Seven Ways to Heal Your Pastor

 7 Ways to Heal Your Pastor.001

 I shared a blog article from Thom Rainer yesterday on Facebook called “Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor”. I shared it, not to make a point nor to direct it at anyone, but simply because I agree with the article. I received quite a bit of feedback from sharing it which prompted me to write this post. I have experienced all of the hurts that Thom Rainer listed as well as some that are not there but I thought it would be good to write a article from the other perspective. I used the word “heal” in the title because it’s a pseudonym of “hurt” but what I mean is how you encourage your pastor. Having pastored a church for 5 1/2 years now, I’ve not only experienced some hurts but also some encouragement. This list may surprise you because it doesn’t included saying how good you thought the sermon was or how good of a person you think he is. It’s different than that.

This is how you encourage your pastor:

1.  When you’re faithful

There is nothing that encourages your pastor more than your faithfulness. It’s true that when you don’t come it can be discouraging but when you’re there, when you’re faithful to worship, it lifts your pastor’s spirit in ways you’ll never know. The pastor spends his entire week getting ready for Sunday. Oh, there’s a lot of things we must do throughout the week with church administration, helping the hurting and making disciples but there’s nothing like Sunday morning worship. We look forward to it all week long!

Also, when you’re faithful in your giving. Nothing will put a knot in your pastor’s stomach on Monday morning quicker than a bad offering report from Sunday. But, the opposite is also true. Nothing makes a Monday morning sweeter than when your pastor sees the offering report and you were faithful to give. Now, he can go on through his week without financial worry nagging ruthlessly at his subconscious.

Your faithfulness is amazing!

2.  When you’re loving each other

Every pastor has stories of watching church people shred each other in disagreement and conflicts. But, when you love each other, I mean really love each other, it is incredibly uplifting to your pastor. Not only when you say “I love you” but more when you treat each other in genuine love in how you act, live and cooperate. To see you do that, makes your pastor feel like you’re loving him.

3. When you’re telling others

So many people come to church just to get something out of it, but to watch you and hear your stories of how you are telling others about Jesus and inviting others to the gathering of the church is uplifting and inspiring. Not only is this true of how your pastor feels but also how others in the church feel. It’s encouraging to see you living your life for Christ and with His heart for others. Your pastor knows that this happens as God’s Word works in your heart like it’s working in his and he knows that you’re truly “abiding in the Vine.”

4.  When you sacrifice

When your pastor sees you pour out your life when it’s not easy, that’s so encouraging. It’s at this moment he remembers that he’s not doing this alone and it’s not all up to him. Sometimes he feels like everyone is expecting him to spend his life  (and sometimes his family’s life too) for the Gospel but when you live a sacrificial life it let’s him know you’re willing to spend your life too. I can’t tell you how uplifting it is for your pastor when he gets to serve with you in this kind of way (instead of just serving you).

5.  When you pray

It’s always encouraging when you tell your pastor you’re praying for him but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean when your pastor sees you come to prayer meetings, praying at the altar, or even better, when he finds out that you took it upon yourselves to have a group prayer time without him planning it or asking you to do it. I can’t put into words what that means to your pastor. Again, he’s reminded that he’s not alone and he’s reminded that people are impacted by Christ and following Him.

6.  When you Worship

What I mean by worship is when your pastor can hear your voices filling the worship center, when you raise your hands (those of you who do that sort of thing) and when you’re so focussed on Christ that the tears are running down your face. It is so encouraging when you worship with smiles across your face and joy beaming from your countenance. It so makes a pastor remember why he’s doing what he’s doing and that the Word is bringing return. (Remember, Sunday is the day he’s always working for and toward.)  There’s nothing like people worshiping God is Spirit and Truth!

7.  When you love his wife

Many pastors wives don’t struggle because of people disrespecting or being unkind to them, they struggle because they so often feel left out. As awesome as it is for your pastor to see you interacting with each other, especially outside of church services, it’s incredibly uplifting when you invite and include his wife. Nothing breathes life into your pastor more than when the church is breathing life into his wife. When she has joy in the ministry so does her husband.

