In the Silence of the Mind: October 11, 2013
Pastor’s Appreciation Month – Part 2 of 2 (Check out part one, here).
In my last post I took a look at how you can effectively and efficiently destroy your pastor, their ministry, and maybe even their sanity. Be sure to read part one before reading this post to get up to speed. After all, you need to know how to do those things, right?
Of course, I am hoping this is a cautionary tale and not a roadmap for you. So, assuming you’re not, in fact, a massive jerk, let’s get on to the more positive side of this equation. Chances are, you do want to honor your pastor and help further their ministry. But, how can you help your pastor in real and practical ways? The Bible actually talks a bit about the role that pastors have in our lives (see Pt.1) and what our response should be to them. I go into greater depth on this issue in the book and specifically in the excerpted material in the previous post, so I won’t belabor that here. Instead, merely let me point to 1 Timothy 5:17-18, which proclaims that those who preach and teach (elders and pastors… and lay leaders alike) are worthy of DOUBLE honor.
In truth, pastors (who are called to be watchmen fighting on the front lines of a spiritual battle for our souls) are in similar company with firefighters, policemen, veterans and other such civil servants. Yes, I realize that was a bold statement, but the Bible speaks boldly about the spiritual warfare around us, and our pastors are called to be on the front lines of this war. They are fighting for souls, facing fires and fiery darts from the enemy and taking spiritual, financial, and emotional scars to protect and guide our spiritual well-being. In fact, I was recently privy to a conversation between current and former pastors, one of whom compared their reason for leaving ministry as having real and honest PTSD from their time in ministry… something their psychiatrist doesn’t deny the similarities to and another echoed defeatedly that he “understood.”
With this all in mind, let me give you the opposite side of how to destroy your pastor… let’s talk about how you “double honor” them as we are called to do in Scripture. As before, this is not an extensive list… but it is a great start. As “Pastors’ Appreciation Month” is already in full swing (and almost half over) something in this list may spark an idea for how you can “double honor” your pastor. But, just as I mention in my book Here’s How: An Introduction to Practical Discipleship, we should double honor our pastors regularly, not just in October. So, here is a sample list of ways you can honor your pastor and all those who work tirelessly to stand watch over people’s souls, even if they’re not at your specific church.
1) Honor their sacrifices and boundaries
To fully invest yourself in this one, be sure to read its corollary in part 1. Pastors are often called to work 60-plus hour weeks on a regular basis. They take time away from their own families to counsel others. They take time away from their own spouse to help troubled marriages. They sacrifice time raising their own kids to help raise others’. This comes with the job and it is never a drastic complaint (or shouldn’t be)… but when someone assumes or asserts that “you only work on Sunday” or that “anyone could do what you do” it is another fiery dart from the enemy. Many pastors, because of the uncommonly high expectations of their church (and the people that make their church up) never feel like they’ve done enough.
If you have a pastor who is working diligently to stand watch over your soul, honor them. There are many ways you can do this. First of all, tell them you appreciate them. However, that’s just “single” honor. Remember, we’re called to “double” honor them. Last year at Gateway Conference, Pastor Robert Morris and his staff shared some greatly practical ways that their board/leadership helps to protect their pastors. Check out www.gatewaypeople.com and his book The Blessed Church for more on this. Among them, they MAKE their pastors take a sabbath each week. During that day, the pastor gets in trouble if they find out he did anything church related! They also MAKE their pastors take a sabbatical regularly. This is a time away from the office for up to one month every 5-7 years. They even go so far as to make sure that someone is answering the person’s e-mails and day to day work while they are gone so that there is NOTHING backed up when they get back. They also take their phone away from them and give them a temporary phone with only their family’s numbers stored…
Sounds a little extreme, right? Wish you could have a sabbatical, too? The temptation is to say, “I wish my job would do that for me…” and then withhold it from others. But, using our own unhealthy lives as an excuse to keep our leaders unhealthy too is in the “how to destroy” category. So, why not “double” honor your pastor and start asking them to take a REAL day off each week. If your pastor has been there for several years, give them a month off (with pay!). You may think that would hurt your church, but in reality your pastor’s fire may just come back and your church may be “double” blessed!
