Sunday: Response to Ministry
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(1 Thess. 5:12, 13)

The two verses at the heart of today’s lesson follow the concluding admonition of last week’s lesson to “encourage one another and build

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each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11, NIV). This work takes place in local churches, in the process of mentoring and discipleship. The lesson today focuses on how disciples should respond to the efforts of their leaders and mentors.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1213. What is Paul’s basic point, and how should we apply it to ourselves? In what ways can you better work with, support, and love those who are “over you in the Lord?”


The structure of the Greek of verse 12 indicates that the three phrases in the second half all refer to the same group, the local leaders of the Thessalonian church. Paul calls on the members to “know” these leaders, meaning to notice, respect, or recognize them. The implication being that, perhaps, some in the church were disrespectful of authority.

The word admonish has the connotation of instruct, warn, or even “knock sense into.” Paul acknowledges here that church leaders will often need to exercise “tough love.” This kind of leadership is not always welcome; yet, Paul goes on in verse 13 to ask the members to highly esteem their leaders on account of the difficult issues with which they have to deal. Paul wants all the members of the church to be at peace with one another.

The language of these verses reflects ancient strategies for dealing with people. Thought leaders of Paul’s day knew that dealing with people is delicate work. They encouraged leaders to carefully diagnose the condition of their followers, to be sensitive as to whether or not the follower was open to correction, to choose the right timing, and to apply the appropriate remedy. Above all else, leaders were expected to examine themselves before trying to correct others. Paul added elements to this framework. For the Christian, God is the model of leadership, and the goal of church leadership is a membership who live lives worthy of God.

In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?

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Sunday: Response to Ministry — 18 Comments

  1. I was raised to believe that a Pastor or other church leaders are not to be questioned or debated. I am an adult now. I have learned that they also are human and therefore prone to sin and wrong interpretation to suit their particular beliefs. I look at the life of Jesus and I see such compassion and love. He, the Son of God was so non judgemental and merciful. Yet I see Pastor(s) today trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit. What do you do with a Pastor who empties every church he pastors?, meets visitors at the entrance of the church with an admonition on clothes?, creates division by having some members thinking they are more righteous than others?, then he himself calling members house with curses of biblical proportion due to hearsay?. I love the last paragraph, it would help this pastor greatly if this could be impressed upon him... oh sorry he listens to no one. He will see the part where he should be respected and not see the latter admonition to examine himself. Forget that the church that you once could not find a seat to sit in at 10am, now has rows and rows of empty seat even at 1pm. Forget that in my 24 years in this particular church, the membership has seen approximately 5 Pastors; Is it that they allowed sin to reign? Is he the only pastor who has the Holy Spirit to see into the member's wicked lifestyle? How do you handle a situation like this? Many members have gone to the conference level without resolution of the issues. I personally believe that we are all commissioned to spread the gospel, but not all are called to be pastors... oops, that's not original that is biblical.

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    • Ouch! Paulette, I can see that your situation is frustrating, indeed! Your pastor seems not to understand the principles of servant leadership and is thus harming the congregation.

      Of course, the proper response is to first speak directly to the pastor, then take someone with you to speak to the pastor, then take it to the church, as in Matthew 18. If he is as controlling as you say, he will probably not allow his own conduct to be brought up at a business meeting of the church.

      Perhaps it may be time to have an "unofficial" business meeting without him to address the problem. Since it would be "unofficial," it would be fair to ask the people who have left to attend and to give their input as to why they left. This could result in a recommendation to the local conference. Someone should take good minutes at such a meeting, then the minutes should be read to the group and voted on, so that they would be official minutes of this "unofficial" meeting. (Alternately, the minutes could be emailed to attendees after the meeting for their approval/feedback.) These minutes should be signed and sent to the local conference.

      If there is too much of a split in the church for this to work, the other practical alternative is for those who see the damage caused by this pastor to move their membership to another Seventh-day Adventist church in the area, but not before making friends of the most vulnerable individuals so that they will transfer their membership too. If the local conference will listen to nothing else, they will be compelled to take notice when the membership drops too low to sustain the facilities.

      I have a lot of sympathy with your situation, because we found ourselves in a somewhat similar situation a few years ago. We regularly held major church offices (e.g. elder and clerk and more) and were thus on the church board when a new pastor arrived during our absence. In the very first board meetings we attended, we felt conscience-bound to oppose his dictum that certain members should be summarily disfellowshipped (on his word), and this created a split in the board, with half of the members following principle (e.g. Matthew 18) and half following the pastor on the basis of his assumed "authority." It was not a comfortable situation. The pastor solved the discomfort a few months later by ensuring that none of the people who did not regard him as supreme church authority were nominated to church offices. Of course, this could not have happened unless members of the nominating committee agreed to his authority. (All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Some have expressed their regret rather belatedly.)

