The role of a leader in a local church can be a demanding task. The apostle Paul knew this more than others. He said, “…besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).
A burden by its very definition is something that weighs us down.
Like Paul, church leaders are people who know the burden of concern for the local expression of the great household of God. It would not be an isolated occasion when I have gone home from a long elders meeting only to have a fitful night's sleep as I mulled over the issues we had wrestled with the previous evening.
So what resources can we draw on to find the strength to stand up under this burden? And beyond that to find joy...
2 Corinthians gives a profound insight into the burden that leaders carry in local church ministry. Chapters 1-6 outline the experience of leaders weighed down by ministry pressures. There are some deeply personal passages in this section of Scripture as Paul opens his heart and says it like it is!
As I have reflected on these chapters Paul seems to indicate that leaders can find strength in...
...the support of one another to share the burden
Paul speaks in the first person plural rather than the first person singular. It is absolutely vital that leaders bring a surrendered self to the team gathering. Personal agenda and individual attitudes need to be left at the front door in place of a deep commitment to the up-building of fellow servants of God. Other leaders need to know that I will share the collective burden and encourage them in the shared responsibility.
...the help of God and the perspective he gives in the challenges we face.
Paul said his troubles were light and momentary. He was able to say that because of the long view that God gave him. He carried a sense of eternity in his heart.
...the continuing effectiveness of the cross (& resurrection) of Jesus in the heart of God's servants.
At Communion we "feed on him in our heart by faith with thanksgiving."
Through baptism we identify with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection.
Our service for God is patterned after the passion of Jesus.
Indeed, the central motif and the guiding principle of Christian life is the cross of Jesus. Martin Luther (the 16th century reformer) found the haunting image of the crucified Christ to be the crucible in which all our thinking of God is forged. He said, "The cross alone is our theology...the cross puts everything to the test."
The old gospel hymn actually sums up the entirety of Christian experience and service, "...burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near."
An experiential knowledge of these truths will not remove the leader's burden of concern for the local church but it will lighten the load he carries.