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.”