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Jun 12, 2022

It's Good for Us!

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: 1 Thessalonians

Keywords: hard work, role models, spiritual leadership, competency, followership, loving respect


In this section of fifteen different commands, we look at the dance that God wants us to enjoy between spiritual leaders and we, the church.


It’s Good for US!

1 Thessalonians 5:12-15

June 12, 2022



Experience last week at Spokane Classical Chr. Academy end-of-year Grandparent’s Day, listening to the headmaster challenge the students (a couple of whom were my grandchildren) to honor their grandparents by making time to be with them, listening to their stories about life, learning from their wisdom seeking out their counsel.  He said all the things a grandparent longs to say to their grandkids but knows if they say it, it will just sound like a parental lecture.

            Well, in this morning’s passage, Paul is doing pretty much the same thing on behalf of church leaders.  Remember, this was a pretty young church when he wrote this letter.  All of the church members were probably about the same age in the faith—under a year.  But already some had been designated or recognized as house-church leaders in the city of Thessalonica. Paul is trying to help both this young church and new church leaders figure out how to create and maintain a really healthy environment in which everyone is protected, blessed and growing.

            Leadership is always challenging stuff. So is followership. Good leaders must first of all CARE for and about the people under their charge—whether they are political or military leaders who run a country, state or city or whether they are parents who run a family or CEOs who run businesses.  Leaders must be problem solvers, not someone always blaming somebody or something else.  Good leaders must be thinking forward, seeing potential problems and mitigating against them as well as protecting their people from potential threats both internal and external.  Above all, good leaders must be willing to make personal sacrifices for the welfare of those they lead rather than get fat off of those they lead and make them pay for their leadership and mistakes. 

            Many times we don’t get to choose the most important leaders in our lives—parents, teachers, in most places of the world governmental leaders.  But when we do get to choose, you will find that people naturally avoid poor leaders and naturally gravitate to good ones.

            In today’s passage, we are being told how church leaders are to lead well as well as what we as the church family are to do to support and encourage good leadership.  While qualities important in spiritual leadership may overlap with what our culture values in leadership, what God calls us to value has some significant differences.

            Now we all have had different experiences with different church leaders. 

  • How many of us have lived at some point in our lives under really good church leaders?
  • Under not-so-good or outright bad church leaders? (Hopefully that’s not the church you’re currently in!)

At the end of 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives some fatherly advice to people trying to figure out what good Christ-like spiritual family/church leadership and followership should look like.  Two-thirds of Paul’s instruction is addressed at leaders with 1/3rd addressed at followers.  That’s why it is “good medicine” for all of us!

I must admit that I’d feel a lot more comfortable addressing this topic in someone else’s church so that it doesn’t appear like I’m tipping the scales in some way about my leadership.  Anyone else prepared to preach this passage today???  Okay, so let’s dive in.

12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 

            This last portion of this last chapter actually has a list of 15 commands.  Maybe Paul was being called to dinner and had to finish up the letter in a hurry.  Whatever the reason, he machine-gun fires a host of commands at the end of this leeter that he knows the church is going to need to make life together work well. We’ll be coming back to them throughout the summer.

            He begins the whole list with leadership…which is really the key to just about any success in anything in life.  Paul starts by giving us 3 responsibilities of church leaders and 2 responsibilities of church members. (As usual, more is demanded of leaders than followers.)

NOTE:  When I say “members”, I’m not talking about formal membership in some organization or “local church” that you have because you went through a “membership class.”  I’m using ‘church member’ in the same way I would use ‘family member.’  You’re in a family by either birth or adoption.  Same is true in the church.  You are a part of the church because you’ve been ‘born-again’ by the Spirit of God, adopted into God’s family and chosen to be part of some local expression of today’s “Church in Spokane”, namely Mosaic Fellowship. 

            Let’s start with church LEADERS first.  Notice that he refers to leaders in the plural.  The N.T. knows nothing of lone-ranger leadership by strongmen-type pastors.  While teaching pastors exert a significant amount of leadership in a church, they are not to do so on their own.  Wherever you find Paul talking about church leaders, he always does so assuming there is a team of such leaders.  Teams are not a guarantee of good leadership.  But solo-leadership is often almost a guarantee of failure. 

The 3 charges to church leaders Paul gives are in vs. 12 when he is describing what good church leaders DO—“…those who 1.) diligently labor among you, and 2.) have charge over you in the Lord and 3.) give you instruction….”

