1 Corinthians 4:14-16: I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (NIV)
Job 16:1-5 Then Job spoke again: “I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” (NLT)
I do believe most people who have parented children would agree that the process ends up being more art than science! In spite of all the so-called parenting “help” books out there—none of them can automatically address the vast differences in each and every human being, especially those who own your gene pool! That understanding alone should encourage most parents to approach life and yes, parenting, with a whole lot of humility. I believe the same approach is a necessity in ministry.
The very nature of shepherding or caring for people, God’s principle call to ministry leaders, calls for large doses of humility and understanding. Yet, when it comes to actually shepherding or even “parenting” leaders, some of that principle logic tends to be lost to those who care for such gifts in the Body of Christ. There certainly has been an impetus to both recognize and affirm the various ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4 that are needed to bring maturity and stability to the Church. Yet, the overemphasis and even overuse of titles have created some measure of skepticism in the Body and for good reason. Some of the very shepherding that’s supposed to be recognizable from leaders to leaders is sorely lacking. To add insult to injury—it’s rarely noticed. And when it comes to the art of comfort some leaders rarely even see a need! But isn’t that supposed to be Shepherding 101? Isn’t comfort the essence of a father’s responsibility? You realize quickly that simply calling someone a father—doesn’t make him or her one. Want to shepherd a leader (or anyone for that matter) better? Then maybe these insights can be of benefit in developing the art of comfort.
Eliphaz and the rest of Job’s buddies offer a textbook of responses on how NOT to offer comfort! Truth is it’s easy to be reasonable with someone else’s pain. It’s remarkable how the hurt among us go unrecognized not because they’re unwilling to talk but because their pain and experience is often marginalized by platitudes and “take care” consultation. Truly apostolic fathering doesn’t discount the pain nor does it revel in the obvious—by quoting scripture the “pained” already know, or worse a series of rah-rah stories. The true father gets in the pain and by demonstration and “Agreement” with the location of the pain—then brings medicine to rally past it!!
Quick consultation usually belies wisdom and instead identifies an uncomfortability and/or lack of answers. The antidote to this as simplistic as it sounds – is to simply LISTEN and then HEAR what God is saying. Judge the maturity of the individual and don’t simply parrot the obvious. Telling someone what they already know but are struggling to do is a waste of time. That’s why this is reserved for the mature (Galatians 6) that are supposed to be CAPABLE of restoring an injured soul! Knowledge without experience is limiting but when a real “father” really knows the terrain of trouble - then they are restorative and easily trusted!
Another insight to consider is never relish, through your own insecurity and need to be respected, the brokenness of the leader. If you ever wonder why no one returns to “hear” you then this may be the problem! Some governing leaders unsuspectingly show signs of glee when a partner leader falls into some form of brokenness because in their minds—it champions their need to be useful. Learn to treat the pain of others with the kid gloves it deserves and the grace it ABSOLUTELY NEEDS.
Now here’s a word of advice if you happen to be the leader that is suffering on the side of pain, betrayal, or loss. Learn the difference between father/mother figures in “name” only or organizationally and one who truly is interested in seeing you over the line. The “proclaimed” titles and the entourage will never provide you a single thing to heal or help you over the hump of your grief. As in most cases the genuine article tends to suffer connection because of the wasteland created by those in name only!
Recognize that some leaders are hurt or sadly misdiagnosed by those whom they trusted because of THEIR own shallowness in searching real covenant connection—then these same leaders become business cards that scream injustice and build walls of separation. Or worse they start to develop new theology or practice to protect from future loss or expectation. It’s possible it may be your own fault. Accept and recalibrate to find the real thing you need. Stop fantasizing about the anointing so-and-so possesses and look to the real fathers (or mothers) around you. They’ve probably been there all the time and simply overlooked or worse, ignored.
Psalm 141:5, Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it. (NLT)
©2017 Jimmy Mas / firstname.lastname@example.org