Gently Does It

“We were gentle when we were with you, like a mother taking care of her children”.

1 Thess 2:7 GNB

Some years ago, a senior lay leader in a church went out to a rural congregation to conduct a course in church leadership for the local members. During the course of his talks he referred to the bishop of the church in Johannesburg as “the nkulu boss”. Loosely translated the phrase means “the great master”. Some leaders in Christian communities, by the sheer strength of their personalities do become towering figures.

No doubt in some Christian circles in the first centuries Paul the apostle would have been regarded as a monumental figure. He was the great organiser, thinker, preacher, theologian, teacher, pastor, church planter and, for lesser leaders, the great role model. He could have lorded it over those early Christian communities had he been that way inclined. He didn’t. He knew that the first generation of Christian believers were in a very vulnerable position. They needed to be cared for and nurtured spiritually. The Christian apostle had to be gentle rather than lordly.

Today people who facilitate the growth of faith in younger or more junior church members have to try and guide their charges or “students” in the faith. Guiding and teaching can always lead to manipulation and domination if the guide is not sensitive to the danger. The figure Paul used of a mother caring for her children is an excellent way of putting it. If you are a spiritual guide, be a mother to those under your care – not a smotherer. If you are a male do not sneer at the thought of a dominant leader like Paul using the mother as a figure of speech. Be sure to be gentle.

Lord, make all spiritual guides gentle and caring.

Lord, as I prepare for this great season, help me to avoid getting caught up in the superficiality and rush, the unimportant trivialities and the peripheral things. Help me to concentrate on Jesus, to be quiet and unhurried. Help me to steep it all in prayer. I ask for Christ’s sake. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings
Amos 8:1–12