#1.)  Good spiritual leaders LABOR DILIGENTLY AMONG US

This term for "labor" means "strenuous effort" (cf. I Cor. 16:16) or “toiling” work or “growing weary”.  Paul used the term the last time he was with the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:35) when he pointed to his ministry lifestyle and said, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

I can’t tell you how many times, when people who usually aren’t part of a church family meet me and find out that I’m a pastor, they ask what I do the other 6 days of the week besides Sunday.  For them, being a spiritual shepherd must look like the cushiest job in the world.  After all, you only have to work an hour a week on Sunday morning, right?  

            Most of my life in the pastorate, I’ve worked 55-70 hour weeks consistently.  I’m not saying that is necessarily healthy.  But I am saying it is fatiguing!  Working long hours doesn’t necessarily translate into productivity.  But not getting tired in the ministry does mean you are probably not working terribly hard.  Some pastors don’t work terribly hard…but not the vast majority of the ones I know. 

            Recently I was asked by a man why I think that working 55 hours a week in the ministry should be my norm.  I told him that I’ve always thought that if I want to encourage people who are putting in 35-50 hours a week in their jobs that I should not expect others to do what I’m not doing. In other words, I shouldn’t be hoping you will put in 5 or 10 hours a week in ministry in the church above your 40 hours if I’m not.  He challenged that by saying, “Yes, but how many of their 40 hours are as emotionally demanding as yours may be?”  I told him, “Probably the same amount.”   And I believe that.  No job worth $15/hr and above in this world comes without “laboring”.  Only when you’re retired or on disability or welfare, getting an income without putting in set hours of work, is it not “laborious.” 

            So, when you see a pastor or lay leader putting in the hours, when you see them up early or out late ministering to people, when you see them at a variety of ministries throughout a day or week, you just may have landed a leader who is “laboring diligently among you.”   

#2.)  Good spiritual leaders LEAD COMPETENTLY"…have charge over you in the Lord…."  (present middle participleHerodotus and Plato used the word translated, “have charge over you,” to refer to leadership in an army, a state, or a party. In the New Testament, Paul uses it at least twice when he says that both elders and deacons must be “good managers of their own households” (1 Tim. 3:4, 5, 12). 

This is just common sense:  if a church leader isn’t leading the most important and closest “flock” he has well, namely his marriage and family, then he should try leading a much more complex and difficult spiritual ‘family.’ In N.T. times, “household” could also include all the servants and property and laborers you might have running your family estate or enterprise.  In that sense, people who have to manage other people in their business life might have experience that is transferable to church leadership.

But family leadership is really the biblical proving ground for church leadership.  And in the Jewish culture, you were responsible for managing your children until they became adults around 12 or 13.  American culture has this weird period called “adolescence” in which parents are told they have all the responsibility for their kids’ behavior but very little of the authority… and the kids pick that up.  Don’t you dare make too many demands on your teen when they are completely out of control of the state will put you in “time-out.”  That’s a very weird system that has not served families or children well.

ILL:  A member of the church here recently told me that he had a conversation with each of his kids when they became teenagers.  He welcomed them to the teen years but then told them, “Just so you know, we don’t do teenagers in this home!  You’re either a child or an adult.  If you want to be an adult, I’ll start treating you like an adult and you will have all the responsibilities I have as an adult:  you’ll get to do your own laundry, fix meals, go shopping, hold a job, pay bills, get a car and keep it running, pay taxes, etc.  But if you would like to be a kid for a little longer, I’ll cover most of those things and you will keep honoring me and your mother as your parents.  So, which will it be this year in 7th grade for you, kid or adult?”

But back to church leadership.  Paul said that elders who “rule well” should be considered worthy of double honor (1 Tim. 5:17), a phrase that he goes on to teach may well include “financial compensation”. Ruling or leading well in a church includes responsibility for the management or oversight of all aspects of a local church and the life of people in them, things like…

  • preaching and teaching the word.
  • Equipping & training everyone to be fruitful in life and ministry.
  • guarding the flock from people who are teaching or modeling wrong life and doctrine.
  • showing people how to know, experience and follow the Lord.
  • helping brothers and sisters resolve conflicts between themselves or in their marriages and families.
  • guiding people with wise, Spirit-led counsel that helps them navigate life’s crisis and challenges.
  • overseeing ministry finances and systems in a church.  
  • developing meaningful ministries for everyone from children to senior, men and women, married and singles.
  • understanding the times and helping people prepare for challenges and crises… and survive them when they happen.
  • Taking the lead in modeling life in Jesus Christ.

Laboring diligently and leading competently are the first two. 

#3.) "…and give you instruction.” Good Spiritual Leaders Must TEACH BIBLICALLY (present active participle). This is literally "put sense into." It is usually translated "to admonish the unruly."  There is some sense here that this instruction is to correct something that isn’t exactly in order. 

