October is fast approaching, which means so is “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Very few folks celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month, and I am not advocating that it become a more prominent holiday on our calendars. While I am grateful for those in our churches who express appreciation to pastors during October, it is far better for the pastors, their families, and the churches they serve if the love, support, and encouragement is ongoing. Below are two important passages and five gifts we should give our pastors.
Pastors, myself included, sometimes struggle to point out these passages because they can come off as self-serving. I likely feel more comfortable posting this because I am not serving as a “pastor” in my day-job at this point, but that shouldn’t be the case as these passages are in the Bible.
Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith… Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Pray for us; for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything.
The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and, the worker is worthy of his wages.
(1 Timothy 5:17-18)
1. Pray for them.
The writer of Hebrews asked for prayer. The greatest gift you can give your pastors is prayer. Pray that the Lord will keep them to Himself, pure and blameless (1 Timothy 3:2). Pray they will persevere in life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). And pray for their families as their families shoulder the burden of ministry alongside them. As you pray for your pastors, you will find yourself loving them more and more. You can’t pray for someone and despise them at the same time.
2. Imitate their faith.
The writer of Hebrews challenges us to imitate our leaders. Of course, this is a challenge for leaders to be imitable, to live holy lives in response to the grace of God. And obviously this does not mean our pastors are perfect, as the writer of Hebrews has clearly articulated Jesus as the only perfect One. But this does mean we should learn from our pastors; we should put into practice the faith we see displayed in them.
3. Follow their lead.
The writer of Hebrews says we are “to obey our leaders and submit to their authority.” The abuses of power and the ministers who fall morally do not negate the truth of this verse, and likewise should not negate our observance of it. Surely there are times when a pastor, because of sin, disqualifies himself from ministry and no longer has the privilege of asking God’s people to follow. In the same way, a pastor who distorts the truth of the gospel should not be listened to or followed (Galatians 1:9). But if we are in churches led by godly leaders who herald the truth of God’s Word, we should follow.
In His providence, God places pastors in their places of ministry. The Lord gives them unique gifts and specific passion for the churches they serve and the communities they serve in. Their passion, sense of mission, and specific gifting will and should impact the direction of the church.
4. Pay them well.
This is biblical. The church’s goal should not be to “starve the pastor to keep him humble.” That is the Lord’s work, not the work of the finance committee. Too many pastors and their families are under unnecessary financial stress because some churches are not generous in this manner.
5. Help them love their families well.
Pastors must be able to love and shepherd their own families well if they are to lead the people of God (1 Timothy 3:5). Help your pastors love their families well by not putting expectations on them that would equate to neglecting their families if they actually lived up to the expectations. Rejoice that your pastors disappoint others by not accepting all invitations so that they may invest more in their own families.
A pastor never “clocks out.” A pastor is a pastor all of the time. The responsibility is enormous as, to quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the pastor “is given charge of souls.” Let’s encourage, love, and support our pastors as they seek to faithfully fulfill all the duties of their ministries.