Pastor Appreciation

I'd rather have ten people that want God than 10,000 people who want to play church. – Leonard Ravenhill

October has been celebrated as Pastor Appreciation Month since 1992. During that time, churches and congregants will show their appreciation for their clergy through cards, gifts, and assortments of Kit Kats and Dr. Pepper. For more traditional churches, there will be the ever-famous pot-luck.

The idea comes from passages such as 1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching,” or 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (NIV). It really is important to show appreciation to those who serve in any capacity.

I want to express my own experience so that maybe the reality of ministry can be better understood. I have plowed fields with a mule and a steel plow in the mountainsides of Mexico, I have bucked hay from sunup to sundown, dug ditches, built hundreds of miles of fence, and walked to school uphill both ways. (OK that last one’s not true, but the others are.)

I can honestly say that nothing has been more taxing upon myself and my family than ministry. Please, do not be so naïve as to think that you pastor only works for an hour on Sunday. A pastor who loves God will always pour him or herself out upon their congregation. Ministry is, when done correctly, a sacrifice of self for the sake of others.

Let me share another passage with you. This is from the Apostle Paul to the believers in Ephesus:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV, Eph. 4:11-13).

Our modern churches have managed to take these five distinct vocations and package them together under the job description of your everyday pastor. I was a self-employed general contractor for a decade. I learned quickly that I could not be all things. To succeed I needed leaders with talents in marketing, welding, engineering, administration, finances, and public relations. I could try and do them all—and I might even get by doing so—but I would burn out quickly and not be near as successful as with a team. The same is true of ministry.

The object of ministry is not to build a church. At least, that’s not God’s goal for ministry. The goal is to become a source of hope for others. The Church is to be the entity that reflects God’s love, order, purpose, and light into the world. This is only done when the body takes its proper place and is willing to sacrifice everything in their life in order to, “attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

This work, however, requires that every member of the local church put their hands to the plow and serve. When individuals do not step up to serve, their work falls to the others in the church. Most of the time, your pastor has to pick up the slack. What’s really sad is that we’ve been practicing this for so long that we just expect that pastor to be the evangelist, the teacher, the prophet, the apostle, and the pastor. Our modern church culture may be o.k. with this, but let’s be clear, this is not biblical.