Do any of these surprise you? 

Much more than verbal expressions like, “that was a nice sermon” when you’re walking out the door Sunday, the above are ways that you can be a huge encouragement and even bring healing to some of the hurt your pastor has. Try it out, you’ll make a difference.

 

An Open Letter To Pastors

war

Dear brothers,

I’m sure many of you have heard of the public resignation of Bob Coy in Ft. Lauderdale this month, as I have. The purpose of this letter is not to muse or lament over this pastor’s public failure. He has not offended or failed me, though I do hurt for him as I also remind myself that I’m more than capable of the same sin; or worse.

There are no shortage of news reports, all the way up to CNN, reporting about his resignation along with countless news articles and blog posts. In reading a few of them a word jumped off the screen this morning which prompted this open letter to my fellow pastors: Epidemic.

More than one article or blog post has determined that pastoral failure to sexual temptation has reached epidemic proportions. I, however, disagree with this assessment. Oh, I do think there is an epidemic. But, I believe the public failures that we read and hear about so often are but a symptom, not the whole disease. The epidemic runs much deeper than that. So many good men have been lost from the ministry and I know I could just as easily be one of them.

I received a copy of Leadership Journal yesterday and the entire issue is about struggle and failure. Like me, you probably have heard many of the gruesome statistics of pastoral dropout. Leadership Journal published that it’s even worse that many of us may have thought. In a side-bar called “Hard Calling” (Spring 2014 issue p. 24) the Journal reports, among other things, some very sobering reminders of this epidemic:

  • 80% of pastors are discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • 50% of pastors would leave the ministry if they could.
  • And, here’s the scariest of them all. For every 20 pastors who go into ministry, only one retires from the ministry. That’s 5%! That’s tragic!

So, what is the epidemic? The epidemic is that we’ve forgotten. We’ve forgotten that this calling is a calling to enter into a fight. It’s a war! And wars have casualties. Any time we forget this truth we run the risk of becoming a casualty ourselves.

Here are three things I believe we must do, immediately: (If you’re reading this and you’re not a pastor, these principles will help you too.)

  1. We must have a continual camaraderie with other men who do what we do. Not so we can develop some kind of sub-culture or help each other  cover up sin, but so we can encourage each other in the life of holiness to which our God has called us. And, the life of holiness to which we also, by the Word of God, call our churches members. (Just for clarity. We’re not called to a higher standard. We’re called to the same standard of holiness but with a stricter judgment. James 3:1)
    • Do not seclude yourself, pastor. If you do, you make yourself a sure target for the enemy. We must have friendship and fellowship with other pastors.
    • Do not push away accountability. Though it’s easier, at times, to lead without accountability around you because it keeps away opposition, accountability is necessary. I know none of us like the prospect of a blow-up in a business meeting or some self-absorbed lay person throwing a monkey wrench in to plans that we’re convinced are of the Lord. But, we must resist the urge to lead without input and accountability. It’s just too dangerous.
    • Have someone in your life that has permission to ask you anything, at any time. That type of accountability, like having your computer monitor facing the door of your office, just may be what you need to “keep it holy” during times of weakness and temptation. And temptation is going to come, often!
  2. We must pray for each other. No, seriously. It’s imperative that we begin to have times, even seasons, of prayer over each other.
    • What if the first question we ask when we meet in our fellowship is not, “how many did you have Sunday?” but instead, “Can I pray for you, right now?” Think of the spiritual difference it makes in us when we know our brothers are praying for us.
    • I have to tell you, one of the most encouraging statements ever made to me was a friend and fellow pastor who told me he was praying for me before he ever knew me. That was incredibly uplifting because I knew he meant it!
  3. We must remember.
    • First, we must remember that every day we wake up and get out of bed we are walking into to a spiritual war. A war that is as real as any conflict we’ve ever seen reported between nations on television. This war is even more vicious and dangerous because we can’t see it with our human eyes. (Ephesians 6:12) There is an enemy and he seeks to destroy. He seeks to destroy you! As soon as you surrendered to dedicate your life to the Gospel of Jesus Christ you became his greatest enemy.
    • Second, we must remember that the calling that God has placed upon our lives is not an easy one. Don’t ever expect it to be. Don’t drop your guard and don’t wish for better days or places. Remember, our calling is to deny ourselves and pick up the cross (the block of wood we will be crucified upon) and follow him. (Matt. 16:24) You can do that where you are!
    • Third, we must remember that we have the greatest power in the universe working within us. His name is Jesus. Failure happens when we rely on our ability instead of his. We must learn to live a life of, “it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
    • Finally, we need to remember there are success stories. There have been, and are, men who have lived long lives in service to the gospel, without failing! I know some of them. It is possible to survive and even more than survive, to flourish! There are men in the fellowship of pastors of which I take part who have been pastoring their churches, successful Gospel proclaiming churches for many, many years. Some of them have been faithful for 45 years or more. It can be done and that should be our goal too!

