1 Timothy 5:17-18 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” (Also see Philippians 2:25; 4:10-19). Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.The church is stained by the presence of greedy preachers who misuse their ministries and abuse their followers in their craving for riches. Television newsmagazines have produced a variety of exposes on various pastors and evangelists who have displayed their material lust. Books and movies give colorful depictions of Elmer Gantry and all of his look-a-likes.Christian leaders struggle with the same temptations as others and most of us have struggled with a deep wanting for more money and more stuff. So in 1 Peter 5: 3, God tells pastors, don’t “be greedy for money.”

But here is the flip side of this issue. While leaders need to be careful not to be greedy, churches have to be careful not to be stingy. God calls on churches to be generous with their pastors.

I have found it fascinating to watch churches negotiate the pay packages that they offer new pastors. My friend, Steve Johnson, suggests that there are three main attitudes: some try to get a deal, some try to give the fair market value of what other pastors are getting, and others seek to be generous.

Those who try to get a deal barter like they would at a garage sale. Apparently believing that all spiritual pastors have taken a vow of poverty, they try to get a pastor at the lowest cost possible. Their prayer is, “Lord, you keep them humble and we will keep them poor.” These churches devalue their pastors from the get-go. Churches that are cheap with their pastors are telling them that they aren’t worth much. Their pastors will not only have financial difficulties but will also doubt their churches respect and love for them. When scripture says that pastors are worthy of double honor, it is speaking about displaying respectful attitudes and giving respectable salaries.

Churches that attempt to arrive at a fair market value often use one of three forms of comparison: people, peer and professional. The people comparison looks at the people in their own church or at least the key leaders and then gives the pastor the average of their own salary packages. Those doing peer comparisons try to discover what other pastors in similar sized churches with similar education and experience get. I get a new book every year from a company that does this research and then provides it to ministries. The churches use these peer comparisons to determine an equitable pastoral package. The professional comparison looks at the community for comparisons. The typical pastor has seven years of post high school education and the job of managing and leading a large number of people. A fair comparison may be a school principal or superintendent. The church finds out what those positions pay and then provides that level of pastoral package. David Wayne suggests another form of professional comparison:

A minister shouldn’t be paid an exorbitant salary, but please consider a few things. Pastoring a church is comparable to running a small business so think of the pastor’s task in those terms. Also, the Stanford MBA is a two-year program requiring 100 quarter hours for graduation. The standard degree for a pastor is a Masters of Divinity which is a three year program requiring over 100 semester hours. In other words, in terms of education your pastor has probably put in about 1/3 more educational work to prepare to be your pastor than the Stanford MBA has put in to prepare for his or her very lucrative career move. Yes, I am saying that your pastor has a better education in his own field than the Stanford MBA has in his.

This isn’t to say that your pastor needs to make what the Stanford MBA makes or what the guy with the lucrative small business makes, but it is to say that his education and tasks are comparable. And considering those things, it is reasonable to do all you can to make sure he has the same opportunities that you have in terms of housing, retirement and health benefits and college savings.

The best approach is to be a generous church that treats pastors they way they would like to be treated. They want to bless their pastor in whatever way they can. This goes beyond salary issues. Knowing the heavy pressure that pastors face, they make sure that their pastors get three to four weeks vacation so that they can recharge their batteries. They also monitor their work weeks. (I recommend the goal of 50 to 55 hours.) Instead of always making sure that their pastors are working enough hours, they make sure that they aren’t working too much. “Pastor, did you take a day off this week? Pastor, you have had several evening meetings this week, are you taking some afternoons off to compensate?”

Would it be possible for your church to offer periodic sabbaticals for your pastor(s)? I am so blessed to be in a ministry that was generous enough to give me one last year. Doug Fagerstrom writes, “In some Christian ministries, the ‘sabbatical leave’ is rather controversial. Much broader in scope than in educational circles, it can be offered to build up, prepare, stimulate, refresh, and recreate ministry staff after an extended period of hard faithful labor. Consider it for your staff… Not every ministry can grant a six-week leave. However, extra time away does not need to be expensive or lengthy. A weeklong retreat, a weekend at a retreat center, even an extra day off can provide encouragement to an overworked, overstressed ministry staff person… Give the gift of rest and renewal.”

Generosity includes acts of kindness like providing baby sitting, the use of a lake cottage, giving the names of good dentists or mechanics, providing a good book, giving a Christmas bonus, sending the pastors to conferences, etc.