            We all know how ‘fun’ it is to have to correct your children or friend or spouse.  It’s no more fun for leaders to have to do that in a church either.  Oh, there are some people/pastors who are control nuts.  They are always telling other people what they think they are doing wrong and what needs to change.  But here is something important.  Good leaders don’t try to conform others to their standards and preference.  They are very discerning and careful to only call people into the life of Jesus.  They only draw the lines where Christ and His Word draw them.

ILL:  This week in our Thursday Bible study in Romans 14, we had a really helpful discussion of how to handle a bunch of things that currently are dividing so many Christians, stuff like…

  • Politics
  • Covid and the related masking or vaccination
  • Homelessness and opinions surrounding that which I talked about last week.

Good leaders will give us instruction on these things from the Word of God, not their own opinions.  Where the Word gives room for diverse opinions, they will recognize that and call us all into grace, kindness and love.  Where there are clear biblical commands or principles, they won’t let us think there aren’t.  They will “talk sense into us” on those matters, biblical sense. 

It is fair to ask someone, especially spiritual leaders, to show you WHERE in Scritpure they get some instruction or requirement they are calling for or challenging you about.  “Where does the Bible teach that…or is this just your hobby-horse?” 

And when a spiritual leader is clearly outside the bounds of Scripture either in teaching or behavior, God’s people have the responsibility and authority to call them to account.  There are times the shoe should be on the other foot…yours. Just be sure what you are demanding is God’s Word and truth, not your own preference.  And you must do so in a spirit of humility.

(1 Timothy 5:19-20: “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.

            This is where good spiritual leaders must handle God’s Word faithfully, accurately, humbly and clearly.  Beware of leaders who major in the minors and downplay the fundamentals, thinking they always have to come up with something new and novel.  I’m kind of tired of ‘novel’ (especially when it comes to the Coronavirus ).

Laboring diligently…leading competently…teaching biblically—this is God’s requirement for church leaders.


Now to “good medicine” that is for everyone in the church in relationship to leaders.

12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 


The term translated “appreciate” here is actually a very common Greek word (eido) usually translated “to see, know or perceive/discern” someone or something. It’s used in the sense of "to appreciate," "to show people respect," "to acknowledge the value of" or "know the value of."  I think we could safely say it has the idea of someone who is a “model” of something. 

We talk about ‘role models’ for young people.  We talk about the power of modeling when it comes to parents. 

ILL:  It’s funny how almost more now that I’m in my senior years, I recognize how many things I’m doing just like my dad did. Perhaps that’s because many of my memories of him are when he was the age I am now.  Simply seeing people we respect going about their normal way of life has a powerful effect. 

ILL:  widower I knew who raised 4 girls alone.  When someone once questioned him about how much he was doing for his girls and that they wouldn’t learn to do them unless he stopped doing them and required them to pick up the slack, he commented, “Oh, I’m not worried about that.  They’ll pick it up.  That’s the power of modeling.” 

We even have a saying in English, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

APP:  This is why we all need spiritual models around us, not matter what stage of life we’re in.  I try to hang around men I respect spiritually, especially when it comes to qualities I may know I need to grow in.  I don’t so much need people who are just like me.  Rather I need people who challenge me to grow in qualities that aren’t my strong suit. 

  • Why I’ve always loved hanging out with missionaries. There is an extra level of commitment, of sacrifice, of letting go of things in this world so you can grasp more firmly the things of the Kingdom.  There is often a depth of compassion and commitment to the lost that inspires me.  ILL:  Bill & Flossie Simons.  I got to live with them for a year in the Philippines. He was a WWII vet.  They started their missionary career in mainland China just before the Communist revolution.  When the communists came to power, they were forced to flee on foot from inland China… in the midst of a war were foreigners were special targets for killing…when there wasn’t enough food for people trying to escape.  They had a newborn, and the relentless danger, atrocities combined with having to walk hundreds of miles to safety caused Flossie to have a nervous breakdown.  I would never have known that if someone hadn’t told me.  These two had a love for one another and a gentleness with the Pilipino people that was the envy of every missionary I knew.  They were deeply respected by thousands of Christians in Manila.
  • Why I’ve tried to be around men like Ian Robertson and Alec Rowlands who have tasted genuine spiritual revival.
  • Why I look for sp. men who are evangelists. I’m not… but I want to watch what they do, how they engage lost people, what questions they ask, how bold they are with the Gospel.  (Tom Star, Dick Shanks, John Underhill).
  • It’s one reason why Sandy and I hope to take a trip next year to Israel to celebrate our 40th anniversary with the man who was her spiritual father growing up and, in fact, gave her to me in our wedding (Louis Inks or Reign Ministries). He’s in his 80’s now but still has a zeal for the Lord and making disciples that I want to be sharpened by. 

