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First Thoughts

The Eighth Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Be Patient with the Weaknesses of Others

Because We Want People to Be Patient with Our Weaknesses, We Must Be Patient with Theirs

I hate to brag, but I imagine I have broken the world record of senior pastors who’ve had the most brain surgeries. I’ve had six since coming to First Baptist. No one has ever said they’ve had more.

My surgeries have been to correct blood vessels applying pressure to nerves in my brain, which create pain and spasms throughout my body. The surgeries have not come about because of anything that is my fault but to correct a weakness in my physical body.

This physical weakness in my body creates difficulties for everyone around me. In the years since this problem began, I have missed months of work for surgery and recovery. This missed work creates a need for others on our ministry team to cover for me while I’m out. Members of my team have done countless hours of work they never planned to do because of my physical weakness.

What’s worse is that these brain troubles of mine are not the only weaknesses I bring to my job. Another weakness is that I am incredibly forgetful and have a tough time remembering names and dates. In the same vein, I am a big-picture guy with terrible weaknesses when it comes to focusing on details. These are just a few of the many weaknesses the people who work with me must endure.

Weakness and Wickedness

We human beings have two huge categories of problems.  The first is our sinful wickedness that flows from our fallen human nature, tracing all the way back to the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:19). The problem of human wickedness flows from our violation of the commands of Scripture and leads to our judgment by God.

The other problem we face is our human weakness. Our physical weaknesses do not flow from our sinful nature but from the fact that we are created and come with all the frailties that attend not being God. We are wicked because we are sinners. We are weak because we are creatures.

As weak human beings work on ministry staffs with other weak human beings, we will encounter many weaknesses: People get sick and miss work, young staff members have the weakness of inexperience, senior staff members have the weakness of inflexibility, people are unsure of what decision is best, good workers are a misfit for their job, people focus on details and miss the big picture, others focus on the big picture and miss the details.

In these and a hundred and ten other problems, no one is doing anything wrong. We are just weak people inhabiting weak bodies, working alongside other weak people.

Working with the Weak

The Bible is very clear on how we are to respond as we do our work with other weak people. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says, “Help the weak, be patient with them all.” There are two commands here for every staff person serving with weak people.

The first thing you are to do with weak fellow employees is to help them. The Bible demands that your job is to help the weak people you serve with. This is amazing because so many of us make it sound like that is not true. We look at the weak people with whom we serve and say of helping them, “That’s not my job!” This is ungodly and untrue. The Bible says it is our job to help others who are weak.

If this is frustrating, it is helpful to remember that every person on a ministry staff only has a job because of the weaknesses of the other members of the team. My job of overseeing the preaching, teaching, pastoral care, and administration at First Baptist is a massive one. In fact, the job is so big, and my weaknesses are so significant that we have hired over one hundred people to help me do all that is required. We have counseling pastors to address the problems in living our members face. We have executive pastors to keep track of our large budget. We have worship pastors to arrange all the singing, choirs, orchestras, and bands we need to do our work. We have pastors whose only job is to visit the sick. We have employees whose sole job is to make sure the other employees get paid. We have administrative assistants who help with schedules and accomplishing other crucial tasks. All these jobs exist to address the weaknesses in the other jobs. You only have a job because of the weaknesses of others. If someone else were strong enough to do all the work, they wouldn’t need you.

The second thing you are to do with your weak fellow employees is to be patient with them. When you help weak people, you are not allowed to do it with gritted teeth and an angry spirit. You must be patient, gentle, and kind.

This can also be challenging. You have enough to do without the weaknesses of others crowding out an already busy schedule! But that is actually the point. It helps us to be patient with the weaknesses of others when we realize that others have to be patient with our weaknesses as well.

Matthew 7:12 says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

This is the golden rule, and it fuels our patience with the weaknesses of others.

Since others have to be patient with your weaknesses, it should encourage you to be patient with theirs.

Dr. Heath Lambert is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of several books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World. 

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