Rejoice and Mourn~ Way 24

Rejoice and Mourn~ Way 24

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Now we urge you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

1 Thessalonians 5:12,13

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Besides thinking that pastors only work on Sundays, there are a few other misconceptions of pastors. One is that they never struggle with insecurities. After all, they are on stage every Sunday, they speak confidently to a whole group of people and their ministry is public. Another is that they are always strong. They are always helping other people, they give wise counsel and they demonstrate compassion. They must not need anyone!

If you were to be present at the pastor’s table for dinner on a Sunday, you might be surprised to hear discussions about the sermon and the pastor asking for feedback. My husband would tell you that he is his own worst critic. He second guesses everything, because he is passionate about teaching and preaching. His desire is to bring glory to God and so it terrifies him at times to think that he might make it more about himself and less about God.

And so we talk about how God used his words, how even in the moments where he stumbled over words, God received the glory. And we rejoice.

My husband’s most recent accomplishment. He made this hammered dulcimer and is now learning to play it. Rejoicing with him!

In scripture, pastor’s are often called shepherds. I love this analogy. The pastor is to care for the sheep, to lead and guide, to comfort and correct, and to nourish and protect. But sometimes pastors need others to care for them and they can struggle with a need to appear strong so that their congregation will be able to depend on their strength.

The more I read scripture, the more I am struck by Romans 12:15- Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.  I believe this is a command in scripture, because God knows that we need one another. When we are rejoicing, we need others to celebrate with us. When we are in mourning, we need our brothers and sisters to surround us in love and in prayer.

Pastors are not exempt from this. They need others who will rejoice with them. But life is not always easy for pastors. They need their people- the ones who are willing to weep with them and hold them up in prayer.

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A year ago, we had to say goodbye to my dear Daddy as he received his heart’s cry- Give Me Jesus! We mourn, but not without hope!

When your pastor rejoices, rejoice with him. When he mourns, mourn.

31 WAYS

Way 24: Rejoice and mourn with your pastor.

 

 

Lovingly Hold Your Pastor Accountable~ Way 23

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Now we urge you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

1 Thessalonians 5:12,13

If I wrote this entire series on “31 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor” without addressing the elephant in the room, this series would have no credibility.

The elephant? The large number of people who struggle to appreciate pastors, because they have been hurt, cast out and abused by their pastor and leaders.

When I started in ministry by my husband’s side 17 years ago, I was a bit naive. Although I had seen a bit of the underbelly of the church (what people would call the behind-the-scenes, difficult, political issues that arise), I had mostly seen churches that had a growing desire to know Christ. As a child, I watched my Dad as he was kicked out of churches for opinions that he held tightly. But as I observed his genuine love for God, I had the opportunity to see restoration and growth and change. My Dad learned to not “major on the minors”. By watching this process, I assumed that this was true for all pastors~ mistakes were inevitable, because a pastor is still a sinner, but God would be at work in their hearts, changing them, making them more like Him.

Seventeen years later, I can say that this is not always true. Hard as it is for me to even wrap my head around, there are men who seek leadership positions in churches, because they crave power. There are men who start by seeking God’s glory, but get sidetracked along the way. Fame and popularity become a siren cry that they are unable to resist. Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15 still applies today- Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. There are false teachers in pulpits all across the world and for some of them, their audience is huge, they are on best seller lists and they have been elevated to celebrity status.

Success by the world’s standards does not mean success in God’s eyes.

It’s a message that we as the Church need to grapple with. We must fight for truth and for God’s glory.

When it comes to this idea of holding pastors accountable, I think we all cringe a little. Most people I know do not like conflict and so we run from it. But when sheep are being hurt, when they are being cast aside and abused, we must address it. Maybe it’s naivete that keeps us from acknowledging this growing issue in our churches. Maybe it’s the hope that if we ignore the problem, it will go away. Or it might be the misconception that when scripture says that an overseer is to be above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2) it means they should not be reproached (address someone in such a way as to express disapproval or disappointment).