2) Pray for them daily
The Bible is clear that we are to pray for our leaders. How often do you pray for your pastor? Just as they stand in the gap before God for you, they need you to lift them up in prayer. As I mentioned, ministry is one of the few jobs/roles/vocations that satan is automatically and absolutely on the warpath against. Praying for your pastor is not just praying for them, but also for the health of your church. Pastors who are broken and defeated by the enemy cannot lead healthy churches. Your church can only be as healthy as your pastor is, so pray for them as often as you can. “Circle” them in prayer, as Mark Batterson talks about in his excellent book The Circle Maker.
3) Speak up for them publicly
In the first part of this two-part post (as well as in the book itself) I mention that you are called by God to speak well of your congregation, church, and pastor. This isn’t fluff. In today’s day and age, we’re used to airing our grievances on Twitter and Facebook as soon as we have them. In fact, we think it is an inalienable right. However, God calls us to speak well of our church and its leadership and wisdom tells us that there is a specific process for airing grievances. For example, if you have a problem with your pastor, go to… your pastor. Don’t go to someone else first and share it as a prayer concern. Don’t blast him on Twitter first and then talk to him later. That doesn’t honor him or his office. In fact, this should be your common practice with EVERYONE.
I hold this facet of honor so strongly and have seen it violated to such detriment that I include it in the leadership covenant everyone who leads at Branches Student Ministries (my primary job) signs. James 3 outlines how much damage can be done when we don’t use wisdom in what we say. I can say without hyperbole that I have seen entire ministries begin to crumble simply because someone had an ax to grind and started making public accusations. Even if there is a real problem that needs worked through, there is a process. If you have an issue, take it to your pastor, if it is with your pastor, ask to meet with the board of elders. Whatever you do, don’t start your tirade on Twitter, gossip through the prayer chain, or etc. This does not honor, it destroys. While you’re at it, don’t just stop at not speaking death over your pastor, start actively speaking up for them in public! They already have the world, the media, and the enemy against them, they could use your voice of affirmation and support!
4) Learn how to handle conflict and air your concerns in the right way
My pastor shared once about a man in his church that came to him in a fuss about the specific way in which he lifted his leg over a cable to get on stage each week and how that one act was destroying the church. No kidding at all. At least, however, the man went through the proper channels and went to Dave. As outlined above, there is a process for handling conflict and airing concerns. Let me just give you some insight; handling such conflicts and concerns should NEVER include secret meetings, backhanded gossip, cabals, working every angle to get our way, or mutinies. Most of the time, our concerns are legitimate and come from a deep concern for God’s Church and His people. However, we must always remember that God has placed the pastor and staff over the church with the role of headship. When problems arise, take it to the proper people. If you don’t feel heard, take it to the elders. If you still aren’t getting what you want, you may want to examine whether the issue is exactly that, what you want, or if it is what God is really laying on the heart of the congregation.
Satan can and does use well-meaning Christians to accomplish his goals. That’s not heresy, that’s sound theology. We must always be mindful of our spirits and ask God to control us. When conflict arises, we should be prayer-heavy and move with extra wisdom and love. After all, your pastor is going to make mistakes… he’s going to lift his foot wrong at times… but that doesn’t mean God has removed His mantle of leadership. If there is a persistent problem (as I talk about in the book) with a pastor who has truly gone wrong through moral failure or some other sin, that is one thing, but even such issues as that need to be weighted and sent through proper channels (like the church elders/board) first.
5) Honor their position
Dave also shared once about a man in a church he was leading who asked him out to dinner at his house, only to tell him everything he wanted done at the church and how Dave wasn’t leading it the way he wanted it to be! In fact, as Dave left for the evening, the man handed him a piece of paper with a list of sermons he wanted to see Dave begin preaching immediately. Being a man of wisdom and strength, Dave responded simply, “only the Holy Spirit tells me what to preach.”
