How Pastors Can Serve the Happiness of Their People

Pastors and the Art of Making Their People Joyful

You likely already know that suspicion spreads quickly.

The current widespread use of it is more caught than taught.
Humans are naturally distrustful and suspicious, and they don’t need any help from books or degrees to get that way.

No matter how much we try to deny it, we all harbor some degree of corruption within, and it isn’t hard to be persuaded to believe the worst of other people.

We pick up on the atmosphere of mistrust with only a few comments here and there. An oblique query is posed. We pick up on the ominous undercurrent. Imitation is simple. Mistrust spreads rapidly, especially directed against individuals who are seen as holding positions of power and prestige. That is, especially towards those who are thought to be “leaders” of any kind.

Church Suspicion

Today’s pastors are not the first to face distrust from the public. This story goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden and continues on in both the Old and New Testaments.The church in Corinth, where the apostle Paul had a storied history, viewed him with deep distrust, for one thing.

There was a point where he realized that going in at that time would probably cause more harm than good. It seemed prudent to give things some time to cool off first, so he decided to write instead of visiting initially. Some in Corinth were already wary of Paul, and this provided them with a new opportunity to express their concerns. Is he being honest with us or trying to keep his true intentions from us?

Can we assume that his emotional state mirrors his physical wanderlust?
Is he actually planning something, or is he just expressing both yes and no to us in his own flesh?

Paul responds to the chorus of doubts about his motives and character in 2 Corinthians by insisting, despite the criticisms of some, that he still loves the Corinthians “abundantly” (2 Corinthians 2:4).

Be Happy for Them

Paul’s goal in writing this letter is to convey his affection for them by emphasizing joy, both his own and theirs. In order “to spare you,” Paul explains, he postponed his travel to Corinth and communicated with the church there via letter (2 Corinthians 1:23). In verse 24, he clarifies lest someone misinterpret his previous statement:

We don’t want you to think we’re superior because of how strongly you believe; rather, we want to collaborate with you to bring you happiness. In this succinct but insightful statement, Christian leaders and pastors can establish a long-term vision for their work. We labor (that is, make an effort, not take it easy) and collaborate (that is, work as a unit, not individually) for the long-term (rather than momentary) delight of people we serve in Christ.
In addition, and this is something that can easily be forgotten, we collaborate with them.
So, if pastors today truly have a “with them” perspective in our vocation, what may some of the ramifications be?
How will the tone, goals, and pressure points of our calling change if we are coworkers not only with a team of pastors but also with the church for its joy?
As an example, think about the following three impacts.

  1. We never forget that the happiness of our people is our top priority.
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It is important for religious leaders to keep in mind, on a regular basis, that the happiness of our people is their first priority. First, as human beings (“All men want happiness,” argues Blaise Pascal); second, as followers of Christ, in their pursuit of holiness via the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s efforts in 2 Corinthians to convey his “rich love” to a doubtful congregation are impressive.
The term “Christian Hedonist” is used by some to describe this perspective. Paul is motivated in ministry by his desire of happiness.
One example is that he openly discusses his own quest for happiness. He desires happiness and joy for himself (2 Corinthians 2:2) and says as much in verse 3. Because Paul seeks his joy in their joy, we might call this selfless, not stingy, generosity. Specifically, he assumes that the Corinthians, like himself, are seeking happiness. They seek the kind of joy that can only be found in God through Christ, the kind of joy that can change their lives and last a lifetime.

As a result, realizing that our people want to be joyful — and that in God — provides us pastors with penetrating clarity into the essence of Christian ministry.
People here are actively looking for happiness. They seek fulfillment and realize, at least intellectually, that Jesus Christ offers the only path to enduring contentment. Although, living in our modern day is difficult.
We pastors have a hard time maintaining genuine happiness in Christ.
In addition, we do what we can to assist our people in their quest for lasting happiness.

