May 31, 2020 - Pastor Message05/18/2021
THE YEAR OF DISCIPLESHIP CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP (CONCLUSION)
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:15).
As we conclude the Easter season with the feast of Pentecost this weekend, we conclude our Year of Discipleship reflection on Christian leadership by looking at leadership in the parish. Parishes, like our own, often struggle to recruit parish leaders who hear and answer the call to lead one or more parish ministries. There are likely many reasons for this, but one of the biggest is the misunderstanding of what leadership means. When many people think “leader”, they think “person who does everything”. They think they are unqualified for such a huge task, that they don’t have the time or the ability, and so they hesitate to answer the call.
But as we have seen with our look at leadership in the family and in the community, this image of leadership is simply not true. Leadership is not so much about what the leader does alone as it is what the leader does with those he or she leads. For a great example of this in parish leadership, we can look to St. Paul, who established and supported Christian communities all around the Mediterranean Sea. Paul did not do everything in these communities but served as an example, teaching, encouraging, coordinating, and calling others to service and leadership themselves, as he does for Timothy in the reading above.
This is what leaders of parish ministries are called to do today, all within the broader context of Christian leadership. Parish leadership, like Paul’s leadership, begins with discernment of God’s will for ourselves and for those whom we are called to serve. Discernment means more than just seeking what God’s will is but responding fully, making our life an example of that ministry for others. Parish leadership also means service, leading others by serving them, through all the ways mentioned by St. Paul above. To serve and lead others, parish leaders must get to know them, just as Paul knew his people. Every parish ministry offers an opportunity to build community, and, by building up those bonds of fellowship, leaders can better call and inspire others to serve as well. Finally, parish leaders persevere through hardships and obstacles, just as Paul did. We don’t necessarily face shipwrecks and beatings, but plenty of other obstacles remain out there today opposing our efforts to bring Christ to others, including apathy, secularism, and the busy lives of our people. Parish leaders do not become discouraged by such things but remain zeroed in on the mission and seek ways to overcome them, supported themselves by the ministry they receive from others.
“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). Jesus’ last commandment to his disciples, whom he called his friends, still echoes down through the ages to us, his disciples and friends today. The love he calls us to show others is not a passive emotion but an active commitment to service, including service as parish leaders. May we each answer his call to whatever ministry it may be and lead our parish forward in the service of all.
Fr. Marc Stockton