Motivating Our Pastors to Joy in Their Work

October is “Pastor Appreciation” month, and though some may view this as another contrived calendar event (a “Hallmark holiday, if you will”), I believe it warrants some attention.

We should know how difficult the life and labors of our pastors is. We should be aware of how they spend themselves for the ministry, working hard and long to prepare gospel messages each week, caring for the sick and weak, leading Bible studies, teaching catechism, chairing church meetings, etc. And they are also real people, with real marriages, real families, and real needs themselves. Your struggles and mine are also theirs. Do you get discouraged in your work? So do they. Do you get down about how well you are doing in life? So do they. Do you worry about your children and parents and fellow saints? So do they. Do you fight sin daily and find the constant battle not worth it sometimes? Do you want to give up and give in? So do they.  Do you wrestle with doubts and fears about your spouse, your family, the church? So do they.

And yet they encourage us and motivate us in our life and work. What a blessing their preaching and pastoral care is to us! They lift us up and pick us up and lead us on, week after week. We need them and their faithful labors. And they need us too. We need to motivate them and help lift them up too!

A book I pulled out of the seminary library today with this in mind speaks to this powerfully. Christopher Ash as written a wonderful little book called The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (but is too embarrassed to ask) (The Good Book Company, 2019). In his second chapter titled “Why Would You Want to Care for Your Pastor?” Ash references Heb.13:17, which reads: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (KJV) He then goes on to write this:

Just look at those last two words: ‘to you.’ I can see that making their work a joy would be good for them, and that if it is a burden, it will be tough for them. But for us?! How so?

Answer: unless there is at least some whisper of joy in their hearts as they do their work, some spring of gladness in their step, they will never persevere to the end. And – and this is the point – it is we who will suffer. Instead of being well taught – faithfully preached to with insight and depth – instead of being patiently prayed for, instead of having our souls guarded from evil, instead of being lovingly equipped, instead of being well led in our churches, we will be harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, at the mercy of all kinds of destructive evil. And our churches will be shallow places of immaturity and instability, at the mercy of every whim of cultural pressure or theological oddity.

It is therefore in our own interests, to say nothing of love for the pastor, that we should make their work a joy and not simply a heavy and gloomy burden. If you and I truly grasp the extent to which healthy pastoral oversight is a team effort – a two-way dynamic in which we , as church members, play as critical a part as our pastors – then, and only then, will we be urgently motivated to learn the better to care for them. You and I have it in our power to demotivate our pastors, so that they are gradually ground down into a slough of despond from which they will be utterly unable to do us any good at all. But we also have it in our power so to cheer them up, so to put a spring in their step, that they will gladly do for us all that we hope and pray. [pp.32-33]

From there he lays out “seven virtues that we as church members can learn, and that can make our pastor’s work a joy.” (p.33) In a future post this month we can reference those seven virtues.

For now, let’s ask ourselves: What am I doing to make my pastor’s work in my church a joy, in the midst of all the difficulties, discouragements, and disappointments he faces? Shall we start with caring about him in our hearts and bringing his needs to the throne of the Great Shepherd whom he represents and under whom he labors?

 

Published in: on October 9, 2019 at 10:59 PM  Comments (1)