As I have pondered this issue, I have come up with several areas in which a pastor should be held accountable. When these things are done lovingly, a pastor who is seeking God’s glory will feel appreciated. It might hurt at first, but isn’t that true for all of us? We don’t search out opportunities to be refined, but when we have come through it with a deeper trust in and understanding of our great God, our response is one of gratefulness.

Lovingly hold your pastor accountable…

  • Acknowledge that your pastor is a sinner, saved by grace~ He will fail. He will respond poorly at times. He will sin. Don’t put him on a super-spiritual pedestal. When pastors are treated this way, the temptation is strong to believe that they ARE above reproach. The sin of pride is insidious and subtle. Pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). I don’t believe that anyone wants their pastor to fall, but this will be the end result of ongoing, unconfessed pride.
  • Address abusive language, attitudes and behavior. Yes, I am talking about pastors. If you have not been under this type of leadership, you might find this as hard to believe as I did, but what I am discovering is that this is much more prevalent then I ever imagined. I am not talking about preferences or personalities here. I am talking about a pattern of behavior that results in putting others down, making fun of others who have different perspectives, racism, crass speech, obsession with sex, and/or a critical or judgmental spirit in regards to something other than a sin issue. As I share these things, I am struck by how obvious this seems- of course this is an issue and churches would never let this go unaddressed. But they have and they do. I think one of the reasons it gets swept under the rug is that these attitudes are usually found in strong, bold, charismatic men. In our culture, we have a tendency to be drawn to those who are edgy, to the ones who seem impervious to criticism. This tendency has infiltrated the church and what should astonish us has become acceptable and even admired.
  • Be concerned with focus on A church rather than THE Church. Many pastors become consumed with making a name for themselves and growing their church, rather than desiring God’s glory and expanding the Kingdom. It is hard to speak to this in general terms, because God DOES call us to be faithful with the ministry he has put before us. But it should concern us if a pastor or church is unwilling to work with others and is only concerned with their own individual success.
  • Question a repeated pattern of staff members being asked to resign, fired or leaving with little to no explanation. The key here is repeated pattern. Another thing I will add is that this should be questioned if the staff member was held in high regard by most of the congregation. One way to determine the health of a church is to look at how conflicts are handled (because there WILL be conflicts!). If a pastor is pushing everyone out if they don’t agree with him, this needs to be questioned. If he is gathering a group around him who think just like he does, this needs to be questioned. If a pastor is challenged by those who are set up to hold him accountable and he responds by forcing them out, this does not bode well for the congregation.
  • Be wary of a pastor who spins the truth or blames others rather than take responsibility. Encourage your pastor to be authentic, even it it makes him look bad. Celebrate clear communication.

True intimacy with God breeds humility. ~Beth Moore

We are not called to police our pastors, but a way to truly appreciate them is to desire for them to have intimacy with God. I started this series with the encouragement to Love God Most and to Pray for Your Pastor, because accountability must flow from hearts that are seeking the Lord.

If you are in a situation where a pastor has not been held accountable, if he has not repented of sin and if he is hurting the flock, it is appropriate to go to him in love and share your concerns. If he doesn’t listen, go with one or two other witnesses. If he still doesn’t listen, it is appropriate to present your concerns to the church. If you have done all that you can and the church does not feel like anything should be done, it might be time to leave, trusting God to work in the way He does best (based on Matthew 18:15-17).

This is very difficult and I admit to you that I have not always done this well. But we serve a gracious and forgiving God. He is faithful to heal our hearts when we come to Him in repentance.

Blessed is the one

whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the one

whose sin the Lord does not count against them

and in whose spirit is no deceit. ~ Psalm 32:1,2

If you are struggling right now as a result of hurts from a pastor or church leadership, my heart goes out to you. Whenever I hear from church members who have been betrayed by a church, they describe it like a divorce. Many who have experienced this type of betrayal end up leaving the Church and this is the reason I feel it is imperative that we no longer hide our heads in the sand and pretend that this isn’t an issue. The number of those who are hurting is too great.

