October is Pastor Appreciation Month. And so some articles, tweets, and memes have all come across my computer screen. It has caused me to stop and reflect on what I feel God has called me to and how my home Church affirmed that call upon my life. Then there came to mind Bible college and seminary, mixed with live ministry, family, ordination and a host of ups and downs, lots of failures and some graciously God-given successes. I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest imagination when it comes to ministry.
I’ve had the joy of Pastoring in three different Churches for almost 25 years now. I’ve been mentored, loved, prayed for and over, supported, respected, loved and cared for. I have a massive file of thank you cards and letters of love, not to mention the emails, gifts and most importantly the relationships to thank God for and lean upon.
Now, I’ve not been perfect by any stretch, nor has ministry been easy, nor without conflict, betrayal and hurt. I’ve gained and lost friends. I’ve poured into people’s lives, only to have them turn their backs and run away. I’ve been lonely, depressed and discouraged. And, what’s worse, I’ve hurt others and failed my wife, children, parents and Church folks.
I’ve sinned, lost my temper, broke promises, misread situations, led poorly and preached sermons that I wish I had a way to forget and erase from the minds of those who heard them. Being called to be a pastor and so living under the biblical mandate of pastoral ministry (Titus 1; I Timothy 3 and 5; Hebrews 13) humbles me because I must depend on God. I fight, struggle and run to God my Father, day after day after day.
I’ve been blessed to have had a great Church ministry experience! Today, I get to Pastor and Shepherd a Church that I love and I know they love me. I have been set free to cast vision, preach passionately, lead courageously and enjoy wonderful friendships and relationships. I also have had the joy to mentor a number of young pastors, have multiple vocational and non-vocational Elders, be a part of Networks and even start others.
I’ve had the joy to befriend countless other pastors from multiple denominations and congregation sizes. I’ve laughed and cried, prayed and praised with literally thousands of Pastors and leaders at conferences and retreats. I’ve travelled to multiple countries and seen the Church of God being shepherded and led by men who gladly give their lives to honour God and love people.
But, of late, the stories, the testimonies, the confidential calls or letters and even the cries for help have become more frequent, more horrific and more troubling.
Please hear me. I know only too well the tragic, senseless and dark sinful side of Pastoral ministry. Wolves in Sheep’s clothing, posers who are in ministry for power, for fame, for money, for the ability to take advantage. As Jesus says in John 10, “they steal, they kill and they destroy”.
I despise the prosperity gospel and dictator pastors and church leaders who not only hurt but deny they do and almost take pride in doing so. God rid us of any and all like this! But also know that God’s Church, His Bride, is made up of weak sinners top to bottom. We are all in need of redemption, sanctification and transformation, including your Pastors!
October is Pastor appreciation month. A time for Churches to come alongside their leaders and pray for them, over them and encourage them. I wanted to send out the hyper-linked article not as a weird backhanded way for me to look for compliments or to guilt my own wonderful Church family into thinking I’m lacking in the “love me” department, but rather to cry out to the Church at large to step back and ponder what your Pastor or leader might need right now. The above-linked-article is a great little explanation of why I think we should appreciate our Pastors and leaders and why they all to often go overlooked and misunderstood.
I have been on the receiving end of too many conversations with Pastors who are indeed “Weary in well-doing” we’ve seen too many Pastors in 2019 take their own lives, spontaneously leave the pastorate altogether, flame out, burn out, sin out, or tap out.
Please read this article, please pray for your pastor or a Pastor friend you’ve got. Invite them out for coffee and ask them how they are doing. Give them a card, hug their wife or child and tell them you love them. Have them over for dinner, play some games with them. Laugh with them or, better yet, tell them how God is working in your life, what you’re reading in your Bible or how you’re praying for them and others. Offer to serve in your Church, start to give to the ministry, or ask if you can help them in some way.
The Pastor’s call, while the same as it was 2000 years ago, is radically different. Social media, the internet and 24-hour access have meant that a Pastor is more connected and accessible than ever before. It’s almost impossible to unplug to truly take a break.
What’s worse, pastors now know more than ever before and not in a good way. It used to be that unless someone called you or actually came up to you, you didn’t know about the secret lives of those whose souls over whom you keep watch. Now with facebook, twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, email, text and cell phones, pastors know about the moment by moment lives of not only their Church but of churches all over the world.
They are confronted with their sin, almost every other pastor’s sin and every professing Church person’s sin. Every rant, every failure, and every opinion is hailed and hurled around the world in seconds. So, if you don’t live up to someone’s standard or you can’t fix everyone or you actually get something wrong or fail, you never deal with it alone. It can be quite literally around the world in less than 5 seconds.
This doesn’t mean God isn’t greater and that pastors shouldn’t find their value, purpose and identity in Christ—we all should. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:58 to be steadfast and unmoveable and that we are to abound in the labour of the Lord. The reason? Because our labour counts for eternity!
So yes, I call on all my pastor friends and ministry leaders to keep the faith, to run the race and to finish the course. I call us all to do what the preacher of Hebrews 12 tells us, “to put aside the weights and sins that beset us and to run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the Author and Perfecter of the faith”.
But—Church member to Churchgoer—Romans 12 also tells us to owe each other nothing but a debt of love and to outdo one another in showing honour. So this October of 2019 why not come alongside your Pastor and pray that they will be more like Titus 1 or 1 Timothy 3, praying 1 Corinthians 15 over them or Hebrews 12:1-3.
But then give them a hug and tell them you love them. Listen to them preach with attention. Be patient when demanding their time. Be mindful of the demands on them that far outreach just you, and most of all give God glory by being a faithful child of God yourself. Oh, may we apply the 30 “One Another” commands of the NT to each other. May pastors apply them to their Church congregations and Church congregations apply them to their pastors and ministry leaders.
Soli Deo Gloria
Pastor Stephen Bray