By Parker Smith
Pastor, Prospect Baptist Church, Fayetteville
Pastoring is hard work. We live in a day in which faithful shepherds experience a high rate of burnout, depression or leave the ministry altogether. Pastors need encouragers. Individuals who are the wind within their sails, much like Onesiphorus for the Apostle Paul (II Timothy 1:16). Here are five practical ways in which you can encourage your pastor.
1. Pray for him. The work of pastoring is spiritual work (Ephesians 6:12). He can often see how the Lord is working within the church and how the enemy is attempting to trip up, grab a foothold or lure away disciples.
Pastoring is a heavy load, and we haven’t even begun to mention other important aspects of the pastor’s life and calling. One of the greatest gifts you can give to your pastor is a commitment to pray for him. Beyond this, let him know when and how you pray for him. It will bless his heart and refresh his soul.
2. Get to know him. Behind every pulpit, suit and tie, behind every sermon manuscript or outline, is a man who is just like you in many ways. He has hobbies and interests, likes and dislikes. He has a family. Bottom line: he’s a person.
It’s vital to find simple ways to get to know the person God has called to be your pastor. Invite him to lunch. Have his family over for dinner. Grow to love him, and don’t be afraid to tell him that. Every Sunday, as Ms. Wynell Pierce is leaving church, she greets me with a handshake or a warm hug, only to say, “I love you, pastor, and we love your family!” She means it, and I know she does. It means the world!
3. Know he loves you and is for you. Your pastor is, in essence, a “soul doctor.” He prays for you, he wants you to grow and mature into Christ. He will one day give an account for you (Hebrews 13:17). He wants what is best for you. Yet, that doesn’t mean he will always prescribe what you believe is best.
The Lord may even use your pastor to speak hard truths you do not want to hear. His sermons may even “step on your toes.” The Lord uses the preached word and your pastor as a strong voice for you to consider your ways before the Lord and to repent.
I love the flock the Lord has entrusted to me. As pastor, He continually increases my ability to love the flock. Love within the local church matters. It’s how the world knows we belong to Christ (John 13:35).
4. Extend grace to him. It may come as a surprise to you, but your pastor is not perfect. He has questions, doubts and even fails in faithfully following the Lord. Just like you, the Lord is at work in your pastor, sanctifying and conforming him to the image of Christ. Pastors often live in a glass house, and people often look on and wait for him to stumble.
Know this, in time, your pastor will let you down. Give it enough time and I promise the opportunity will come in which you can write your pastor off as a disappointment. Because he’s not above sin, and he is also not above even sinning against you. May I lovingly suggest in those moments that you extend to him the same thing you desire when you fail? Grace! Just like you, he’ll never be beyond the need of grace.
5. Support and follow him. Ministry is challenging and can often be lonely. Sometimes what is clearly the path ahead is charted with difficulty. Often, a pastor’s decisions are met with suspicion, questions or even outright resistance.
I remember the words from one of my deacons in a difficult season of ministry. Over lunch, he said, “Pastor, I want you to know that I am with you. I am behind you and I’m standing with you. I agree with everything you are doing. It’s biblical and the right direction for our church. I also know it’s tough; these have been some difficult days, but don’t you quit! I support you, and I am with you, brother.” The Lord used these timely words to give life to my weary soul.
Do you want your pastor to remain strong? Do you want your church to be a strong church? A healthy church? Get behind the man who God has sent to shepherd His local church.
Support your pastor, build him up. Encourage him to stay the course, let him know you are with him, standing alongside him, and are following him as He follows Christ. When that happens, get ready and watch what the Lord will do in your church! B&R