RELIGION ROUNDTABLE

Start by just showing up

In the earliest book of the Christian New Testament (1 Thessalonians), the Apostle Paul writes, “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.”

It seems that from the very beginning of the Christian church there has been a need to remind congregations to support their leadership.

Of course, this was not a new thing with Christians and their leaders; such a need is as old as humanity itself.

So, how can congregations better support their leaders? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Pray for them; I hope this seems like an obvious one.

2. Let them know when they’ve made an impact in your life, when they’ve done something you like. Ministers are REGULARLY told when they’ve done something wrong or something someone doesn’t like. Thanking them (even with a handshake at the door on Sunday) can go a long way.

3. Let them (and their families) be human. Ministers may be doing the work of God, but they are NOT God. Give them space and let them be who they are apart from their role as ministers.

4. Show up. Ministers are personally invested in the services and ministries of their congregations. When you don’t show up, they take it personally (even when they know they shouldn’t). Your presence lets them know their work is not in vain.

5. Take time to understand what they do. Ministry is unlike any other vocation, and no matter how much you think you know about what they do and the time they spend doing it, it’s impossible to know everything ministers do with their time.

Above all else, remember that ministers are seeking to follow a divine call that consumes their entire lives, and they need your support.

— Chris Thomas, First Baptist Church of Williams, Jacksonville

Judge them by the job they do

Unlike a political institution in which a leader is trying to please followers, in religious institutions a leader’s responsibility is to teach, educate and discipline the community.

A religious leader is following the mission of prophets. The lives of Jesus and Muhammad both prove that they faced opposition. Their mission was to help people have the right faith and the right practices — and sometimes some people don’t appreciate if a leader is trying to change their point of view.

Community members can better support their leaders when they judge them with respect to the mission and to conveying the right message of the scriptures, rather than personal likes and dislikes.

The community can also study the scripture better, then share and discuss the various aspects of the message with their leaders. This will make the work of the leader not only interesting but easier in communications. A live discussion will make the leader more dedicated and involved in the discussion. Discussion and sharing various aspects of the same issue brings the community and leader closer.

Sometimes a leader may be in need of help. If the community finds out a shortcoming or weakness in their leader, they should come forward to help the leader overcome this mistake instead of raising fingers and playing a blame game.

That’s how a truly sincere community would act. Prophet Muhammad said that sincere believers are not only sincere to God and the Prophet, but also to their leaders (Muslim).

— Muhammad Haq, Anniston Islamic Center