“Leadership is tough and church leadership can be downright hazardous.”

Sitting in one of my seminars at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, these words came from the lips of an experienced pastor who had sailed many miles on the ocean of church leadership.

niels koornstraHe had seen shipwrecks, and new ships launched.
He had witnessed ships capsized by the direct action of shipmates.
He had witnessed how many could be saved from sinking by a strong ship.

Yes, this pastor-professor was an experienced sailor in the navy of the Lord Jesus.  And his words to those younger in ministry were cause for us to take note.

Likewise, we find in 1 Timothy 1:18-20:

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.  

1 Timothy 1:18-20
New International Version

Paul, the experienced leader and apostle, isn’t dropping hints to his protégé about what needs to happen.  Instead, he’s telling Timothy how he is to act.  And he’s telling him to act a certain way because of the “prophecies once made about” Timothy (verse 18).

Paul doesn’t expound on the nature of these prophecies about Timothy, but obviously, both of the men knew what they were.  This confirmation of Timothy’s calling was meant to stir conviction towards the mission he was given.  Yet, this idea of “calling to ministry” is rarely spoken of in the Scriptures.

I think what we find here between Paul and Timothy is better than Timothy merely speaking of a feeling he has. Paul doesn’t appeal to Timothy’s feelings; instead, he appeals to what other Christians have spoken about him.

These words of affirmation of the calling in Timothy’s life are meant to be a resource Timothy can draw upon.  When he is in the thick of the battle, Timothy would be tempted (and probably was at the time of writing) to give up and back down.

“No!” insists Paul, “Remember what the family of God has confirmed in your life!”

To forget what Timothy was called and commissioned for would lead to his own spiritual shipwreck.  The command to live up to the calling the Lord had on his life and the shipwrecked examples of Hymenaeus and Alexander are further reminders to Timothy: the price of giving up is high.

Church leadership can be hazardous.  To go forward unwarned and unheeded is to underestimate our enemy, Satan.  Instead, we sail the ocean of church leadership with the skill of those who have gone before us and taught us.JimGriffiths_DangerousWaters

As a Christian, you serve one of two roles—maybe both (depending on the circumstances).

One role is that of a church leader.  You are the Timothy, able to receive the commands of those who have sailed before.  Thank the Lord for those people in your life.  Praise the Lord that you don’t have to pay all the “dumb taxes” yourself.  And learn from them.

The other role is that of one who confirms the calling in someone else’s life.  You are the “Paul” or the faithful Christians who validate God’s commissioning in someone’s life.  Your role is so vitally important.  In my difficult times, I value the prophecies spoken over me as a chest full of gold.  Embrace your role and encourage those church leaders around you.

It’s true: “leadership is tough and church leadership can be downright hazardous”.  Take your place on the boat and let’s sail well together.



Podcast Title Graphic

Joel has a podcast!  Addressing church leadership issues, Joel dissects what he’s been taught and experienced.  Subscribe below.itunesSoundCloud-Orange-Badge


Interested in more like this?  Consider my book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs.


Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, I walk readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life.

The goal?  Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.