16:15 I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints— 16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us.
17 I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
There's nothing to see here right? I mean we don't know who the people are he's talking about and they aren't coming to see us so what difference does it make?
Has your church ever changed pastors? Have you ever gotten a new boss or a new employee? Maybe even a new step parent? Let me tell you as a leader the conflicting emotions that happen when we leave and arrive at a new church. When we leave our only wish and hope is that the next pastor will be a faithful leader who will care as much or more than we did. That's the healthy part. The unhealthy part is that deep down on a level we never voice out loud we hope they always love us more than anyone who comes after.
Ironically when we come to a new church we want to be loved for who we are and not have to compete with the memory of whoever came before. Selfishness and self-obsession are really not helpful to anyone.
I had a member in my very first church tell me how hard it was to care about a new pastor. He said the first pastor when he joined the church was such a good friend and they got really close and then he left and it was hard to ever allow himself to become close to other pastors after because they were just going to leave too. His candid openness allowed me to see the pastor/congregation relationship from the other side. Over the years I have likened the cycle to children changing parents every four or five years and how difficult and ultimately unhealthy that would be. The analogy is far from perfect because church members are not children but attachment is attachment.
That's why Paul's words here are so remarkable. He knows the history in Corinth. He knows the church is fractured precisely because they have had different 'shepherds' and some became more attached to Paul, and others to Apollos etc... Now new leaders are coming and selfishly Paul could hope that they will never be loved or appreciated as He was and still is but Paul was not like that. Paul is asking the church to open their hearts to these new leaders. Give them the same opportunity to be loved and respected as he received. This principle applies to new teachers at school, a new boss, a step parent, really any person of influence in our lives. Yes they will be different. Yes there will be areas where they "aren't as good" but there will also be areas where they are better. Look for those. Affirm them. Respect them. Let your heart stretch and open.
Every time I have come to a new church family I doubted I could ever love them as much as I loved my other churches. Each time I have been pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong. Love is boundless. It has no borders. All Paul was asking is that they open their hearts and let God show them how limitless His love can be.