Leadership positions in the world are often glamorized, and the same goes in the church. Humans have an unspoken natural attraction to power and the niceties it appears to bring. All onlookers often see are the special seats, reserved parking spaces, nice homes, cars, and freebies et cetera. What many leaders — especially church leaders — will tell you, however, is that no matter how glittering it looks on the outside, leadership is really more like servitude and comes at a high personal cost. This brings us to our key text in I Corinthians 4: 9, 11-14 (KJV). The word of the Lord reads:
9 For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men…11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
Paul is addressing the church at Corinth and informing his readers of the hardships of being a leader for Christ’s people. In the times of Paul, the lives of Christian prophets and apostles were often threatened, because their teachings contradicted those of the dominating culture created by the Pharisees, Scribes, and pagan worshipers. Today, most church leaders do not necessarily face death, but they do face brutal social persecution for speaking up against things like abortion and homosexuality.
Concerning contemporary church leaders hungering, thirsting, or lacking, many would beg to differ. To this end, we must remember that not every church is a mega church wherein leaders profit from the sales of books, music, and films. Most churches do not have any of that. There are still many churches wherein the leaders make personal sacrifices to provide the necessities for maintaining the place of worship. Even for church leaders who are wealthy from product sales, Paul continues in his address to explain that having a leadership role in the church comes at a high emotional cost. A pastor may be wearing shiny shoes, but he may not have seen much of his wife and kids all week because he was visiting the sick; or he may not have slept a wink in days, because he was showing up to support various community events sponsored by different church ministries — all while receiving little to no thanks.
Furthermore, leaders truly following after Christ are called to continue ministering to their congregations even when those same people unjustly criticize them. For example, a pastor is not supposed to quit just because church members are talking about him behind his back for something as petty as reordering church services to be one song shorter or vice versa. Paul is not telling these things to the church of Corinth to discourage them from being leaders for Christ in their community. He simply wants them to know that doing the work of the Lord requires strength from the Lord, is a lesson in humility, and is above all anything but glamorous.
As believers, we can use this text to not only be informed on what it takes to be a leader for Christ but also allow it to help us better appreciate the sacrifices — seen or unseen, outward or inward — that our church leaders make on our behalf.
Have a blessed day!
The founder of Your Black Poets, Ayvaunn Penn is an award-winning writer and the author of Ephemeral Moments: a collection of poetry and short stories available soon on Amazon.com. To receive Ayvaunn’s daily devotionals by email, click here. Click to follow her on Facebook and Twitter. To have your original poetry featured on Your Black Poets, click here.