Bigheartedness has wonderful dividends. Paul, in thanking the Philippians for their financial gifts assures them that they would be blessed by their act of giving. The gifts would be “credited to your account” (Phil. 4:17). In addition, your generosity is an act of worship. The gifts are “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:19).

“But we can’t afford to be generous.” You can’t afford not to be. God gives generously to generous givers. Philippians 4 closes its admonition on generosity with the assurance that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

Are you a generous Christian?

Is yours a generous church?

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Hebrews 13:18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

Authors Kent and Barbara Hughes ask, “Why is the pastorate so challenging and difficult? Because it is opposed by Satan. The devil hates Christ, his church, and those who lead it. And because of this, church leaders are regularly subjected to special attention from his demonic hosts. This is especially true if one’s ministry shows particular spiritual progress. There is a diabolical wisdom coordinating the forces of evil that makes ministers inevitable targets for difficulty. Every congregation must understand this and accordingly pray for their pastors if they with them to succeed.”

Pastors crave your prayers and are grateful for them. In her book, Caring For Your Pastor, author Lorna Dobson describes the gratitude that she and her husband, Pastor Ed Dobson, have for those that have supported them in prayer. She remembers a special couple who bought them a beautiful sculpture in Israel. “The sculpture is a depiction of Moses’ hands being upheld by Aaron and Hurr while Joshua was leading the Israelites in battle with the Amalekites (Exod. 17:8-15). As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites prevailed – but when Moses grew tired of holding up his hands, Aaron and Hur came alongside him and helped him. This couple wanted us to have the sculpture as a symbol of their prayer and the prayers of others for us. Each time we look at it, we are reminded that someone (many someones) pray for us often and regularly.”

How should you pray for your pastor? Begin with thanksgiving (1 Thess. 1:2). Pray that they may grow spiritually and enjoy God. Pray for them to remain holy and to withstand temptation. Pray that they will be good students and teachers of God’s Word. Pray for them while they are preaching. Pray that they will have boldness in evangelism and wisdom in leadership. Pray for their families. Pray for their health. Pray for them in the same ways that you are praying for yourself for they struggle with most of the same trials you do.

One pastor said, “I need you to pray for me. Prayers for my ministry (worship planning, sermon preparation, pastoral care, administrative duties, time management, etc.); for my spiritual health, for my own closeness to God; for my relationships, especially for my marriage, which is foundational to all my other human relationships; and for my emotional and physical well-being, which I’m always being tempted to neglect.”

When John Maxwell was the pastor of Skyline Weslyian, he asked God to give him 120 Prayer Partners. The Lord answered his prayer and he and the entire church benefited. He said, “I can personally attest to the benefits that others’ prayers have given me. There have been times when I’ve gotten ready to do a service or conference, and I’ve been physically exhausted. But when my prayer partners lay hands on me, and I see them praying over the auditorium, I receive new strength -–physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I feel prepared to receive the power of God. And that has allowed my ministry to have great impact on people’s lives.

Here is an abridged list of prayer requests that Maxwell gave to his Prayer Partners:

  • Personal needs – Humility. Wisdom to know God’s agenda. Positive Relationships. The Fruit of the Spirit. Health.
  • Family needs – The priority of family. Provision for the family.
  • Spiritual needs – Time alone with God. Anointing. Integrity. Protection from spiritual warfare. Accountability.
  • Congregational needs – Evangelism. Personal growth. Mobilization of the laity. Intercession.

John Maxwell also suggests this daily guide:

  • Sunday: Rest and strength — Psalm 23
  • Monday: Intimacy with God — 2 Corinthians 13:14
  • Tuesday: Family — Ephesians 4:32
  • Wednesday: Ministry Effectiveness — Ephesians 4:11-13
  • Thursday: Obedience to God — Luke 9:23-24
  • Friday: Leadership — Romans 12:6-8

  • Saturday: Wisdom — James 1:5

The good news is that you can use prayer to lift pastors up; the bad news: it can also be used to put pastors down. As valuable as prayer is, even it can be misused. Someone has said, “If the church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.” That is true if you are praying for him, not at him (1 Thess. 5:25). In my years of ministering to hurting pastors, I have repeatedly heard the same sad story about groups of disgruntled church members gathering to pray for their pastors. They masquerade their complaints as prayer requests and reinforce their negative attitudes by piously praying, “Help the pastor with this, help the pastor with that.” When they get off their knees they dislike him more than when they began. It is often said that you can’t help but love someone that you are praying for. Untrue. Bad praying produces bad feelings.

