It is such a lonely job, we’re told. There’s such a burden and a pressure that others cannot appreciate and don’t carry. It is such a task that often things have to be done to relieve that weight.
It is certainly not to diminish the real weight of responsibility of those positions. There is a lot at stake. People’s lives and capacity to develop can depend significantly on the success or failure of that individual in that position.
The design of the piece, though, is not to give room for such a loneliness in the role. As fellowship is at the heart of what’s being exercised that has to be reflected in the kind of life that encourages that degree of accountability, vulnerability and transparency to others. Not to lots of people for sure, but a select few – the type who are spiritual and can be on hand to restore if failings are discovered. The type who are not taken in by titles and positions and are more concerned about relationships and character that reflects the heart for God.
It’s always appeared hypocritical for that loner approach to expect others to come to them for counsel and wisdom, to be someone to relieve burdens and offer guidance whilst at the same time they themselves have not cultivated that kind of lifestyle. In essence you’re expected to go to that person because that person has the position. But that person in that position does not have people they go to in like manner. It gives the impression that either they’re ‘above that’ or worse still it gives the impression that maturity is reaching a level where people need you, but you don’t need people in that way.
No wonder burn out and failures are rife. No wonder pressure to be ‘successful’ mounts and little to relieve that. No wonder individuals in that position can be paralysed into maintaining a front for fear of appearing less than what is expected. No wonder ‘coping mechanisms’ are set up that leads to dark and manipulative activities that are maintained through a vice-like power trip.
It does not have to be that way, though. The picture of the Body that’s presented is about interdependent relationships. Mutually building each other. Submitting to each other as we submit to Christ – that’s not something that ‘regulars’ do and ‘ministers’ have to be above. That’s something those in leadership are supposed to be the first practitioners. They’re setting an example for others to follow – that’s an example of accountability, vulnerability and transparency which others observe and reinforces what it is to follow them as they follow Christ.
That model also places the pressure and the burden squarely where it belongs. It’s Christ’s Church. It’s His Bride. It’s His Body. It’s for His glory, it’s His responsibility. That’s why the burdens are thrown on Him. That’s why worries and anxieties are given to Him.
No, this not easy to do. That degree of vulnerability and transparency offers opportunities for exploitation and potential for broken trust. It is not meant to be easy, though and the broken trust issue is exactly why there is a call for forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration wherever possible. That display expresses to a watching world how the love of Jesus really is the underpinning factor in all relationships.
That will not completely eliminate moments of loneliness or eradicate that sense of carrying such a weight of responsibility. Truly no one knows what it’s like to be in those positions except those who are in them. It is to say, however, that it need not be a story that ends in a lone ranger mentality that can lead to slightly deranged notions of such lofty leadership that moral scruples are compromised.
It is to say that this story can end with the larger community of servants led by a smaller community of servants for the glory of God in the name of the Son by the power of His Spirit.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden