My Dad loved being a pastor, definitely not because it was always easy. Indeed, oftentimes it was difficult, especially since I’m certain that church members he pastored over 25 years of ministry oftentimes failed to reciprocate his love.
Through sins of omission in failing to show love to my Dad or by sins of commission in criticizing and undermining, too many times churches my Dad pastored failed to “esteem [Dad] very highly in love because of [his] work” (1 Thess. 5:13).
For many churches, October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I hope every Florida Baptist church will take advantage of this opportunity to tangibly demonstrate their love for their pastors more consistently than was sometimes the case for my Dad.
When I think about pastors, my first thoughts go to my Dad. He pastored four “small” churches during his time in ministry—places that wouldn’t become renown on this side of eternity, but places where people needed the Lord, and a shepherd who would show them the way. His concern for the lost is clear from a typewritten note taped into the front of his preaching Bible, which is now in my library: “What’s 750,000 miles long, reaches around the earth 30 times and grows 20 miles longer each day? Answer: The line of people who are without Christ.”
Five years ago this month my Dad died after a brief series of illnesses that spiraled downward until his body failed him. Alzheimer’s disease—an unusually rapidly progressing form—was the ultimate cause of his demise at the age of 70. From formal diagnosis to death, my Dad lived only about five months.
Like every pastor I know, Dad was frustrated at times by some people who seemed to believe it was their calling in life to make life miserable for the pastor! Still, he loved being a pastor and cherished the calling of God on his life that allowed him the privilege of preaching the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” a favorite statement of his.
Literally in his dying days as he struggled to maintain a clear mind because of the disease that would ultimately take his life, Dad constantly recalled his days serving the Lord in the church. In his hospital room, Dad convened several “church services,” no doubt prompted by his fond memories of pastoral service. One evening, as his doctor was about to leave the room, Dad suddenly reached up to Mom on one side and me on the other side, and said, “Let’s pray.” We all joined hands and in the midst of his confused mind, the love of Jesus came pouring out in a prayer that was as clear and cogent as any he ever prayed. When it was over—after about five minutes—the doctor told me, “The man still knows how to pray!”
Indeed, my Dad loved the Lord and he loved the fact that the Lord gave him the opportunity to serve as a pastor, although he had more than his share of challenges, disappointments and hurts during his ministry. I doubt his churches appreciated him as much as he appreciated God’s calling of him to pastor.
Being a pastor has to be one of the most thankless jobs around. Pastors are always on the firing line, always “on call,” and subject sometimes to unruly church members who are certain they know how to do the job better. They are generally poorly compensated and live in a fish bowl under constant scrutiny.
The Bible makes it clear that only those who have heard the call from God are up to the significant task of pastoral ministry—and that’s only because it’s God who works through such men. Further, the pastor’s wife and family also bear the burden of the pastor’s ministry—and are often hurt when their husband/father is on the firing line.
The Bible also makes it clear that churches have an obligation to love and honor their pastors. The Apostle Paul told the church at Thessalonica: “Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12-13, HCSB).
Although every Sunday ought to be Pastor Appreciation Day, it’s appropriate that a time of special recognition during this month be set aside to allow congregations to show appreciation for the man God provided them.
Of course, no pastor—including my Dad—is perfect. But I’ve never met a faultless church member, either! Still, some church members fail to fully appreciate just how blessed they are to have the pastor God has given them.
The sheep that are the recipients of the love and care of pastors should remember that even shepherds have needs and concerns. Every church corporately and every church member individually can do something to “esteem [pastors] very highly in love.” Please do so today.
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