I give God gratitude for the prayer warriors that have blessed me. In one church that I pastored, I had two elderly saints, Cloyde and Charlie, pass away during the same period of time. In both cases, the grieving widows took the time to pull out their husband’s prayer journals and describe how these men would get up early every morning to pray for me and others. I felt their loss in tangible ways. I missed their presence, their personalities and their prayers. And I asked God to replace them with new intercessors. Tom and Ray were the answers to my prayer. Even though I have been long gone from that church, they still pray for me every day. (Thanks, Tom and Ray!)

Hebrews 13:17 …Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden…With this command, God really raises the bar. There are a few people in most churches that are really a pain for pastors. They are a heavy emotional burden. They have the potential to drain enthusiasm or even damage hearts. On the other end of the spectrum are those that really make the pastorate a blast.Where are you in this spectrum? On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being “a burden” and ten being “a joy,” where do you think most of your present or past pastors would rank you? A five? A seven? Maybe an eight? Hebrews 13:17 calls every Christian to be a ten!Pray about making this a goal and ponder what kind of changes in your attitudes and actions would help you to improve. Here are a few questions you can ask of yourself:

  • Are you a cheerleader or a party pooper?
  • Do you elicit a smile or a grimace?
  • Do you warm hearts or create heartburn?
  • Do you grab an oar or throw in an anchor?
  • Do you give grace or require it?
  • Do you shine or whine?
  • Are you a comforter or a wet blanket?
  • Do you give service or say “serve us”?

 The Christians in the Thessalonian church provided great joy to the Apostle Paul. “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy” (I Thessalonians 2:19-20 ). From them we can gain a better understanding of how we can be used by God to bring greater joy to the Christian leaders that are in our lives.

Some of the joy had to come from the closeness of their fellowship. The church is a family and when you pray together, play together and engage in collective ministry, affection grows. Just thinking about various people in the churches that I have served is an emotional pick-me-up. I treasure them deeply.

That was true in Thessalonica. In unbridled transparency, Paul said, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8-9). The feelings were mutual. “But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you” (1 Thess 3:6).

While all of this is true, there is another major reason that the Thessalonian believers were a source of joy. It is stressed repeatedly through Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. You will see it immediately in 3:8-9: For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?

Paul was thrilled that these Christians were doing well spiritually. When he saw the godly fruit in their lives, he couldn’t help but break into prayers of thanksgiving.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ… 2:13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”

Your pastor will be jazzed by spiritual growth in your life. David Wayne writes,

“‘Nice sermon pastor” and “you’re a good pastor” are wonderful to hear but what we really want to hear is that you are growing in your walk with Christ. This is why we are in ministry, we want to see people come to Christ and grow in Christ. We take your spiritual growth seriously and one of the greatest encouragements to us is to see you taking it as seriously as we do.

I was involved in a church plant one time and a group of us were doing some painting in a rented facility. The pastor joined me in the room I was working in and made the comment that he really enjoyed doing this painting because he could see the results of his work immediately. In ministry we don’t really see the results of our work unless the numbers are growing and budgets are increasing. We also know that increasing numbers and budgets aren’t the best measure of effectiveness and we know that alot of significant ministry can be going on where the growth is minimal.

But again, even where growth may be happening we don’t often see it and many of us struggle with whether or not we are really making a difference in the lives of our folks. By taking your spiritual growth seriously that encourages us that we are making a difference.

Are there ways that your pastor’s ministry is helping you grow? Tell him. One pastor said, “I need to know that you hear me. If something you heard in a sermon has made a difference for you, posed a challenge, made you question an assumption, gave you a word of comfort, whatever, let me know about it! Most of the time I feel like I’m preaching into a vacuum. Are my sermons having an effect?”

If you want to lift a pastor’s spirits, open the windows of your life and let him see what God is doing in you. Tell him about what you are learning from God’s Word. Share testimonies about what God is doing in your life. Demonstrate Christ’s love as you care for others. Activate your spiritual gifts through a particular ministry. If you display Jesus in you, your pastor will echo Paul in saying, “Indeed you are our glory and joy” (I Thessalonians 2:19-20).

I carry in my heart a giant picture album filled with the images of the many, many people that have made my life and ministry such a positive experience. I thank God for blessing me with each of them. May your pastors be equally delighted with you.

In the novel, The Potluck People, Pastor Mike Lewis experiences a roller coaster pastorate that is filled with blessings and trials. Even though he has been wounded by the attitudes of some, he realizes at his farewell potluck what a precious flock this is. The novel ends this way.

