There is an axiom that says, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Hearing it reminds me of my neighbor’s dog. He was a large bird dog, and he would snap at me at feeding time.
I hated feeding that dog. He scared me. He made me uncomfortable. He made all those things about dog being man’s best friend a silly cartoon lie. He was a grumpy dog. He was a bitter and ugly mess of a dog. And he was my responsibility when the neighbors were out of town.
I resented my duty, but I did it nonetheless. He would bark, growl, and bite at me, and I would carelessly throw out his food. Neither of us won in our encounters. He grew more bitter, and I grew more frustrated. It was a lose-lose.
A parallel is found in Hebrews 13:17:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Do you see the correlation? Our leaders agonize for our souls. They pray, contemplate, intercede, meditate, study, and sacrifice for our eternal sake. Their work is for our advantage. And our advantage depends on whether or not they experience joy in serving us.
The writer of Hebrews is saying this, more or less: “Don’t be a bitter dog to your leaders so they can lead with joy for your benefit.” A joyful leader is an effective leader.
Here are 9 ways to bring joy to your leaders.1
- Believe in Christ. Not everyone who professes Christ possesses Christ, so this is the place to start. Paul asked a church, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:19-20).
- Walk in obedience to God. When we obey the Lord, we display the maturing work of truth in our lives and the fruit of a leader’s labor. John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 Jn. 1:4).
- Maintain unity in the church. We are unified in Christ, so cultivate and preserve unity within the church body. Paul told the church, “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2).
- Pray for them. Pray for your leaders and let them know that you are praying. Hearing it can bring strength to a weakened heart and joy to a troubled soul. Jesus said, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Jn. 16:24).
- Express personal love and loyalty to them. Hearing someone speak about their loyalty and affection tenderizes and strengthens the heart. “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more” (2 Cor. 7:6-7).
- Seek their counsel and direction. Most troubling for a leader is not knowing about the growth and struggles of their people. They long to exercise their gifts more fully in our lives. Seeking their counsel and direction reminds them they are necessary and can serve us as God called them.
- Receive their reproof with gratefulness. No leader looks forward to confrontation, so don’t add to their grief. Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” Love your leader when he reproves you.
- Believe the best about their character and decisions. Our flesh is strongly suspicious. Don’t let it get in the way of loving your leaders. Paul said that love is hopeful for the best. It doesn’t assume evil (1 Cor. 13:7).
- Walk beside them in ministry. Leaders are ministers to ministers. Their job is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). When you walk beside them in ministry, you show them you’ve been equipped and they feel fruitful in their labor. So get in ministry and teach, counsel, visit, administer, give, serve, support, advise, and help.
When you do these things, you will bring joy to your leaders, and they will serve God in serving you more effectively. It will be a win-win.
- Adapted from Life in the Father’s House: A Member’s Guide to the Local Church by Wayne A. Mack and Dave Swavely, P&R Publishing.