There is a familiar saying that, “If you’re a leader and no one is following you, then you’re just taking a walk.”
A reality about leadership is that God has appointed some people to lead and others to follow. The followers are no less important than leaders, and are essential to the successful completion of God’s purposes.
Paul packed quite a bit of wisdom for leaders and followers in two verses.
1 Thessalonians 5.12-13 – But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you;
Esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
Responsibilities of Leaders
Leaders relate to their followers in three ways.
(1) They “labor” and “work” on behalf of God’s agenda.
Have you considered that Jesus and his disciples were some of the most hard-working people of their day?
— They walked throughout Galilee and then traveled by foot the 70-plus miles to Jerusalem.
— Daily, lines of people came from far and wide to be healed or delivered from demons.
— After the disciples served a banquet in the wilderness to 5,000 people, they piloted a boat to another location.
Paul set the standard for leaders. They have a vision for God’s work and work to fulfill it.
(2) Leaders have charge of the church.
To have charge describes more of an activity than a role. Yes, they are in charge, but even more so they take care of the body of Christ.
Ezekiel wrote about leaders who used their role for their own benefit.
— Ezekiel 34.1-4 – The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them:
To the shepherds—thus says the Lord God: Woe, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
You eat the fat; you clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatted calves, but you do not feed the sheep.
You have not strengthened the weak; you have not healed the sick; you have not bound up the injured; you have not brought back the strays; you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.
Leadership is a heady issue. It is easy for leadership gifts to inflate someone with pride.
All leaders will do well to measure their leadership by Jesus’ behavior and the message of the prophets.
(3) Leaders are called to admonish the church.
When they admonish the church, they warn, counsel, and exhort followers of Jesus. Like a parent who desires the best for their children, they give loving and wise guidance.
In all three instances, Paul used participles rather than nouns to describe the work of leaders. He made it clear that these are not titles and honors, but tasks to fulfill.
Responsibilities of Followers
Like the leaders, there are three kinds of responses followers are to make to their leaders.
(1) Followers will “respect those who labor among you” (verse 12).
The root of “respect” in the Greek language is “to see.” The way I understand this is that followers are to “see” from the perspective of their leaders.
They see that leaders are working and laboring for God’s purpose. They understand the vision and align their behavior with it.
They respect and appreciate their leaders, not with applause, but with action. They join the leader in action that corresponds to God’s work.
(2) They think, consider, count, esteem, and regard their leaders in love (verse 13 expanded).
They recognize the value of the work of their leaders and esteem them in love.
The partnership and deep affection that arises when people serve Jesus together is one of God’s greatest gifts.
(3) They aim for peace within the body.
The church celebrates and the world benefits, when leaders and followers pursue a shared vision under the power of the Spirit.
One of the most difficult aspects of ministry arises when people are conflicted over the vision and mission of the church.
I am convinced that unity and peace are best achieved when people submit their plans to the head of the church, Jesus.
When we lay aside our desires to be right, and when we follow the direction of the Spirit, God’s best can be achieved.
Leaders and followers can best achieve God’s productive peace when we pursue it under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
The church is at its best when we align our lives with Paul’s direction in these two short verses.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. The video can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.
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