… Mike also laughed as he took them all in. Then he surprised himself by suddenly breaking into tears.

He must have shook a little as he held his daughter on his lap because Jennifer turned and said, “What’s wrong, Daddy?”

“Nothing’s wrong, honey. Daddy is just a little emotional.”

Sandy squeezed his knee.

No, nothing was wrong. Mike knew that it was God’s will that they move on to a new ministry. It was just that… he really loved these people.

You have the opportunity to give encouragement, enrichment and joy to pastors. May they always remember you with deep appreciation.

Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith… 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Most church consultants will tell you that a major cause of congregational conflict revolves around the issue of “who’s in charge?” The game “king of the hill” is often played as different parties display a variety of power plays. The players or tactics vary but results are similar. It may be a passive resistance movement by a block of people that hunker down in sullen determination or it might be a church boss that asserts his dominance. In the book, Pastors Are People Too, one of the contributors described his experience.

Deacon Clay… was the “model deacon.” He was the kind of leader who was always out front pointing the way. He led the way when it came to mowing the lawn. He led the way in deciding the spiritual direction of Harmony Chapel. He lead the way in deciding who would be granted membership in the church. In fact, there was not a single thing about Harmony Chapel; in which Deacon Clay did not lead the way, including his efforts to control and dominate the life of the pastor. It was his greatest desire in life that I should be, in a sense, his personal assistant. If he couldn’t clone me, he wanted to pull all my strings.

Many churches have Deacon Clays. They probably aren’t deacons (who often get an unfair rap), they are just people who have come to believe that they know a better direction for the church to go. As a consequence, they begin to challenge the pastor’s leadership. After that we have power grabs and holy wars.

If we are not careful, complaining people can easily become an Absalom at the gate, stealing away the hearts of those in the congregation. Like King David’s son, it is easy for some to begin to think that things would be different if they were in charge, that they are the answer to the problem. Some are tempted to think they are more “in touch” than the pastor. When they discover there’s support for their way of thinking they can become the catalyst for a power struggle or church split.”A key question that every church needs to ask is this: When it comes to leadership, what is the role of the pastor? According to the Bible, pastors are neither hired hands nor are they mere chaplains. They are leaders.

The leadership position of the pastor is clear from the title “overseer.” Just as Christ is the Overseer of all believers, so pastors are overseers of their local church (I Pet. 5:1-4). Serving as supervisors, they are to “manage” (I Tim. 3:5) and “rule” (I Tim. 5:17) the church.

Pastors aren’t the only leaders in churches but, under the authority of Jesus Christ, pastors are the key leaders. And under the Lordship of Christ, the flock should follow their pastors. This is not only biblical, it is practical. Studies have demonstrated that churches that disregard that principle stymie their health and growth.

Leadership styles will differ. Each pastor has been crafted uniquely by God and no church is identical to another. A wise pastor will study his situation and use an approach that works for him and them.

That doesn’t legitimatize every style. With regard to leadership temptations, pastors must carefully maneuver through two contrasting hazards. First, they must not abdicate their role as overseers. This is as irresponsible as husbands who fail to be the head of their home. The opposite danger is using their position to exhibit dictatorial attitudes. Pastors are not to “lord it over” the church (I Pet. 5:3). They are to model the same servant leadership style exhibited by Christ (Luke 22:26).

For effectiveness and harmony, there needs to be both leadership and ownership. Churches need to submit to the leadership of pastors and pastors must recognize that the body as a whole retains ownership of the church’s direction.

How does all this work practically on the organizational level? Pastors (elders) serve as the overseers of the church. The deacons work with them as managers of various watchcare ministries. The members are to respond to this leadership team with obedience and respect. Simultaneously, leaders must recognize their need to be accountable to the body. The unaccountable Christian is particularly vulnerable to a number of hazards.

For leaders, mutual accountability should also be practiced on the board level. This is true whether the composition is deacons or elders. For churches that just have a deacon board, it is important to recognize that even though God has placed deacons under the leadership of pastors, those in both positions should still exhibit a submissive spirit towards each other.

To protect the leadership board from internal “power plays,” it is wise to nail down the proper role relationships. The senior pastor is to be the leader of leaders not only with his staff but also within the board (whether it consists of deacons or elders). No one board member, including the chairman, should attempt to usurp the senior pastor’s authority. But when they collectively make a decision that is consistent with Scripture, all the participants, even the lead pastor, should be submissive.

