In Support of Pastors

In Support of Pastors

pastor support“Hello, Eric? This is Pastor Mike (not his real name). I am calling to let you know that on Sunday, I resigned from being pastor at my church.” I was shocked and saddened as he explained what had happened. In my 27 years of working with pastors, I have heard too many similar stories.

After our conversation, it occurred to me that the average church member is probably unaware of the challenges many pastors face. Satan’s plan to destroy the church is often to attack the shepherds. If he can weaken the shepherds, then the sheep are easy pickins’. In this article, I will shed some light on some of the challenges pastors face so that we can support them better.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them for they keep watch over your souls, as those who have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage for you.”
– Hebrews 13:17

Pastors will have to provide an account to Almighty God for the care they gave the sheep entrusted to their care. This care represents a very significant responsibility the weightiness of which Paul acknowledged in 2 Cor. 11:28.

Pastors know ministry is going to be hard, but many say it is harder than they ever thought it would be. The common refrain is: seminary never prepared me for this! One study found that 90% of pastors felt inadequately trained to meet ministry demands.

Pastors are usually hurt by the people they invest in the most. At issue here is not only discouragement, but the feeling of betrayal that comes when someone you have given so much to either betrays you or walks away for no good reason.

Pastors are often called upon at all hours. A pastor’s job is often 24/7/365. (And they don’t get overtime pay). Imagine what it’d be like to be called in the middle of the night to bring peace between a feuding husband and wife or parent and teen? Or to be left having to figure out who is going to teach the Sunday school class when a teacher decides she’s had enough?

A pastor carries a lot of anxiety and burdens. Pastors love and care for their sheep. Because of this, they carry not only their own personal and family burdens; they also carry the burdens of the people they shepherd. This is one reason why pastors need elders who will stand shoulder to shoulder with them to help them in the difficult but necessary work of ministering personally to the sheep!

Soccer coaches seem to have more authority than pastors. The intentionality of some parents toward their kid’s soccer coach reaches almost religious proportions. The kids will be at soccer practice, prepared and on time (regardless of the speed limit). But when a pastor suggests to a father that he read the Bible to the family or provide some form of general or personal counsel, it’s received  as advice that one can take or leave.

Ephesians 4:15 says to speak the truth in love. A pastor’s right and responsibility to make clearly biblical and therefore reasonable requests should always be seasoned with grace and love. That goes without saying. Even in so-called “grey areas”, his wisdom should be respected. But as one pastor told me, (this is a verbatim quote) “…my people don’t have to listen to me. All I can do is make suggestions.”

Our culture’s worship of autonomous individualism has greatly diminished people’s understanding of biblical authority not just as a force for good but a necessity in our lives. It seems today that any authority is often viewed with suspicion or derision. While I think many in the church know better, I fear that the culture is winning.

As the gap between culture and the church widens, we have to be comfortable with the light of God’s word shining more brightly against the backdrop of hopeless darkness. Culture does not have the authority of the Word of God in our lives. We must resist the prevailing view of authority with the same vigor that the Apostles implored the church to resist the false teachers of their day. Rejection of biblical authority, such as that of a pastor, is ultimately a rejection of God’s authority because pastors are simply under-shepherds of The Shepherd: The Lord Jesus Christ. Their authority is given by God to fulfill His divine purposes in our lives.

If you find yourself in a position where you are/have been at odds with this truth, I appeal to you to stop treating the pastor as if he has no authority to speak into your life and the life of your family. Consider that a pastor’s work is of eternal significance/advantage to you and your family! Who else is making your spiritual health their full-time concern?

Recovering the healthy partnership of the church and home that is so necessary to the daily application of the gospel in our lives requires that we honor God’s authority in our lives.

But who really stands to benefit? Our verse in Hebrews tells us that it is the church that benefits when a church leader’s job is a joy! Next time, I will address how we make a pastor’s job a joy…which will result in our own benefit… Continue reading here.

How the Gospel Simplifies Ministry

How the Gospel Simplifies Ministry

simple ministryOne way that the Gospel simplifies ministry is that it reminds us that every possible ministry endeavor has a common focus: the heart.  Therefore, equipping should focus on helping people to do heart-level ministry.

In Matthew 15:18-19, Jesus tells us that it is what comes out of the heart that defiles a person. Whether the issue is parenting, finances, sex, homework, a flooded basement; or whether the issue involves  married couples, youth, children, singles, etc., etc., etc. the issue is always heart-related because the heart is always behind the choices we make. The Apostle James [in 4:1-2] agrees.

Therefore, it is futile to address most of the issues we are faced with without addressing the heart.  Yet, we miss the heart when we limit our treatment of problems to techniques and lists of dos and don’ts which deal only with outward behavior.

When the heart is addressed the result is that the outward problem often takes care of itself.  This is because the problem is often not in not knowing what to do, but in not wanting to do it—which is a heart matter.

Example: a couple is struggling with finances. They come to you for help. Since this is the third couple who has approached you recently for financial counsel, you decide that the church needs to provide instruction on how to handle finances in a biblical way. People go through the class, may actually experience some success, but still fall into the same overspending patterns. WHY? Perhaps because the heart was not addressed (only the symptoms of the heart condition were). Techniques appeal to the flesh because they can often be done in our own strength often without ever addressing the heart which requires the gospel applied by faith.

No financial system (by itself) is going to fix the idolatry that is at the heart of the desire to live beyond one’s means. Even with a great financial system, the area requiring greater attention is the heart behind the financial decisions.

The key then in ministry is to equip people to know how to minister on a heart level. If people learn how to do this, then they will be better equipped to help each other with whatever problem(s) they face. For example, consider how valuable this could be in the ministry of a head of household to those in his home?

Admittedly, there will always be those times when the leaders need to step in and help. But consider that if the fundamental goal of equipping is to minister on a heart level, then many cataclysmic problems could potentially be nipped in the bud at the garden variety level.

Do we fundamentally pursue equipping the saints with an eye towards the heart?  Do we see that equipping people, all people, for the work of ministry is not so much about specialized techniques as it is helping them discern and apply the gospel to the heart behind the behavior? This greatly simplifies ministry by equipping people to address the common denominator in life’s issues: the heart.