We may laugh at this sadly true scenario, but the fact is, we all become unintentional managers-to-be at times in the church. The music isn’t to our liking, we’re not evangelistic enough, we’re too evangelistic and strange people are showing up, we’re not this, we’re too much of that… In the end, we need to remember that no matter how long we’ve been in a church it isn’t OUR church. Sure, it may be “ours” in the sense that it is like family to us, but the Church is, was, and will forever be Jesus’ Church. Look at Matthew 16:18. Jesus says, “I will build my church…” It’s His. He is the head of the Church… and He has appointed your pastor to be the head of your church who is seeking His wisdom and direction continuously.
That means that God calls the shots, and God is always moving forward. He may be the same yesterday, today, and forever, but His methods of reaching mankind have always changed with the times. When man was speaking ancient Hebrew, He spoke to them in ancient Hebrew. When Greek became the language of the times, He spoke to them in Greek. God is ready to do something new, and that may even mean change in your church!
Now, we give intellectual assent to this idea, but think about what that really means. If God wants your church to stop/start using hymns; it’s His church. If God wants you to reach out to people with tattoos and a drinking problem; it’s His church. If God is calling your pastor to make a change; it’s His church. We are called to honor the position our pastor holds. Now, this doesn’t mean that we blindly follow them wherever they want to take us. The pre-requisite is that they are hearing from and seeking God’s will and direction! But, it does mean we give up our right to CONTROL the church in even the slightest way, no matter how long we’ve been a part of the church or which member of our family founded it, or what board we’re on, or which family member is the treasurer. Incidentally, this means the pastor is also giving up control of the Church to God’s leading, as well… Just to be solid on that point.
6) Support them financially
Pastoral ministry is a paradox when it comes to finances. Church expert Thom Rainier knows this well. First of all, many churches want their pastor to have a Bachelors or Masters degree, which cost thousands and thousands of dollars from “private” Christian institutions… and then they try to pay them as little as possible. God cares a lot about how the church’s finances are run. No pastor should be making “a killing” that is well above and beyond what is reasonable… however, your pastor does deserve double honor. Just look at how Paul talks about being supported through ministry in the Bible. Sure, at times he was a tent maker, but most of the time he talks about being supported by the church. In fact, one of the first decisions in Acts was that the “pastors” (disciples) should not be waiting tables and be distracted, but should be able to give themselves fully to the newfound church. Speaking from experience, working multiple jobs can divide your focus, attention, and heart. Sometimes this is simply necessary, but where it isn’t, we should strive to help our pastors keep their focus where it should be.
Let me just be honest. I’ve mentioned several times that I have a wonderful church in which I serve, so I hope no one reads any of this as passive aggressive. In fact, I’ve been as passionately aggressive as needed throughout, not to be mean or spiteful, but to be completely transparent and honest! As a pastor, I work 3 jobs and have long been considering how to add a fourth. I’m also a husband and a father and need some time with my family. I have a Master’s degree in Theology and a Bachelor’s in Pastoral Ministry. Not uncommon among pastors, because of this I have nearly $70,000 in debt and almost all of that is student loans to prepare me for my “job” in ministry that doesn’t cover the basics plus student loans. It is incredibly difficult to balance working three jobs (not counting my role with State Boards or even this site, which are unpaid), family life, and still have sanity left.
Your pastor’s finances are a big indicator of his potential spiritual health. I’m not saying the entire church budget should go to it, but “double honor” should. If your church can afford it, give your pastor a raise. But, it doesn’t just stop there. People don’t often think about other areas where ministry pay is different. For example, there is no group health insurance readily available for many pastors at all. This means that insurance may run your pastor upwards of a thousand dollars a month ($700 is minimum for TERRIBLE insurance coverage on your own) out of pocket! This is just one area that most people don’t realize or take for granted and it doesn’t even begin to address other areas, such as the fact that some churches don’t provide any retirement plan for their pastor, etc.