In conclusion, churches should give overseers freedom to “lead” them. And pastors should give churches respect by determining to heed their impressions of how God is directing. This model provides both protection and productivity. With regard to protection, this model guards a church from dictatorial leaders. Productivity is provided because this model releases the strong leadership that is needed for a church to maximize its growth and health.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.

Rodney Dangerfied is famous for the line, “I don’t get no respect…” Repeating that mantra, he adds jokes like, “Oh, I was an ugly kid. My old man took me to the zoo. They thanked him for returning me…” “When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them…” “I went to a fight the other day and a hockey game broke out.”

Sometimes pastors feel like Rodney. Speaking about pastors, one writer said,

  • If he is young, he lacks experience; if his hair is gray, he’s too old for the young people.
  • If he has several children, he has too many; if he has no children, he’s setting a bad example.
  • If he preaches from his notes, he has canned sermons and is too dry; if he doesn’t use notes, he has not studied and is not deep.
  • If he is attentive to the poor people in the church, they claim he is playing to the grandstand; if he pays attention to the wealthy, he is trying to be an aristocrat.
  • If he suggests changes for improvement of the church, he is a dictator; if he makes no suggestions, he is a figurehead.
  • If he uses too many illustrations, he neglects the Bible; if he doesn’t use enough illustrations, he isn’t clear.
  • If he condemns wrong, he is cranky; if he doesn’t preach against sin, he’s a compromiser.
  • If he fails to please somebody, he’s hurting the church and ought to leave; if he tries to please everyone, he is a fool.
  • If he preaches about money, he’s a money grabber; if he doesn’t preach spiritual giving, he is failing to develop the people.
  • If he drives an old car, he shames his congregation; if he drives a new car, he is setting his affection on earthly things.
  • If he preaches all the time, the people get tired of hearing one man; if he invites guest speakers, he is shirking his responsibility.
  • If he receives a large salary, he’s mercenary; if he receives only a small salary, well-it proves he isn’t worth much anyway.

Well, that’s just a funny bit, right? Pastors don’t really feel slammed like that, do they? Unfortunately, many do.

Perhaps you’ve heard people say, “Respect has to be earned. I can’t respect my pastor unless he earns it.” This statement shows a misunderstanding of the Bible. Scriptures elude to four different levels of respect: earned, inherent, positional and agape.

Earned Respect — Earned respect occurs when we see admirable traits in others and respond with appropriate honor and tribute. I Timothy 3:2 says that pastors should be respectable;that is, they should have the kind of dignity that allows a church to view them with respect. Their good behavior should evoke esteem from those who are impressed with their moral and spiritual character.

Inherent Respect should be shown to all humans. Not only is each person a masterpiece of God’s creation, but each person has been created in His image.

Positional Respect respects God’s appointments. Even those who are cruel should be respected if God has placed them in leadership over us. Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (I Pet. 2:18) We are to respect our pastors because God has placed them in those roles and commands our respect. What if they are wrong in doctrine or sinful in behavior? You can’t respect that doctrine or behavior but you are still to respect him due to his God-given position. It may be that God leads your church to remove a pastor but until that is done your respect is required.

In their book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, Kent and Barbara Hughes say, Encourage your pastor by treating him with respect. A pastor should be treated with respect because of his divinely given position. This, of course, does not suggest that he be treated with an obsequious obeisance as some nineteen century clerics were – “His Worshipful Lordship, Rev. Dr. Pangloss…” Nor does it suggest undue deference – “Whatever you say, pastor…” What we mean is that because the pastorate is a divine office, a minister that should never have to earn his congregation’s respect unless he has done something to lose it.”

Agape Respect is a choice that allows feelings to follow the will. In the same way that “agape” love allows you to love people who seem unlovable, an “agape” type of respectful submission allows you to look up to leaders that may have styles or opinions that rub you wrong.

Respect should be shown to all the pastors (associate pastors, youth pastors, unpaid elders, etc.) not just the senior or lead pastors. Before becoming the president of Grand Rapids Seminary, Dr. Doug Fagerstrom spent the most of his ministry years as a ministry staff member in various churches (he and I were once co-pastors). He remembers how his role was sometimes devalued:

I remember the first time, as an associate minister, I was privileged to perform the sacrament of baptism. After the service, a rather prominent leader in the church critically approached our senior minister and pointedly and purposefully asked, “Did the baptisms performed by Doug this evening count?” That question reported back to me was devastating news. I could not believe the ignorance (my thought at the time) of that comment. It was insensitive. It hurt. As an associate, I was perceived differently; there was an honest lack of understanding my role and relationship to the body of Christ. My credentials were not really recognized and it did not even seem to matter that I was ordained. I was a ministry staff member, not the senior or lead minister. Throughout the years, member of the congregations where I served as a ministry staff member would ask questions such as, “When are you going to become a real pastor?” or, “When are you going to get your own church?”

