By Dave Brewer
All through history God has used pastors to shake up the status quo, to call his people to repentance, to turn the world upside down. The Apostle Paul caused riots in Greek cities preaching about Jesus. Martin Luther thundered against the Pope, and gave the scriptures back to the people after 300 years of darkness and ignorance. John Knox was a galley slave for two years, and made the queen of England fear his prayers more than an invading army. John Wesley preached to prisoners, miners, and angry mobs. Colonial pastors like Jonathan Mayhew preached that their church members had God-given rights, igniting the American Revolution. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer told the people of Nazi Germany that Jesus, not Hitler should be their leader.
The role of the pastor is one of the most difficult callings in the world, because he is entrusted by God to be the Spiritual Teacher, Leader, and Shepherd of his people. Studies have shown that after a few years about 80% of ordained pastors drop out of the ministry. They suffer from great discouragement, stress on their marriage and family, feel inadequately prepared, and struggle with conflict within their churches. They almost never have a weekend off, and are essentially on call 24/7.
When a new pastor is hired, he is always compared with the pastor he replaced. If his predecessor was excellent, he will be expected to have similar gifts and strengths, even though all pastors are unique and have different personalities, experience, and spiritual gifts. We need to be patient with all new pastors, because it takes years for them to earn trust, build leadership teams, and establish effective ministry. For example, it takes a new youth pastor four years to build his work into an effective ministry.
Preaching is a joy for pastors, but very difficult because they need to speak to people who are in different stages of their spiritual journey. Mature Christians go to church to worship God, to learn, and to minister to others. Immature Christians tend to say, “I didn’t get anything out of that sermon,” because their focus is solely on themselves. Skeptics go to church thinking, “Where was God when I needed him?” or “If God is loving, why did this happen to me?” Seekers go to church with the questions, “Is God real?” and “Does He care for me?” Some people have messed up relationships because they are living inconsistently with biblical principles or sinning against God. They don’t need to hear a “feel good” sermon, they need to get back on track with God. Pastors need to speak to the heart and needs of all of these different people to be effective. This requires skill, study, prayer, preparation, and the Holy Spirit.
Strong evangelical churches have core values that they hold dear, and yet a new pastor can bring new vision. Your pastor must take risks in order to lead your church forward. If his new vision is different and yet solidly biblical, be flexible, be supportive, and pray fervently and patiently for his success. When problems arise, don’t be a negative person or a troublesome person, stay true to your pastor in the tough times when he needs you the most. Loyalty is critical, especially by key leaders in the church. All problems are opportunities. If pastors do not have your support during the tough times, you are not a good disciple for Christ. Don’t become a murmurer or a gossiper. The scriptures strongly condemn these people for being divisive and destructive. Don’t take your marbles and go home by seeking another church.
Today people under the age of 39 are rejecting church and faith at record numbers. Many of these young people are lost spiritually, and if churches do not adjust their ministry in order to get these folks involved it will be a tragedy. Churches all over the country are empty and dying because long-time members refused to change, or simply did not know how to attract non-members.
It is vital to pray for your senior pastor so that he has the moral courage and spiritual wisdom to lead your church and to work effectively with your church leaders. When people complain and give him a hard time, it gives him sleepless nights and a great deal of stress. It is vital to understand that your
senior pastor is God’s Representative and Leader of your Church. You should attend your ears and your heart to his teaching, value him highly for his work, trust his judgment, wisdom, and experience, and pray for him and his family. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden.”
Always remember that we Christians are engaged in a great spiritual battle against Satan and his legions. Satan does not bother with spiritually dead churches, but he gives a lot of attention to attacking godly pastors and vibrant churches. Pray that God protects your pastors and their families from spiritual attack. They live in a fishbowl which is not easy. They do not have perfect marriages or perfect children. They struggle with relationships, finances, emotions, and problems just like you do. Their spouse on occasion has to listen to criticism about the pastor that is uninformed, unrealistic, or fails to see the big picture. Allow their kids the freedom to make mistakes, and permit them to yell at their kids just like you do with your own kids when they misbehave. Robert McCheyne wrote about the importance of praying for your pastors:
“Pray for your pastor. Pray for his body, that he may be kept strong and spared
many years. Pray for his soul, that he may be kept humble and holy, a burning
and shining light. Pray for his ministry, that it may be abundantly blessed, that
he may be anointed to preach good tidings. Let there be no secret prayer
without naming him before your God, no family prayer with carrying your
pastor in your hearts to God.” (E. M. Bounds: Baker Book, 1990), 327
Send your pastors and/or their spouse a note of appreciation for their ministry, or to tell them that you are praying for them. Mostly they get complaints. It is amazing how much a simple note of affirmation can change their whole week. They have to continually deal with the problems of hurting people which can be very emotionally draining.
Dan Reiland in his work Shoulder to Shoulder makes these recommendations in connecting with your pastor:
- See your church with your Pastor’s Perspective- it is his job to see the big picture- the overall
- health of the church now and for the future.
- Know your Pastor’s Vision- it is the guidance system for the whole church
- Always be Honest- if you have a problem, don’t complain to others, go and talk to him
- Never give History Lessons – don’t compare him with the former pastor or former golden years
- Remember, there is only One Senior Pastor – he is in charge and he is very busy
- Be Your Pastor’s Eyes and Ears- don’t let him be blindsided by things he didn’t know about
- Focus on the Heart as much as the Mind.
- When in Doubt . . . . Ask!- a lot of problems are based upon rumors and misconceptions
- Make sure you have a “Good Connection” - don’t jump from church to church when you get frustrated. Your church is your church family, stay committed.
- The Most Vibrant, Effective Churches are Strong Teams- every pastor on staff, and every key
staff person is a vital part of the team, with different gifts, experience, and education.
The best churches have pastors who stay with them for a long period of time. This enables a continuity of trust, leadership, and ministry. You can play a key role in building Christ’s kingdom by supporting your pastors.