaders to lead the church by following Christ.
And since we’re studying the Apostle Paul now in this devotional series, as I read this Swindoll’s exposition today, one stark leadership statement Paul made to the church in Corinth comes to mind. We read Paul exhorting the church leaders there, in 1st Cor. 11: 1, as he said (in the NIV), ”Follow my example, just as I follow the example of Christ.” And we certainly know from studying the book of Acts, that Paul often created a stir of controversy almost everywhere he went, following Christ, and taking the Gospel message to the people. Paul was a God-pleaser, not a people-pleaser; and that’s what churches need to emulate as do all of us who follow Christ.
And Swindoll closes this brief commentary on church leadership with this directive, which strikes to the core of the issue. He writes, ”May God deliver every honest pastor, every truth-seeking church leader, and every Christian from the bondage of people-pleasing.”
My Prayer for Today: And that today, dear Lord, is my prayer for myself, for all who are in leadership in their church, and most especially for our Pastors. Amen