Kent Hughes concurs,

This understanding must be extended to church that have several pastors and multiple staffs. The tendency in large churches is for the people to think of the senior pastor as the pastor, and everyone else as almost-pastors. Youth pastors are special victims, for they are sometimes asked by congregants when they are going to become pastors! A huge insult. The implication is that they are something else – possibly zookeepers. Understand that a pastor is a pastor is a pastor regardless of his station, size of ministry, or public exposure, and should be treated with due respect. How so many pastors need this encouragement today!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Spell it out and then shell it out.

1 Thessalonians 5:13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.I don’t need to tell you to love pastors, do I? You know that. We are supposed to love everyone and that even includes pastors. But the real issue is this: what kind of love are you going to use? Many use common place, run-of-the mill, wait-and-see love. Only some use supernatural, unilateral, preemptive, supernatural love.What’s the difference?Here’s a zany, far-fetched, “over-the-top” illustration: You get a new pastor who uses his next ten years to vastly exceed all your hopes and expectations. He’s a careful scripture student who has memorized the whole Bible except, of course, the Song of Solomon, which is just fine because pastors shouldn’t be interested in that kind of stuff, anyway. When he preaches, his sweet melodious voice almost sounds like music. His sermons make you laugh and make you cry. They lift your spirits to the brink of heaven without ever making you feel guilty.The whole worship service is always inspiring. The pastor just happens to like the very same songs that you do and his wife accompanies them on the piano.The pastor is also a caring shepherd. He makes fifty calls a week, holding the hands of the hospitalized and invalids, connecting with church visitors, and giving specialized attention to all the members. Since his wife has the spiritual gifts of hospitality and Martha Stewartship, they entertain people at their home several nights a week. Displaying their cute personalities, the pastor’s talented children often pull out their musical instruments and gospel puppets and provide little shows.Through the pastor’s leadership the church is constantly growing but never so fast that you have to go to two services or learn a bunch of new names. He is always providing fresh new programs that are novel and yet don’t require any change.

Best of all is the way that the pastor has so lovingly cared for you. When your last child was born, he got to the hospital before the ambulance and even delivered the baby when the doctor fainted. Your two families have grown so close that you have weekly game nights and go on vacations together. He laughs at your jokes, marvels at your salt shaker collection, and enjoys painting your house and fixing your car.

But all of that is over now. For today you are at his funeral remembering his life. He wasn’t a perfect man – after all, he did struggle with the sin of workaholism, but he was pretty close. How did he die? As a martyr. He stepped in front of you to take a bullet that your deranged, atheistic neighbor had shot at your chest. If your pastor had to die, you figure that was a pretty good way for him to go.

How much did you love this man? Bunches! Considering all of his virtues and good deeds, you couldn’t help but love him. But though you loved him with a great deal of love, did you love him with a great love? No way.

Reciprocal love is the cheap stuff that any off-the-street Tom, Dick or Mary can muster up. To bless your pastor with the gift of unconditional love, you need the kind of God-sized love that emanates from your will and is divinely empowered. It is the love that you give to your pastor before you even get to know him. It is the kind of love that you continue to give him even when you do get to know him and all of his faults and foibles. It is Christ’s kind of love. In John 15:12, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” For emphasis he repeats himself in verse 17, “This is my command: Love each other.” Simple, huh? Easy? No.

The highest form of love begins as a choice. It doesn’t require much spirituality to love the pastor that demonstrates great preaching skills, gentle pastoral care, and wise leadership. But spirit-filled Christians won’t wait until their pastors earn love with their performance. They will choose to love their pastors now and rely upon God’s resources to reinforce that love.

Dr. Ed Wheat, in his book, Staying in Love for a Lifetime, summarizes this choice. “Love is an active power that I can control by my will. I am not the helpless slave of love. I can choose to love…

  • Real love is not mysterious or irrational.
  • Real love is not a simple, easy, doing what comes naturally.
  • Real love is not an uncontrollable feeling.
  • Real love is not produced by trying to attract it.
  • I can understand what love is through the Word of God.
  • I can learn the art of loving.
  • I can choose to love.
  • I can produce by giving it first and giving it wisely…
  • Love is an active power to be controlled by the will.
  • Love is always a choice backed up by action.
  • Love is costly even when giving is pure joy.

