In and of itself, rightly dividing the Word of God is a weighty task that can take a substantial amount of time. Yet, particularly in small churches, where there may not be as many people on staff as in larger ones, pastors can find themselves having to take a more active role in the “goings on” of the church.
This could be as every-day as having to manage building facilities or unclog toilets to helping with the specific needs of individual members. Culturally, pastors hold a unique roll in our lives. We invite them into the best and worst parts of our days. They are often asked to pray for and visit the sick, to counsel the one who is struggling, to encourage those in hardships, and to comfort those in grief. We run to them in crisis, eager for the peace and wisdom God’s Word affords. We ask them to officiate at weddings, dedicate and train our young, and speak well of our dead.
A pastor truly has a special part in every stage and milestone of life. They are more than an under-shepherd, our pastors are our friends. It’s an impossible job, really. Good thing it is God who calls pastors to be a part of doing the impossible with Him! How do we show both individually and collectively the love and respect our pastors deserve?
Pastors are called by God, but they are fallible human beings like you and me. Don’t take for granted their ability to live righteously. Guard their hearts, as well as yours, in what you say and how you relate to them. Assume their weaknesses but notice their strengths.
We tend to treat our pastors like superheroes but they are not impervious to sin. Due to the nature of their responsibilities they are often more prone to deal with discouragement and depression. Like a counselor or doctor who is unable to share specific details about a patient, pastors are often held to the same respectful silence about the struggles and pains of their church parishioners. We would do well to respect what we don’t know and can’t see; pastors carry heavy weights. They are often counseling couples through marital troubles, or individuals who have opened up about secret sins. They may even have the hard task of addressing disagreements between members, but you will likely never know.
Some of the ways we can honor our pastor are simple and practical.
- Unloading on them criticism, gossip, or heavy information right before a sermon is usually not the best time or place. It is sure to effect them because they care. Your pastor needs to be able to focus, to give the message God has directed him without having to filter through a ton of additional negative information or emotions. We don’t want to give the devil any kindling! Directly after a sermon give room to those who might need to speak with the pastor on pressing spiritual matters. Be gracious and aware that your pastor is likely drained after giving so much of himself. While he may need additional time to effectively process complex problems, don’t take this as a sign he is uninterested or uncaring.
- In the same vein, it is important to respect the proper chain of command within the church. This helps things to be done in decency and order, eliminate miscommunication, micromanagement, and putting too much responsibility on one person.
- When your pastor prayerfully makes a decision that you disagree with, particularly if your primary objections are due to your own personal preferences and not because of scriptural soundness, continue to support him in his decision. Not that you can’t let your preferences be known but in the end give him the respect of making the final decision.
- Follow his leadership, back him up, and don’t be a nay-sayer. Be very careful with the criticism you give, how you give it, and who you give it in front of. Be fair in your judgement, the Bible promises that we will be judged by the same measure in which we are judging others. (Matthew 7:2-5) Are you giving him the benefit of the doubt or just nit-picking? God may be teaching you something. Jump in and serve with a happy heart. If need be, ask God to help you to conform to the leadership He has placed over you and put your disagreements behind. Your pastor will be appreciative, and the church will be a happier place. I can imagine the protests, “But I’m sure our pastor is making a mistake!” Unfortunately, even the best pastor can, and will, make mistakes from time to time. This is why the best thing we can do in supporting our pastors is to always be praying for them. Don’t negate the power of prayer; it is a powerful tool given to us by God. We are invited, and encouraged to ask boldly in communicating all our needs. Prayer moves mountains, and helps us in fighting real, unseen spiritual battles.
How then, might we honor our pastors collectively as the church?
- As a church, it is important to respect your pastor’s closest relationships. Make sure he has ample time to spend with the Lord. Allow him time alone with his spouse, his family, and at the risk of being redundant, himself. Give your pastor valuable time with other pastors and provide them with as many opportunities as possible to learn and grow in Christ and their craft.
- In all situations, strive to uphold the purposes of the church. Be a team player, work on establishing and maintaining healthy relationships between other church members, forgive, be patient, and forgive again. Encourage each other to keep Christ at the center and be respectful.
- We should give our pastors the proper esteem, admire them for their qualities and abilities that serve the church well, and have regard for their feelings (or, at very least, the position that God has placed them in). Don’t do anything that would harm or interfere with the mission of the church. It could change our reactions to recognize that the office of pastor is a calling. Pastors are God ordained, and God sustained leaders of the church.
Pastors are here to help us. To aide us in maintaining purity and cleanliness until Christ comes. People coming to and worshiping God is the point of ministry, and a people becoming more like Jesus the goal.
Written by Melanie Barnfield. Melanie Barnfield is an artist, closet introvert, wordsmith, and lover of Christ. She has been married 14 years to the love of her life, and has been blessed with 4 beautiful children. Residing in Benton, IL, she is an avid reader who enjoys teaching, gardening, and photography.