Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
Sometimes it is easier to “weep with those who weep” than to “rejoice with those who rejoice”.
Annual pastors’ conferences can be interesting gatherings for a host of reasons. Pastors often travel great distances to be refreshed equipped and encouraged. The speakers are often excellent there are practical workshops, and of course the chance to see friends. Inevitably the question is asked, “So how many are you running now?” The more gracious inquiry is something along the lines of, “So how have things been at the church the last year?” For those pastors who have been experiencing struggles in ministry, they may dread these questions.
When a pastor shares the pain of struggles: decreased attendance, decreased offerings, staff and leadership issues, a church split, marriage and family struggles, it is generally easy to get a compassionate and sympathetic ear. Church leaders are generally up for the task of “weeping with those who weep”. Some of us can empathize because we’ve had common struggles and all of us can at least imagine how painful those issues can be. Thus compassion and empathy seem to be abundant for the struggling pastor who weeps.
On the other hand it may be more difficult to “rejoice with those who rejoice”. Imagine your friend recounting the amazing things that God is doing at the church: attendance is up, they are adding another service and thinking about a new campus, the offerings are up, leadership is strong, yet another year and the church has never split, his marriage continues to be fantastic, and their son is now a youth pastor at the church and his daughter is on her way to Bible college before going on the mission field. There are so many emotions associated with that experience. It can be like opening the Christmas card with the newsletter from “that family” the one that tells you all the amazing things that happened the past year like their fifteen year old getting admitted to Harvard, and their eighteen year old finding a cure to cancer, and that they vacationed in Europe again this summer for two months.
Generally we express the right words of affirmation and encouragement, “Praise the Lord” (meaning to imply, it is God’s doing, so don’t take any credit), and “That’s great! I couldn’t be happier for you”, (which may not mean that you are happy at all, but simply stating that you can’t be any happier). It may be difficult to actually rejoice with your brother. Siblings tend to be rivals, complete with all the jealousy, envy, and ugly comparisons. Church leaders tend to think thoughts like, “I work harder, am a better teacher and this guy doesn’t really know theology” or “I bet if I served in that part of the country our church would be blessed like that too.” And of course the inevitable fleeting thought of, “Why Lord? You know that I’ve been faithful and have served you all these years and labored diligently and zealously for you. When is it my turn to be blessed like him?” Or “Why Lord have you blessed him and not me? He doesn’t seem as worthy as me.”
Kingdom leaders on the other hand actually rejoice that their fellow laborers have stormed the gates of Hades and reclaimed territory from the enemy of men’s souls. Kingdom leaders have come to truly believe and accept that the Church belongs to the Lord and that He will build it (Matt. 16:18). Since the Kingdom is Christ’s, they have come to accept that He as the Sovereign can choose to build it, as He chooses. We are merely subjects of the King and for His good pleasure we serve Him. So if He chooses to bless another person in this season then we shall choose to rejoice in Christ and for our fellow laborer. Christ will bless us in due time, but it is more important for us to discover that when we truly rejoice with others, that we have transitioned from being church leaders to being Kingdom leaders.