There is one last thing. When a brother struggles or falls that’s when he needs the love of his fellows more than ever. This is the time we reach out, not ostracize. I hope there are pastors who know Bob Coy who are calling just to tell him that God loves him as do they. When a man falls, he is still our brother.

 

But as for you….

2 Tim

I’ve been invited to go to Jamaica next February and guest lecture at a Bible College. The subject; pastoral theology. As I sat across the lunch table from my friend and missionary and we discussed the class, he told me to plan to spend a session discussing things that came up, or that I learned as a pastor, that were never taught in college.

Man, do I ever have some stories….

But, it immediately brought to mind a passage of Scripture that I spend a lot of time returning to. It’s like a security blanket for me as a pastor, though it’s not really an overly happy text. It’s Paul writing to his protégée Timothy. The epistle is 2nd Timothy.

The tone of the letter is not necessarily happy but it is solid, you might even say foundational.

Paul is warning Timothy of the day we’re living in. As a matter of fact, it’s the day everyone one of us who give our lives for the Gospel live in. Every one of us since the beginning of the church. Paul tells Timothy that people won’t listen to sound doctrine and that people will seek teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. He also states that people will be lovers of self, self involved, unkind….all kinds of things. You can read the list yourself.

If you do what I do, then you know how difficult it can be at times. Even exasperating.

This is why I find such comfort in Paul’s “as for you” statements.

Here’s what he says to Timothy:

Paul tells Timothy that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” That doesn’t sound like good news. All of us who have given our lives to serve others “in Christ” find that. The difficulty is when you find out who it is that’s actually doing the persecuting. (That’s the biggest surprise of ministry in my estimation.)

It seems to be intimated by Paul that this persecution will cause some to quit. I guess all of us can have that come to mind from time to time. But, here’s where Paul’s first statement reminds of our uncrackable foundation. Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he has learned and believed. (2 Tim. 3:14) That is, that God has spoken and His Word, our Scriptures, are secure and profitable.

Paul warns Timothy of those who will not want to listen to “sound teaching” but Timothy is to “preach the Word.” I have resolved that my preaching and teaching ministry will be just this. Just preach the Bible. It’s all that we all need.

The second “but as for you” is one that I have underlined and highlighted in my Bible. This is the don’t quit encouragement to Timothy.

“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill you ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)

This should be the anthem of Gospel ministry! There’s no quit in this.

I look forward to teaching pastoral theology this winter in Jamaica. Maybe because it’s giving me a reason to remember exactly why it is that I do what I do. In the end, it’s because of Jesus. The ministry is something that causes us to reach people but it’s because of Jesus. He, the living Word, is our foundation. When we remember that, then whatever difficulties come, and many will come, our uncrackable, unbreakable, unshakable foundation will always be secure.

But as for you….