Don’t just offer love to those who deserve it, present it to everyone as a free gift. The old English word for this kind of love is charity. Charity expresses the grace concept of a generous grace gift.

Sometimes that is easy; sometimes it is difficult. You may have a pastor that rubs you the wrong way. It could even be that he feels the same way about you! Whenever we are struggling to love someone, it is time do a spiritual check-up on our heart. If we don’t love the unlovable than we are using the wrong kind of love. Jesus asks, “If you love those who love you what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that… but love your enemies, do good to them… Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6: 32-36)”

I don’t think Jesus is condemning a natural kind of “because of” love that is drawn to others due to their attractive traits. We all enjoy that dimension of love in our marriages, families and friendships. What He is saying is that children of the Most High have access to a deeper, supernatural “in spite” of love that can be aimed at anyone. Anyone.

God loves people not because they are loveable but because He is loving. By God’s power, you can do the same. Ask the Lord to do a miracle so that your heart beats in sync with his. Then, as an act of the will, determine to love your others. Even pastors. Reinforce that decision with the actions that compliment love and allow the feelings to follow. And, count on it, they will.

  • Choose with your will to love unconditionally and permanently.
  • Choose to learn how to love from Jesus the Master Lover.
  • Choose to link your heart with God’s and to allow His love to flow through you to pastors.
  • Choose to treasure them and pray for their benefit.
  • Choose to communicate your love in languages that the recipient grasps.
  • Choose to demonstrate your love with costly sacrifice.
  • Choose to grow your knowledge of your pastor(s) and to aim your love at their points of need.
  • Choose to actively do the best for your pastor.
  • Choose to give them what they need most – the assurance of being totally and permanently loved.

Love is not just a choice, it is a verb. It is more than an attitude; it is action. Look for ways to lovingly care for pastors. Your pastor could really profit from your help and love. To some measure, the effectiveness of their ministry to the church is dependent upon the quality of the church’s ministry to them.

Your unconditional, volitional, sacrificial love will not only benefit your pastor, it will also transform you. Love is the gift that blesses the giver as much as the recipient.

Imagine standing before the throne of God and hearing this question, “How well have you cared for your pastors?” How would you answer? Some day you will give an account. I’m confident that your loving acts will be remembered for eternity.

2 Timothy 1:15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.

If you have ever had to endure a trial alone you can possibly relate to the apostle Paul. In the midst of one of his darkest hours most of his fellow Christians deserted him. Why? Some were afraid. Nero’s persecution against the Christians was raging bitterly and the mere profession of Christ involved risk of personal danger. To visit Paul at the place of his imprisonment involved great peril.

But that is not the only reason people stayed away. Some were “ashamed of his chains.” When someone is down and out there is a tendency to think that somehow they must deserve it. Apparently there were those who didn’t want to associate with this has-been leader who now sat humbled in chains.

Perhaps there were others who thought Paul didn’t need their encouragement. After all, he was a great apostle, missionary and theologian. It may have been reasoned that he was the kind of person who gives spiritual assistance but doesn’t need it for himself…

It was a faulty notion. None of us ever comes to the point where we don’t need others and Paul was no exception. He was alone, deserted and needy. And no one was there for him — except a man named Onesiphorus. This believer from Ephesus had come all the way to Rome and searched relentlessly until he found Paul. Then he ministered to the apostle and refreshed his spirits. This was something Onesiphorus did naturally because it was a pattern in his life. When they had been back in Ephesus together he had helped Paul in many ways. It was his practice to minister to the minister. And it should be ours as well. My challenge to you is to be an Onesiphorus to a spiritual leader that you know.

There are thousands of books, hundreds of seminaries, and a steady flow of articles that teach pastors how to minister to the people in their churches but there are few tools that teach people how to care for their pastors. That is sad because today’s pastors are in great need.

In a revealing survey of pastors conducted by the Fuller Institute of Church Growth, it was disclosed that:

  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry is affecting their family negatively.
  • 33% say that “Being in ministry is clearly a hazard to my family.”
  • 75% have reported a significant crisis due to stress at least once every five years in their ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 90% feel they were not adequately trained to cope with the ministry demands placed upon them.
  • 70% have a lower self-image after they’ve pastored than when they started.
  • 50% of pastors have considered leaving the ministry within the last three months.
  • 40% report having a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

Speaking of conflict, in a survey of 506 pastors, Leadership Journal reported that 95% of the pastors had experienced conflict in their church. The primary areas were control issues (85%), vision and direction (64%), leadership changes (43%), pastor’s style (39%), financial issues (33%), doctrinal differences (23%), and cultural clashes (22%).