Again, hear my heart, I’m not saying your pastor should be able to drive a Lexus, but they should be able to pay the bills! Hopefully your pastor is following Dave Ramsey’s advise on not adding debt and being wise with their money as good stewards, but often times even the pastors who are struggle to make it day to day.
7) Realize that YOU are in ministry, too!
Another weird area of “vocational” ministry is that you’re being paid… to do ministry. However, your job description is not to be the ONLY one doing ministry, but to empower and equip others. Ministry is the job of every single person who has accepted Christ as Lord. It is the Great Commission given to all Christians, not just pastors. Sure, your pastor gets paid to do it, but, like Moses and his encounter with Jethro, we need leaders in ministry who are called to organize the troops. As I mentioned above, Paul was only a tentmaker where it was needed, otherwise he did all he could to empower every member to be a minister.
Not only is your pastor unable to do every piece of ministry in your church, He’s not called to. It shouldn’t even be in his job description. It’s unhealthy to expect a pastor (or even pastoral team) to do all the work. This creates a “holy” form of co-dependency when your pastor is expected to hold the tissue to every runny nose. It is incredibly unhealthy for them and for the church itself. In fact, it is incredibly healthy for the church as a whole to “own” the ministry themselves. Not only does it give a healthy level of ownership over the well-being of the congregation to the person doing the volunteering, but it helps them find their spiritual giftedness and live out that Great Commission that each and every believer is called to. Plus, it is harder to complain about the faults of the church when you’re actively doing something about them, rather than sitting as an armchair quarterback.
Volunteerism at churches across the board is down. Your church needs you… but more than that, you need to serve at your church. This is an aspect of your discipleship relationship with the Messiah. His beautiful bride simply can’t reach everyone it is called to reach without your help, and your spirit needs deep down to find your spiritual gifts and exercise them. It is a matter of your discipleship journey as much as anything.
8) “Double Honor” them specifically by honoring their love language
The above items in this list are all mostly grander gestures that congregations as a whole can make to your church and may also happen to “double honor” them. But what about you as an individual honoring your pastor as an individual. Too many pastors I know go long stretches without truly feeling appreciated and I want to (even from the pastoral ranks and at the risk of sounding self-serving) encourage people to appreciate their pastor this month in a practical and tangible way. But, appreciation to a pastor may look different depending on their love language. If your pastor’s love language is quality time, give him a week/end off (paid) to spend time with his family and friends. If it is gifts, get together and give him a gift card to his favorite place. If it is words of affirmation, make a post and then go tell them in person. If it is physical touch… well, be careful on that one. That could get everyone in trouble.
Each person is wired a little differently in their love language. For example, when I first met my wife, I used to shower her with gifts because gifts is my primary love language. I just couldn’t understand why she didn’t feel the love I was sharing. Once I came to understand, however, that her love languages are words of affirmation and quality time, I began to attempt to give her those instead of gifts and found much greater results. You may not know your pastor’s love languages, but there are ways of finding out. Ask them, or a family member… or, even, guess based on what they talk about most in their “story” portion of their sermons. If a pastor talks a lot about adventures with others, it’s likely quality time. If they talk about “things” it’s likely gifts, etc. Honoring them specifically with their love language alone is a great way to “double honor” your pastor.
So, that was a “quick” list of ways to double honor your pastor. What do you think? Did I strike a nerve anywhere? Think I sound harsh? Hopefully this is received, as it was written, with genuine concern and love. If something hits you, take it to God, see if I’m correct. Test everything against His Word at all times. With Pastor’s appreciation month already in full swing, why not make a special effort to “double honor” your pastor/s both now and throughout the year. It won’t just honor your pastor, it will help build into your church.
So, to pastors everywhere, I say thank you. You have a hard job. We see that. We appreciate that. Thanks for all you do.