      We attempted to do the "right thing" by just quietly attending church, but then the pastor proceeded to preach at us and reprimand us from the pulpit. We figured this was not good for the church, so we moved our membership. That did not solve the situation for those left behind, and we're still dealing with the fall-out, trying to encourage people to hang on. Some are still planning to move away from the area. (We live half-way between two churches, with it taking an hour to travel to our former church and 45 minutes to our current one. Others who live right near the church would have to travel two hours to attend another church.)

      Now, several years later, the church has newer, younger leadership, and what the pastor thinks or does seems to be largely irrelevant. They tell me he's good at preaching sermons and good at hospital visitation. That is certainly positive.

      Sometimes things can work out in spite of poor pastors. Above all, we need to be sure to work in harmony with principles laid out in Scripture, or God cannot bless our actions. In such situations, we need to pray more than we usually do. I pray that you may find a solution that honours God in your local situation.

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  2. It is, in my opinion, very disappointing that our top leaders (general conference) are seemingly not responsive. When it appears that our spiritual leaders ie the pastor in question and the GC are not fulfilling their obligation, I believe, that is when we need to spend time on our knees speaking to the "Big Boss" - God about it. I have complete confidence that He will do something about the situation. And perhaps, with His loving spirit, those Christians in the church should lovingly, prayerfully and respectfully confront this minister with scripture regarding his unloving and destructive approach to people. Only with God's leading are we able to handle difficult situations and people well. But as people, jealous of God's loving reputation, we should not ignore bad leadership. We are ALL called to be priests with the responsibility that goes with it.

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    • Thank you, Thelma, for reminding us that there is a chain of command. We can always go up the chain to God if we feel we are not getting the right response below. Blessings.

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  3. Thelma thank you for the great advice that is perfect for the situation. I think also that those of us that have read your problem can add you to our list. On Tue morning the pastor and a few church members get together to pray and I will add you to the list.
    God bless you and hang in there.

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  4. Thanks Inge for responding to my entry. I really do appreciate your suggestions. I no longer attend that church though. I lost interest. I stay home and watch Praizevision services. I do not need that kind of aggravation. Work is hell, on Sabbaths, I need to hear a word from the Lord.

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    • Hi Paulette, I can appreciate your reaction, but you do know that for evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for good women to do nothing. :)

      In my experience I have found that it is detrimental to my spiritual life not to meet with fellow believers. However, if you do not have a viable local church option, consider inviting others who are no longer coming to church and spending at least part of the Sabbath together, studying God's Word and taking advantage of one of the options of Adventist sermons online.

      Also check out this (Adventist) site: http://www.facebook.com/groups/SimpleChurchAtHome/. It is the SimpleChurchAtHome Facebook site, with leader Milton Adams. It is intended to be a way of reaching out to neighbors and friends, not just a way to have a comfortable little club at home. You can find lots of resources at the main site, http://simplechurchathome.com/

      Please consider seriously that we cannot be Christians by ourselves. When we do not actively focus on service to others, as Jesus did, we shrivel up spiritually, even if it is a gradual process. If you meet with fellow Adventists in each others' homes, you can take advantage of many of the resources we have on our SSNET site. :) Studying the Sabbath School lesson together is always a good option. You don't have to be constrained by time and can share what's going on in each others' lives and encourage each other in your walk with Jesus.

      There is nothing more rejuvenating and exhilarating than sharing our faith with others and seeing them grow. It's more effective than doing nothing. :)

      May the Lord hold you close to Him and give you the courage to actively engage in His service.

      With love & prayers,
      Inge

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  5. There are times when I feel frustrated with church and church leadership. Then I remember that it is my Church and as part of the community of believers it is my responsibility to share in the leadership of the church. I have worked for the Seventh-day Adventist Church all my life and have seen both the best and worst of leadership. The worst examples are where the leaders have either discouraged or ignored feedback from their constituents.

    One of the weaknesses of the Seventh-day Adventist church is its hierarchical nature that at times isolates the members from their leadership. This is not necessary and a good hierarchical structure that relies on the strength of its membership has the potential to be strong and lasting.

    I have been so frustrated that I have considered resigning from church positions and even membership. However a wise church leader counseled me many years ago to never resign. He said that once you have resigned you have made your statement and you no longer have a voice. If you want to change things for the better then you need to stick with it and work for that change. Participants can make a difference.

    Church leadership is not perfect. After all, our leaders are people just like us. The real strength of the Seventh-day Adventist church is where we function together as a community of believers, working for change when needed, encouraging and criticizing appropriately. Churches and church institutions will go through cycles of growth and repair. Like people, churches are sometimes healthy and sometimes sick. A good church not only needs good leaders, but members who participate in the building of the community of believers as well. The members need to adopt the responsibility of ministering to our ministers.

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    • One thing I have seen with my church is lack of team work and unit, everyone wants to do things in order to be seen and be praised by people. Paul in this lesson he is practically trying to encourage the brethren at Thessalonica to first be in one accord then shall they work together for GOD. Therefore, unless we become united, no one will respond to the ministry and we will not be ready for JESUS coming. AMEN.