  1. We treat our people with respect and treat them as equals, not handouts.

As instructors (Hebrews 13:7; Ephesians 4:11), pastors view their congregations as the end goal of their endeavors to impart God’s Word. In reality, what we do in the classroom is not “ministry.” Instead, the saints can rely on our teaching to prepare them for their service. Scripture says that “the shepherds and teachers [Christ] gave to equip the saints for the job of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–12).
The people of this nation have a significant role to play in their own happiness, and this is something that is recognized by a “with them” ministry. Having “skin in the game” benefits them greatly.
It’s reasonable to anticipate work and achievement from them; we shouldn’t adopt a “do-it-all-for-them” stance.

Pastors who are also good husbands make better fathers than they do.

Pastors who are doing their jobs well do not presume that the Christians they serve are either lazy, stupid, or not truly Christian. Those who live here are not automatically viewed in a negative light. Also, contrary to what Jesus cautioned about (Mark 10:42) and what Paul and Peter denied (1 Peter 5:3), we don’t “lord it over” them.
A competent pastor is more akin to a husband than a father in this regard. Pastors have no enforcement mechanism of their own, as pointed out by Jonathan Leeman. Parents have the rod (Proverbs 22:15; 23:13), the state has the sword (Romans 13:3-4), and the church has the keys (for excommunication, Matthew 16:19; 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5).
Our words are all that we have left. That’s why we’re trying to convince them. We hope to convince them of the validity of the truth and the superiority of the Bible’s teachings.

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In addition, Christians have the Holy Spirit “teach” them.
God has instilled in you a love for one another, as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:9.
We must always keep in mind that the Holy Spirit has been at work among us Christians.
He imparts knowledge to them, thus bringing to fruition the promise of a “new covenant” seen in Jeremiah 31.
In addition, the Spirit uses us as instructors since we are God’s gift to the world in the form of human instruments.

We allow the Holy Spirit to operate through us as we carry out our duties.
Additionally, the results of his efforts are conclusive.
The realization and repetition that our labor is God-appointed but not entirely dependent on us makes all the difference.

  1. We prefer challenging work to easy ones.

At the end of the day, convincing our people rather than coercing them requires more labor and effort, not less. To coerce someone is a fast and easy task. Winning someone over emotionally takes hard work and persistence. That’s why we focus on words. Recognizing “their part” (as the church), we make every effort to be approachable and comprehensible in “our part” (as pastors).
As a group, we are not afraid of conceptual ambiguity and instead strive to concretize ideas.
A “with them” perspective on pastoral care acknowledges that we do work, and that it is usually more effortful, demanding of one’s energy and patience, and time, to work with people rather than do everything for them.

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In other words, “Christian leaders don’t want simply exterior obedience; they want happy consent.”

Paul, as an apostle, has the authority to speak for the church and be obeyed, second only to Christ.
Even so, he presents a compelling case for their happiness.
And he does the same thing in Philemon, saying, “Though I am bold enough in Christ to tell you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you” (Philemon 8–9).
Christian leaders seek more than just passive assent from their followers.
I opted against taking any action without consulting you beforehand so that your good deeds would come naturally and not out of obligation (Philemon 14).
Since God “loves a joyful giver,” we encourage our members to give willingly (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Our goal is not merely to ensure that people comply, but rather to inspire their eager participation.
What we need instead are hands that work with reluctance and a lack of enthusiasm.

So, we put in the effort necessary to win their hearts and minds, as well as their cooperation.
So we lecture, we argue, we argue to convince.
Quick and simple dominance and dictation are possible.
Winning someone’s affection takes effort.
Nevertheless, despite the skepticism of the times, this is our vocation.

God’s Delightful Handiwork

It is God’s intention that his obedient servants shall toil for the obedient of our people.
And this is happening because God is willing to allow it.
Ultimately, God’s own willingness is the source of our greatest happiness.

The foundation of our quest of delight in him, by discovering joy in our people’s, is God’s pursuit of joy.
The God we serve is not hesitant.
Whether he is making the world or preserving his people, he does not do so under duress.
Instead, he exalts himself by imbuing his leaders and, by extension, his people, with the happiness and joy that come from being willing to serve.

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