“We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” 2 Corinthians 6:12-13 NIVUK

This morning I was reflecting on the few cards I received from members of my church after celebrating 17 years of ministry. I opened the sealed envelope from one of my long-time members and he had included a monetary gift, but what got my attention was a three-page handwritten note telling me what my leadership meant to him. It brought tears to my eyes to know that I helped shape his leadership, save his marriage, and mold him as a disciple. I told my wife, “It’s not about the money. It’s about the love. What comes from the heart reaches the heart. I just want to know that I’m making a difference in the lives of my people. “

There’s a lot that leaders go through as they take care of the flock. There are hits and bruises we experience that the people will never know about. The apostle Paul gave a list of things pastors/leaders go through:

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” ‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭6:4-10‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

After going through all of this all we ask for is an even exchange.

  1. We are not withholding our affection from you. A good pastor is one who opens his or her heart knowing that some people will abuse it. As a young preacher, I used to wonder why certain pastors were so cordially aloof. Through experience I understand why. A lot of times the people you help the most hurt you the most and it makes you want to close off your heart from people. But as a shepherd you can’t punish the people who genuinely love and need you because of a few. Shepherds don’t stop loving just because they get hurt.
  2. But you are withholding your affection from us. When people are hurt their tendency is to shut down. They withhold affection. There have been some people who’ve been hurt in the church and even by their pastors. A lot of what we call “church hurt” is our response to a trigger that reminds us of a deeper hurt we experienced outside the church previously. Discipline and correction is not the same thing as “church hurt.” Hebrews 12:11 states, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. If your feelings are hurt by your shepherd go to them and give them a chance to make it right.
  3. As a fair exchange—I speak to you as my children, open wide your hearts also. I choose to keep on loving even after the bruising and the using. In the letter that my member wrote me he said, “I realize that it’s been a rough journey for you at times, with family troubles and hits from other pastors and even from your own congregation. Through it all you’ve hung in there because you were sent for such a time as this.”

The disappointments are part of the journey but the reward is when you see those who “get it!” Nothing is more gratifying for a leader than to have ONE who has been transformed by the gospel you preach to say “Thank you!” That does my heart good!😭❤️

Dear God-

I pray that the people of New Direction will know how much I truly love them and that we will have a fair exchange of love and appreciation for one another. Thank you for using the painful moments in my ministry to make me even more sensitive to the people in pain themselves. Help us to break the cycle of hurt people hurting people. Instead let us open wide our hearts to risk loving each other the way that You first loved us!

In Jesus’ Name