We often subconsciously assume that our pastors and church staff are wise and thus our expectation is they won’t fail us. We don’t really know what wisdom is, but we assume that especially pastors, elders and people working at a church must have it!
Then disappoint strikes. What was “really going on” comes out. This failure of leadership can be particularly damaging when it happens in a local church. People walk away disillusioned with church leadership and if repeated or unaddressed it can lead to disillusionment with the church and then Jesus completely. I don’t want to suggest our default should be suspicion! I do want to highlight that we can actually with a little work make more informed decisions about who to trust.
Do “wise people” actually exist?
Maybe you are like many people who think of someone wise and think of someone sitting in a rocking chair, old with white hair, very slow in speech, generally opposed to technology and bluntly put – boring. We may respect wisdom from a distance, but few of us see the connection between “practical living” and “wise living”. We have given up on biblical wisdom and are suffering the consequences by looking for advice (wisdom) from unwise people. Even within church leadership circles.
What does a “wise person” behave like?
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. James 3:13
James writes his book very plainly; we are told to ask God for wisdom and then example after example of what wise people do is laid out. Go back and read the book of James quickly all the way through and you will see the following: wise people persevere under hardship, care for the unlovable, protect the vulnerable, they don’t get pressured by the wealthy and they speak honestly. We can observe this in one another if we know what we are looking.
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. James 3:17
In case the whole book wasn’t enough, James pauses here to be clear with a short list. No pushovers here, no passivity or laziness, but courageous gentleness that uses strength, gifting and discernment. Slowly read this quote again considering each word. Would you follow a CEO with these qualities? How would your church look if every elder was a model of this life? Would you honor your parents if they regularly displayed this? How does this list inform your hiring practices? Are elders, pastors and church staff celebrated for these behaviors? These 6-8 behaviors could be the difference between toxicity continuing or the healthy right people being celebrated, promoted and encouraged. The very nature of the list eliminates any prideful comparison and drives us back to Christ like action.
Imagine a church, neighborhood, family or workplace that was marked regularly by these actions? It starts with you. This is living! Start today by celebrating glimpses of these behaviors. Those seeds watered will grow strong and healthy. This is a culture able to handle disappointment, sin and hardship with the courage and gentleness of Jesus.
Q. Why is gentleness and the related qualities often overlooked? What misconceptions about gentleness may you have? How can you display gentleness this week in all your interactions?
Q. What is celebrated gets repeated. Do I celebrate the wisdom behaviors described in James 3:17? In families – speak about these things. In churches – hire, promote, pay and reward this.