2 Corinthians 10:17-18
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
Paul is in the awkward position of having to defend his authority among a church he started. Why? Because people have risen up against his authority for their own gain. People from within the congregation are taking matters into their own hands when Paul is away. When his letters arrive, they undercut the authority of Paul by questioning his tone. Paul responds by reminding them of his heart for them, the labor involved in starting the church and clarifying he has nothing to prove.
Like a teenager who begins to try their parents authority, so the church in Corinth does to its planter, Paul. People are people. Power struggles happen. People don’t want to obey. People want credit. People gravitate towards things being about them. People like me. Everything I see in the church of Corinth I see in my own life. It is easy as a church planter to see myself in this passage through the experience of Paul. However, for every time I have had to deal with the awkwardness of church people with misguided hearts and motives, I have been the church person with a misguided heart or motive. I remember having to pick up the phone and apologize to bosses, pastors and ministry partners that I had questioned, argued with and challenged. When I became the planter, the senior leader, and the shoe was on the other foot, I felt for the first time how hard it is for people you love, have sacrificed for and invested in, challenge and oppose your motives, heart and authority. I still deal with this today, however I am learning through the power of the Spirit the recipe for success. I see it here by Paul.
How to handle being challenged…
-Humble myself. Before being defensive, realize it is only by grace that I am alive, redeemed and have any authority in the local church.
-Remind them of my heart before I remind them of my position. A title doesn’t mean anything if the heart and influence isn’t there. So remind them first and foremost of the Love that motivated my work in the first place.
-Remind them that it is God’s approval that is of most consequence. People can be swayed. Sometimes easily. However, at the end of the day, the true measure of our lives and ministry will have little to do with who we won over to follow us and much more who we led to follow Christ.
Father, what a timely word. Nothing I have accomplished in life or ministry was without your grace, sovereignty and love. May I continue serving and leading from this love and your calling. May I never take the challenge of people personally, but realize that it simply provides an opportunity to point them and others back to you, not me.