"They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." Matthew 23:4
If you've read any of Paul's letters to the church and grew up in an African household, hopefully the title of this post will make sense to you. If it isn't quite clear yet, let me explain. Paul was formerly known as Saul and was a chief persecutor of Christians, joining the religious Pharisees in persecuting those who proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah. In fact, Paul was present when Stephen was stoned to death! Paul encountered Jesus on his way to another round of killing more followers of Christ when his life was transformed and he became a servant of God. Dramatic, right?! Most of the New Testament letters were written by Paul to the churches he had visited and some he hadn't visited but was aware of and cared very much about. Some of the churches Paul wrote to were led by people whose lives had been changed as a result of hearing Paul preach the Good News.
In African churches today, there is a commonly used titled of General Overseer (G.O.) which is used to describe someone who heads up a very large number of churches around the world and is therefore is the leader of that church and all the pastors. In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned about how much goes unsaid by those holding these titles and have come to realise that they give themselves the titles but not the responsibility! This statement might seem like a scathing indictment of the church leadership and if I was to be blunt, that's exactly what it is. Think about how many stories you hear about all the wrongdoings in churches nowadays. These G.O.s remain mute on topics that affect the body of Christ and continue to use their title to gain more influencers and followers, not taking any responsibility for the safety of their flock 😒.
Now read some (just some) of the letters of Paul and you'll see a very different story. You'll see a story of a man who time and time again shows just how much he cares about the body of Christ. More to this, he demonstrates the love he has for the body of Christ by keeping in constant communication with them and encouraging them over and over again. Here's 5 qualities that other G.O.s and Pastors can learn from Paul:
PRAYER: Paul easily demonstrates his love for the church through constant prayer. There is no greater gift than to intercede for your brother and sister in Christ.
COMMUNICATION: Paul ensures that even in his worst moments, he reaches out to the churches who need him to offer his support in the form of teaching, admonishment and encouragement. This usually comes in the form of the above as a lot of his letters were sent from prison.
VISITATION: I'm not talking divine visitation but rather the oceans and storms Paul endured to deliver the gospel to his brothers and sisters who needed to hear it. Despite warnings from others, Paul would often sneak into cities and towns to be with his beloved brethren.
HUMILITY: Paul demonstrates humility several times, most especially in the book of Philemon when he appeals to Philemon to accept his former slave, Onesimus, back into his household. Paul goes so far as to offer to pay for damages and debts of Onesimus if that would please Philemon.
LEADER: There are many characteristics summarised in Paul's ability to lead, including wisdom, assertiveness, accessibility, etc. Paul never put himself above others, rather teaching the churches to be available for each other and to be united in love.
I'm not judging those who hold the title of G.O. but simply ask; how many of these title holders truly act in a manner deserving of such a grand title? 🤔 For anyone reading this who has been called to lead/serve in a ministry, I implore you, don't just carry a title and hold yourself above others. Be accountable to yourself and to those you are called to lead. Embody the character of Jesus and learn from Paul who carried the burden of his position as a leader. As you do so, the grace of God will be more than enough for you. Amen!