How to bless your spiritual leaders and yourself in the process
After two decades of pastoral ministry I feel I may have some helpful perspective for those non-pastor-types who are seeking to lend their shepherd some support. As I step from pastoral ministry into a new role of serving missionaries, I feel I may be at the point in my life where I am best equipped to write these words.
When the church bells clanged on Sunday mornings and the roadsides near the churches filled with parked cars, when well-scrubbed families filed through the double doors and organ music wafted from the windows, an outsider could be forgiven for imagining that these two congregations were labouring and worshiping in synchronicity.
First, the disclaimer: the five churches I have served have blessed my family immensely. So, the following nine points are not in any way an indication of any failure on the part of the five churches I have been blessed to serve. Pastors know, or should know, that both congregation and leader are growing, learning, and being transformed by the Holy Spirit. Some churches support shepherds amazingly well, others not so much, but we’re all sheep with a Great Shepherd.
So, from where I now stand I would want the men of my church to know this about what I need:
I can’t say this strongly enough. One of the most important ways to make sure we survive the frontlines is to pray consistently for our spiritual, familial, physical, stewardship, and moral health. Pray for our growth as a disciple. Don’t assume this stuff, pray it for us.
2. Don’t turn us into a celebrity
Pride is an insidious killer. Please, treat me like a brother and servant of the Lord. Treating us like a celebrity inadvertently dehumanizes us and creates a distance between us that should not exist in God’s Kingdom. And, you make us believe unbiblical press clippings and this actually undermines the unique call of Christian leadership.
3. Be careful how you talk about the last pastor
If you bash the last leader, guess what we start to believe? Being told we’re the next great hope can be a veiled threat because we’re pretty sure that’s what you told the last pastor too.
4. Don’t dismiss us when we’re young
Many biblical leaders were young. If God has called us to serve and we’re a little green don’t look down on us (1 Timothy 4:12), after all, we’re feeling pretty inadequate for this task to begin with. Please don’t be quick to “lay on hands” (1 Timothy 5:22), but once the church has discerned we’re fit, become our champion in the same way you’re pretty thrilled about that number one draft pick.
5. Don’t send a note of “concern” on Sunday night, but do send us a note on Monday
Sunday nights tend to suck, to be honest. Weary from the Sunday outpouring, we need to recover. Your evening “concern” about the church messes with us and keeps us awake. We’re already under attack because of the truth proclaimed, so please see the first point above before sending anything. Monday, however, is different. We’re ready and need to hear what the Spirit is up to and, yes, that includes your concerns.
6. Don’t assume we have lots of friends and are immune to your kind of “fun”
We’re human and while we deal with many people, we can actually be quite lonely because many people see us as a service provider rather than a fellow servant. We need friends and, while we can’t be everyone’s best buddy, we are open to more than you imagine.
7. Do what Jesus says
Sounds obvious, but if you want to support us find your cross, and follow Jesus with us. We’re tired of preaching and leading without discipleship. There’s nothing we want more than for you to respond to His call, so don’t say you like us as your pastor without responding to the One we point to. We are tired of spiritual games and trying to help your church be the next-great-flash-in-the-pan, we just want you to know and obey Jesus. So, get honest, we’ve heard it all. Then get busy with Jesus, the risen Lord, who calls you on the radical adventure of being his disciple.
8. Do commit to the bride
Dig in, serve, disciple, give, be present, and love the Church. Don’t threaten to leave for that “other” church that’s finally got it all figured out. Don’t just slip away into the world of busyness, but make the Church—the bride of Christ—your pride and joy. If you love the Church with her beauty, warts, and conflicts you demonstrate you love us too.
9. Do yourself a favour: trust us
Hebrews 13:17 says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” We have a lot to answer to God for so for the love you have for us, make our work a joy. Entrust us with the task before us and then stand shoulder to shoulder with us. Sure, call our bluff if we walk in pride, but if you know our character then do yourself a favour and come along with us. We know many of you are incredibly gifted leaders and in many ways more skilled than we are, but for some reason we have been given the task of shepherding the flock of God. That’s pretty daunting and we simply need you to trust us sometimes. It may just be for your own good.