October is Pastor Appreciation Month! When I was a pastor this was one of my favorite times of the year! The churches I served were so good to me and my family and they took every opportunity to show their love and extend their generosity, even Pastor Appreciation Month! For this reason I share some thoughts and experiences about being a pastor.
I feel very blessed to have served as a pastor to churches that loved me & my family dearly. I have also served churches where the situation was much more stressful and where I did not feel that I was a good fit. In those situations God also blessed me. My family and I made lifelong friends who loved us, and had it not been for these situations we would have never known such comfort, loyalty and faithfulness. God used every circumstance to grow us, even my shortcomings. I now serve as Director of Missions for the Rockcastle Baptist Association and I also head up a Revival Ministry called Touch of Hope Evangelistic Ministries. Though I am no longer a pastor I know what it is like to be a pastor. I spent 25 years of my life serving as a pastor. It seems to me that it is more difficult today than ever. I love pastors, and even when they fail to lead effectively, I still desire to support them as individuals and to show respect for the office of pastor. One thing I know about the ministry is that conflict is unavoidable. Maybe if we never attempted anything for God life would run smoothly… I don’t know. But the minute we try something for God we will face difficulty. We are called to endure, we are called to perseverance. We must learn to suffer well and to look to God for comfort. This may be biased but I don’t know any hurt like church hurt. It is some of the worse pain of all. When I was a pastor the hardest people for me to reach was those who were deeply hurt in church. One of the things I wish people in church would learn to do is to control our speech. If we are careless and reckless with our speech it can be so damaging. We should try to avoid damaging any person’s reputation and especially a pastor’s. If there are hard things that need to be said in the right way then so be it, but make sure it is done in a way that honors God! We need more pastors not fewer. Let’s do what we can to help pastors succeed. Pastors need our prayers, encouragement, love and support. Let’s be generous toward them and esteem them very highly in love for their works sake. What should we do when a pastor needs correction or we have a concern? First, we should pray about it and keep talk to a minimal. Next, if it’s something we can live with then we should be patient and tolerant and live with it. Sometimes it is a matter of forgiveness and we simply need to forgive. Once we forgive we should not bring the matter up again. Since we have forgiven then it is behind us. Unless a new ofIfense arises we simply go forward in unity. If we can’t overlook it and it isn’t a matter of forgiveness then we should consult with our pastor and share our concern in love. If the problem doesn’t go away then after some time and patience and prayer we should share our concern with the church leaders. Church leaders should use great caution and wisdom in correcting a pastor but there are times when it is necessary to bring loving concerns to the pastor. If the matter is not resolved through the assistance of the church leaders then the entire church must be involved. If this process is followed and if those following this process have pure motives, it will lead to unity and peace. If individuals involved in the process have impure motives and personal agendas then it becomes more complicated. Conflict can become a conduit for growth and maturity if handled rightly. Sometimes there is no easy solution and we simply have to move forward in the direction that we feel best honors God and promotes His will being done. It requires much grace for a church to function in love. If we are going to bash pastors then let’s bash them with our love, support, words of encouragement, prayers, and generosity! I remember many years ago in one of the churches where I served as pastor the church gave me a “pounding!” They filled my car with pounds of groceries! I was a young college student and I remember driving back to campus that night feeling overwhelmed with encouragement. Many times in my ministry I couldn’t afford to take a vacation but the churches where I served would bless me with a trip! A pastor’s work is stressful but a restful vacation can refresh a pastor and his family. Most people have no idea what a pastor and his family go through. It’s tough living in a “fish bowl.” A church can make or break a pastor. I’ve been blessed to minister in churches that loved me and my family. For this reason I have found the courage to continue serving God in whatever role He chooses. I pray that God will send faithful pastors, and raise up more loving churches to carry His Gospel to the world! To my fellow pastors I leave you with these words from the Apostle Peter,
“Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
(1 Peter 5:1-4)