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  6. Hello brothers and sisters,

    it is with sadness that I read about peoples experiences in church and the church. From my experience it is when we leave off seeking souls to introduce to Christ that we forget we were once like them. We all have need of Our Saviour Jesus Christ and when we forget Him and His calling on us we seek others to lay the blame. I am not saying that just because someone has commented here that they are necessarily doing this.

    I work as a Literature Evangelist and meet many people each day some of whom have no idea who Jesus is. Let's get busy and not just be a people of the book but also a foot army eagerly seeking the lost and inviting the discouraged and dejected to seek and accept Jesus. Jesus said the harvest is ripe and the workers are few but the rewards are out of this world. Have just come home from a LE congress and the stories shared were beautiful and uplifting despite some of the fears we have sometimes for our own future.

    My suggestion to each of us is go seek out an LE locally and pray for them and spend just one day with them on the doors and your world will be a different place and our perspective will change. Where is my challenge to take up the Gospel commission?!!!! God is our boss and employer. He knows how to keep us busy. The devil only ever detracts and distracts so we forget the real work.

    Go find and experience your own special story and share it with someone in church and watch the results. God has never disappointed!

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  7. Indeed, its very frustrating when the man of God who is supposed to provide direction and guidence to the flock behaves otherwise. This should not be strange. Nearly all Seventh-day Adventist churches have the same problem. Our leaders should not make us lose sight of our goal in this journey. The devil works left right centre to hinder God's cause to progress. Matt 13 tells us wheat and tares growing together till harvest time. When we face such kind of situation, as others have said, it's to take it to the Big-Boss. Even as we take it to Him, Let us include them in prayers.

    A leader can build and can also scatter. Let us look back in bible history. King Saul, did he build or sactter? He was even defiant to the Lord Himself. Such kind of leaders there end is not pleasing. Ultimatelty our sole role model of leadership should be the Lord, who does not scatter, seggregate boost, not self imposing because of position he is occupying, but He puts the needs of others first. In 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 we find qualities of those who are to minister to the timid, weak, despondent, providing physical as well as spiritual healing.

    Ezk 34 tells us that the Lord will require an account from such shepherds.

    No one is above the requirements of God.

    The work of God progresses when there is unity between leadership and the laity, even the devil is defeated. But where there is tumoil and division, the devil is happy.

    May the Lord help our Church!

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  8. So are you guys trying to say that the church members should not be admonished as one out it across "continued to preach about us on the pulpit"?

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    • You raise a good point, Gerladine. Perhaps the Bible gives us a good answer in Matthew 18. We are advised to go privately to the individual. If they do not respond we are to take someone with us. I would expect the pastor to bring an elder or two. Then if we are still ignored, we should take it to the church. I understand this to mean that the matter is to come before the church board for counsel regarding correct action in the church discipline process. This does not mean that if the church sees no case for church discipline that the pastor has the right to rail against individual members from the pulpit. If the pastor feels he or she is right and the church is wrong, the counsel is to shake the dust from his shoes and go instead where he is more appreciated.

      The disciples James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven on a village that rejected Jesus, but He rebuked them for it. If even Jesus simply went to another village rather than rail against those who rejected Him, how much more so should we? (See Luke 9:51-56)

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  9. it's my humble prayer that all believers irrespective of age, post in church, or any thing.........need to reform and learn not to look at anyones sins as your defence but to look at only Jesus Christ our savior..... However, we need to respect our church leaders as he instructs us.

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  10. I thank Inge and the other brethren for their encouraging words. To Muhindo you remind me of the Pastor of whom I speak. I am from the old school where "you do not touch the Lord's Anointed", therefore all Pastors are given respect. Remember there is also a scripture that says "woe to the Pastors who lead the flock astray". This does not apply only to non Sabbath keeping Pastors. The Pastor I referred to earlier, empties all the churches he pastors. If I recall correctly, somewhere around his third sermon at my church, he preached that if he only has three left in the congregation, that would be okay with him. He was referring to a church with a membership of almost four hundred. He is getting his wish. My concern is the new converts who come in and walk right back out due to legalism and the young people that he will not speak to except to scold and chastise. We as a people of believers need to stop hiding the truth about our shortcomings, talking about the issues helps to fix the problem. Anything else is hypocrisy. Jesus spoke about that too. I know who I am, a sinner saved by grace. I fall down everyday, but I get right back up again pressing towards the mark of the high calling. Not perfect, but striving towards perfection through Christ Jesus. Again, thanks for all the kind words of encouragement. Happy Sabbath.

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  11. In my country when the police engage in corrupt or some illegal activities and it become known, they are just transferred to another division. I am now seeing this happening in the church with our leaders. They are simply transferred to another church to continue their wrong doing.

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