Let us fight for our pastor’s integrity, by encouraging them to seek accountability.

31 WAYS

Way 23: Lovingly hold your pastor accountable.

 

Encourage Your Pastor to Attend Meaningful Conferences~ Way 22

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Now we urge you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who encourage you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

1 Thessalonians 5:12,13

Every week, pastors are sharing truths from the Word of God, they are pouring over scripture (hopefully!) and they are presenting a sermon to their congregation, taking timeless truths and expressing them in a way that impacts and inspires the listeners. While most pastors would tell you that preaching energizes them, they would also tell you that they need to be poured into in order to keep being faithful week in and week out.

Conferences have the potential to be exactly what pastors need. Hearing from others who study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) can give pastors the encouragement and inspiration they need to keep being faithful.

There are many pastor’s conferences including specific denomination conferences, but instead of choosing for him, a way to truly appreciate your pastor is to encourage him to choose a conference that he would find the most meaningful. Sometimes he needs to get away to a quiet place (Mark 6:31). Other times he needs to network with other pastors in his community or in his denomination. Or he might need to be at a conference to gain insight on a particular topic.

No one conference will fit every pastor’s needs. This is why there are so many of them out there. Allowing your pastor to find a conference that will truly pour into him is incredibly important.

If you are unfamiliar with pastor’s conferences, here are a few to consider:

The Desiring God Pastor’s Conference

The Gospel Coalition National Conference

Basics Conference

Moody Pastor’s Conference

By sharing these links, I am not personally endorsing these conferences (I am not a pastor and I haven’t been to any of them). They are simply a few that I have heard good things about in the past (my husband attended the Desiring God Conference in 2014 and loved it!).

If you know of a great conference and want to share it in the comments, that would be fantastic!

31 WAYS

Way 22: Encourage your pastor to attend meaningful conferences.

 

Celebrate Anniversaries~ Way 21

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Now we urge you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

1 Thessalonians 5:12,13

We have been in our church now for 13 years — when we were here for 10 years (and even in the years since then), no one said anything. I know it is not about the praise, but in a little way it hurt not to even have that milestone acknowledged. So maybe just encourage church members to at least thank their pastor once in awhile for what he does! ~ A Pastor’s Wife

Every year, I plan an elaborate birthday party for each one of my kids. And every year, I tell my husband that it is the last time I will do it, but then February rolls around and I just can’t help myself. I love planning parties that I know my kids will love. It is the best thing for my mama heart to see their joy, knowing they have no doubt that I think they are pretty special.

We understand the importance of celebrating our kids. They don’t even have to do anything other than to have made it to another birthday. We celebrate, because we love them.

In the same way, when an important anniversary rolls around, it means a lot to a pastor to know that his congregation considers it to be important.

In an article- How Long Should You Stay? The Magic Year for Ministry Success- on a Church Leader Website, the author shared the following statistics:

1. A pastor’s most productive time usually begins in years five, six and seven;

2. The average pastoral tenure in Protestant churches is less than four years;

3. Nearly 85 percent of today’s churches are not growing.

If the average length of a pastor’s stay is less than four years, then pastors who reach the 10 and 20 year marks should be celebrated. Research has shown that longevity for pastors is more likely to produce effective ministry. This might be a little too simplistic, BUT if a pastor has been faithful to shepherding his flock, celebrating anniversaries is a wonderful way to appreciate him.

There has only been one place where a 10 year anniversary could have been celebrated so far in my life. It is the place I still call home (pictured above!). If I am counting right, it was the 7th place where my Daddy ministered. In my husband’s ministry, we have not been in any church longer than 7 years. I hope we break that record here in Rochester! We pray for productive ministry and we are in it for the long haul.

31 WAYS

 

Way 21: Appreciate your pastor by celebrating anniversaries.

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