Don’t put spiritual leaders on such a pedestal that you miss spending time around them.  Don’t believe the lie that “they’re too busy” to be able to spend time with you.  

ILL:  One of my spiritual models in college was Dr. Joe Aldrich, founder of Mariners Church in CA and then new President of Multnomah College.  He had this saying he was fond of repeating: “Poor people need to find rich people and invite them to lunch.” His point was, “Spend what it takes to hang around people who have what you want out of life.” So a bunch of us guys decided to take him up on the challenge.  About 6 of us asked if he would meet with us on a regular basis.  Lo and behold, he agreed.  So once a month, we’d meet in the President’s Office and talk with him about anything from theology to dating, ministry to leadership. 

            The last call here today to church members in relationship to church leadership in this passage is in vs. 13—“esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”  Other versions translate this, "Treat them with the greatest respect and love" (TEV) or, "Have the greatest respect and affection for them" (NJB).  The tense of this command (present infinitive) emphasizes continuing personal action. The adverb “exceedingly” or “very highly” is a triple compound term emphasizing real respect and admiring love. 


#2.) LOVINGLY RESPECT spiritual leaders

ILL:  one of my most respected pastoral mentors was a man in this town who gave his life for his flock and the church in the city.  He was instrumental in starting Inland Empire School of the Bible which later grew into Moody NW.  He was pivotal in developing a network of churches called The Greater Spokane Association of Evangelicals.  He pastored a large church in Spokane that started 3 other churches in the day when church planting was not the thing it is today.  He helped start and develop one of the premier Christian camps in our region.  He would drive hours to go minister to someone in need. He would be at the hospital before the family got there when there was an accident.  He was the most giving and self-sacrificial pastor I’ve ever known.

            And when it came time for him to transition into retirement, the church board gave him a desktop printer and told him and his wife not to come around the church for 2 years.  I happened to be in town the night of his retirement service.  It was painfully awkward.  Disrespectful as it was, true to his character, he kept loving those people until the day he died.  Some of you know who I’m talking about.

            Sadly, we live in a day when leadership of all kinds is utterly disrespected and often maligned.  We’ve developed a culture of disrespect and criticalness.  And it does not serve us well.  Whether it is our families or churches or schools or businesses or cities or nation, God’s call to us is to develop loving respect for our spiritual leaders that spills out into respectful lifestyles towards all the leadership God has placed over us. 

            As I mentioned earlier, in so many arenas of life, we don’t really have a choice about the leaders God places over us. 

  • We didn’t get to choose our parents; God did.
  • We usually didn’t get to choose our teachers; God and sometimes our parents did.
  • Bosses—most of us for most of our careers didn’t get to chose our bosses…and sadly, neither did the people under us when we became the boss.
  • Even in our democratic republic, we rarely get to chose our governmental leaders. So few of the people I often put up yard signs for during election season in my yard actually won that one of my former neighbors used to tease me that he could tell who was going to lose by seeing who I was supporting. 

We live around imperfect leaders.  The church is no different.  But it is amazing how loving respect can cause leaders to flourish and become better leaders. 

            As we close this morning, I just want to say what a joy it is to be a leader of this fellowship.  So many of you are so generous with your love, your gratitude and your expressions of appreciation.  It humbles me to get a note or email or simple word in passing from so many of you when I know how imperfect my leadership is in the kingdom and this church.  The fact that most of you are able to stay awake in my preaching week after week is amazingly loving.  I’m not the most entertaining or riveting preacher by any stretch of the imagination.  But I frequently feel loved and respected by you all, month after month, year after year. 

  • Your steady involvement in loving difficult people downtown speaks loving respect to your leaders.
  • Your faithful and generous financial support of the church and our missionaries speaks volumes of loving respect.
  • Your hunger for the Word of God, your dedication to prayer, your commitment week after week to fellowship of the saints and worship speaks loving respect.
  • Your creative suggestions about ministry and your frequent involvement in a host of ministries that serve both our church and our community speak real love and respect for your leaders.
  • The way you love one another, imperfect as we are, is a profound demonstration of your respect for those who are trying to spiritually parent this family.
  • The fact that you simply don’t give up on this spiritual family speaks volumes of respect and love for your leaders.

I sincerely hope and pray that this kind of appreciation, esteem and loving respect will permeate this fellowship for decades to come.  Blessed will be the spiritual leaders of this church who are able to enjoy the kind of followers you have been.  And blessed will be the church members who have leaders that labor diligently, lead competently and teach biblically in the days ahead.  May this be the culture and the contract we enter into with each other until God shall call us each home to His leadership and family.