In a survey published in Your Church magazine, the following reasons were given as reasons for pastors being squeezed out of churches:

  • 46% left because of a conflict in vision between themselves and their church.
  • 38% left because of personality conflicts with board members.
  • 32% left because of unrealistic expectations placed on them.
  • 24% left because of a lack of clear expectations.
  • 22% left because of theological differences.

The Barna Research Group states that today’s religious leaders have become increasingly overworked and underappreciated. Pastors deal with dangerously unrealistic expectations. One report refers to them as the “most occupationally frustrated people in America.”

H. B. London, the head of the pastoral ministries department of Focus on the Family, said, “Four words characterize how many ministers feel. They are isolation, loneliness, insecurity, and inadequacy.” Seventy-five percent of clergy report regular periods of major distress. Veteran minister Alan Redpath was once quoted as saying, “If you’re a Christian pastor, you’re always in a crisis – either in the middle of one, coming out of one or going into one.”

Though many pastors are doing fine emotionally and spiritually, it is a position that is at the front lines of spiritual warfare. The adversary often attempts to damage a congregation by first wounding its shepherd.

The bottom line is this. Being a pastor can be a very difficult, draining role. Dr. Jimmy Draper, the president of Lifeway, a SBC organization, says that of every 20 people who start off as ministers, there is only one that is still a minister at the point of retirement. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one may be that some churches and Christians don’t adequately protect and provide for their pastors.

It is critical that believers determine that they will minister to their pastors and not just expect ministry from them. You know that the Bible gives instructions for how pastors are to serve churches. Did you know that God also teaches about how churches are to serve pastors? You have a God-given job description that shows you how you can support pastors.

Is there a pastor you know who needs a lift? They all do. Love him, bless him, support him, refresh him. A revitalized pastor will help produce a vibrant church.

On his blog, It Takes a Church, Pastor Tod Bolsinger gives tribute to a couple in his church that have ministered to him through the years.

“Tod,” Al said to me one day just weeks after my arrival in San Clemente, “Enid and I are committed to helping you and Beth have both a great ministry and a great life here in San Clemente. So whatever you need just let me know. Really.” That was about the most generous offer that I had ever heard. And you know what? He meant it…

Over the years, Al and Enid have served our church in a number of ways, watched our kids many, many times so that Beth and I could have a regular date night, and provided meals, and friendship and partnership that is invaluable. They serve the church sacrificially, they love Beth, our kids, and me unwaveringly. Al is often the first person to point out when he thinks that something is not quite right in our ministry and always (always!) offers to be part of the solution and not just the problem…

One day, I walked into Al and Enid’s condo to find Al reading a book called How to Keep the Pastor You Love, by Jane Rubietta. I said, “Al, what could you possibly learn from a book like that? You could write that book.” Al looked at me, “Oh there is always more to learn when something as important as this is at stake.”

You can be an Al, an Enid, or even an Onesiphorus. During the following month we will discover a number of biblical and practical ways that you can use to minister to your minister. Please commit to reading each of these devotionals and praying about how you can put them into practice. “There is always more to learn when something as important as this is at stake.”

Thousands of books are available to help pastors better serve their flocks but only a handful exist to show churches how to encourage and protect their pastors. This is unfortunate because pastors often endure considerable pressure and pain. The very churches that should be shelters from storm have become unsafe environments for many pastors. They need more help from the body of Christ. Like Onesiphorus, the caring believer who refreshed and helped a suffering apostle, God can use Christians to minister to ministers (2 Tim 1:15-18).

The following is a draft copy (Footnotes aren’t shown here. Rewrites and professional editing will follow) of a devotional book that I am writing. The goal of Rev Up! How to Minister to Ministers is to help Christians and churches know how to better give their pastors a lift. I am looking for pastors and lay people who will read the following devotionals and then add their comments. Please rate each devotional on a 1 to 5 scale and let me know if I am on target. Are there things that should be added or deleted? Are there further topics that should be considered? Do you have positive or negative examples to share? Are there resources that would help this project? This devotional will be used by many churches and your suggestions could aid a lot of pastors and congregations. Thanks for your help!

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