It might not be pretty

I have never wanted to be an administrator. Part of it is because a good administrator needs to be someone who excels at attending to details and practical issues. That’s definitely not my strength, and I fear that any organization under my care might grind to a halt.

But the bigger issue would be personnel. It’s one thing to lead a group of people who all know how to cooperate and stay on task. It’s another when you have one or more individuals who resist your authority and refuse to do their part.

If I had to deal with it, I would. But I would probably lose a lot of sleep in the process.

Thus, I don’t envy some of the problems Paul had to deal with as a pastor. As we’ve seen, Paul was treated abominably by the church in Corinth, withdrew from the conflict, and wrote them a stinging letter from Ephesus. To his relief, most of the people repented after hearing the letter.

But not all.

Paul will be visiting them again soon, to take up their contributions for the poor in Jerusalem. And while he’s there, he’ll have to deal with the remaining pockets of resistance. He doesn’t sound like he’s looking forward to the reunion:

I’m afraid that maybe when I come you will be different from the way I want you to be, and that I’ll be different from the way you want me to be. I’m afraid that there might be fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, backstabbing, gossip, conceit, and disorderly conduct. I’m afraid that when I come again, my God may embarrass me in front of you. I might have to go into mourning over all the people who have sinned before and haven’t changed their hearts and lives from what they used to practice: moral corruption, sexual immorality, and doing whatever feels good.  (2 Cor 12:20-21, CEB)

If we think back through all the issues Paul dealt with in First and Second Corinthians, we can easily envision all of these problems plaguing the congregation. In particular, there may still be people rejecting his previous commands to clean up their act in the areas of sex and participation in idol feasts.

Paul worries that he may still find the congregation in disobedient disarray, and that they may be surprised when he lowers the boom instead of meekly walking away. “I fear,” he says — but not because he is too timid to do what must be done. He wants so much to see the fruit of the Spirit in them that he dreads finding the opposite. That’s the heart of Paul the pastor, who earlier asked rhetorically, “Who is weak without me being weak? Who is led astray without me being furious about it?” (2 Cor 11:29). For all that he’s sacrificed for this congregation, he doesn’t want God to humble him in a way that suggests the failure of his apostolic ministry. That would bring him great grief.

Read back through that list of problems that Paul fears will still be present when he arrives. Some of them sound relatively innocuous. But they can all be evidence of spiritual viruses that can infect an entire congregation if unchecked.

To the extent that we ourselves are participants, we may be grieving not only God, but the pastors who care for us. And some of them loathe dealing with personnel issues, too.